London is a city blanketed in lights and good cheer at Christmastime. There’s always something to do throughout the season (something touched upon in the previous article about winter activities), but what is there to do on Christmas Day itself? You might think that the city shuts down for the holiday, and nothing is open (especially seeing that Christmas falls on Sunday this year), but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, there are several fun things to do on Christmas day, so you don’t have to sit at home with a family you can’t stand or stuck in your hotel for the day, so have a look at them below and let us know what some of your favourite things to do on Christmas.
Peter Pan Cup – Hyde Park
Jumping into Hyde Park’s Serpentine lake in winter may seem like an incredibly daft thing to do, but that’s exactly what the Serpentine Swimming Club signs up for on 25 December each year. The Peter Pan Cup began when author J.M. Barrie donated it to the club in 1904. The members must complete a 100-yard race in the lake in order to win the cup, which is certainly a challenge considering the waters on that day average forty degrees Fahrenheit (4C). The race is open only to club members, but spectators are certainly welcome, so feel free to go down to Hyde Park before the 9 AM start time and get a good spot from which to see the frozen fun.
Thames Christmas Lunch/Dinner Cruise
There are plenty of river tours down the Thames throughout the year that will show you everything from Parliament to the HMS Belfast, but on Christmas Day, the offer something a little different. There are several river tour companies that offer a traditional Christmas meal as a part of the cruise, making your tour an even more festive experience as you sip on holiday drinks and dine on a Christmas meal before, during, or after you see the sights. Depending on the tour, passengers can enjoy mulled wine and minced pies during the tour and then such dishes as roast turkey and roast potatoes for the meal. Tour firms that offer this as an option include City Cruises, Gray Line, and Golden Tours, amongst others.
Ripley’s Believe It or Not
You’d better believe that Ripley’s is open on Christmas Day. Ripley’s being open 365 days a year means that it is one of the only major attractions in the city that is open on the holiday. In addition to all the strange and magnificent items Ripley’s holds from all over the world, they also offer special Christmas exhibits during the holiday season. This year, Ripley’s has a “Christmas Trail” which begins with a map given to visitors that they can fill out as they go through the museum with the promise of a festive treat for completing it. There’s no extra cost for the trail, so feel free to go down to Ripley’s and make your Christmas a little weird.
Services at St. Paul’s Cathedral
Even though it’s one of the city’s largest landmarks, St. Paul’s Cathedral is still a working church that offers services throughout the year and especially on Christmas. Falling on a Sunday this year, St. Paul’s naturally offers its Sunday morning Holy Communion, Morning Prayer, and Sung Eucharist services. Additionally, there is a 3:15 Festal Evensong that features a number of classic Christian carols sung by the cathedral’s choir. More than just normal services, fully expect sermons and hymns to reflect the theme of Christ’s birth and resurrection while immersed in beautiful Advent decorations. Tickets aren’t required for the services, but keep in mind that they are not a time for sightseeing or taking photographs.
If you don’t feel like taking your Christmas Dinner on the River Thames, plenty of restaurants and pubs serve a special Christmas menu on the 25th. Of course, your hotel’s restaurant may be serving a wonderful Christmas dinner of its own, but if you feel like venturing out, it’s easy to find lists of restaurants that will be serving holiday meals all day long. Whether you’re looking for something more traditional via Dean Street Townhouse or buffet style such as Market Brasserie, there are plenty of excellent options. If you need a break from your family and a pint to get through the day, The Artesian and The Only Running Footman count themselves amongst the city’s numerous drinking establishments that will make themselves available to you.