I love spending time in London during the festive period.
The city goes all out for Christmas and we’ve been visiting every year since we were kids. We’ve had so many fun memories over the years, so I thought I’d share a few of my favourite things to do. It’s likely that most of these are things you can do in every city in England, but London just has the biggest variety!
EAT ALL OF THE FESTIVE FOOD
Obviously this the most important part for me, because I just love eating all the Christmas specialties and baked goods. I could honestly make the most giant list of things I would want to eat around the festive period but instead I’ll just leave you with a few suggestions. Hunt out a cracking roast dinner, a Christmas bun or mince pie from GAIL’s, a seasonal cupcake from Crumbs & Doilies, a festive sausage roll from The Ginger Pig, or perhaps a specialty doughnut from Bread Ahead, and wash it down with a mulled cider from Borough Market.
VISIT THE MARKETS
One of my favourite things to do every Christmas is to visit Borough Market. It’s always decked out with decorations and filled with the most delicious dishes. I love to grab a cup of mulled cider and wander around sampling all the wares. It’s a fabulous place to be to shop for Christmas food gifts, or some alternative items for your Christmas table. If you fancy somewhere a little more Christmas based, then there’s always Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. It’s a huge German style Christmas market alongside rides and an ice skating rink. There are lots of places to drink mulled wine and hot chocolate here and to fill up on cheesy potatoes, waffles and the like! The Southbank also has a Christmas market with food, drink and craft stalls. There are tons of markets dotted throughout London, some permanent and some temporary, so pick one that suits your mood…
FIND SOME SPECIAL EVENTS & POP UPS
There are always a ton of special events going on around London for the festive period. Pop up cinemas showing festive films are everywhere and even regular cinemas turn themselves into a winter wonderland for their festive showings (check out a list here). Sipsmith have a Christmas Gin Shop (it closes on December 24th) selling all manner of products for the gin lover at Christmas including Christmas stockings filled with goodies and their special gingerbread and mince pie gins. As every year, there’s the London Santa Pub Crawl, where people buy tickets for a secret route (proceeds go to charity) and they all dress as Santa. I’m pretty sure I saw these guys wending their merry way one year (it could have been a different group of Santas though), and it’s quite a sight! Kew has special displays throughout their gardens made up of twinkling fairy lights and lasers, which runs until the beginning of January (on my list for next year). This is literally the tip of the iceberg as there is always something going on!
VISIT THE WIZARDING WORLD
Last year I visited ‘Hogwarts in the Snow‘ for the first time and it was a completely magical experience. The Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour started doing a Christmas overlay, where they decorate a lot of the sets for the festive period, as they were in the films. The most magical part is stepping into the Great Hall, all set up for a Christmas feast, complete with Christmas trees and flaming Christmas puddings! The last area is literally Hogwarts in the snow, with the set decorated as it was for the shots in the film. It’s honestly the most wonderful thing to do if you’re a fan of the series.
SEE THE DECORATIONS
I love seeing London lit up and decorated for Christmas and one of my favourite spots to do this is in Covent Garden. I recommend coming in the day to check out their displays inside and out with a huge Christmas tree and various other huge decorations. Carnaby Street is always pretty magical at night during the festive period, but honestly everywhere in London is always strewn with sparkling lights. Harrods is always a sight to be seen at night and I love Selfridges’ window displays. The Ivy Brasserie (I’ve linked Soho’s Instagram) always decks out the outside of its branches in different styles and I’ve always wanted to visit Dalloway Terrace at Christmas, because it just looks like a hideaway in a wintery forest. The shops on New & Old Bond Street are always fully decorated in amazing ways, and if you want to see the lights on Oxford & Regent Street but want to avoid the crowds, I would recommend visiting after the shops close later at night.
DRINK HOT CHOCOLATE
If there’s one thing you know you need to stop for on a day out in London, it’s hot chocolate. I love Paul A Young’s version, which comes with choice of mix ins, like cinnamon and chilli, that you can add yourself depending on your preference. Hotel Chocolat actually also makes a good hot chocolate (only some stores have cafés), but with the added cream on the top it can get a bit sweet! I’m a big fan of very thick hot chocolate, and I’ve heard that there a few more places that fit the bill, none more so than Said Dal 1923. It’s like molten chocolate and I’m dying to try it next time I’m home. It reminds me of the kind I had when skiing in Italy, which isn’t really a surprise since the cafe is from Rome. If you want some more to try, check out these recommendations from Not So Basic London – she makes the best lists of things to try!
GO ICE SKATING
There are quite a wide variety of special ice skating rinks around London, from the Natural History Museum to the Tower of London, but I think the most anticipated one is probably the one at Somerset House. The rink is surrounded by the beautiful buildings that make up Somerset House and inside is a pop up shop and more from London department store Fortnum & Mason. I love going to watch the skaters and see the huge Christmas tree in front. It’s such a beautiful location for the most wintery of activities!
VISIT THE DEER AT RICHMOND PARK
Seeing some real deer (not reindeer) in one of London’s beautiful parks is a fabulous experience and especially so during the holidays. However, I will say that this activity is a bit hit and miss. It depends on the weather and if you can find the deer, as Richmond Park is huge after all! The first time I came it was a lovely crisp cold day and the deer were not far from the entrance, but the second time I visited it was pretty wet and miserable and the deer were nowhere to be seen. If you do manage to find them, give them some space (I wouldn’t try and touch them!), but bask in the glory that you have seen distant relatives of Father Christmas’s reindeer. How exciting!
WATCH A SHOW
Visiting London to see a show over Christmas is such a special treat. I remember coming as a child to see The Nutcracker ballet at the theatre and it was a truly wonderful experience. Seeing any show would be great fun at this time of year, but something like The Nutcracker at The Royal Opera House makes it extra festive. If you would prefer to see Christmas carols, then London has a wide selection of carol concerts too (or you could go carol singing yourself), or if you’re up for something very different, maybe try watching a pantomime (a very English Christmas tradition – you’ll either love it or hate it)!
FIND A WORKSHOP
London always has a ton of events and pop-ups over Christmas (see above) but they also do hands on workshops too. From wreath making at Petersham Nurseries (wreath pictured above not from here – I cheated, it’s from Munich market!!) to cake decorating (I did one at Konditor and Cook that was such good fun – the cake is scrumptious) or Christmas baking at Bread Ahead, there’s sure to be something to tickle your fancy.
I hope that has given you a taster of some of the activities you can do in London over the festive period and I hope you all have a very merry time! I’m very jealous if you’re getting to spend some of December in London, as it’s one of the best cities to experience Christmas.