Christmas is my absolute favourite time of year and I happen to consider myself something of an expert on the best Christmassy activities in the capital! Luckily for you, I have spent years crafting this perfectly pruned list of the very best Christmas activities in London. From steaming mulled wine and mistletoe to bright frosty park walks and sparkly lights, oversized Christmas jumpers and Bridget Jones running through the snow in her knickers, Christmas is London at its most enchanting.
Here’s how to make the most of festive London this winter:
1. Ice skating at Somerset House
Each year as the winter chill enters the air ice rinks start to pop up across London. Somerset House is by far my favourite with its picturesque setting and rink-side bar where you can wrap your frosty fingers around a warm drink whilst the skaters slide by. Tickets are available on the Somerset House website.
2. Carol concerts at St Paul’s
St Paul’s puts on a series of spectacular carol concerts at Christmas in its magnificent domed cathedral. Some are free and some ticketed, so it’s worth looking at the website early to book a place if need be. You can see the full Christmas schedule here. If you’re attending the family carols arrive very early as the queues can wrap around the cathedral.
3. Lighting of the Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square
At 6pm on 4th December the countdown to Christmas starts with the lighting of the tree in Trafalgar Square. The Norwegian Spruce is a gift from Norway to London to say thank you for Britain’s support during World War II, and the historic tradition has happened every year since 1947.
4. Mulled wine at Borough Market
Borough Market has that magical ability to transport itself from summer sun spot with punters perching on pavements sipping Pimms to one of the most festive spots in London. Wrap up in your hat and mittens and take a stroll around Borough Market with a cinnamony mulled wine freshly scooped from a steaming cauldron.
5. Frosty walk followed by Bailey’s hot chocolate at a cosy pub by the fire
My favourite spots for a festive stroll in London – and cosy pub to follow – are: Hampstead Heath followed by The Wells, Regents Park followed by The Edinboro Castle or The Spread Eagle, St James’s Park followed by The Clarence on Whitehall, Hyde Park followed by The Brittania just off High Street Kensington.
6. Harrods, the food hall and Christmas window displays
The world’s most famous department store also happens to be one of the most fabulous for Christmas cheer in my opinion. Of an early evening the building twinkles into life as thousands of bulbs illuminate the snowy Christmas window displays. Inside, you can taste the food hall excitement where wrapped chocolate glistens in tall piles and the rich and famous purchase luxurious Christmas hampers.
7. Fortnum and Mason Christmas department
As you enter the duck egg blue and gold building on Piccadilly in the lead up to Christmas the sound of carol singing drifts into range – singers regularly perform in the middle of the store by the spiralling stairs. A few levels above, London’s best Christmas department awaits with quintessentially British and traditional decorations beautifully displayed.
8. Southbank Centre Christmas Market
In November each year traditional wooden chalets line the Southbank waterfront serving up festive food, warming drinks and selling Christmas gifts. I love to take a stroll when it starts to get dark and the wooden cabins’ twinkly lights come on.
9. Covent Garden’s Christmas decorations
Covent Garden is a beautiful part of London all year, but the Christmas decorations are always the best around and add an extra special something to the covered market. I prefer to visit Covent Garden when the market stalls are packed away and just the shops are open – it’s quieter and makes for better photos of the decorations.
10. Mince pies and festive cheer at Leadenhall market
In the cobbled walkways under the glass Victorian roof Leadenhall Market brims with festivities. The Christmas lights have just been turned on and the decorations are up, so head over for mince pies and a mulled cider from one of the many pubs in the Market.
Have you spent Christmas in London? I’d love to hear your favourite festive things to do!