Christmas is upon us, heralded by dismally dark days, festive lights and gingerbread lattes topped with whipped cream and cinnamon. This time of year is one of my favorites in London. I love meandering along Regent Street beneath dazzling lights, where I can’t help but indulge my inner child at Hamleys before building an age-appropriate wish list at Liberty.
To honor the impending holidays, I’ve decided to list my favorite holiday-themed activities.
Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. When else can you ice-skate, enjoy rides and sip mulled wine all within the confines of London’s biggest park? For more information, click here.
Holiday Films at the Electric. Markets and stores aren’t the only ones getting in the holiday spirit: the Electric Cinema (my favorite in the world, where one reclines in leather seats while sipping on wine) is showing a number of festive films this December. Book early to see A Christmas Carol, The Nutcracker, or It’s a Wonderful Life (the week of Dec. 16 and Dec. 23). For information and tickets, visit the cinema’s website.
Ice Skating Galore. Hyde Park isn’t the only venue for ice skating enthusiasts. In fact, many of London’s iconic sites feature ice skating rinks during the holiday season, including the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, the Natural History Museum and my personal favorite, the Somerset House. For one of the city’s best impressionist art collections, pop next door to the adjoining Courtauld Collection following your skate.
German Christmas Markets. London’s mainstay markets are preparing for the holidays, but they’re up against the Cologne Christmas Market in Southbank. This weekend, the Southbank Centre welcomes the Christmas Chocolate Festival! Click here for further details.
Holiday Music at St. Martin in the Fields. The Church of the Ever Open Door hosts countless holiday concerts this December (full schedule may be seen here) and one of the most popular Christmas Eve services in the city. Be sure to arrive at least an hour before the 6:30pm parish carol service to ensure a seat. Beneath the parish church to the Royal Family sits the Cafe in the Crypt, which is serving Christmas lunches and dinners from December 12-24.
Shop ’til you drop. London retailers offer some of their biggest sales during the holiday months, particularly if you’re willing to postpone shopping until the eleventh hour. Sales historically began closer to Christmas and Boxing Day, running through the end of January, but worrisome predictions by analysts have forced many high street stores into premature sales. Just watch out for those counterfeit toys!
Holiday Tea. London’s finest hotels offer holiday-themed teas this month, including the Ritz and Claridge’s, whose teas are accompanied by choir music. If you’ve been waiting for an occasion to splurge, look no further. Prices for these festive teas (though not nominal) are only slightly higher than typical afternoon teas with champagne. At the Ritz, he holiday tea costs £60, with the regular champagne afternoon tea running at £54.
Any ideas you’d like to share? Contact me by clicking here.
*Christmas in London isn’t all sugar and spice and everything nice. The city pretty much shuts down on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, so if you’re sticking around for the holidays, be sure to consider transportation, restaurant and store closings.