Remember when the Christmas season meant more than just crowds, traffic, and a massive drain on your wallet? Well, Winter Wonderland 2012 – Hyde Park’s magical outdoor fair and market -- is back for its sixth year, and will bring festive cheer to even the most Scrooge-like visitor to London.

A circus with jugglers and clowns, fairground rides, an ice rink and a gift-giving Father Christmas make the free event an obvious choice for children. But visit after dark and even adults will be transported to a picturesque wintery scene taken straight from a feel-good movie. 

A short stroll from the entrance on Hyde Park Corner leads you to Angels Christmas Market, a traditional German market with Bavarian-style bars and cafes serving everything from mulled wine and hot cider to roasted nuts, gingerbread goodies, bratwurst sausages and hog roast. Thrill seekers can venture further into the park and buy tickets for rides like the Star Flyer, which spins around 60m above the ground, or the Power Tower, which rises slowly over the twinkling lights of the London skyline and then quickly drops to the ground. Lovers can share a romantic moment in a private pod on the Giant Observation Wheel – a 15-minute ride with a bottle of champagne if you  preorder. .  

If a festive feast followed by a rollercoaster ride isn’t something you can stomach, then head to this year’s new attraction, Zippos Cirque Berserk, in the circus tent.  The evening show, inspired by the dark and twisted fairytales of the brothers Grimm, is a 45-minute, adrenaline-raising performance with a lot of knife throwing, motorcycle stunts and daredevil high-wire feats to keep you on the edge of your seat.

Winter Wonderland 2012 is open until 10 pm every night until 6 January, except 25 December.

Malika Dalamal is the London Localite for BBC Travel