The Greenwich Wintertime Festival – December 1st-31st 2017
With Christmas around the corner, there’s a host of winter markets, wonderlands and festivals for you to visit this December. This year, people can go to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, Winterville in Clapham and even Portobello market are doing a mini festival called the Portobello Winter Festival. Luckily for us Greenwich locals, we get to have our own winter festival right on our doorstep!
The Greenwich Wintertime Festival is located on the grounds of the Old Royal Naval College – just a stone throw away from the infamous Greenwich market. You can enjoy the wonderful surroundings of historical Greenwich whilst exploring the festival and other parts of the town. We were invited to head down last Sunday and boy did we have a good time! Ticket prices start from £15 for adults (£20 includes the ice-skating session) and from £8 for children.
Here’s what we got up to…
Arrival: First Impressions
We were booked for the Sunday afternoon slot and had arrived just a little after our session had started. I ended up leaving Baby Girl at home as she was sleeping… she was still asleep when we got home so she must’ve been tired! Checking in was pretty easy and there were no queues. One of the staff members on hand even volunteered to take our photo for us and of course we accepted without hesitation! It’s always nice to get someone to take a photo of us, we’re so used to selfies.
When we got our wristbands and went through, we were surprised at how big the venue was. I never realised how big the grounds of the Old Naval College was until walking around the place We had a sneak peak of the ice rink and decided that we would go their at the end of our visit. We had a little wander around then found some elves who were lining up children (and parents) to see Santa!
The Santa Experience
The elves ushered us along a tree-lined path which was lit up with fairy lights and larger colourful lights lit the floor of the pathway. As it was still light, we couldn’t see the full effect of the colours but I can imagine, the pathway would’ve looked beautiful as the sky got darker. We ended up in a room that was actually Santa’s secret launch pad! We had an interactive experience with the big man himself who came out to take a selfie with all the children at the end of the experience. All children were given goody gifts upon leaving the pad which was a nice touch to the experience. Inside our goody bag was a pop-out Wintertime Fest Christmas tree, an electronic light-up spiky ball, and a Christmas cookie shortbread.
The Shopping (well, lack of for me!)
Without a doubt, there will always be a winter market ready for you to splash some of your cash. Unfortunately for me, this week hasn’t been a good one financially so I wasn’t able to grab any gifts at the festival but there was loads of things I was eyeing up. Like the wonderful filled gift boxes at RockBox – all of the boxes are amazing but my personal fave is their resolutions box. 🙂 LO was really drawn to the dinosaur purses at The Lion Sparkles. It was really sparkly and the dinosaur shapes were very good! My personal fave from them was their black ROAR tote bag which
I cannot find on their website. is now available on their website!! Check it out guys, it’s only £9.50 – a bargain!
There was only one row of food vans so there wasn’t an overwhelming choice of food to eat. In my opinion, it was all a little pricey but then again, it’s about the same kind of price you’d pay at most winter wonderland/market events. The good thing was everyone’s pricing was near enough the same as each other. £7 would get you a burger or taco or burrito and £3-4 would buy you a decent portion of chips. Sweet things like dessert waffles were £6 and churros were £5 for a regular cup and £7 for a large cup, complete with chocolate dipping sauce which tasted like melted chocolate – divine!
I highly recommend the cinnamon churros at Love Churros and ‘The Porker’ burger at Pulled. If you’re not a pork fan or meat, the taco van had some amazing tacos and burritos. There was also a seafood burger van serving soft-shell crab burgers which sounded amazing but the pulled pork was calling me… Super yums! We sat down in the seating area of the heated covered tent (where the silent disco takes place) to eat our burger and chips. We didn’t feel cold at all, the outdoor heaters they had were really good and everyone around us looked like they were having a good time.
Whilst tucking into our delicious churros, we headed over to the entertainment tent and sat down to hear We Are Trackless perform some wonderful Christmas carols and songs. Then there was a beat-boxing performance which involved the audience taking part. It was really good and was nice to see people joining in too. The performances here vary from day to day so make sure you check out what’s in store on the day. We were quite happy to just sit down and watch it all. If you’re heading down here on December 9th or 17th (both Sundays), there will be a special screening of the iconic Christmas film, The Snowman which will include a live brass band to accompany the film music.
