London may become darker, colder, and wetter in the month running up to Christmas, but there is something about being in this city at this time of year that means I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Whether you never visited the city, or are looking for an excuse to come back, there are many reasons why this might just be the best time to visit.
Add a Little Sparkle to Your Life
All of London waits every year to see what the Oxford Street Christmas lights will look like, seemingly appearing earlier and earlier each year. But there’s no denying that the lights make the city feel just a little bit brighter, especially when it starts getting dark at 4pm.
My favourite place to spot Christmas decorations is Covent Garden with some great light displays and gorgeous displays at the market.
Become Enchanted by its Christmas Markets
This may not be Bavaria, but markets of little wooden chalets selling comfort food, sweets, and unique gifts crop up across the city at this time of year. The Southbank’s Christmas Market, Wintertime, also includes a Christmas tree maze and cider lodge.
Presenting You: On Ice
London’s ice rink begin opening up in mid-November in some stunning locations. Pivot around Christmas trees, glide past historic sites, and practice your spins in front of castles, museums, and more. Or, if you are someone like me that has with very little experience of ice, hold onto the rails and try not to fall over, all while enjoying the festive atmosphere.
In addition to rinks at winter fairs such as Winter Wonderland, some of London’s best sites, including Natural History Museum, Somerset House, and the Tower of London, get the big freeze from mid to late November.
Take Care of Everyone on the Nice List
If you can’t find someone a gift in London, then they are truly impossible to buy for. Oxford Street will have most of the things on your list of course, should you be ready to brave the crowds (I vow never to go there on a Saturday in December for the rest of my life, you barely get out alive), along with Covent Garden, and both Westfield locations (White City and Stratford).
For any London Christmas shopping, I’d recommend going during the week if possible, or why not avoid the worst of the crowds and find something truly special by checking out its many markets, such as Old Spitalfields Market and Camden Market, for something those on your list won’t find in their local shops. Independent shops are another great way to go, with areas such as Clapham’s Northcote Road, Hackney’s Broadway Market, or Bermondsey Street having a great selection.
Get Tipsy Off Mulled Wine and Cider
These drinks were a revelation to me when I first moved to the UK, having never tried them back in North Carolina. Boozy, warming, and just delicious, hot red wine or cider that has been bubbling away with an array of seasonal spices really is Christmas in a cup. Those coming from the rest of the UK or Europe will be well acquainted with these winter warmers, but those who aren’t will be wanting to take the recipe home with them.
Eat in an Igloo (because why not)
One of the most instagrammable places to eat at Christmas has to be Coppa Club. Located on the Thames, next door to the Tower of London, this restaurant and bar is great for outdoor dining, with this past summer’s decor including a wisteria-covered terrace. And they’ve got the perfect solution when the weather gets cold: Igloos.
Further west, snowglobes and a ski lodge have popped up along the Thames, as part of Jimmy’s Lodge. Because your life has definitely been missing the chance to eat fondue inside of a plastic globe, naturally.
Pretend You’re in a Christmas Film
Yes, I mean Love Actually. Almost every corner of this city features somewhere in this favourite holiday film. Christmas in London features quite a bit in Bridget Jones’s Diary, or if you are thinking less modern, A Christmas Carol was of course set in this foggy town.
Tired of the crowds? Catch the train to Surrey for the day. The Christmas-card perfect village of Godalming was the setting for the romantic fav The Holiday, starring Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz.
Get a Festive Overload at a Winter Festival
I couldn’t end this list without mentioning London’s most famous Christmas event. Every year, Hyde Park is transformed into a true Winter Wonderland with nearly everything on this list crammed into one spot. Oh, and add in some fairground rides too. There’s market stalls, mulled wine and street food, ice skating, lights, and crowds as scary as a December Saturday on Oxford Street (go during the week if you can).
Meanwhile, Winterville, an alternative, and in some ways even better version of the winter festival has moved from Victoria Park to Clapham Common this year. Expect top-notch street food, ice skating, rides, a cinema, and even a 9-hole crazy golf, all in my beloved SW.
We checked it out on its opening day last week and it won’t be the last time I’m stopping by this year.
Although we miss the beer gardens, parks, and sunny evenings in winter, around Christmas London’s atmosphere never fails to lift my festive spirits in a way that spending it in the coastal US South never did. And with so much to see and do, it’s such a perfect time to see this city, fairy lights, warm booze, odd pop-ups and all.