I’m a total Christmas nut. There, I said it. Okay, I’ll admit it – I’m also addicted to Christmas in London.
Christmas has always been my favourite time of year. My birthday is a bit earlier, so the excitement of that mixed with Christmas cheer always makes December an incredible month. I love sitting by the fire, sipping mulled wine, and watching the cheesiest Christmas movies (Christmas in Boston is my favourite for you Suits lovers!).
Since most holidays aren’t as big in London as they are in the U.S., I was kind of nervous to celebrate my first Christmas in London. After all, I had no idea what to expect.
Turns out I had nothing to worry about. Christmas in London is HUGE. It’s festive. And exciting. It’s literally everything I want when it comes to Christmas. London knows how to do Christmas, and everyone should spend at least one here.
“London, as a city, is very Christmas obsessed” – Rory Gilmore
And oh is she right! Londoners live and breathe Christmas; and I’m so happy to stand there and do it with them! Here are some of my favourite things about the holiday season in London:
Outdoor Ice Rinks
Imagine skating under the stars – well, street lamps – in front of some of London’s finest buildings. Growing up, I was a huge fan of ice skating, and my birthday parties were always at the local outdoor skating rink. In London, these outdoor skating rinks are in incredible places – in the middle of Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland, in front of Somerset House, and even at the Natural History Museum. There are so many places to go and ice skate. The best part? Most of them don’t just have ice skating. They have Christmas markets, ski lodge pop ups, and so much more! Time Out offers a complete list of London skating rinks.
Last winter, we did our Christmas skating after Christmas, at Somerset House. Skate at Somerset House is an incredible event – Fortnum & Mason have a pop up shop and restaurant, the skating rink is huge, and it has such a Christmasy feel. I recommend it for anyone looking for a romantic skating night. You can book your tickets as well as packages which include extras like champagne or fondue on Ticketmaster.
Beautiful Christmas Shops
You don’t truly know Christmas heaven until you step into the Liberty Store’s Christmas Shop. And that’s not even the biggest one! All of London’s department stores open up their Christmas shops before summer is even over (yes…in August!). About half a floor in Selfridge’s, John Lewis, the Liberty Store, and more is taken over with ornaments, Christmas decorations, and incredible Christmas displays. Our personal favourite store for decoration shopping is Peter Jones. However, the Liberty Store is the best for window shopping!
Pop-up Restaurants & Ski Lodges
One of my favourite things about skiing is sitting in the ski lodge, drinking hot chocolate, and reading a book. I’m a total half-day skier, and the lodge is a great place to sit and relax when I’m just over it. Unfortunately, London is not surrounded by mountains and populated with ski lodges. However, the brilliant masterminds behind really cool pop-ups have started bringing ski lodges to London. From the Fortnum & Mason pop-up, Fortnum’s Lodge, at Somerset House to The Lodge (by Jimmy’s pop-ups) in Clapham, there are ski-lodge themed places everywhere! They serve fondue and hot cocktails, have incredible menus, and genuinely encompass the feel of a ski lodge.
When you’re not in the mood for Swiss cuisine, English Christmas meals are fantastic – a big roast, Christmas cake, and mince pies!
Christmas Markets for Every Taste
London is full of Christmas markets! They may not be the quaint European Christmas Markets that you see in Germany and the rest of Europe, but there are plenty of them, and there is one for every taste.
- Tate Modern Christmas Market: Pop into one of London’s best museums before exploring the wooden chalets that make up the Tate Modern Christmas Market
- Southbank Christmas Market: Stroll along the Thames as you take in the Christmas spirit & great views of the London Eye
- Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland: Carnival rides, pop-up bars, and Christmas shops all in one. Mr. Foggs is a great place to stop for a rest (and a drink)
- Leicester Square at Christmas: Christmas at Leicester Square is new this year, and worth checking out before everyone else does – it’s in the heart of London after all!
Plus, my favourite Saturday market in Duke of York Square develops a Christmas vibe, with decorations and even a Christmas grotto, if you’re looking to pay Santa a visit! Do your Christmas shopping on Kings Road for something less crowded than Oxford Street, and swing by the market to pick up some goodies!
Festive Afternoon Tea
No visit to London is complete without an afternoon spent having tea. Even though I live in London now, it’s still one of my favorite things to do, and something I insist on whenever I have visitors.
Over the holiday period, many afternoon teas take on a festive theme. Whether it is just the decorations on the table, or the entire menu that is dedicated to the theme, it definitely makes for a unique experience. We enjoyed tea at the Corinthia Hotel last year over the Christmas period and I absolutely loved the tree that they had in the lobby. This year they’re having a Swan Lake themed tea, with performing dancers and all!
Another great location for seasonal teas is the Conrad St. James – their tea theme changes each season and everything from the starters to the desserts are designed to fit in with the theme.
See the Lights!
Christmas light displays begin to take over London as December rolls around. Tree lighting ceremonies take places, street Christmas lights all go on at once, and London turns into a sparkling place. Carnaby Street, festive as ever, becomes a Christmas light lover’s dream. Oxford Street and Regent Street are decorated, as are all of the shops along them. Covent Garden’s decorations are always a spectacle to be seen, and the big tree goes up in Trafalgar Square. Kensington Palace & Buckingham Palace get festive, hotels compete for the best lobby decorations, and each neighbourhood has its own Christmas flair. If you want to see Kew Gardens lit up, make sure you book in advance. The good spots fill up early on in the season!
Christmas on TV and on Stage
Have you seen a UK Christmas advert? If you haven’t, click here. And be prepared to tear up.
Television in the UK around Christmas is just incredible. From the movies and adverts leading up to it to the Queen’s Christmas speech on the day of, everything is so festive and so British!
On stage, there are some incredible productions of the Nutcracker all around London. My friend and I attended the English National Ballet’s performance last year at the London Coliseum and loved it. They are so talented and it’s such a classic ballet – perfect for getting into the Christmas spirit if you are not there already!
What is your favourite thing to do during the holiday season?
Let us know in the comments below!
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