7 Best Christmas Shopping Experiences by the Thames

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Christmas shopping in the Big Smoke needn’t end with you hefting your body weight in presents whilst striving salmon-like against the hordes surging along Regent Street.

A shopping trip on the south bank of the Thames is a far more pleasant and romantic affair. While you’re not going to find a Topshop, Debenhams or Argos tucked away behind the historical buildings, it’s a great place for finding something a bit more special. And with a host of great cafes, pubs, and bars, as well as museums, street performers and theatres (for that quick cultural shopping break), you can make a whole day of it.

Here are seven of the coolest, quaintest and quirkiest shopping areas and Christmas markets along the river during December.

Gabriel’s Wharf

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Originally old garages, now with shop-fronts added, Gabriel’s Wharf  is an oasis of vintage style along the modern South Bank. It’s a haven for small design shops, exclusively run by small businesses who design and make their own goods. If you can’t find what you want, you may even be able to commission the person serving you to make it.

Oxo Tower Wharf

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Beneath the iconic Oxo Tower building lies a unique collection of elegant design boutiques and cool studios. It’s sometimes easy to miss, but if you know someone who’ll love some bespoke jewellery, lighting products, homeware or fashion items, you’ll find some unique offerings here. There’s also a number of exhibition spaces where you may be able to pick up a work of art.

Hay’s Galleria

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Originally a warehouse and associated wharf for the port of London, this Grade II listed structure has become a major riverside tourist attraction on the Jubilee Walk.

To be honest the main attraction with Hay’s Galleria isn’t the shops, but the eye-catching 60ft high, 14 tons sculpture that will fascinate, delight and maybe terrify.

Anyway, back to the shopping… Pop in to Hay’s Galleria and you’ll find a bookstore, clothes shops, designer shoes stores and, most importantly, The Christmas Shop, “Where it is Christmas everyday!”. Look no further for some choice decorations for your tree.

Southbank Centre Christmas Market

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December in and around the Southbank centre is home to a variety of spectacular Christmas markets. The most prominent being the Southbank Centre Christmas Market.

It’s an attractive sight: 80 traditionally decorated wooden chalets sitting on the bank of the river under the glow of Christmas lights. Just a wander and a browse is worth the experience.

But you’ll probably be hard-pressed to restrain yourself to only window shopping. Feast on delicious homemade mince pies and piping hot mulled wine as you peruse the hundreds of unique and quirky gifts within the twinkling cabins lining the riverside. Wooden and soft toys, unique jewellery, handmade soaps and many more Christmassy products are offered in a magical winter atmosphere

If you fancy a culture break, you won’t have to look far. The Southbank Centre Christmas Market is part of the Southbank Centre’s Winter Festival, where you can also enjoy Christmas shows, as well as free music, events and even a choir singing carols.

Real Food Christmas Market

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December 14 – 16 at Southbank Centre Square, you’ll find the Real Food Christmas Market. Here you’ll find freshly made mince pies, mulled wine, cheeses, chutneys, charcuterie and all manner of traditional and non-traditional festive bites, ingredients and gifts.

Opening hours: Thursday 12pm – 8pm, Friday and Saturday 11am – 8pm , Sunday 12pm – 6pm – 14 – 16 December

And if that isn’t already making your stomach grumble and mouth water, read on…

Chocolate festival

The 11th annual Chocolate Festival returns to Southbank Centre from the 13th to the 15th December for an indulgent and extravagant celebration of all things chocolate. The perfect shopping spot if you have friends and family with a sweet tooth!

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Here are just some of the events and exhibitions taking place:

  • Masters of Chocolate Afternoon with Damian Allsop, Andrew Gravett, Paul A Young, Jon Bentham, Barry Johnson and Chantal Coady.
  • Create your perfect chocolate bar with a little help from ChocoMe.
  • Learn how to make salted caramel pecan brownies with Rachels’ Kitchen.
  • Indulge in The Free From Bakehouse’s award winning Free From cakes and bakes.
  • Join a free daily quiz with Original Beans.
  • Delight your friends and family with Christmas gifts from L’Artisan du Chocolat, The Chocolatier, Hotel Chocolat, Rococo Chocolates, Choco Passion, Pacari and many more…

The Chocolate Festival is open from 11am-8pm on Friday & Saturday, 11am-6pm on Sunday.

More London Christmas Market

Further up the river, opposite the Tower of London by City Hall (the building sometimes referred to as “Darth Vader’s Helmet”, the The More London Christmas Market at More London Riverside offers even more unique and unusual gifts as well as foods from around the world.

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Meet Santa and his reindeer, browse the stalls for great gifts, including fashion accessories and handmade crafts, and tuck in to a range of hot food plus cheeses, chocolates and chutneys. Following last year’s success, the market has grown and now features the stalls of around 25 local businesses and last four days from 11th to 15th December.

Venture down over the weekend for some festive entertainment too. Saturday brings the London Baptist Choir from 12:30 – 14:30 and Prestige Dhol Indian Drummers from 15:00 – 16:00. Sunday will see a 3-piece jazz band performing from 11:00 – 15:00.

If you work up an appetite shopping, City Cruises have the perfect way for you to relax, enjoy some of London’s best views AND maintain the Christmas spirit you’ve awakened with all those shopping bags! The Festive Lunch Cruise won’t fail to revive you as you sit down to a 3-course meal. And bearing in mind the money you’ve just splurged it won’t break the bank as we’ve got some great discounts running in December only. For more about the Festive Lunch Cruise special offer click here.