It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas in London. The lights are on, the windows are decorated, the ice rinks are open and the Christmas markets are in full swing. The world's best capital city has everything you need to get you feeling merry. If you are planning a trip to the festive capital then these are three must-dos!
1. Visit a Christmas Market
If you are not in the festive spirit yet then a walk through one of London's Christmas markets is sure to have you feeling warm and jolly in no time. Winter Wonderland returns to Hyde Park once again this year with big top shows, the observation wheel and a huge Christmas Market. The biggest and brightest Christmas celebration has something for all the family with a stunning ice rink, Santa's grotto and a host of stalls selling gifts and festive food and drink. The Southbank Centre Christmas Market is a German style Christmas Market situated between Southbank Centre and the London Eye. The market consists of approximately 70 wooden chalets selling unique gifts and delicious festive treats. Take a stroll through the twinkling market along the scenic river bank with a glass of mulled wine to keep your hands toasty and you are guaranteed to be filled with Christmas cheer.
2. Go skating
For a truly festive experience in London, wrap up warm and get your skates on! There are a number of outdoor ice rinks to choose from. The courtyard of Somerset House boasts a beautiful Christmas setting around the iconic 40-foot Christmas tree with Tchaikovsky chiming in the background. The glamorous ice rink also has a Christmas Arcade running alongside it to add to the festive mood and make your skating experience even more memorable. If you are only visiting London for the day and want to fit in as much as possible then why not combine a visit to The Natural History Museum with some spectacular Christmas ice-skating? The 1,000-metre-square outdoor rink also has a smaller rink for children, a rink-side fairground carousel and a balcony café bar overlooking the rink, ensuring there is something for every member of the family.
3. Soak up the sparkling lights
By now, most of the city's streets are sparkling with thousands of beautiful Christmas lights. Take a walk down Oxford Street, Regent Street, Carnaby Street or through Covent Garden and feast your eyes on the glittering displays. If you missed the switching on ceremonies earlier this month then fear not, on Thursday December 5th the spectacular Trafalgar Square Christmas tree will have its lights turned on. The huge Christmas tree has been a seasonal tradition since 1947 and is given every year as a gift to the people of London from Norway as thanks for support in World War II. The ceremony will be followed by a torch light procession to 'bless the crib' on the steps of St Martin-in-the-Fields on December 8 and there will be carol singing beneath the tree from 9-22 December.
Alternative Christmas in London
Christmas in London: top three things to do
Follow the illuminated trail through the spectacular Kew Gardens this Christmas, mulled wine in hand. From Wednesday 23 November, Kew Gardens will be open past dark, with a spectacular light installation bringing the gardens to life - a truly alternative Christmas lights show. Look out for the Tunnel of Lights and the scented Fire Garden. There are also plenty of festive treats to keep you going – from vintage rides to Christmas gifts, food and drinks. Book in advance and tickets are £16 for adults and £10 for children.
Undoubtedly one of the most romantic things to do this Christmas is to go ice skating at Somerset House. Decorated with a huge sparkling Christmas tree, Somerset House's glistening ice rink is back once again by popular demand. Get into the festive spirit and enjoy food, drinks, late-night shopping and music at the exclusive Club Nights. The ice rink is open from 17 November to 15 January 2017 and tickets start from £8.90.
For a truly special Christmas presents this year, take a visit to the iconic Burlington Arcade in Mayfair. As the longest covered shopping street in Britain, it’s the perfect escape from the wintry weather, with shops laden with unique gifts, from the finest cashmere to vintage watches.
For a Victorian Christmas that you’ll never forget, take a trip to the Charles Dickens Museum. Home to Charles Dickens in the 1800s, Number 48 Doughty Street is steeped in family history and some of Dickens’ most famous novels were written here including Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby. The museum will be offering a host of Christmas treats this festive season including Christmas by Candlelight, A Christmas Carol, Christmas Costumed Tours and Dickens After Dark: Christmas Late.
If you’re in need of some laughs this Christmas, then don’t miss the 36th Great Christmas Pudding Race. Once a year, the funny folk of London don their festive fancy dress and take to the streets, in aid of Cancer Research UK. This bizarre event will be taking place on 3 December 2016 at 11am, in Covent Garden.
One way to escape the Christmas crowds is to hop on board one of Bateaux London’s stunning boats for a cruise down the Thames. Watch the city’s Christmas lights go by from the peace of the water while enjoying a delicious dinner of modern British cuisine, and listening to the popular resident band perform.
Tucked down a side street just a stone’s throw from Bond Street, the best way to find this coveted shopping hotspot is to look for the purple clock. A secret escape from the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street, St. Christopher’s Place is a truly charming courtyard, decked with twinkling lights and full of shops such as Mulberry, Whistles and Kurt Geiger. Framed by restaurants and bars, there are plenty of places to rest weary legs and get some well-needed refreshment.
Take a romantic horse-drawn carriage ride around London at nightfall to soak up the sights, smells and sounds of the capital city at Christmas in real style. The concierge at The Milestone Hotel can arrange this magical experience for guests.
The magical tale of The Nutcracker has returned to London just in time for Christmas. It tells the tale of a young girl and her Christmas present, a Nutcracker, which magically comes to life as the clock strikes midnight. It will be performed by the English National Ballet at the London Coliseum and is classic festive fun for all the family, with beautiful costumes and a set to match. The shows runs from 23 November to 7 January 2017.
If you fancy something a little different to the traditional Christmas market this season why not head to Tobacco Dock and see how they do it in Japan. This year's event will also play host to the Sake Cocktail Awards and the Kids Sushi Master Competition. HYPER JAPAN will run from 25 to 27 November.