It’s been an unseasonably warm start to winter in Britain. The balmiest November weather on record occurred earlier this month in Wales, and if not for the gray skies I might think I was back home in California. But I’ve been living in London long enough to know that winter will come eventually, and I’m actually looking forward to it. Why? Because Christmas is one of the best times of year in London. In anticipation, today I bring you A Lady in London’s guide to the 9 highlights of Christmas in London.
Christmas Markets in London
One of my favorite things about the Christmas season in London is the markets. The city’s Christmas markets get bigger and more impressive each year, drawing locals and visitors from all over the world. Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland extravaganza will open on Friday, filling the area by Hyde Park Corner with chalets, carnival rides, and ice skating. And over in east London, Winterville in Victoria Park will have a new mini golf course and night garden with festive film screenings starting on the 26th.
The Southbank Centre’s Winter also opens on Friday, offering visitors everything from a traditional Christmas market to a cider lodge and roller disco. Festive performances, concerts, and entertainment will take place throughout the season, including a candlelit performance of Handel’s Messiah on the 12th of December.
Christmas Lights in London
Britain gets dark early in the winter, but the bright Christmas lights in London offer shiny substitutes for those of us that miss the sun. The famous lights on Carnaby Street and Regent Street have been lit, but if you want to be there for one of the city’s many switching on celebrations, don’t miss the ceremonies in Hatton Garden tomorrow at 5pm or Shepherd Market on December 3rd at 6pm. For a local neighborhood celebration, head to Hampstead High Street on November 29th, when the annual Christmas festival takes place.
Ice Skating in London
London’s ice skating rinks are a winter tradition, and while the unusually warm weather has been challenging for some this year, winter will sort that out in time. The famous ice skating rink at Somerset House is one of the most beautiful, and the ice skating rink at the Natural History Museum is another favorite. More rinks pop up every year, so there’s no shortage of choice…just a shortage of ice for now!
Christmas Theatre in London
Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is an integral part of the winter season in London. It’s on in the West End from November 30th at the Noel Coward Theatre. For those that want something a little different, a pantomime is just the thing. All across the city, comedy fun will take to the stage in a British tradition that I still don’t really understand…
Christmas Afternoon Teas in London
I’m a big fan of afternoon tea, and there are some lovely Christmas afternoon teas in London this year. In Knightsbridge, there’s a special Christmas afternoon tea at the Mandarin Oriental featuring seasonal sweet treats. Over on Park Lane, the annual Christmas Carols Afternoon Tea at The Dorchester offers festive decor and live children’s choirs performing. Near Trafalgar Square, the Christmas afternoon tea at The Corinthia, called Festivi-tea, will include traditional roast turkey and cranberry compote.
Carol Concerts in London
Traditional carols are as much a part of Christmas in London as the Queen’s annual speech, and London has no shortage of places to hear and sing them. From the historic Royal Albert Hall to the holy walls of St Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey, many of the city’s most beautiful venues will hold carol concerts during the Christmas season. And for a concert with a charitable angle, head to St Stephen Walbrook church in the City on December 3rd at 6:30pm for carols in aid of International Animal Rescue.
Christmas Events at London Bars, Hotels, and Museums
Many of London’s famous hotels and bars will be sheltering us from the cold (if it comes) this Christmas. In Bloomsbury, The Montague on the Gardens’ Ski Lodge is back tomorrow for another year of Christmas cocktails and nibbles, complete with a new Log Cabin. And in Rotherhithe, chef Tom Hunt’s alternative Christmas Feast will return to the Brunel Museum from December 10-12th.
Christmas Wreaths in London
One of my favorite unofficial highlights of the Christmas season in London is the wreaths that decorate doors across the city. Nowhere else in the world have I seen such creative and elaborate designs on Christmas wreaths, and every winter I make sure to look out for the best of them while walking through London’s neighborhoods.
Santa in London
If you believe in Santa, you’re in luck this year. Santa’s Grotto returns to Chelsea’s Duke of York Square this month, and children of all ages can meet the big bearded man in the flesh. Elsewhere, Santa will be on hand at the ZSL London Zoo. A special VIP Meet Santa experience that runs from December 21-24 allows guests to meet the elves, feed the reindeer, and receive a gift directly from Santa.
Do you know of any other Christmas events in London? Please comment and share!