London definitely knows how to go all the way when it comes to celebrating Christmas. The possibilities are endless, and it can get overwhelming very quickly. But don’t worry, I’ve been there! I have put together a day’s itinerary packed with what in my experience are the Christmas highlights of London.
Covent Garden and Seven Dials
Covent Garden is one of the best Christmas-decorated places you will find in London. There isn’t a single corridor or corner that has not undergone a little Christmassy touch! Given that this is quite a popular spot in London all year around, better to tackle it first thing in the morning to try and beat the crowds and be able to take it all in.
But it is not just Covent Garden, try having a wander around the nearby Seven Dials. I randomly discovered this area last weekend and ended up exploring all seven streets as I got so caught up with their christmas decorations. They have decorated all streets with animal-themed decorations that follow some kind of a story. Even the trees on the street have been decorated with beautifully colourful cardboard-looking birds.
Ice-skating at Sommerset House
Ice-skating seems to be a Christmas must-do in London, and there are plenty of ice-skating rinks to choose from. There is of course the most popular of them all, outside the impressive Natural History Museum. Another big hit this season also seems to be the ice-skating rink at Canary Wharf. Called Luminocity, its supposed to be equipped with over 8k of LED lights. The problem with those two is that they are two of the most expensive and I don’t know about the one is Canary Wharf, but the one in the Natural History Museum is definitely super busy all the time. That’s why I’ve picked the one at Sommerset House, only a short walk from Covent Garden. The price is approximately 15£ for an hour morning/afternoon session. It does get more expensive if you go in the evenings, and there are various different events such as disco nights as well as skating lessons, for which you will also pay an increased price. Make sure to book ahead if you decide to give it a go though!
One of the perks of skating at Sommerset House, other than skating with a beautiful historical building in the background, is Fortnum’s Christmas Arcade. This shopping arcade is hidden away on the West Wing and makes you feel like you’ve just stepped into a really expensive Christmas doll house, if such a thing even exists. There are many adorable treats to buy or as in my case, just enjoy looking at, since everything they sell is way beyond my budget!
Southbank winter festival
After Sommerset House, try crossing the Thames and heading to the Southbank Winter festival for some lunch. There are many different food stalls in the festival but if you happen to be visiting on a weekend, try grabbing your food from the Southbank food market, which you can find hidden away behind the Southbank Centre. The food is great (had some really tasty bruschettas myself) and it’s a lot less busy. Once you have grabbed some food head back and check out the market stalls. As opposed to its more popular neighbor Winter Wonderland, where you will find multiple repeated stalls with a more commercialised feel, the Southbank Winter Festival looks like its trying to support small bussinesses and thus I personally found the market stalls a lot more interesting.
Apart from Christmas market stalls, you can also take a break and put your feet up for a while at either the Rekorderlig Cider Lodge, serving winter drinks and scandinavian food, or at the Hop Locker Bar, serving a wide range of craft beers and other drinks.
Of course no Christmas day at London would be complete without paying a visit to Winter Wonderland. Try heading over in the late afternoon, once it is starting to get dark but before the after-6-pm crowds start rolling in. Entry is free and as to what to see while at Winter Wonderland, there is just so much on offer that I’d probably need an entire post for that alone (maybe next year?). Basically it is massive, and just when you think you’ve seen it all, you will find a whole new section you hadn’t seen before. From all kinds of rides, to an ice-skating rink, to market stalls, to the Bavarian village to the Carousel bar. There is something for everybody in there! Just give yourself from 1 – 2 hours to explore.
Oxford and Regent Street
Once you’ve had enough of Winter Wonderland, try walking over to the nearby Oxford Street to check out the Christmas lights as well as the shop windows for a final Christmas overdose. While the lights on Oxford Street are the same every year (or have been for the last two years anyway), and might not seem worth it if this is not your first Christmas in London, some of the side streets have Christmas lights that put the ones on Oxford Street to complete and utter shame. This year’s winner is definitely Regent’s Street. In fact, I’m going all the way and saying they are the most beautiful Christmas lights I have ever seen. There, I said it.
And for the grand finale, what better way to finish off the day than watching a Christmas movie wrapped up and with some mulled wine? Unfortunately most of Backyard cinema’s showings at their Winter Night Garden for this season are sold out. Luckily, Pop Up Screens in Hackney still have tickets for their Christmas showings of some of the classics such as Home Alone, Elf or Love Actually. So if you fancy watching one of your Christmas favourites surrounded by fake snow and some mulled wine and are ready to pay 20£ to do it, then make sure to book before they also sell out!
And there you have it – if I only had a day to enjoy Christmas in London that’s what I would do. Of course there are a lot more things going on in London than what can be covered in a day, but to be honest, this is London we are talking about. I’m sure whatever it is you do, you can’t go wrong! Happy holidays you all!