It’s that time of year again, and whether you’re the kind of person that spends the rest of the year yearning for Christmas, or someone who just takes it in their stride, London certainly comes alive at this time of the year.
Although days can be chilly and it gets dark earlier, there’s still plenty to do and see in the capital and whether you’re looking to enjoy some festive light displays, laugh yourself hoarse at a traditional pantomime, grab your skates and glide around an ice rink, or simply enjoy one of the many Christmas markets that London boasts, you’re going to enjoy yourself.
So dress up warmly (along with hat, gloves and scarf) and get out there to have some fun, because the city is yours for the taking.
Here are a few of our suggestions for what to do in London this December…
1. Visit Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park
Winter Wonderland is London’s largest funfair and, situated in the grand and imposing Hyde Park, it boasts an ice kingdom (with 500 tonnes of sculptures), an outdoor rink, an apres ski-inspired ‘village, German beer tents and plenty of food stalls.
Entrance to the Wonderland is free although attractions such as the above, or a ride on the Ferris wheel, will cost you but with free live music, and plenty of atmosphere, you can also just grab a drink and have a fun evening that won’t break the bank.
2. Grab your boots and head to an Ice Rink
London is crammed with ice rinks at this time of the year and it really can make for a fine evening, hiring a pair of skates (or bringing your own!) and twirling around the ice for an hour or so.
The rink at Somerset House has got to be on this list, since it boasts a picturesque, neo-classical courtyard and, if you;’re a little nervous, as well as the nighttime slots, they are holding ‘chillout sessions’ on certain mornings, where there’s reduced capacity!
‘Glide’ at Battersea Power Station makes the cut on this list too, since this newly-renovated building has just opened to the public. Illuminated in all kinds of colours at night, and offering an observation platform (to which you ascend via a glass elevator), Glide offers three interconnected rinks and unrivalled views of the River Thames!
And if you feel like escaping the city centre, and heading back in time, then there’s no better place to spend the evening than Hampton Court Palace Ice Rink. Set just in front of this spectacular building, the Palace was once King Henry VIII’s pleasure centre, where he entertained friends with hunting, feasting and jousting.
Today, this extraordinary Tudor building is open to the public and you can explore its kitchens, galleries, the Great Hall and the famous maze as part of your ticket. Or, of course, just go there for some skating fun!
3. Visit a Christmas Market
There’s nothing better to get you into the holiday spirit than visiting a Christmas Market, and you don’t have to travel to Germany to do it! There are festive markets all over London where you can buy gifts, pick up artisan products and eat and drink until you’re very merry.
In London’s West End, you can head first to Covent Garden and wander the piazza, stroll in Apple Market and perhaps listen to some live music, then walk onto Trafalgar Square. There you’ll see the famous Christmas Tree that is sent every year to the UK from Norway - munch on some pancakes or a bratwurst, sip some mulled wine and take in views of the National Gallery and, down Whitehall, the silhouette of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben.
At the Southbank Centre, you can stroll by the River Thames and, if you get chilly, pop inside the cultural centre for a performance or film. Greenwich, which also lies south of the river and is home to the famous Observatory and Maritime Museum, will come to life at this time of the year, with lanterns, booths and twinkly lights.
Finally, there’s Borough Market, close to London Bridge, which is home to a famous food market. Beloved by locals and tourists alike, it will be lit up with decorations and ornaments and is even holding a special ‘Evening of Cheese’ on December 15th (get your tickets early!). If you don’t like cheese, just nosh on a foie gras wrap, some traditional English fish and chips or head to ‘Ethical Caffeine’ for a cup of Joe!
4. Bask in the glow of London’s Christmas Lights
There’s nothing like walking through London in December and gazing at the Christmas lights that illuminate so much of central London.
Oxford Street and Regent Street are the first places that come to mind, if you want to see beautiful displays lighting up these famous shopping streets, but Carnaby Street, Covent Garden and St. James and Piccadilly Circus are all fine places to take in the magic.
The good thing about the West End is that if you put on good walking shoes, you can cover a lot of ground quite quickly and see all of them in one evening. Of course, if you get tired, there’s the underground and the famous red buses to hop on…but we think walking between them makes for the most magical experience.
5. Christmas at Kenwood, Hampstead
If you want to see just how beautiful Hampstead is in the winter, then head to north London because, just a stone’s throw from La Gaffe is Kenwood, and they’re holding an immersive Christmas event in their extraordinarily beautiful surroundings.
Through the entire month, and running every day from 4pm to 9pm, you can wander a special Kenwood trail that is beautifully lit up (it’s about 2km, so kids under 5 might get a little tired). All along the way you’ll see fabulous installations and witness multisensory light and sound displays, whilst enjoying views of London from high up in Hampstead.
Even better along the trail route you can pick up festive refreshments - hot drinks, spicy punch and mince pies!
6. Take in a Pantomime
Finally, it wouldn’t be Christmas without a panto and London has plenty on offer!
The London Palladium - just next door to Carnaby Street (where the Swinging Sixties got started) - is putting on Jack and the Beanstalk and, if previous years are anything to go by, there’s bound to be a lavish set and costumes.
At the Duke of York Theatre, close to Covent Garden, Ian McEllan and John Bishop are starring in ‘Mother Goose' and this hilarious farce is guaranteed to make you honk out loud!
And just a short tube ride south, down in leafy Richmond, which is a beautiful place to visit, if you love nature, pretty architecture and views of the river, there’s a production of Goldilocks and the Three Bears on offer, which the little ones will love.
If you’re planning on coming to London this December and looking for comfortable, family-fun and family-owned hotel near Hampstead Heath, we'd love to welcome you. We offer singles, doubles and family accommodation and, arguably, the best cappuccino in north London - you can also book directly with us.
Happy holidays everyone!