The weeks before Christmas are special, and I enjoy spending that time of the year in London. As soon as it’s getting dark the city starts glittering and sparkling. The shops show off with their heavily, but beautifully decorated windows and the big shopping streets impress with their huge and amazing Christmas lights. In between you have the Christmas markets where you can buy your first presents and warm up with a mulled wine. Several ice rinks make all the ice skating fans happy and the Winter Wonderland brings a mixture of Christmas market and amusement park into Hyde Park.
Go to Trafalgar Square to admire the tallest Christmas tree. This will be given as a present from the citizens of Oslo (each year since 1947) as a sign of gratitude for help during WWII. The tree will be erected at the end of November and will be decorated at the beginning of December. Many groups and choirs gather around the tree to sing Christmas carols. So why not join them?
If you will be around during December and you don’t have a clue yet where to spend your evenings, please continue reading and you will find my favourite spots to spend the pre-Christmas time in London.
The Christmas lights at the main shopping streets
The switching on of the Christmas lights is a big thing in London. Each street starts at a different date so that visitors and locals can make the most out of it. The biggest event takes place at Oxford Street. The street gets closed for cars and buses, there is a big party with drinks and food and each year a celebrity is invited to turn on the lights. This year, Rita Ora had the honour. Since 2016 the event collects donations for the children’s charity NSPCC.
Carnaby Street combines the switching on with a shopping parade. There is live music and lots of discounts in the shops.
All the other streets dress up for Christmas, too and want to impress with their lights and decorations. You can easily spend a whole day just walking around and admiring the lights.
A pre-Christmas time without a Christmas market? Not working, right? Cabins selling art and crafts, mulled wine, sausages and all the sweet treats can be found all over London.
Christmas in Leicester Square from 10.11. – 7.1.18
Leicester Square in central London had its first Christmas market in 2016 and this year we will have the second round. You will classical stands selling food and presents, kids can meet Santa in his Grotto and the grown-ups might enjoy one of the theatre performances. Entry to the market is free but you need to get a ticket for both Santa’s Grotto and the theatre performances. The market is open from noon and until 10, during the weekends they start at 10. Santa’s Grotto closes at 8. More info can be found on their homepage.
Christmas by the River at London Bridge City from 30.11. – 3.1.18
Located between London Bridge, Hays Gallery, City Hall and Tower Bridge there are over 60 cabins selling art, candles, snacks, mulled wine and much more. You could start your tour at Tate Modern and have a stroll along the Thames. To go directly to the market, leave the tube at either at „Tower Hill” or „London Bridge“. Open daily from 11 until 10. More info can be found here.
This Christmas market is one of my favourites. Doesn’t having a mulled wine in your hand while walking up to Tower Bridge sound nearly perfect to you, too?
Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park from 17.11. – 1.1.18
A mix between a Christmas market and an amusement park can be found in Hyde Park with the Winter Wonderland. It’s always busy and crowded as it’s London’s the biggest Christmas market and very popular. Both visitors and locals come here to have a ride with the Ferris wheel or to skate on the biggest outdoor ice rink in the UK. There are also over 200 wooden cabins selling food, drinks, sweet treats and crafts. You can access the area for free but if you want to visit the circus, the ice rink or the „Magical Ice Kingdom“ (this year there is a whole underwater world made out of ice) you need to buy a ticket. This can be done online and here.
Winter Wonderland is open daily from 10 to 10. Take the Tube to any stations that is close to Hyde Park, e.g. Bond Street, Green Park, Knightsbridge, Marble Arch, Hyde Park Corner, Paddington and Victoria.
Greenwich Market from 22.11. – 24.12.
Greenwich Market dresses up for Christmas, too. 150 stands offer jewellery, fashion, hand-made stuff, food and drinks. The stands might be here all year but the Christmas decoration and some mince pies can only be found at this time of the year.
Southbank Centre’s Winter Market from 10.11. – 30.12.
At Southbank Centre 50 stands offer everything which is needed for a proper Christmas market. One of the highlights is the Finnish sauna which was built on the roof, at the Queen Elizabeth Roof Gardens. 16 people can book into a 70 minutes shift to use the sauna, relax and enjoy the view from the roof. Book your ticket here.
The shops get ready for Christmas, too
Each shop, each fashion label and each museum offer a Christmas area from November onwards. Get inspiration for your present, buy your cards or decoration. The big shops even have a separate Christmas department, the one at Harrods opens each summer (!).
After stuffing yourself with gingerbread and mulled wine you might need some physical exercise. What about ice skating? Ice rinks can be found all over London. Some offer a historical building in the back (e.g. Somerset House or the Tower of London) to add some atmosphere to your skating.
Natural History Museum from 26.10. – 7.1.18
Enjoy your time on the ice with an illuminated museum in the background at the Natural History Museum. The ice rink is open daily (apart from 25.12.) from 11 to 9. A ticket costs approx. £13 for an adult. Pre-book your tickets here.
Somerset House from 15.11. – 14.1.2018
The courtyard at Somerset House offers ice skating and catering by „Fortnum & Mason“. Your ticket is valid for an hour and prices start at £ 7,50. There are „late skates“ with a DJ.
Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland from 17.11. – 01.01.2018
Winter Wonderland offers the biggest outdoor ice rink in the UK. It’s open from 10 to 10. Each session lasts 50 minutes and prices start from £ 15.50. Book your tickets in advance and online.
Hampton Court Palace from 24.11. until 07.01.2018
Enjoy your ice skating in front of Hampton Court Palace. Your ticket will get you 45 minutes on the ice and will costs you from £ 12. The ice rink is open daily from 11am. More info and booking here.
Tower of London from 17.11. until 2.1. 2018
This ice rink would be my choice, if I knew how to ice-skate…In front of the Tower of London. This sound super cool to me! You can enjoy the ice daily from 11am – 9pm, your ticket will be valid for 45 minutes and prices start from £ 12. There is a café to warm up after your session. Book you tickets here.
Anything interesting for you in this list? Which attraction will make waiting for Christmas Eve a bit easier for you?
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