Christmas is a magical season in cities all over the world and London is no different. From the lights to the festivities, Christmas is all around Greater London and provides locals and tourists with plenty of ways to get into the holiday spirit. To that end, we’ve listed out five different things you should try in London leading up to the holidays. No matter what your mood is or how you like to celebrate Christmas, any one of these is sure to be an enjoyable way to experience a London Christmas.
The holidays are certainly a time for celebrating and London has plenty of fairs and festivals that will help you do that. The Southbank Winter Festival includes everything from live burlesque shows to cozy cottages selling Christmas favorites. The Eat and Drink Festival revels in the food and beverages of the holiday season and not only gives you a chance to try some holiday favorites, but also offers classes on preparing Christmas dishes and purchase fresh ingredients. Of course, the big one to attend is the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. You can find everything here including rides, shows, music, lights, food, fun, and shopping.
And on that note, let’s get to what the holidays are really about—buying stuff for your friends and family. Okay, maybe that’s not the reason for the season, but London certainly has plenty of great places to shop that become even more special. Pop-up markets exist throughout the city including the festivals mentioned above, the shopping centers are dressed up inside and out with holiday cheer, and the high streets including Oxford Street, Regent Street, and Carnaby Street are not only lined with shops but also the most fantastic lighting displays of anywhere.
From November through January, plenty of public ice rinks pop-up throughout the city draped by beautiful centuries-old buildings. Somerset House is one of the top spots for ice skating in London, but it’s hard to beat being able to skate in the shadow of Hampton Court Palace all light up for the season. Even the Tower of London gets in on the activity, while Skylight London above the Tobacco Dock lets you skate around with the London skyline in the background. Plenty of the city’s ice rinks also offer tea, cocoa, and plenty of holiday snacks to help you keep warm.
Of course, Christmas is a Christian holiday and many of London’s churches offer concerts and services to help revelers remember the season’s origins. One of the best places to experience the religious side of Christmas is St. Paul’s Cathedral, which in addition to hosting Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services, has plenty of holiday concerts from musicians and the choir alike. Westminster Abbey is another top spot for holiday concerts and services and many churches throughout the city are open to parishioners and visitors alike, and each is beautiful and accommodating if you don’t want to visit one of the big churches.
Pantos are a particularly British holiday celebration. More classically known as Pantomimes, these live performances throughout London often feature rather bawdy takes on traditional folktales and children’s stories. They’ve also been known to feature any number of great television and film actors including Matt Baker, Ru Paul’s Drag Race contestant Baga Chipz, and comedian Jo Brand. If you’re worried about too much adult humor for the little ones, there are also plenty of family-friendly pantos that you can take your kids to see. Whether it’s bawdy or family-oriented, the shows tend to be full of music, humor, and interesting takes on your favorite stories.