The Southbank Centre’s Winter Festival is always one of the top highlights of London’s calendar, and for guests staying at the Montcalm Royal London House, it’s definitely one of the must-visit places during the winter season.
With a mix of colourful festive markets, art, theatrical events, live music and more, there’s plenty to entertain and discover, whatever your age or interest.
You’ll find free concerts happening every day, as well as must-see performances that are worth adding to your calendar and booking in for, especially if you’re planning your visit to the city a little further ahead.
Have we piqued your interest? Read on to find out more about the last year’s Winter Festival, and what you can look forward to this coming year.
About the Winter Festival
The Southbank Winter Festival typically includes a full and diverse programme, including a variety of interesting attractions. These often include both free and ticketed events, ensuring that there is always something to discover and do, whether you’re popping in for the day as an impromptu visit, or want to go to one of the specific events on.
With the Festival running from November through to January each year, it’s usually worth spending a few days there to get enough time to enjoy everything on offer.
Our recommendation? Check out hotel packages London to help you make the most of it.
Winter Festival 2018 –a recap
2018 saw a fantastic winter season at the Southbank Centre, with the art centre transformed into a winter wonderland across the Thames. The festival included plenty of the usual offerings, including a Christmas market and seasonal food and drink, as well as a rich variety of impressive festive decorations. It’s worth a trip down from the Montcalm Royal London House
to revel in the lights alone, and soak up the magical atmosphere.
In addition to all of the typical festive treats on offer, last year’s Winter Festival also saw a great range of performances and activities to enjoy, including special themed concerts and choral performances, community shows and more, with some memorable theatrical and puppetry shows that left audiences spellbound.
If you were lucky to attend last year, you’ll have probably got to enjoy a delicious Nordic-inspired drink or snack, while taking in a retelling of a classic family favourite, some hilarious performances for grown-ups or some live music, all wrapped up with a New Year’s Eve spectacular of fireworks and music to close the year in style.
If you didn’t get to go then you’re in luck! The Southbank will be bringing it all back this year too!
Eat, drink and be merry at the Market
The Winter Market is an essential part of the Festival – after all, everyone loves to enjoy as many delicious treats as possible during the festive season. You’ll be spoilt for choice, with traders showcasing a truly international feast of tempting sweet and savoury foods, warming drinks to ward off the cold weather and more.
Expect plenty of favourites, such as delicious raclette and bratwurst, as well as the popular Applebee popup – where you’ll find classic items such as freshly made fish and chips, fresh oysters and more. If you fancy a tipple, head towards the Royal Festival Hall where you can cosy down on a beanbag while enjoying a cocktail by the fire pit.
Alongside heaps of tasty morsels, the market also features a variety of stalls featuring crafts and gifts, making sure that you never leave empty-handed without a treasure for someone.
On stage magic and mayhem
As part of this year’s Winter Festival, the Southbank will be presenting the award-winning live retelling of the classic children’s favourite, Black Beauty. Bringing the story of the brave, beautiful horse to life on the stage, the show weaves together puppetry, music and storytelling, for a compelling performance. Perfect for children of all ages, this is the perfect piece of inspiration to help warm up to the festive season. If you plan to attend, make sure you book ahead of your visit, as this performance does require tickets.
For something a little more unique and memorable, look out for the incredible Circus 1903. One of the highlights from last year’s festival, the live circus act returns in 2019, with even more drama, excitement and magic. Expect unbelievable feats of contortionism, jaw-dropping acts, and two life-size elephant puppets, brought to the stage by the team that created War Horse. This year also sees a new addition, with the ominously named Brazilian Wheel of Death. Be aware that this show can be frightening for very young children, so it’s recommended for ages 3 and over.
Discover some impromptu fun
If you’re a guest at the Montcalm Royal London House and just fancy an impromptu trip down to the Southbank Centre, you can still enjoy some of the great entertainment on offer. Head down during lunchtime, where they’ll be showcasing live, free concerts every day, with plenty of exciting local music acts to discover while you enjoy some great food and drink.
And if the cold is little too much to handle outside, head indoors instead, into Queen Elizabeth Hall. Here, you’ll find a special installation created for the festival, Squidsoup. Featuring 200 gently glowing orbs, it’s an immersive space of calm, soothing light and sound, and the perfect place to unwind after a busy day in the city.
Getting to the Southbank Centre
If you’re staying in hotels near Liverpool Street Station, getting to the Southbank Centre is a quick and easy journey.
The simplest route is via the Circle Line, heading directly to Embankment station. From there, you can enjoy the brief walk across the bridge, where you can soak up the incredible views of the London skyline as you pass.
The Winter Market and other festival activities extend alongside the River Thames, so simply follow your nose and the sparkling lights to get straight to the action. Enjoy!