It’s that time of year again: mulled wine, mince pies, abandoned gym memberships. Whether you are a local to London town or visiting over the festive season, I’ve created a guide which will leave even the grinchiest of people feeling merry and bright. From your Christmas shopping to Instagram worthy restaurants which only Buddy the Elf could dream up, I’ve got you covered.
York and Albany Gingerbread Cabin
Live your own real life fairytale inside a magical cosy cabin at this special winter experience at York and Albany. Enjoy a Chambord mixed berry mulled wine and a canapé-inspired menu of sweet and savoury delights. There is also a Christmas themed cocktail menu to leave you feeling rather merry from this fairytale dream. They also have vegetarian, vegan and gluten free menus upon request so everyone can enjoy the fun.
The Insta-worthy igloos are back this winter and in higher demand than ever. If you have somehow missed this sought-after dining spot, Coppa Club’s Tower Bridge venue have ‘igloos’ over the winter months. You can enjoy a very moderately priced meal in these pods whilst looking out over the views of the Thames. They created a bit of an internet storm when they rivalled the madness of booking Glastonbury tickets. They do however have walk ups available, and from experience, a weekday morning isn’t too busy so always worth a try. I managed to book an igloo last year for a festive brekkie and it was a truly magical start to the day with Christmas songs playing in our cosy pod. It should also be noted that according to their Instagram this was their ‘first release’ was sold out, so worth signing up to their mailing list as you might still get lucky and be able to grab a booking at a later date.
If you want the ultimate festive dining experience, I cannot recommend this winter wonderland enough. This stunning restaurant change their decor seasonally, but if you want something a little magical, their winter theme has to be my favourite, complete with blankets to cosy up in. The food, which also changes with the seasons, is as fabulous as the surroundings. Last year’s offerings included a cheese fondue transporting you to chalet in the alps. A little more on the pricey side, but the whole experience including wonderful waiting staff make it worth the money.
Festive Afternoon Tea at One Aldwych
Afternoon tea is a British staple, and where better to enjoy it than in London at Christmas time. One Aldwych have taken it one step further and created a festive afternoon tea menu which sounds better than a tin of Quality Street on boxing day. From turkey and cranberry sandwiches to mulled wine jelly and custard are just a couple of the Christmas themed delights on this delicious sounding afternoon tea menu.
Things To Do
ZSL London Zoo Light Trail
The shorter days can be dark and gloomy until you add some beautiful twinkling lights to the mix. A gloomy dark evening can become a truly magical affair, as London Zoo have created an after-dark event while the animals are sleeping where ‘fairytale meets fantasy’. You can follow the path through the “Light Vortex” and discover thousands of twinkling lights in festive colours as you pass Father Christmas and his elves while the animals are tucked away in their beds. To keep you warm, you can enjoy mulled wine and roasted chestnuts amongst other seasonal delights in the winter chalets. There are also also traditional rides including a carousel to make it a truly magical night worth changing out of your pjs for.
Opens 22nd November for various dates until January 1st. £16.50 for adults, £10.50 for children, family tickets also available
If you want a break from the traditional Christmas markets, this event promises an alternative experience with DJs, ‘kid’s raves’, roller disco, Backyard Cinema as well as a delicious food market. For the second year running, this event is perfect for a day of fun or a night out.
Ice Skating at The Natural History Museum
The beautiful London backdrop (including a huge Christmas tree) is an Instagram dream and a magical place to take part in one of the most festive activities. I particularly like this ice rink as I think it looks equally beautiful day or night to visit. They also have a range of upgrade tickets and events including a cheeky glass of Prosecco and a slice of cake (can I get a hell yeah?!) as well Parent/toddler tickets which come with a hot drink and babyccino for your little one. Adorable.
