The best things to do in London this Christmas
Emily, a Social & Cultural Anthropology MA graduate from UCL, shares her favourite things happening around the capital city this Christmas. Read more from Emily on her blog www.londoncitycalling.com.
Take yourself on a Christmas Lights Tour
London is well known for its abundance of elaborate Christmas lights, and come December it’s hard to turn a corner without stumbling across another beautiful installation. The big Christmas light craze this year seems to be collaborations, such as between Oxford Street and the NSPCC to create the ‘Little Stars’ surrounding Oxford Circus - each of which can be named by donating £5 to the charity, and ‘Carnaby Street Revolution’, the Carnaby Street lights based on the V&A exhibition ’You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970’. These also happen to be two of my favourite installations in the city this festive season.
The ‘Spirit of Christmas’ lights on Regent Street is another iconic display well worth a visit this year, whilst Covent Garden’s ‘Meet me Under the Mistletoe’ decorations have to win the award for most romantic Christmas date spot in London.
Many companies offer walking tours of London’s Christmas lights, however as all of the installations are free and can be found easily enough by following google maps I’d recommend heading out on your own and save the money you would have spent on a tour enjoying other festive activities in the city.
Go Ice Skating Somewhere Magical
As the Christmas season starts to appear, so do the many ice rinks across London. You can go skating almost anywhere in the city, from the historic backdrop of the National History Museum or the grounds of the iconic Tower of London, to the more modern ‘Lumina City’ at Canary Wharf or the rather elegant ‘Skate’ at Somerset House hosted by Fortnum and Mason. All of the locations also have bars or cafes where you can enjoy some mulled wine and festive snacks, making a night on the rink perfect for a Christmassy get-together with friends.
Drink Hot Chocolate with a Twist at Winter Wonderland
I know what you may be thinking, Winter Wonderland is far too crowded with children and tourists and everything inside is overly expensive, and to some extent I agree with you, however that doesn’t stop me from adding it to my list.
The opening of Winter Wonderland each year never fails fill me with child-like excitement, and currently celebrating its 10 year anniversary it has become an iconic part of Christmas in London. Entry into Winter Wonderland is free and the atmosphere from just walking around is unlike anywhere else in the city. The event gets bigger and better every year, with new things popping up all the time.
This year you can add shots of cinnamon or orange liquor to hot chocolate to create delicious festive drinks. There is also an open fire pit where you can roast marshmallows - which are available to buy for only £2.50 a pack. Another welcome addition to the festivities is a live performance of the Nutcracker on Ice, which joins the entertainment line-up alongside Cirque Berserk, Zippo’s Christmas Circus and plenty of live music.
My favourite part of Winter Wonderland still has the be the Bavarian Village, which has returned to its usual spot once again, with all the bratwurst and steins of beer you could possibly need to celebrate the holidays in true German style.
Have Dinner at a Festive Pop-Up
Igloo’s at Coppa Club Tower Hill - One of the hottest pop-ups of the season has to be the row of Igloo’s lining the bank of the River Thames at Tower Hill. These belong to restaurant chain Coppa Club and are available to hire for drinks or dinner for up to 8 people. The inside of the Igloo is heated and lined with sheepskin blankets and rugs, creating a cosy atmosphere to enjoy a festive dinner with friends.
The Gardening Society’s Winter Forest - Located on the roof-top of John Lewis’s Oxford Street store are several individually themed winter lodges where you can enjoy some delicious food from British game specialist Mac & Wild. Each lodge also has a ‘hot toddy bell’ which can be rung every time you need another hot drink or festive cocktail.
Winter Pergola on the Roof - The summertime favourite which was Pergola on the Roof has returned for the winter with the addition of a clear dome to protect dinners from the chilly weather. In their Nordic-forest scene you can take your pick of tasty food from Patty & Bun (my favourite burger in London!), Snaps & Rye, Gunpowder and Le Bab whilst enjoying a drink or two from the central bar.
Go to a Pantomime
Did anyone else used to go to see a pantomime every Christmas as a child? Yeah, me too! Well you’re never too old for a pants so why not carry on this tradition on into adulthood? The big show of the year has to be Cinderella at the London Palladium, staring big names such as Paul O’Grady, Julian Clary and Amanda Holden. This is the first time a pantomime has been performed at the venue in nearly 30 years making it the hottest seat in town this winter. If you’re looking for something a little more low key, and quite a bit cheaper, the childhood classic Dick Whittington is playing at New Wimbledon Theatre whilst Peter Pan returns to London, where the famous story begins, at both the Oliver Theatre South Bank and Greenwich Theatre.
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