There is so much to do during the festive period in London as I posted in The Urban Monkey Guide recently. And, it was with this in mind, Monkey and I went up on a day trip up to the Southbank Winter Festival to meet some of my friends. We all wanted to get in the mood for Christmas and show the kids the sights.
The Southbank is a popular area by the River Thames. It’s also a hub of activity throughout the year from pop-up restaurants and Summer attractions; to concerts at the Royal Festival Hall, and film festivals at the BFI. Grab a cocktail, or have lunch with the kids… there is something for everyone – tourists and Londoners alike.
I’m lucky enough to work close by, and sometimes it’s pleasant enough just to have a stroll, browse the bookstalls, and drink in the views of the capital’s skyline from the Tate Modern to the St Paul’s Cathedral and the City’s skyscrapers. I remember when I was training for the marathon five years ago, I would run along the Southbank early in the morning when nobody was around. It often felt like I was the only person in town and it was one of my favourite moments of that tough regime.
Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to avoid the crowds here and it can get very busy. So, we met around 10.00am and even though there were plenty of people milling about, it didn’t feel claustrophobic.
The Winter Festival comprises several Christmas Markets offering treats such as chocolate, cheese and Glühwein from quaint little wooden huts that line up along the riverside. It’s very Christmassy and the smells are wonderful. As are the laughter of the children on the carousel under the London Eye. Meanwhile, there are more stalls within the Southbank Centre alongside a Christmas Maze. And a mini steam train that chugs along the riverbank towards the next pier… which isn’t very far at all!
Of course, Monkey wanted to go on the train as well as in the Christmas Maze and, at £4 a pop for each one (luckily kids under 4 are free) it wasn’t, by any means, cheap. The Tree Maze was done in a matter of minutes but Monkey and my goddaughter O still had fun, particularly when we reached the finish and they were rewarded with a bag of chocolate coins.
The Winter Festival was a great excuse to head towards the Southbank – it had a buzzing atmosphere, and everyone was full of Christmas cheer. It was also fantastic catching up with my friends and seeing Monkey playing well with O. Plus, we also rounded off a great outing with a spot of lunch – ice cream for the kids and a glass of wine for the adults – before walking along back along the river towards the Tate. We even got to watch the boats sailing past and spot another Paddington along the way.
The Southbank is always worth a visit, and no matter what time of the year – we all left with full tummies and smiling faces.