Walking around the streets of London, particularly in the evening, seeing it illuminated in its 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 4 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 must see’s, if you are lucky enough to spend Christmas in London.
Regent Street Christmas Lights
Date: 15th November to 24th December 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 15th 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: 1st November to 9th December 2016
Tube: Oxford Street, Bond Street
Oxford Street will sparkle for a fifty-sixth year this Christmas as its full length will be lighting up London’s most famous shopping street. The lights are officially switched on November 1st with pop princess Kylie Minogue flicking the lights on this year. A full event with live performances from Foxes, Fleur East, Gabrielle Aplin, Ben Haenow and the cast of Matilda the Musical starting at 5pm. 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 4 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 luxurious hotels and restaurants, Bond Street is a landmark for all things sophisticated. This year’s display as per last year is dedicated to young men of the late 1700s, who became known as ‘Peacocks’, as they would promenade along the street in grand attire. The white feather peacock inspired decorations and lights on show are really worth a look. There are organised bus tours and walking tours that cover the major Christmas lights around London should you want to look at this option.
TRAFALGAR SQUARE CHRISTMAS TREE AND CAROLS
Dates: 3rd December 2015 to 3rd January 2016
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 (6th-23rd Dec 4pm-8pm on weekdays and 2pm-6pm on weekends) 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.
WINTER WONDERLAND AT HYDE PARK
Dates: 20th November 2015 – 3rd January2016 10am to 10pm daily (closed Christmas day)
Tube: Green Park, Victoria, Marble Arch, Edgware Road, Bond street,
Price: General admission free, tickets for the paid-for attractions start at £7 per person
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.
CHRISTMAS MARKETS SOUTH BANK
Dates: 20th November 2015 – 24th December 2015.
Opening hours are 11am – 9pm Sunday to Thursday, and 11am – 10pm Friday and Saturday.
Tube: Waterloo or Southwark
Take a stroll along the Christmas Markets on South Bank. Nestled by the waterfront of the River Thames, between the Waterloo Bridge and The London Eye, along with 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 riverside benches which come with a complementary heating and take in the views of Big Ben, London Eye, St Paul’s Cathedral 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 than this.
Dates: 12th November 2015 to 2nd January 2016
Tube: Convent Garden
Covent Garden is one of my favorite 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 become 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. In 2015 the Christmas decorations, created by celebrated production designer Michael Howells, are themed around ‘Meet Me Under the Mistletoe’.
Date: November 2015 – March 2016
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.
CHRISTMAS CAROLS AND CONCERTS
Carols by candlelight and Christmas carols can be found all over the capital. I highly recommend getting 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 its 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:
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.
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 I was highly impressed. The crowds are huge, it’s busy and it will most 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, the event was ticketed for the first time last year and will be ticketed again this year at £10. per person. You can book up to four tickets london.gov.uk/nye (they sell out quick you need to book ASAP)
NEW YEARS DAY PARADE – 30 Magical Years
Date: 1st January 2016
Time: 12 midday on Piccadilly at the junction with Berkeley Street and finishes at 3.30 pm in Parliament Square.
Prices: General addition – Free or Grand Stand prices:£30 per person and may be purchased via this link: http://www.lnydp.com
London’s New Year’s Day Parade crowns the capital’s festive season. 2016 marks the 30th anniversary of the New Year’s Day Parade in London which first took place on 1st January 1987. To celebrate this milestone, this year’s entries will reflect the parade’s theme of 30 Magical Years. Acrobats, cheerleaders, musicians, and performers assemble in the heart of the city, for a colourful celebration that combines exuberant contemporary performances with a traditional ceremony. Featuring more than 8,000 performers representing the London boroughs and countries from across the globe, this is the biggest event of its kind in the world. The free parade is expected to once again attract more than 500,000 spectators with live television broadcasts in the UK and abroad.
London is one of the most wonderful and magnificent cities in the world. Thousands of travelers 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.