December’s the most magical month of the year to visit London, with so many festive things to throw yourself into, as Londoners (and all the city’s thousands of visitors) get ready for the onset of the ‘Holidays’ and, finally when they arrive, actually celebrate Christmas and New Year.
So, just what actually happens? Just what’s so special about the capital this time of year? Well, don’t forget that this city was the setting of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (surely the greatest and best-loved of festive tales) and so, taking its cue from its esteemed writer’s imagination, London’s shopping streets sparkle with Christmas lights, with the shops and department stores packed to the rafters with gift hunters finishing off their Christmas shopping.
But that’s far from all because an undeniable focal point of the holiday season in the UK capital’s Trafalgar Square, resounding, as it does, with carol singing around the largest Christmas tree in the whole country; the piazza also fittingly lights up with a giant menorah for Chanukah.
So, why not get into the festive spirit during your December visit by staying at one of the fantastically appointed and delightfully decorated London hotels near Chelsea and then experiencing some of London’s favourite seasonal activities. That’s right; shop for handmade gifts and festive food at a charming Christmas market; go ice skating on one of the stunning outdoor ice rinks that pop up across the capital; take children to meet Santa in a magical Christmas grotto; enjoy carols and concerts accompanied by mulled wine and mince pies; and watch a Christmas pantomime, ballet or family show. There’s so much to see and do, you’ll wish you were here already…
Winter festivals and pop-up attractions
- Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park (22ndNovember 2018-6th January 2019) – the capital’s biggest and most visited Christmas experience; it’s all about ice skating, a giant observation wheel, fairground rides, festive rides and stalls vending toys, decorations, food and much more
- Southbank Centre’s Wintertime Festival– (8th December 2018-6th January 2019) where to head, for definite, for the likes of a charming Christmas market, family shows and fine seasonal food
- Christmas in Leicester Square(9th December 2018-5th January 2019) – varied fun for all the family during the festive season right in the midst of London’s bustling West End
- Greenwich Wintertime Festival(set to run throughout December) – occupying the grounds of the imperious Old Royal Naval College building, this family-focused festival is set to feature ice skating, live music, seasonal shopping opportunities and more.
Unmissable events – indoors and out
- Christmas at Kew(22nd November 2018-5th January 2019) – inviting visitors to follow its trail of lights, music and colours through the world-famous botanic gardens, this several-weeks-long-event is annual after-dark winter wonder
- Hogwarts in theSnow (17th November 2018-27th January 2019) – offers Potterheads of all ages the chance to go behind the scenes of the movie series to explore its iconic sets, all of them dressed for Christmas; best of all the venue (the Warner Bros. Studious) is very easy to get to from the San Domenico House hotel Chelsea, thanks to the capital’s reliable and high-quality public transport links
- Magical Lantern Festival(November 2018-January 2019) – located in the agreeably aristocratic environs of West London’s Chiswick Gardens, this elegant event sees visitors wander past huge illuminated lanterns and enchanting Christmas-themed installations throughout the festive season and into the early New Year.
What to get up to… at Christmas itself
Christmas Day and Boxing Day (25th and 26th December) are both bank holidays (public holidays) in the UK; this means there are both reduced opening times and public transport service, yet don’t be down-hearted; there’s still plenty to get up to across this most merry of 48 hours in the capital:
- Peter Pan Cup(25th December) – hardy (or, should that be, mad?) members of the Serpentine Swimming Club dive into the icy waters of the Hyde Park lake to compete in this swimming competition on Christmas Day every year; quite the spectacle!
- Boxing Day and January sales(From 26th December onwards) – to be far, it seems that sales are, well ten-a-penny, as it were, in the London stores nowadays; yet the post festive-sales are still most definitely a thing, so you’re bound to come across a bargain or two on fashion, electronics and more.