Christmas is a magical time in London. Father Christmas once said that “if it wasn’t for the abundance of skilled seasonal labour in Lapland, I would have set up shop in London”, but if we missed out on the workshops, we certainly got his sales floor. Harrods lit in all its glory in Knightsbridge, Selfridges on Oxford Street, Fenwicks in the heart of Mayfair and the behemoth Westfield shopping centres located to the east and west of the capital makes for a shoppers paradise, but there’s plenty more to see in the capital.
If you’re visiting London this Christmas, here’s our essential survival guide:
What to see
Winter Wonderland runs between the end of November and start of January in Hyde Park and offers endless amounts of activities for all with winter markets, a huge festive fairground, the biggest ice skating rink in the UK, grottos and more glühwein than you can imagine. This city within a city is well worth visiting if you find yourself in the area.
Getting to a Christmas Carol concert is a must, and thankfully we have shows on right up to Christmas Eve where you can see the big event in the Royal Albert Hall if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on tickets. Here’s a full guide to the Christmas Carol season.
There’s nothing more quintessentially British than a good old panto at Christmas. There’s a wealth of shows to choose from, but the show we’d recommend is The Railway Children in a new purpose-built venue at London’s King’s Cross Station. Staged around a real train track and a beautiful 60-tonne locomotive that steams into the theatre to delight all ages, this is a definite must-see.
Where to Shop
In the Heart of London
If you want to be in the heart of London for your Christmas shopping then get yourself over to Regent Street, Oxford Circus and Bond Street where a host of shops can be found. Taking the Central, Vicoria or Bakerloo Lines to Oxford Circus will land you within walking distance of Fenwicks, Selfridges and a host of other outlets around the area. If you want to see the world-famous Harrods, it’s a short walk or tube ride to Knightsbridge.
Greenwich Market is truly magical at Christmas time. The nautical capital of east London is home to fabulously British streets that are lined with traditional shops with a marketplace in the centre of it all that’s lit by fairy lights at Christmas.
The wealth of Christmas-related activity around Covent Garden can be overwhelming. Traditional stalls with hand-made gifts are all sheltered within the main market that is a buzz of Christmas carols and hearty streetfood, as well as the odd tipple. A real must for shoppers.
Where to eat
Bumpkins is a fabulous local Great British Brasserie that serves home-made British dishes with locally-sources, seasonal ingredients. The festive menu at Bumpkins is sublime with treats such as Game Terrine and Free Range Norfolk Black Turkey and Dundee Cake Stuffing on offer.
Bluebird is a local neighbourhood restaurant on a grand scale. Located on King’s Road it’s an ideal eatery to visit after a hard day’s shopping with all the traditional meals on offer. All the usual suspects are available for main course, but to whet your appetite, there’s Foie Gras Ballotine, Loch Var Smoked Salmon and Dressed Crab to choose from.
If you want something a little different from the usual this Christmas then head to The Cinnamon Club where you’ll find Executive Chef Vivek Singh’s revolutionary cooking style offering much more than turkey and trimmings at the Grade II listed, award-winning modern Indian restaurant.
Where to drink
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese
Christmas is all about tradition, and there’s nothing more traditional than Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. It is one of many Sam Smiths pubs which are all contenders for places to drink at Christmas, but this pub is particularly special and offers a unique Christmas feel. One of London’s oldest pubs its guests are always charmed by its low ceilings and spiralling staircases that open up into small alcoves for dining and large halls for drinking.
Log fires and locally-sourced food and drink should always form the crux of Christmas celebrations, and The Dragonfly Brewery in The George and Dragon, Acton has it all. Take a look at our editor’s review of the pub here.
This is a great pub if you want to get a good vibe with your friends in the run up to Christmas. The big open-plan room is conductive to a fun-filled night with three wood fires keeping the place nice and cosy and lots of British-brewed real ales on offer to warm the stomach.
Where to Stay
Crowne Plaza – The City
The Crowne Plaza has it all as a place to stay in London this Christmas. Centrally located and with good transport links the hotel is a convenient place to see what London has to offer around the festive period. But when you return home at night, it is an idyllic place to relax and put your feet up in their generously sized rooms or in one of their two restaurants. The Chinese Cricket club is one of London’s best on-site eateries by a long margin and the Voltaire champagne bar is the perfect place to kick back and treat yourself with a glass of champagne or a tipple from their innovative menu of cocktails, wines and spirits against a sophisticated backdrop.
Things to note
Public transport is limited over the Christmas period so make sure you plan your journey in advance. Christmas is also a popular time for tourists so be sure to book up early to avoid disappointment.