London is a fantastic place in which to spend the run-up to the festive season. Cold enough to feel Christmassy, it’s rarely freezing at this time of year. Locals and visitors alike get excited about the unique events in the build-up, and there’s plenty of places indoors and outdoors for people of all ages and tastes to get involved.
November and December see a glut of things to do – so many that visitors to the city often don’t know where to begin and locals can’t decide what to prioritise. Here are some ideas of the kind of thing you could get up to.
Catch a seasonal performance
In December especially, there are lots of carol concerts around town, in some of the city’s most impressive churches and cathedrals.
The service at St Paul’s Cathedral is one of the most awe-inspiring, and more a traditional feel, head to St Martin-in-the-Fields church for the annual Norwegian Christmas Concert. Held on 6 December, this event commemorates a long-standing London tradition: the donation of the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree from the people of Norway.
For something more theatrical, book in for a dance spectacular version of The Snowman at Sadler’s Wells, or catch a pantomime. Puss in Boots at the Hackney Empire, or Cinderella at the Beck Theatre should be a barrel of laughs.
Take to the ice
Most major cities are home to a good ice rink or two but London’s got loads to choose from, most of which are situated in its most beautiful buildings or with iconic landmarks in sight.
The Natural History Museum’s rink is surrounded by a Christmas market and a few fairground rides and is lit beautifully after dark with fairy lights in the trees. Skate around the rink at the Tower of London and you can pretend you’re back in the Victorian era, skating on the river Thames itself.
Shop ‘til you drop
There are loads of Christmas markets and special shopping events held around the capital in November and December. Avoid the crowds by going to the smaller, less well known ones, such as the boutique market at the beautiful Kew Gardens. After a late afternoon looking around the gardens, shop amongst the traditional wooden chalet stalls for creative gifts. The venue also features a light show trail, Santa’s grotto, fairground rides and stalls selling traditional festive food and drink.
Another good bet is Dalston Square’s Christmas market – less traditional and with an emphasis on fun, with hand crafted items for sale, school choirs, comedians and buskers on hand to entertain.
Hit a winter festival
Festivals aren’t just for summer. The Chocolate Festival at the Southbank Centre from 13-15 December promises to be lip-smackingly good. Take afternoon tea, create your own chocolate bar, and buy lots of calorific Christmas gifts.
The Freeze Festival, held on Clapham Common from 27 November to 1 December, ships in 500 tons of snow for a winter sports spectacular. There’s live music from the stages, skiing and snowboarding demonstrations, ‘après-ski’ bars, films, talks, and festive food and drink.
Article courtesy of St Ermin’s Hotel, 2 Caxton St, London, SW1H 0QW, 020 7222 7888
Photos courtesy of Flickr via Creative Commons licensing.