Sipsmith Gin Pop-Up Shop
Calling all gin lovers. There is a shop dedicated to the delicious Sipsmith gin in St James’s. I’m talking about every single type of gin imaginable including very tempting festive flavours (yes please to some gingerbread gin). Not only can you sample the gins whilst browsing (which may influence your shopping decisions), you can also sit down and relax in their seating area and buy a drink from their in-house bar which includes a selection of hot winter gins to warm you up after shopping. It is thirsty work after all. This shop is only there until Christmas Eve, so get yourself down sharpish to stock up on Christmas presents and tasty gin concoctions.
Seconds away from the madness of Oxford Street, this can be a slightly less busy option for shopping in central London. Their quirky Christmas lights are also a refreshing change from the rest of London and are always one of my favs. If you need to fuel up, you can grab a bite to eat from Kingly Court’s offering of restaurants as well as many others including the popular Dishoom and my most recent favourite Pastaio, for a delicious plate of pasta (gf pasta available) and a prosecco slushie, which really is as amazing as it sounds.
This is a must for me at Christmas. From their quirky decorations, to their entire shop floor dedicated to Christmas, to their gorgeous restaurants and bars, you could easily spend all day in here. This year they are doing personalisation on Moet and Reeses which I think gives an extra special touch to a Christmas present.
A British institution, this stunning Tudor building is as beautiful inside as it is on the outside. Visit their Christmas floor for a little bit of festive magic, providing you with all the inspo to dec your halls this December.
Fortnum and Mason
Another quintessentially British shop located on Piccadilly (away from Oxford Street for those of you who shudder at the very thought. I don’t blame you. I’ve worked in retail there in December. Madness). This beautiful store perfectly encapsulates British Christmas (minus the tacky tinsel). Their edible treats are definitely a favourite of mine, and I actually received a tasty treat as a present from here last Christmas myself. Their hampers make an incredible Christmas gift for any foodies out there, and they even have a gluten free one for any of my fellow coeliacs.
Southbank Centre Wintertime Market
Enjoy a shop around the markets, dig in to some delicious street food, or be merry whilst sipping on the various drink offerings by the River Thames this winter. There are performances to enjoy including a turn-of-the-century Circus 1903, a bit of fairytale magic with Rumpelstiltskin as well as comedy and cabaret nights. There are also free activities throughout the winter which the whole family can get involved in.
9th November- 6th January
I know, you’ve probably heard of Hyde Park’s answer to a Christmas Market, but still worth a mention, as it really is so much more. Come mid-December it gets insanely busy, so get yourself there as early as possible or visit in the daytime on a weekday (with that annual leave you desperately need to use up). It’s a little pricey (welcome to London), but there are some great gems which make it well worth a visit. They have several shows including Peter Pan on Ice which can really make your visit an extra special day out. It’s the perfect place for a festive outing with your mates or a cute date night with mulled wine and Nutella crepes (not at ALL bitter that I can’t eat these anymore) or an ice-bar if you really want to impress. Bring your credit card and you’ll have a fab time.
23rd November- 6th January, 10am-10pm
Christmas in Leicester Square
I visited for first time last year, and I was pleasantly surprised by this little market in the middle of Leicester Square. It managed to take me out of the hustle and bustle (and 926483 tourists and Burger King opposite) and left me feeling more festive than having watched a Home Alone marathon. There are lots of performances to watch and things to do including a chance for the kiddies to book a slot to see the main man himself who has kindly taken a brief break from the North Pole to visit central London. If you’re not looking to splash the cash, you can have a wonder around the cute little markets free of charge and soak up the festive atmosphere.
Christmas By The River At London Bridge
The backdrop of Tower Bridge and the Thames while you wonder around between the cute wooden cabins (free of charge) is something almost as special as your first Costa Christmas drink of the year. Also usefully located near Coppa Club, so if you did want to try your luck there and weren’t in luck, this riverside market will bring back your Christmas spirit within seconds.
And if all else fails, take a walk around London and take in the beautiful Christmas lights and shop fronts. If London does one thing right, it’s Christmas.