Christmas and New Year Celebrations in London
London is an idyllic place to visit at all times of year, but especially during the run up to the festive season. At Christmas time things are truly special, with a plethora of wonderful events on offer. There are attractions galore, from great Christmas pudding races and festive markets, ice skating at some of the world’s most iconic landmarks, magnificent light displays to a range of shows and pantos, (oh no there isn’t!) All of which should combine to put you in the festive mood. So none of your ‘Bah Humbugging’…get your skates on, wrap up warm and brave the chilly London outdoors to saviour some of these unmissable delights.
This month we’ll give you a sample of a few, of what we consider to be, the best festive activities within our glorious capital. This is by no means exhaustive, but should help to whet your appetite and hopefully set you up for a fantastic Yuletide.
Christmas Light Displays
Christmas is a time when London overcomes those dark, dismal winter nights and gives its streets and department stores a festive makeover with the twinkle of millions of Christmas lights all over the city. You know Christmas is almost upon us when London’s greatest shopping area, Oxford Street, transforms itself with sparkly, glowing lights (750,000 lights this year alone) and 1778 decorations!
If you want to combine your ‘light seeing experience’,(get it?) with a market or two, along with a glass of mulled wine into the bargain, then there are a host of other areas to explore with more superb light displays.
The Carnaby Street Christmas Lights for instance, are an ostentatious example of Christmas glitz. This famous street often offers visitors a Christmas 20% discount in many of its unique shops. Or head off to Christmas at Kew Gardens, where you’ll be able to follow a mile long, twinkling path of over 1,000000 sparkling Christmas bulbs, lighting up ancient trees and buildings throughout these spectacular gardens. You’ll also experience giant baubles, a flickering Fire Garden, a kaleidoscopic laser display in the glorious palm house and even experience the trees singing! What more could you ask for? Oh yes! Your Christmas visit won’t be complete without meeting Santa and his elves at the North Pole village, whilst to warm yourself up after this fantastic experience, you could partake in a glass of hot chocolate or mulled wine or toast your toes and some marshmallows by the fire. For those more energetic at heart, you could take the Christmas Lights Bike Tour, which will guide you to some of the best locations to see London’s prettiest Xmas illuminations. On this 2 hour tour you’ll see some of London’s most iconic buildings lit up with thousands of lights and decorations, flickering unforgettably along your route. You’ll discover quieter streets that you’ve never encountered before, along with London’s glorious array of wonderful festive markets and some of the most mesmerising illuminations imaginable, such as the famous Hamleys toy store, whose gleaming array of lights will delight your every thought. During your journey, you’ll also hear hilarious tales of London’s history. Definitely a unique Christmas experience!
If you’re on the lookout for Christmas gift inspiration, then London’s Christmas markets and fairs are the place to be. Here you’ll not only discover a wealth of hand crafted offerings and foodie gifts, but will also be in the midst of a plethora of festive events into the bargain. What’s more, whilst shopping ‘til you drop, you’ll be able to sample many of the capital’s street vendors, selling every conceivable type of fast food known to man, along with Christmas beverages. Why not try, for example, Covent Garden at Christmas? This London area is truly irresistible at this time of year, with its cobbled piazza, stylish stores and market buildings giving it an air of sheer nostalgia. With over 40 mistletoe chandeliers hanging elegantly above you, you can find that perfect gift, whilst savouring the beauty of Christmas. Combine this with a sumptuous meal in one of Covent Garden’s restaurants, whilst watching a street entertainer and you’ll be able to de-stress after all the hustle and bustle of buying that last minute piece of tinsel!
If you’re in Covent Garden on the 2nd Dec, try not to miss 150 Christmas puddings tackle a festive obstacle course, in aid of Cancer Research UK. Last year raising over £26,000 for this worthy cause, 2017’s outing will be the 37th in its history. Teams don fancy dress and hurtle around obstacles including foam jets and flour-filled balloons, whilst trying to negotiate and balance Christmas puds on paper plates! You can register teams of 6 and compete, or simply support and have a fun day out. There’ll be entertainment and celebrity guest appearances throughout the day.
If you’re looking for that special something, this market features over 50 wooden chalets brim full with festive food and drink and unique presents. Set alongside the Thames, street food is plentiful, with irresistible smells ranging from Asian cuisine to hot dogs and other traditional fayre. A glorious way to enter into that Christmas spirit, whilst savouring London’s wintertime sights and sounds is to try out the Bar under the Bridge, where you can indulge in your favourite tipple.
Located near the famous 19thC Cutty Sark, this venue combines our 17th C architectural legacy with an unforgettable wintertime festival experience. Situated in the stunning grounds of the world heritage listed Old Royal Naval College, this inviting, yet intimate market/festival still delivers a great experience which will appeal to everyone. You’ll taste London’s finest festive food/drink and be entertained by theatre, street performers, children shows and live music. You can find that last minute gift at the Winter Market and for the tots why not make their visit more magical by visiting Santa and his Greenwich launch pad, as he gets ready for his Christmas journey? With a mixture of contemporary and traditional activities, amidst over 500 Christmas trees, this festival is becoming a unique and distinctive Christmas destination. So try boogieing at the silent disco, or marvelling at the amazing ice skating performance from world class skaters, for this venue seems to have it all!
