winter festival @ southbank

I don't know about you, but I am currently well into the festive spirit! My sister's recent visit to London was the perfect excuse to kick off the season in style - meaning feasting on good food (a given), and doing the classic rounds of the Christmassy department stores and decorations. 

Although it is easy (and understandable) to be at least slightly bah-humbug at Christmas time in London, what with the crazy crowds and the pushing and shoving and drunken people wearing santa hats, I refuse to let it get to me. Everything is sparkly! Everyone is singing White Christmas! Everywhere is covered in tinsel and fake snow and smells of hot chocolate! You might as well ride the wave, y'know?

In all seriousness though, I do absolutely love this time of year. Bundling up in layers and scarves, slapping on a festive red lip and clutching hot cups of mulled wine = completely in my element. And of course, it's winter time, meaning you need to eat more to insulate yourself from the cold. It's scientific fact, there's no disputing it.

My sister and lovely friend J and I headed to the Winter Festival at the Southbank to make sure we got on with the whole insulating thing. It was a weekday afternoon so it wasn't too manic, and they have some seriously good food stalls there.

It's also just a great place to soak in the sights if you're visiting London.

Do you remember those amazing duck confit burgers we had at the Feast festival in August? Well, we spotted their stall at the festival, and after some perusing around, my sister settled on one with raclette cheese. We also got some fries and truffle mayo - holy yum.

There was a Swedish food stall (I can't remember the name and can't find it online, but it's the one next to the indoor seating area) where J got meatballs from, and I got a Swedish burger because her meatballs looked so good. They were both delicious - my burger was very fresh and a twist on the usual. It wasn't particularly cheap at £8.50, but for the quality of meat (I believe it was from The Laughing Stock) I couldn't complain. The indoor seating area was very handy as it was pretty cold that day, and they have heaters and comfy seats which I imagine get very busy on the weekends and evenings!

We weren't done yet though - there was definitely room for dessert. My sister grabbed a hot chocolate with almond milk (I love that so many places offer it as an option now!), and the three of us shared piping hot churros with chocolate dip. This is not one to be missed if you visit the Southbank!

The whole market area is decorated with fairly lights and walls of pine trees, even the scroogiest of us would smile a little wandering around here. 

Afterwards, we hopped over to Selfridges for a spot of shopping and admiring the Christmas displays. I rarely go into department stores "just for a browse", but what is it about this season that makes all these places have this special something that lures you in? Am I just a marketer's dream? Don't answer that.

You can't deny it though - London is one heck of a gem, tube problems and bad weather and all. The city centre during the holidays is something that I pictured as being the ultimate Christmassy scene when I was younger, especially when I lived in Japan. So many of the picture books I read would feature these images of European cities that have now come to life. It's a strange and wonderful thing.

All this festiveness is making me mushy! Or is that the mulled wine? 

I'd better pace myself, there's a whole month of merry-making ahead of us. 

What are your favourite places to go this time of year, whether in London or abroad?