Walking around the streets of London, particular in the evening, seeing it illuminated in it’s full glory, I still have to pinch myself to make sure it’s real. I’m really here living this dream. It’s been over 3 years now living in London, originally having come from Australia for a so called 12 month career break. And I’m still in awe of this magnificent beautiful city. London is admirable all year round, with each season having something unique to offer. However, during Christmas, London is that extra special and will not disappoint if you are tolerant of crowds and the cold. Everywhere you go, you will know it is Christmas. Here is a list of my favourite top 8 must see’s, if you are lucky enough to spend Christmas in London.
1. CHRISTMAS LIGHTS
Regent Street Christmas Lights
Date: 16 November 2014 – 5 January 2015
Tube: Oxford Circus
Famous as a shopping destination, now rivals the Champs- Elysees and Fifth Avenue, as a world class place to shop, during the festive season, Regent street lights up London with some of the most beautiful lights in the capital. The lights are officially turned on to mark the start of the festive season on the 16th November. The switch on takes place at approximately 4.45pm. with a spectacular Christmas show and fireworks display marking the moment they’re switched on. For the occasion, traffic is banned from the street leaving it with a tremendous festive atmosphere. The lights and decorations will be on display until 5th January. Be sure to make your way there.
Oxford Street Christmas Lights:
Date: 6 November 2014 – 4 January 2015
Tube: Oxford Street, Bond Street
Oxford Street will sparkle for a fifty-fifth year this Christmas as its full length will be lighting up London’s most famous shopping street with 1,778 bulbs and 750,000 LED energy-efficient bulbs. The lights are officially switched on November 6 with a full event starting at 5pm with live performances. An awesome site to see, I was blown away when I first looked up and gazed at the shimmering night sky illuminated by sparkling lights 3 years ago for the first time.
Bond Street Christmas Lights
Date: 13 November – 6 January 2015
Tube: Bond Street,
Bond Street is famous for luxury shopping with its wealth of elegant stores, exclusive brands, designer fashion and luxury hotels . Set in the heart of Mayfair, in London’s popular West End and featuring many of the world’s most luxury hotels and restaurants, Bond Street is a landmark for all things sophisticated. All the reasons why I would not normally venture there. However, I must say that the white feather peacock inspired decorations and lights drew my attention. It really is worth a look. There are organised bus tours and walking tours that cover the major Christmas lights around London should you want to look this option.
2. TRAFALGAR SQUARE CHRISTMAS TREE AND CAROLS
Dates: 4th to 23rd December 2014
Tube: Charing Cross
Price – Free event
Since 1947 , London receives an enormous Christmas Tree as an annual gift from the people of Oslo, thanking Britain for its support and friendship during World War Two. The enormous tree is erected in Trafalgar Square every year and is a popular seasonal tourist attraction. A fortnight before Christmas, each evening (8th-23rd Dec) a different choir gathers around the tree in Trafalgar Square to sing carols and raise money for charitable organisations. Passers-by are welcome to come and listen to the carols, and even join in the festive cheer. Another great Christmas London experience. The tree is illuminated from noon until midnight until the Twelfth Night of Christmas in early January.
3. WINTER WONDERLAND AT HYDE PARK
Dates: 21st November 2014 – 4th January (closed Christmas day)
Tube: Green Park, Victoria, Marble Arch, Edgware Road, Bond street,
This really is a magical place for families, but plenty for the adults to enjoy also. Since 2007, Hyde Park has hosted this spectacular event , which features funfair rides, Christmas markets, an ice rink, a big fairest-wheel, circus shows and dozens of bars, restaurants, cafes and of course lots of Christmas cheer. A must see even if you don’t have Children.
4. CHRISTMAS MARKETS SOUTH BANK
Dates: 11 November 2014 – 5 January 2015.
Opening hours are 11am – 9pm Monday – Thursday and Sunday, and 10am – 10pm Friday and Saturday.
Tube: Waterloo or Southwark
Take a stroll along the the Christmas Markets on South Bank. Nestled by the waterfront of the River Thames, between the Waterloo Bridge and The London Eye, along Queen’s Walk on South Bank, the atmosphere really is magical. With the smell of mulled wine and roasting chestnuts in the air, Christmas carols playing, and the 80 wooden chalets serving up festive food, international cuisine, unique gifts and seasonal ingredients, you can’t pass by this little gem during Christmas. For the children there is a big brightly lit carousel which they can ride on for a small fee. What joy to hear the laughter of children as they exit the ride. Should you tire of the markets, take your mulled wine or in my case, a hot chocolate with a dash of baileys for that extra warmth and take a seat on one of the river side benches which come with a complementary heating and take in the views of Big Ben, London Eye, St Paul’s Cathedra or the beautiful skyline of the gorgeous City of London. Or why not try some ice skating at the ice rink. It does not come much more festive then this.
