This is a sponsored article on behalf of In Kingston.
Twinkling lights? Check. Traditional Christmas market? Check. Live music, mulled wine, picturesque streets? Check, check, check.
Nope, not a Christmas market in a far-flung corner of Europe, but rather, the charming festive scene that awaits you much closer to home in Kingston this year. Throw in riverside pubs and restaurants, more shops than you can shake your credit card at, and arts and crafts workshops, and you've got yourself a super-Christmassy day out.
Just 28 minutes by train from Waterloo, Kingston is the best of both worlds — close enough to central London that you can easily visit in a day, but lively enough that you'll feel like you've been on a festive mini-break, without the stress of travelling abroad.
The festivities this year centre around the Christmas market, which takes over Kingston's historic town centre, including Ancient Market Place and the ski-themed Alpine Village outside All Saints Church, which has a firepit for toasting marshmallows. Wooden chalets decked in garlands and baubles sprawl among the picturesque buildings, offering you a chance to pick up some unique gifts for your friends and family. Jewellery, scented candles, eco-friendly bath products, leather goods, scarves and Christmas decorations are among the products on offer, as well as fudge, cheese and Turkish delight.
Warm your hands on a cup of mulled wine or hot chocolate as you browse, and keep an eye out for the roaming brass band, which gives pop-up performances at various locations across town, taking the festive atmosphere up another notch.
Live music, singalongs and open mic nights take place every day at a specially-built stage in the Ancient Market Place. Time your visit for a Saturday in December to see giant reindeer stilt walkers (intriguing...), acrobatic Santa, elf dancers, balloon-sculpting roller skaters (impressive!) and LED winged ballerinas as they delight shoppers all over the town centre.
Got the kids in tow? There's plenty to keep younger visitors happy this December, including a naughty elf trail. Help them find all ten toys and decorations in windows around the town centre to be in with a chance to win a £100 Bentalls voucher. Crafty kids and their parents can also make their own Christmas cards, wreaths, or miniature Christmas trees at free art workshops led by Cass Art’s staff artists and teachers from a local children’s art school.
Still got a bit of shopping to do? Kingston is home to plenty of big brand high street retailers including John Lewis, as well as independent stores. And once you're done with the shopping, plonk yourself and your bags down at one of the town's riverside bars and restaurants for some much needed refreshment.
Alternatively, hit up the food and drink stalls at the Christmas market for bratwurst, Yorkshire pudding wraps, Belgian waffles... and maybe another cup of mulled wine from the Pyramid Bar next to the music stage, which also stocks an impressive selection of German and locally-brewed beers.
Before you hop back on the train, get a few snaps for the 'gram. Kingston goes all out with Christmas decorations — think festive lights and giant Christmas trees in the streets, nutcracker figures, an illuminated candy cane hat and giant bauble installations, a vintage carousel, and a magical winter garden decorated with snowy trees. Throw in historic buildings and riverside scenes, and it really is beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Kingston.
Start your Christmas story at inkingston.co.uk. Gift stalls at Kingston Christmas Market are open 18 November-24 December. Food and drink stalls are open 18 November-31 December.