Winter Wonderland is back this year and tourists are already flocking to the capital to visit it.
Known for its high prices, many Londoners (myself included) are often put off by the thought of having to splash out to enjoy the Christmassy attraction.
On a mission to work out the true costs, I armed myself with just £20 to see if I could still get the ‘real’ festive experience.
I was determined to fulfil the standard Winter Wonderland tick-list of getting a sweet treat, a souvenir, going on a ride, eating tasty food and sipping on a hot wintery drink.
Arriving on a Wednesday morning, I admittedly didn’t have much hope for my quest, yet somehow, I left surprisingly satisfied.
With the cold weather, I decided my first purchase would be a hot drink.
A lovely mulled wine would certainly require a bigger budget, or missing out elsewhere, so I decided to go with a delightful hot chocolate.
Some stands were charging a whopping £5 for the chocolatey delight and I refused to fork out that much on a little drink.
Sacrificing the taste of Cadbury’s, Belgian chocolate or the extras of marshmallows and cream, I found a stall in Santa Land charging just £2.80 rather than highs of a fiver.
Whilst it wasn’t the most indulgent and was a little more watery, it did the trick.
Coming in the classic Instagrammable Winter Wonderland branded cup, my piping hot chocolate left me with an impressive £17.20.
But no visit to such an attraction is complete without a little souvenir or gift to take home – supposedly.
A lot of what is sold at Winter Wonderland can be lovingly referred to as ‘tat’, something we can all admit to being guilty of obsessing over purchasing as kids. I’m talking magnets, key-rings, land yards – you get the picture.
And with so many random items to pick up at the stalls, including some very nice pricey pieces of jewellery and decorations, I decided to go with a piece of official merchandise. Everything else sold there you could pick up anywhere in London or at any winter market around the country.
Out of the expensive items available, from branded hats for £12 and gloves for £10, I went with a pen – what could be more ‘tat’ than a pen? Souvenir secured, and so I could remember this quest forever, I was left at £14.20
Surprised I had so much remaining and after already making mental notes of the cheapest foods I’d spotted, I decided it was time to tackle my main challenge: an activity.
This is easily where you’ll face your biggest money loss.
Some roller-coasters are charging a huge £9 per person and the tricky games can cost at least £3 a go.
The big attractions like Ice Skating and the Giant Wheel can be over £10 each, but I was determined to find something fun and cheap.
So I headed back to Santa Land, which is filled mostly with children’s rides.
I was a bit gutted the huge swing set wasn’t working but found a slightly smaller one that was only £4 for an adult (and only £2 for a kid).
Sucking up my pride of being a solo 23-year-old excitedly going on an empty children’s ride, I paid the cash and hopped on the SkyGlider.
While sitting alone on flying over Hyde Park might not be the typical Winter Wonderland experience, I had a whale of a time.
Although it’s shorter than the others, it’s right on the edge of the park. This meant I got an amazing birds-eye-view of the entirety of Winter Wonderland.
So, if you’re looking to save some cash and do go in the evening, get a ticket for this and you’ll still get those classic magical views of the lights.
My fun little swing-around left me with a remarkable £10.20
Satisfied I’d walked around all of the Christmassy tourist trap, I was shockingly confident I could get my filling of food with change to spare.
If I really wanted to save on the food and drink side, I could have gone to the Lidl pop-up selling mince pies and hot chocolate for £3. But that just didn’t quite feel like the spirit of Winter Wonderland and its scandalously priced stalls.
An absolute staple of a Christmas market is undoubtedly the big bratwurst stalls.
While I could have got a lower-priced snack of chicken nuggets for £5, I was faithful to the German hot dog tradition. Plus, chicken nuggets aren’t complete without chips, and they were around an extra £4.
Getting a substantial, fresh-off-the-flames and very tasty plain bratwurst cost me £7. Finding this the cheapest filling in the buzzing Bavarian village, I had £3.20 left to spend.
You’ve always got to have a sweet treat at Winter Wonderland and whilst churros and pancakes are a go-to, the average price of about £6 was too much. But thankfully, I’d spotted an equally tasty alternative.
The humble cousin of a churro, I treated myself to a yummy doughnut.
Back in Santa Land (seemingly the place to be to save your cash), I had spotted a bargain stall.
For just £2, I received a very fresh, hot, golden sugar doughnut. It was actually the best doughnut I’ve had. It was steaming right out of the fryer, delightfully crispy on the outside and spectacularly fluffy inside.
Relishing in all of this remaining money, I even added hot Nutella for an extra £1 – and she was very generous with the portion.
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So, after warming up with a drink, picking up a souvenir, spinning around to admire the view and indulging on treats, I finished my day with a whole 20p to spare.
Of course, I probably could have dined on more exciting food or treated myself to a mulled wine, but I would have missed out elsewhere.
In my opinion, half the fun of Winter Wonderland anyway is just walking around and feeling Christmassy; so it doesn’t really matter what you get up to or buy. As cheesy as it may sound, it’s about who you’re with.
It certainly would be much prettier and magical to go in the evening, but you will have to pay for those tickets.
I’m surprised to say it, but it’s definitely possible to tick off the big Winter Wonderland must-dos without breaking the bank. But if you really want that full festive, touristy, experience, you’re going to have to splash out somewhat.
You can find Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park and book tickets here.
Is there more you would like to know about this year’s Winter Wonderland? If so, email [email protected].