5. CONVERT GARDENS
Dates: 4th November 2014 to 2nd January 2015
Tube: Convent Garden
Covent Garden is one of my favourite areas of London located on the eastern fringes of the West End, between St. Martin’s Lane and Drury Lane. The cobbled piazza and undercover market buildings becomes aglow with fairy lights and giant red baubles, turning the traditional shopping arcades into a winter wonderland for the festive season. You will experience unique market and boutique shopping, a variety of cafe’s and restaurants and lots of entertainment from buskers. A huge Christmas tree glows with red and white lights on the west side of the square, and a rather magnificent silver reindeer stands majestically 22 feet high on a slate piled with gifts on the east side. Joining him every Saturday afternoon from noon until 4pm, are some live reindeer which visitors can help to feed and take photos with.
The Children can also enjoy some Christmas magic at Santa’s Grotto, where the jolly man in red will be entertaining families over the festive period. The Santa’s Grotto at Covent Garden is open from Tuesday 1st December – Thursday 24th December 2014. Opening hours are 10am – 7pm Monday – Friday and Sunday, and 9pm – 7pm Saturday
The grotto is located at 27b, The Market Building, on the Covent Garden Piazza. Tickets cost £7.50.
St Paul’s Church in Convert Garden will also hold a Christmas Concert on the evening of the 11 December, for more information visit: http://www.coventgardenlondonuk.com/event/associated-studios-christmas-concert
6. ICE SKATING
Date: November 2014 – March 2015
With fairy lights and Christmas trees set to the backdrop of some of London’s stunning landmarks, a trip to an ice rink is a must-do even just for the views and atmosphere alone. With venues such as Somerset House, The Natural History Museum, Hyde Park, Hampton Court Palace, Canary Wharf and The Tower of London all hosting rinks this year, you are sure to find one that pleases. My personal favourite is Somerset House and the Natural History Museum. For more venues, pricing and information please view the below link.
7. CHRISTMAS CAROLS AND CONCERTS
Carols by candlelight and and Christmas carols can be found all over the capital. I highly recommend to get to one event at least.
West Minster Abbey is one of London’s most famous landmarks, with impressive royal history, and the royal family’s local place of worship. Most recently famous as the venue for royal weddings – including the marriage of Prince William and Catherine Middleton in 2011. It’s Gothic architecture and internal surroundings provide a striking backdrop for an evening of lessons and carols. The abbey also offers a midnight service on Christmas Eve, however this event is most popular and require tickets (free) to be booked in advance. For full details please visit the below link. http://www.westminster-abbey.org/events/christmas
Nearest tube: Westminster
Royal Albert Hall located on the northern edge of South Kensington, is one of my favourite venues. It is such an impressive building I am in awe of it every time I visit. This world Famous concert hall is entertaining it’s own Christmas Festival, with performances almost every night from the 13- 24 December, you are sure to find something suitable. Tickets to performances are not cheap, however even if you just experience it once, it’s worth every penny. Every performance I have attended, from ballet, to opera, to jazz or classical concerts have been a surreal experience. Get ready for a gala top class performances. Full dates and details can be found by visiting: http://www.royalalberthall.com/tickets/christmas/default.aspx#/page/1/
Nearest Tube : South Kensington
St Paul’s Cathedral London’s most famous Cathedral St Paul’s is another iconic building that’s a must see. For Christmas events please see the belong link.
8. NEW YEAR’S EVE FIREWORKS
Although we have passed the Christmas Season by this stage, the Festive season has not come to a close just yet, and this list cannot be completed without a mention of the New Year’s Eve fireworks display in London. What a sight to see live, what an experience and what an atmosphere. As you can clearly see if I was highly impressed. The crowds are huge, it’s busy and it will mostly likely rain. However these factors have not deterred visitors, in fact the increasing numbers that have turned up to see the spectacle live have caused a concern for overcrowding and safety. As a result this year for the first time, the show is to be ticketed at £10. per person. You can book up to four tickets from noon on Friday September 26 at london.gov.uk/nye.
London is one of the most wonderful and magnificent cities in the world. Thousands of travellers and visitors come to London each year to admire its architecture, history and museums. However during the festive season, London’s beauty is truly mesmerising. For me, the festive season has to be the best time of the year to Visit London, hope for a bit of snow, and magic truly resides here.