For the first time ever, I’m going to stay in London for Christmas. My family is going to gather in my brother’s flat in Hampstead for the official celebrations, and I’m very excited about enjoying all of the Christmassy things that London has to offer.
I’ve been doing lots of research in preparation for the 1st of December (no Christmas music allowed before then!) and my parents visiting, so I thought I’d share! I’ve lived in London for quite a few years now, so I’m not only going to mention the most popular things *cough* winter wonderland *cough*, but also some more low-key options which are less crowded/fully-booked.
Festive Afternoon Tea
What could possibly be more festive than a champagne afternoon tea? I’m a big fan of scones any time of the year, but I especially love the idea of spending a cosy afternoon eating pretty cakes surrounded by Christmas decorations and tunes. The most famous place to go is probably the Ritz, but there are so many other festive teas on offer this time of year. My personal favourite is the Ampersand in South Kensington (the science afternoon tea is great), while my Mum has a soft spot for the Mandarin Oriental where the service is faultless. Sketch is also a favourite thanks to its amazing pink decor (hello, Instagram!), and Café Royal‘s Christmas menu sounds particularly delicious!
My family is already booked in to see the Christmas carols by candlelight at the Royal Albert Hall (where I graduated!) on the 23rd. I’m sure it’s going to be the best thing ever to well and truly get everyone into the Christmas spirit! Next year I’d love to go to the singalong matinee, or head over to St Martin-in-the-Fields on Trafalgar Square. If you’re free on the 20th December, I’d suggest going to Street Child’s charity concert at the Tower of London ( and go ice skating there too).
London is all lit up from mid-November to January, making night-time adventures and after work Christmas shopping a little more special. Regent’s Street, Covent Garden, and Oxford Street all have beautiful lights. Have a look at Carnaby Street – the Christmas lights there always follow a fun theme!
We’re planning to go to Kew Gardens with the family in the days before Christmas to see the amazing light display there. I can’t wait to walk around the gardens with a cup of hot spiced cider!
Department Store Window Shopping
During the Christmas season (from November really) London’s department stores all try to outdo each other with their window displays. Have a look at Selfridges, Liberty’s, Harvey Nichols, or Harrods for the most over-the-top displays. When I was little I saw the Harrods Christmas lights for the first time through a bus window and thought it looked like the most magical place ever – I made my mother take me there the next day! Also worth a visit are Fortnum & Mason for the most beautiful food hampers and Hamleys for many amazing floors of children’s toys.
Top tip: do not miss the top floor of Liberty’s, it is the most Christmassy place you will ever see. It’s become my personal tradition to visit every December.
A London Christmas wouldn’t be complete without ice skating! I think Somerset House and the Natural History Museum have the nicest settings, and the ice rink at the Tower of London is pretty special too, especially after dark. A bit further out West there’s also Hampton Court Palace which looks beautiful.
Who doesn’t love a Christmas market? They’re a chance to pick up some Christmas presents, sample some food stall, and get festive with glühwein. While the most popular London markets are Winter Wonderland and Southbank, I’d recommend finding a smaller one near you – Time Out has a great list that you can filter by area.
When you’ve had enough of walking outside and you want to get away from the cold, a West End show is the perfect way to wind down and warm up. It’s also a great family activity for all ages and it means you get a break from having to make conversation with that annoying cousin/uncle/etc. (Just kidding Mum!). Find out what’s on with the London Theatreland website. The nutcracker at the London Coliseum looks beautiful.
Other festive pop-ups and rooftops
- The John Lewis roof garden on Oxford Street transforms into a festive wonderland every year. For 2018 they have an ice skating rink, hot gin cocktails and live music – perfect if you need a break from shopping.
- Winter at Roof East in Stratford, where you can have a go at curling, have some street food or simply drink hot cocktails at the covered and heated bar.
- Pergola on the Roof will be going all festive once again, both at Olympia and Paddington. It promises great street food and drinks in a heated botanical setting. (Very hygge!)
I can’t wait to indulge in all of these Christmassy activities throughout November and December! Definitely looking forward to spending another Christmas in festive London (I was in Japan last year!)
What festive activities are you going to be doing this Christmas?