Are you spending the Christmas holidays in London this year? Here are 10 fantastically festive ways to spend your downtime this December and January
1. Test your skating skills at Somerset House
It wouldn’t be Christmas if you didn’t get your skates on and head out for your annual laps of the nearest ice rink. Skate at Somerset House provides the most magical location for iceskating, complete with giant tree and (if you go later in the day) an illuminated Somerset House. For other impressive iceskating locations, visit Canary Wharf, the Natural History Museum and the Tower of London. For something a little further west, try Westfield London; their temporary rink will be open until early January.
2. Sip some mulled wine in Covent Garden
In the heart of Covent Garden Market you will find the Crusting Pipe. You may not know it by name but you’ve probably been past - it takes up a large portion of the lower courtyard where there’s often opera singers and string quartets, including Fabienne Borget and Abraxas Ensemble. If you’re in the area, be sure to pop in and sample some of the Crusting Pipe’s finest mulled wine. It’ll certainly warm you up and get you into the festive spirit.
3. Brave the Oxford Street rush
You haven’t experienced London properly until you’ve been brave enough to take on Oxford Street’s Christmas hoards. Whether it’s last minute present shopping or treating yourself in the Boxing Day sales, Oxford Street has an overwhelming amount of choice and some of the best bargains. The only disadvantage is having to battle your way through the crowds to find what you’re looking for. If you’re up to the challenge, you might walk away with some of the best purchases you’ve ever made!
4. Take a wintery walk along the Thames
The wind might be bitterly cold, but winter is still one of the most wonderful times to explore the London. Wrap up warm and head to Westminster Bridge, making your way to the south side of the River Thames. Heading east, you will find rows of trees decorated with hundreds of tiny fairy lights, lighting the path towards the London Eye. Keep walking and you’ll come to the Southbank Centre Winter Festival, where you’ll find wooden huts selling food, drink and a selection of gifts that will make the perfect stocking fillers.
5. Visit the V&A for some Christmas carols
On selected dates up until December 23, the V&A Museum will be hosting its Lunchtime Carol Series. Here, choirs from around the city will be performing a combination of yuletide classics and modern Christmas favourites at the museum’s Grand Entrance. If you’re unable to make it to the museum on one of the concert days, they’re also running a Christmas Trail, whereby you have to find 12 Christmas objects that have been hidden around the museum. Take part any day up until January 6.
6. Tour the various Christmas light displays
As mentioned, Christmas is the perfect time of year to explore what London has to offer and it is possible to do so without breaking the bank. There are a lot of Christmas light displays that go up across the city every year, so you could spend a day trying to take in as many as possible. From Covent Garden’s giant mistletoe and disco balls, to Bond Street’s peacock feathers and the angels of Regent Street, try to decide which one you think is the best.
7. Feast on some festive favourites
London is home to hundreds of pubs, leaving you spoilt for choice when it comes to Christmas dinners - especially a traditional turkey roast with pigs in blankets! For something a little more sweet, head to one of Gail’s Artisan Bakeries (scattered around London) for one of the city’s finest mince pies. If you’re looking for street food, Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland has a vast amount to choose from, including Bratwurst sausages, hog roast and even Nutella calzones.
8. Explore Epping Forest
It’s a fair trek from west and central London, but Epping Forest is one of the most fantastic green spaces the city has to offer. Grab a coat, scarf and some comfy shoes and head north to discover what this wonderful woodland has to offer. There’s a good chance you’ll get to see some of the forest’s wildlife; it’s home to deer and birds of prey. If not, you can be happy in the knowledge that you’ve spent some time in the fresh air, away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre.
9. Lose yourself in the hallways of Harrods
It may be too expensive to actually buy anything, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun exploring the many different departments Harrods has to offer. From food and furniture, through to toys, technology and even clothes for pets, this seven-floor store sells lots of weird and wonderful things. One of their 330 departments is entirely dedicated to Christmas, so that’s probably a good place to start.
10. Catch a classic Christmas show
If it’s some light-hearted entertainment you’re after, you can’t go far wrong with a traditional British pantomime, and London has a few to choose from. The London Palladium is hosting Cinderella, with TV personality Amanda Holden returning as the Fairy Godmother. There’s also the Potted Panto at the Garrick Theatre, which provides short renditions of several fairytale stories, including Jack and the Beanstalk and Snow White. Further to the west is the Lyric Hammersmith’s production of Aladdin.
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