How To: Experience Christmas in London (with Jen!)

How To: Experience Christmas in London (with Jen!)

Christmas-in-London-Caption
A wise elf once said, “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is to sing loud and clear for all to hear.” London got the memo. You can’t escape Christmas cheer around these parts whether you like it or not. Luckily, I love it. When Margo mentioned she was planning a visit to London at the end of December I couldn’t resist sharing my festive London to-do list with her and all of you.

This town is magical during the holidays and they start EARLY. Like two weeks ago. Since there’s no Thanksgiving celebration on this side of the pond, they roll out the red carpet for Christmas in early October. It coincides perfectly with my own personal timeline to begin playing NSYNC* and Mariah Carey Christmas albums on repeat.

Here are my favorite ways to experience Christmas in London:

1 | Christmas (window) shopping

libertyPhoto credit
The retail displays at Christmas are brilliant, as we say here. Harrods, Liberty, Fortnum & Mason, Selfridges, and Hamley’s are a few of my favorites. These stores also have dedicated Christmas stores within that will blow.your.mind.

2 | Cocktails at the Shard

Treat yourself to a tasty cocktail at Aqua Shard on the 31st level of London’s tallest glass building. Justify the higher than normal drink price by appreciating the bird’s eye views of London speckled with Christmas lights while you sip.

3 | Find the perfect gifts

Covent-Garden-Christmas-DecorPhoto credit
Now that you’ve warmed up your shopping muscles with window shopping, it’s time for the real deal. The best places I found for gift shopping last year were near Covent Garden (pictured above) and Carnaby Street. And if you don’t find what you’re looking for there, you’ll always find something on Oxford and Regent streets which house every store imaginable. I love walking along Oxford and Regent streets to see the extensive light displays so it’s a win-win.

4 | Sip mulled cider in a winter wonderland

Hyde-Park-Winter-WonderlandPhoto credit
Hyde Park transforms into a legit winter wonderland starting November 21st. There’s an ice rink, German-style Christmas markets, food vendors, gift market stalls, and even carnival rides. Sip on mulled cider or wine to stay warm while you wander around. Details here.

5 | Ice skating at Somerset House

London-Ice_SkatingPhoto credit
I haven’t done this yet because this is one of the hottest tickets in town. I’m planning to go this year so maybe we’ll meet there. There’s a few ice skating rinks that pop up around London at the holidays but this one is the most iconic. Details here.

6 | Christmas Day bike ride

Barclays-BIkesPhoto credit
My favorite activity last year was taking advantage of the quiet streets on Christmas Day to rent Barclay’s bikes and tour London on wheels. Public transportation doesn’t run on Christmas Day so you have the entire bus lane to yourself. We biked by all the iconic sites like St. Paul’s, Westminster Abbey, Parliament, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, and Trafalgar Square. Hands down one of my favorite days in London so far.

7 | Embrace traditions

star_mince_piesPhoto credit
Mince pies and Christmas crackers are just a few of the traditions that make Londoners all warm and fuzzy this time of year. Mince pies sound strange but they’re really tasty and sweet. And Christmas crackers aren’t edible crackers like I once thought. Those babies are full of little paper crowns which should be worn on one’s head after opening plus a little gadget or toy inside. Some department stores even sell high-end Christmas crackers filled with jewelry or electronics if you’re feeling extra fancy.

Regent-Street2Photo credit

Know Before You Go:

The Christmas spirit is contagious in London. I am giddy just thinking about it. Here are some other resources you’ll want to peruse to make the most of your time here over the holidays:

  • Go London’s “Christmas in London” guide
  • Attend a Christmas Eve service at Westminster Abbey (arrive early!)
  • Londontown’s “Christmas in London” resources
  • Don’t make any Christmas Day travel plans if you can help it. Everything shuts down on Christmas Day with the exception of a few cabs and local pubs. You can bike around London but you don’t want to bike to the airport. More on that here.
  • It’s not uncommon to hear “Happy Christmas” instead of “Merry Christmas”. Go with the flow and appreciate the fact that British people are even talking to a stranger.
  • If you’re staying for New Year’s Eve you’ll want to check out this guide.
Thanks, Jen! I can’t wait to do ALL of these activities during my holiday visit! 
You can follow along with Jen here: BLOG // BLOGLOVIN

Have a great weekend guys! 
Margo
  • yap and Christmas is getting closer indeed. I love all the lights and the decoration all around 🙂

  • The bike ride suggestion is so wonderful! I’ll be in London for Christmas this year so this post is precious. (Despite my conflicting American emotions over thinking about Christmas before Thanksgiving… so hard to keep that going over here.)

  • Oh, man. This just made me feel extremely festive and Christmasy! I always refuse to let myself get excited about Christmas until after Thanksgiving, too, but maybe I should just go for it!

  • Thanks Cheyenne!

  • Budapest sounds amazing, too! I’m heading there at the end of October and can’t wait.

  • Amazing!! I loved Christmas in London last year. I actually worked at Winter Wonderland in one of the bars and the novelty started to wear off in the end 😉 I can’t wait to go as a visitor this year!

  • This makes me want to see London all dolled-up for the holidays! I was in London in right after New Year’s this year and went to the Geffrye Museum, a free museum in Shoreditch.They had a cool exhibit showing how English homes traditionally decorated for Christmas during the past 400 years, and it looks like they do this every year. And the museum has different events throughout the season too – just an interesting little (free!) thing to enjoy if you’re in town around Christmastime that I enjoyed!

  • You’re getting to be quite the travel blogging whiz kid, Jen – this is an awesome post! Only addition: Southbank Christmas Market!! I love the look of the old German-style Christmas stalls lit up right next to the river. Way to make me super homesick for London, lady 🙂

  • Ahh how I remember Christmas in London! It is such a magical time you overlook how cold and grey it is (especially with all the lights around!)
    Love looking at the windows at Harrods and Selfridges, they always put up the most magnificent displays!

    {Teffy’s Perks} X

  • I’m so excited for our visit next month. We land in London on November 21 and are staying across the street from Hyde Park. I didn’t even know about the Christmas market there when I booked our hotel (reward points), so I was ecstatic when I saw a few blog posts about it. I can’t wait. I am a fiend for a good holiday market.

  • Sara – what a marvelous idea! Thanks so much for sharing, I’ll definitely do this during my visit in a few months! (Can you believe that we’re already talking about the Holidays? I sure can’t!) 🙂

  • Agreed! Kudos, Jen! You’re awesome! 🙂

    Noted about the Southbank Christmas Market – thanks!!

  • Sighhh, that sounds so lovely, I can’t wait to see them myself! 🙂

  • Haha! I’m a fiend of a good holiday market too! For us in Germany, we’ve got to be careful about with the gluwein though, that stuff will get you! 😀 I’m not sure if they offer the same mulled wine mix in London so you’ll have to do some investigation!

  • YES! Christmas in London is the best!
    We also don’t say “Happy Holidays”, that’s very American.

  • A bike ride on the quiet streets – what an excellent idea! Everything looks quintessentially Christmasy; swoon.