When I studied abroad in London some years ago, I made it my mission to seek out the very best Christmas market—and trust me, there were a lot to choose from. I found that Londoners really treasure the quintessentially warm-and-fuzzy holiday, something I knew I could get behind as a student far away from home. Even before I could celebrate a Thanksgiving abroad (with fellow American roommates, of course) I had already checked off five Christmas markets.
I started with the largest, the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland—truly an extravaganza in itself, it consists of several different markets, restaurants, rides, and ice shows. Without a doubt, the most magical part was the live music that rang throughout the park amid thrilling screams from carnival riders. Winter at Southbank Centre (my favorite!) introduced me to a more classic market with wooden chalets, a thick wintery forest of evergreens, and a German-style beer lodge. Across the way, Christmas by the River overlooked the stunning Tower Bridge and had something that I learned was a staple at every market—decadent food and warm (mostly boozy) drinks.
Since many markets are on hiatus this year, visiting timeless favorites may not be an option. If you, too, find yourself yearning for mulled wine and a night under a twinkle-lit sky (no, not a Hallmark movie, but real-life Britain), try transforming your home into your favorite part of the holiday market with these at-home tips.
1. Whip Up Some Classic Beverages
Since Christmas markets originate from Germany, brisk outdoor biergartens often serve up seasonal beer and spicy mulled drinks. For the grape version of this spiced drink, grab a bottle of Cabernet and concoct a mulled wine for yourself—or Glühwein as it’s called at German markets. I’ve made it several times already this year, and this one in particular transports me back to those shimmery chalet stands. I had this drink at every market I visited, so brewing up a homemade version can trick you into being back. For those who want to indulge their sweet tooth, try another market hallmark—hot chocolate. This one gets an extra seasonal kick with the addition of cardamom.
2. Curate a Holiday Playlist
If Hyde Park Winter Wonderland had its very own karaoke bar, so can you. And while your home market excludes the exciting chatter of crowds, you can still incorporate the sweet sounds of a Christmas market. Whether you start slow with Michael Bublé or go full-throttle with a Mariah Carey Christmas, curate your own playlist to turn up the yuletide spirit. Have your lyrics ready to join in cheery singing—but you may want to warn your neighbors first…
3. Turn Your Bar Cart Into a Chalet
Chalets (the wooden stands that house the individual shops) are what make Christmas markets so whimsical, and while crafting a traditionally German chalet may not be accessible, you can use what you have around the house. Turn your bar cart into one of those charming stands, by draping it in twinkle lights, candles, and a mini tree. Since chalets house food, drink, and holiday knick knacks, you can keep your ciders and beers on it, turn it into an ornament craft station to DIY those you'd normally buy on site, or pile it high with themed treats.
4. Upgrade Your Christmas Tree and Lights
Along with most markets, Winter at the Southbank Centre has dozens and dozens of Christmas trees lining a pathway to a biergarten, so a lone tree just won't cut it for your stay-at-home market. In addition to adorning your living room’s main Christmas tree with twinkle lights and ornaments, sprinkle table-top trees and miniature fake firs around your home. Even more festive? A tree that is a light itself.
5. Bake Festive Market Treats
Looking for a holiday refresh? Shake up your classic cookie routine and add Christmas market staples to your menu, from doughy pretzels to roasted nuts and Dutch pancakes. While some treats may be tricky to make at home, mince pie is a traditional British dessert you’ve got to try, since I never failed to find these spiced mini pastries at every market I visited.
6. Capture the Scents of the Season
Even though you can’t replicate the smell of All. The. Food. wafting from dozens of chalets, you can still get your living room smelling festive and bright. Scatter your favorite holiday candles about your living room to give the room a warm glow and complete the Christmas market transformation.
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