By mid-November each year, London’s graceful Hyde Park is partially transformed into scene of European festivity.
The Royal Parks first commissioned a small funfair in 2005 and 2006, but that generally passed without much attention.
In 2007, it was the influence of Germany’s mighty Oktoberfest that began to transform Winter Wonderland into one of London’s biggest and most popular annual events.
Organisers AEG Live and PWR were brought on board to dramatically transform the park’s Christmas offerings.
Then, the event ran from 1 December before later being extended to the current mid-November start.
Today, many of the rides do literally come from Oktoberfest, Germany’s colossal autumn event which predominantly features beer, food, music and of course rides.
So many Germanic touches have now become part of the furniture at Hyde Park’s Winder Wonderland, including sauerkraut, bratwurst, beer, pretzels, oompah bands and the Bavarian village itself.
Some of the most iconic German-themed rides are also set up in London, including the engineering marvel of the 1989-built Munich Looping rollercoaster.
Celebrities and the masses
Countless celebrities including royals, footballers, singers and actors are keen to be seen at Winter Wonderland, often revealing their presence on Instagram.
In 2010, the event attracted more than two million people, but a decade later it was stopped in its tracks by COVID-19.
Winter Wonderland returned the following year, but for the first time walk-up and, save a few off-peak slots, free entry was scrapped.
The option to enter totally spontaneously has not returned, as entry to the event has remained via pre-booking only.
With the two important features of free and spontaneous entry now all but gone, it is possible that Winter Wonderland has passed its peak experience.
The cancellation of this year’s debut of Höllenblitz – the world’s largest indoor travelling rollercoaster – is further evidence that the event may have grown as much as it can.
But on the flip side, with only about a quarter of Hyde Park used for Winter Winterland, there is plenty of physical room for it to grow yet.
The event also maintains the largest travelling drop ride and outdoor rollercoaster. There is still plenty to come for.
This season’s Hyde Park Winter Wonderland runs through to 2 January next year.