London, England, one of the oldest major metropolitan capitals in the history of the world, hosts thousands of international and domestic travellers each holiday season. Home to over 7.5 million local residents, Greater London once was considered among the more expensive metropolitan regions in the world to visit. But in actuality, the relative expense of travelling to the Greater London region as a whole is no more costly than other major metropolitan centres around the globe like New York City, NY, Los Angeles, CA and Tokyo, Japan.
Affordable, cheap accommodation is quietly available for holiday booking throughout the city during the so-called ‘off-months’ (i.e. fall and winter). Specifically, the damp winter in London is one of the few periods when holiday travellers take advantage of cheap London hotel packages, without fellow holiday travellers vying for the same cheap accommodation bargains.
The Christmas advent season is an especially lovely time of the year to visit London. Also, the televised spectacle of New Year’s Eve in London from Trafalgar Square truly is a sight to behold, particularly the magnificent fireworks showcase overlooking Buckingham Palace along the Thames River. First-time visitors to “The Old Smoke” often remark at the quaint majesty of the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree and the cheerful daily, free carol concerts held in the commons.
Old world Christmas traditions abound throughout the winter in London. The city’s Victorian-era architecture glows with Christmas charm and winter dress. Bustling outdoor ice rinks, spread about the region, allow visitors to experience the joyful spirit of the season, even as encroaching frost falls begin to settle across the countryside. But perhaps the most marvelous of all of the winter season entertainments in Greater London are the annual street Christmas markets organized in the spirit of the holiday season.
The Bankside Winter Market
This charming local London tradition traces its origins to the ‘frost fairs’ of centuries passed. As the Thames would freeze, the people of Bankside (home of William Shakespeare’s Globe theatre) conducted festivals on top of the river’s frozen surface as a celebration of community and the holiday season. In modern days, the ‘frost fairs’ were resurrected as a street festival and Christmas market. The market runs from December 12-21 and admission is free to the public.
Cologne Christmas Market
Running from November 19-December 23, the Cologne Christmas Market brings a touch of old world German tradition to London’s Southbank Centre. Indeed, Christmas markets originally developed in Germanic cultures, and this festival aims to keep close to the market’s origins. Vendors peddle artistic crafts such as authentic wooden toys and hand-blown glass holiday ornaments. The German flavoured cuisine also adds to the overall charm of the Cologne Christmas Market. Like the Bankside Winter Market, admission is free for visitors.
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
Not to be outdone by its two predecessors, the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland brings a truly family-centred winter holiday experience. The festival operates from November 19 2010-January 4 2011, which makes the Winter Wonderland the longest running Christmas market and festival in all of Greater London. Best of all, admission is absolutely free to the public. And this year, the festival’s market included a large ice skating rink and winter-themed circus alongside hundreds of local holiday vendors.