The Ice Skating Rink
We left this one to the end which was like the icing on the cake for us. Before our skate session, there was a spectacular performance by the ice rink team who are actually freestyle dancers. After the performance ended, they opened the rink for the public. It has been years since I last put on a pair of skates but damn did it feel good to get back on the ice! I had a bit of the wobbles on the ice but holding onto LO’s seal aid helped. 🙂 Best of all, LO absolutely loved it! He had told me before he didn’t like the ice so for him to get on and skate with me was amazing even though I pushed him for 90% of our ice skating time.
The ice skating session is only 30 mins long which was enough for us. I also think we were allowed to skate for much longer. The rink is a decent size for both experienced skaters and complete first-timers. It was definitely big enough for us to enjoy without feeling intimidated. If you’re heading onto the ice, opt for the earlier sessions as it’s less busy then and would be a nicer experience for the children or people who aren’t that confident on the ice. Don’t forget to pick a seal aid if you need a bit of help skating.
The whole rink has a large viewing/standing area for people who are not going on the ice and there’s a small bar serving hot, cold and alcoholic beverages to keep you going. Once we were ready to leave the ice, it was approaching 5:30pm so we fufilled our three-hour time slot which seemed to have gone by really quickly. I asked LO if he would like to skate again and he said yes with a genuine smile on his face which really made my day and the burst blister on my right bony foot all worthwhile. 🙂
Our verdict… we loved it! I’d recommend the Greenwich Wintertime Festival to anyone who’s looking for a smaller venue but has all the features of a larger event. This place is fantastic for families with younger children, or for people who prefer something quieter and less chaotic than the giant venues like Winter Wonderland. The festival was busy and bustling but not enough to feel over-crowded which was perfect for us!
I just came across this video from Videoblogg showing you around the festival – you can watch it here (opens a new window)
I’ve read a lot of bad reviews about the Wintertime Festival and had a couple of comments on this post about the high prices (it is quite pricey!) and lack of things to see/do so I just wanted to highlight the pros & cons of the festival for those who plan on going so you can make up your own mind…
- It’s a small and intimate winter festival on the Old Royal Naval College grounds (lovely surroundings) – there’s no loud music or massive crowds
- It’s in the heart of Greenwich so you can also enjoy other things nearby ie. the old market, Greenwich Park, Cutty Sark and the National Maritime Museum. If you have time, the Mudchute animal farm is only a 30mins walk via the foot tunnel (or take the DLR)
- Pre-book the package that includes the ice skating for the best deal
- It’s different from your standard winter festivals – the stalls sell curated, British-made goods from small (some are London-based), independent businesses, artists and designers – a great way of supporting independent British businesses!
- The entertainment was good and varies throughout the day – there’s also a silent disco for those who want to boogie
- There’s outdoor heaters in the eating areas which was nice but you still need to dress up warm especially if you’re out late
- Wintertime Fest is a contemporary event; alternative festivals are not everyone’s bag of tea so keep this in mind
- The entry fee is a lot of money if you are expecting a lot more for your money. I’d suggest pre-booking the ice-skating package (£20 per adult) to get the best deal. For me, the skating was the highlight of our day at the festival and I’d happily pay the price to skate on the beautiful grounds again
- It’s a small festival, so there’s limited food and drink options (which are quite pricey). The gift stalls are independent small businesses so you won’t find the usual continental goods sold at winter festivals ie. gingerbread cookies, German sausages, cheeses, mass-produced toys
- There are no rides for very young children (under 4yrs) so there’s not much to do apart from ice-skating so this festival wouldn’t really be a good choice for new parents or those with toddlers. You might enjoy the carousel by the Cutty Sark and National Maritime museum more
- No ATMs on site so make sure you take out cash before entering or be prepared to pay for everything via card. There’s no re-entry once you’ve gone in
- The Santa experience is NOT a Santa’s Grotto one-on-one experience – we enjoyed the Santa experience but was disappointed that there was no one-to-one photo opportunity with Santa
I hope this updated section helps and I am really sorry for those who have been and didn’t enjoy the festival as we really liked it and not because we were gifted the tickets but because we enjoyed the calmer and quieter atmosphere, the churros and definitely the ice skating.
[#ad] We received a complimentary family ticket to attend the Greenwich Wintertime Festival. All words, opinions and photos are my own and this unbiased review is a true representation of our experience.