Christmas in London - shopping, theatre, pudding races...?

By Holly Cave, a Travel Professional

Read more on London.

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What better place to celebrate the year's big holiday than in the English city that has it all? Forget charades and the Queen's speech; wrap up warm and enjoy everything festive London has to offer...

Ice skating

A must-do in the capital at Christmas, every year seems to herald a brand new ice rink in the city. This year, it's Wembley – skating around the famous pitch is sure to be a big draw for tourists and locals alike, so book ahead (www.wembleyice.com/home).

Somerset House (www.somersethouse.org.uk/ice_rink/) remains my favourite for its glamourous backdrop, made even sparklier this year but the addition of the Tiffany's Tuck Shop, where you can sip mulled wine and browse at jewellery. You can also slip and slide at such London icons as the Natural History Museum, Tower of London, Canary Wharf and Alexandra Palace.

Markets & shopping

I always think Greenwich is a fabulous place to visit in the days around Christmas. The covered market (www.greenwichmarket.net/) is the perfect place to shelter from inclement weather and pick up some last minute presents. Open all year round, the Christmas version of the market runs up until Christmas Eve. Friday is the best day to browse through the arts and crafts and its fabulous food stalls always have something on offer to make the Christmas table that little bit special.

Borough Market (www.boroughmarket.org.uk), as always, is THE place to purchase top-notch food to feed the family.

It's also a great time to visit Camden Lock's market on every day throughout December for handmade gifts (www.camdenlockmarket.com/). The Stables Market has just gone through an amazing transformation, scattered with beautiful statues that represent its historic past.

Festive attractions and unmissable events

Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park (www.hydeparkwinterwonderland.com/) is a relatively recent addition to festivities in London and one for the whole family. Resplendent with rides, stalls and an ice rink all of its own, it's a nice place for a wander. It's free to enter but individual attractions charge.

A hot ticket this year for culture vultures is the English National Ballet's The Nutcracker. This well-reviewed spectacle is showing at The Coliseum from16 December to 3 January. Christmas just isn't Christmas without a sprinkling of fairy dust.

This is a time of year to celebrate old traditions, however silly. So head down to the annual Christmas Pudding Race in Covent Garden on December 5 to put a smile on your face. Raising money for Cancer Research, teams of contestants run around the piazza balancing a pudding on a plate. Obstacles, such as balloons full of flour, are put in their way to make it even more fun to watch.

The historical Geffrye Museum (www.geffrye-museum.org.uk/whatson/christmas-past-2009/) gets into the Christmas spirit too, decorating each of its exquisitely furnished period rooms in the traditional décor of the era. Find out when we started kissing under the mistletoe and why we have Christmas trees.

Sight seeing

As soon as November hits, the central London streets light up like a Christmas tree. The grand shopping aisles of Regents Street and Oxford Street are festooned this year with stars, unwrapped presents and umbrellas. The famous Selfridges windows are worth a visit in themselves for a bit of festive inspiration. This year they are lovingly adorned with a pantomime theme, complete with a rather stylish Goldilocks and her three bears, Captain Hook, and a cheeky pantomime cow. And if you're with kids, pop inside to Santa's Grotto.

Tucked away around the corner, Carnaby Street always has a slightly alternative theme and for 2009 it's the swinging sixties. Where else could you shop under a six metre high hot pink reindeer?

Covent Garden's cobbled market has a certain Christmassy vibe all year round, but do check out the stunning LED light installations suspended throughout the market. The Trafalgar Square Christmas tree is always pretty impressive.

Seasonal food

Never underestimate Londoners' love of the Christmas party. No matter where you go in the run up to Christmas, there will be office parties left, right and centre, so make sure you book ahead. And if you don't want to be sat next to a group of screaming, drunken office workers, do say.

On every Londoner's internet favourites is Toptable (www.toptable.com). Bursting with special offer and seasonal discounts, it's the first place to look. If you're going to have tea at The Ritz once in your life, you may as well make it a Christmassy one. Bound to be spectacularly glammed up, the famous hotel serves its traditional afternoon tea alongside mince pies and cake on selected dates over the Christmas period (www.theritzlondon.com).

For me, it's all about the local pub at Christmas and if you wander outside the very centre, you'll find fantastic gastropubs all over. My favourite will always be The Clifton in St John's Wood (www.cliftonstjohnswood.com/). The Bolingbroke in Battersea also gets top marks (www.thebolingbroke.com/home.php), as does The Bishop in East Dulwich (cosy up in the corner with the resident dog).

Holiday hotels

Some of London's lodgings really come into their own at Christmas. My favourite has to be The Milestone Hotel in High Street, Kensington. Small, cosy and immaculately dressed for Christmas, it really is top of the range luxury but it's in a perfect location across the road from Kensington Palace and down the road from the Royal Albert Hall. 

Far more reasonably priced is Twenty Nevern Square Hotel London in Earls Court. Matching the requisite themes of comfortable and intimate, this beautiful little Victorian townhouse is also just a stone's throw from Earls Court exhibition centre.

One last thing – before heading out, check the Transport for London website. Our tube drivers seem to love nothing more than a seasonal strike.

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More information on Christmas in London - shopping, theatre, pudding races...?:

Author:
Holly Cave
Traveller type:
Travel Professional
Guide rating:
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)
Total views:
498
First uploaded:
3 December 2009
Last updated:
4 years 19 weeks 2 days 13 hours 41 min 13 sec ago
Destinations featured:
Trip types:
Activity, Cultural, Family
Budget level:
Budget, Mid-range, Expensive
Free tags / Keywords:
sight-seeing, Christmas markets, Christmas

Holly recommends

Hotels

Price from Rating
(out of 5)
1. Twenty Nevern Square Hotel
£68
3.9
2. A Red Carnation Hotel
£177
N/A

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Community comments (1)

Rating:
3
0 of 0 people found the following comment helpful.

Lovely stuff. Perfect for getting in the festive spirit.
I've tidied the website addresses Holly, they still work without all the http:// stuff and are much easier on the eye.
More useful details for your recommendations would be ideal. Where is Borough Market? Or the Geffrye Museum? While web addresses are useful, viewers like to see at a glance which area they'd need to travel to. Street addresses are ideal, but the relevant part of London should be there at the very least. Feel free to edit your guide now - and remember, once this year's festivities are over and done with, why not make your guide relevant for next year's, adding event details and dates in as they become available? Thanks.

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