It’s not a Christmas to me if I don’t manage a sneaky trip to the big smoke. I find London pretty darn magical at any time of the year (although not enough to live there, not right now anyway), but it’s something else entirely at Christmas. Okay, it’s far busier than usual and it’s basically impossible to get a seat on the tube. But London Christmas is special to me, and that’s why I’ve compiled my favourite things to do in the capital during the festive season. I’ve also added in a few extra bits that I personally don’t choose to do that might be more up your street. If you want to know what I usually do, why not take a peak at this post I wrote last blogmas, all about my usual London Christmas trip. It even has the title I was going to give this post; I’m still in sync with 2016 Sophie apparently!
Probably the most obvious choice, a trip to Winter Wonderland is a must at Christmas. I won’t be going before Christmas this year (no time, and also can’t be dealing with the crowds), but I took a trip last year with Jack. If you want to go when the lights look the most magica – at night – be prepared to queue (or book in advance). It’s also quite expensive if you want to buy anything or do anything once you’re inside, but definitely worth a look.
Rekorderlig Cider Lodge
In between visiting the Harry Potter exhibition at the British Library and seeing The Play That Goes Wrong a few weeks back, Jack and I hopped on the tube with the intention of going to the science museum. When we heard about a Christmas market at Southbank we changed course and headed south of the river. The Christmas market wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, but we did manage to sneak in a mulled Cider at the Rekorderlig cider lodge. If you head upstairs, you can sip your cider whilst watching the London eye make its way around, or people watch the market down below. It was a a pretty good way to spend 30 minutes.
There are four places that spring to mind when I think of ice skating in London during December. The first is Winter Wonderland, but since I’ve already spoken about the marvel in Hyde Park I’ll focus on the other three. If you’re spending the day around the West End then maybe take a look at Somerset House where a huge ice rink is erected each year.
But if you’re looking out east a little more, try your hand at skating just outside the Natural History Museum. The final, and probably the most spectacular, is taking a trip to the Tower of London to skate on the moat. I think that’s where I’d pick, but I don’t trust myself on ice skates after dislocating my knee two Christmases ago. However, if skating is your scene then it’s probably worth a trip to one of these locations.
See The Lights & Decorations
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to enjoy London at Christmas. Winter Wonderland is free to get into, but you’ll inevitably spend when you’re in. By walking around you can see lights and decorations aplenty. The big shopping streets such as Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street have gorgeous lights, as does Carnaby Street (sitting snugly behind Regent Street).
By starting at Marble Arch, you can take in the sights all the way down through Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square and onto Covent Garden. I’d then take a trip to Trafalgar Square to the iconic tree, donated to London each year by Norway, although it’s nothing brilliant. It’s a tall tree, but the decorations aren’t spectacular (stick with Covent Garden for the most magical tree). The Rekorderlig lodge is only a 15 minute walk on from Trafalgar Square so if you do want to warm up then maybe take a wander there after.
If you asked Jack, this definitely wouldn’t be a recommendation of his after we spent an hour queueing for one bauble last year. However, Harrods has the most beautiful Christmas shop and it’s worth a little look if you’ve got the time. It’s walking distance from Winter Wonderland and the Natural History Museum Ice Rink so not out of your way at all! I just recommend going to a department away from the Christmas shop to pay for anything or you could be waiting quite some time.
Still To Visit For A Dreamy London Christmas
There’s a lot to pack in for a day trip, and since I end up going to the theatre a lot, I try not to stray from the West End too often (I have plans for the coming year to change this up a bit, don’t you worry). Still found on my London Christmas wish list are a few beautiful sights:
- Christmas at Kew: One million lights guide the way around the Royal Botanic Gadens at Kew, just 30 minutes out of Central London. The trail is about a mile and a half long and is estimated to take just over an hour to walk, but that bit of walking would be worth it to see the fairytale trees. It’s not cheap, but all the photos I’ve seen look magical and I might have to add this to next year’s Christmas bucket list.
- The London Palladium Panto: This year is Dick Whittington, with my current fave Charlie Stemp (star of Half A Sixpence), but each year a different group of people call the London Palladium home for the festive period. I’m hoping I’ll get to see this after Christmas, but if not, I definitely need to make it to the panto one year. Who has a child I can borrow so I’m not that weird twenty something alone at a kid’s panto?
- New Year’s Eve: I’m actually a bit terrified to go to the New Year’s Eve celebrations in London, mainly because I stress about not being able to move (even to wee) from 3pm whilst I’m waiting for a few fireworks. It would definitely be worth doing one day, or maybe just booking a hotel room with a view where you can wee to your heart’s content. That’s showing my internal status of being old before my time again, isn’t it?
This post should’ve given you plenty of ideas to have the perfect London Christmas, but let me know what your favourites are. I’m always looking for new places to explore (as long as they don’t involve physical activity, because despite joining the gym, I’m still as unfit as anything). Christmas is magical, but nothing is as magical as a London Christmas. Except maybe a New York Christmas – now that’s definitely on my bucket list!