Ice Skating in the Capital
During the ‘Little Ice Age’ during the 17th C to the early19th C, it was common during some winters to ice skate on the River Thames. Alas, the river freezes over no longer, however London still boasts several venues where those energetic enough, can ice skate in enchanting surroundings to their hearts content.
Take, for example, the Natural History Museum Ice Rink. This famous museum is home to one such ice rink. With the elegant Waterhouse building as a backdrop you can skate, surrounded by the magical trees laced with fairy lights, weaving like Bambi or a real professional around the majestically adorned Christmas tree. There’s an indoor café, bar and viewing balcony overlooking the ice to enjoy all the falls and scrapes that will inevitably happen, whilst enjoying a restful drink or a toasted marshmallow!
Another grand setting for an ice rink is Somerset House, whose stunning 18thC courtyard is the setting for winter fun. This 900 sq m outdoor rink is the perfect venue for a real escapade. Ideal for families, you can combine your skating with winter dining at the renowned Fortnum Lodge, which offers champagne and mulled wine, or watch from the Skate Lounge. There is the Fortnum’s Christmas Arcade to peruse whilst new this year, are the ‘Skate Lates’, a range of programmed events throughout the winter period.
If you want something different this Christmas Day, you could celebrate like never before on a spectacular panoramic tour of London. You’ll experience all the amazing city landmarks including Westminster Abbey and Houses of Parliament during your festive tour and learn about London’s fascinating history whilst you soak up the festive atmosphere
Take in a panto or show
No Christmas visit to London would be complete without taking in one of the seasonal extravaganzas within the capital. Take the Magic Circle Christmas Show, for example, where you’ll experience The Magic Circle in all its glory. Featuring superb magic tricks, entry also gives access to The Magic Circle museum. Or go and see Peter Pan - Wembley Arena, to follow Peter Pan’s adventures in this interpretation of J.M. Barrie’s classic. Martin Kemp is the baddy Captain Hook and Matt Knight plays Peter Pan. This dazzling panto features a full size galleon along with a 7m long crocodile! Meanwhile Disney on Ice presents Passport to Adventure at the 02. You’ll enter magical world of many famous, yet timeless Disney characters like Simba from ‘The Lion King’, Elsa from ‘Frozen’ and Peter Pan. Toe tapping music abounds in this mesmerising ice-skating spectacular. Or head off to follow Dick Whittington’s adventures at the London Palladium. For ballet lovers, why not take in and be thoroughly enchanted by a lovely presentation of The Nutcracker (Royal Opera House).
Pay a visit to Santa
The magic of Christmas isn’t complete until you and your little terrors have visited Santa in one of his many gift-filled grottos around the capital. We know he’s ultra-busy at this time, yet Santa always makes time to visit some iconic places within the capital to hear if you’ve been naughty or nice! His grotto at London Zoo for example or his hideaway at the WWT London Wetland Centre, are 2 examples of where you can meet the big man himself. You could even set sail for a sightseeing tour on the Thames with Santa, when he’ll dish out all kinds of goodies to children on board. Adults can enjoy mulled wine and mince pies as you glide by many of London’s famous landmarks. Or head to Santa's Grotto at WWT London Wetland Centre to go on an exciting sleigh ride with huskies. In the forest you may find a hidden cabin in this winter paradise and if so you’ve discovered Father Christmas’ grotto!
Sing Christmas Carols
Often many people are so wrapped up in their Christmas preparations, they forget the true meaning of Christmas. So why not take part of traditional Christmas carols at the historic St Paul’s Cathedral, where there is also a Christmas day church service? Or join in at the Albert Hall with their Carols by Candlelight? There are many other such services throughout the capital, including the carols sung around Trafalgar Square’s enormous Christmas tree, where you’ll hear choirs performing carol concerts in the run up to the special day. Whichever iconic venue you choose, you’ll be sure to soak up the atmosphere and be able to reflect on what Christmas is really about.
Experience the Christmas of long ago.
If you want to experience a Christmas of yesteryear, then there’s nowhere better than an Elizabethan Christmas complete with live dance at Hampton Court Palace. Here they have a series of yuletide activities, ranging from an Elizabethan Christmas to singing carols in the courtyards. As well as a magnificent ice rink, the BBC Good Food’s Festive Feast will get the taste buds going with more than 50 food stalls within these historic courtyards. On specified dates, there will also be a themed ‘Elizabethan Christmas’, with Tudor-style courtyard entertainment along with live period music/ dance, epitomising what the Christmas of 1592 was like. Alternatively, try Christmas at Kensington Palace where you’ll experience what Christmas would have been like during Victorian times. There’ll be a host of 19thC activities to experience along with the 8m tall Victorian styled Christmas tree where there will be occasional workshops enabling you to make decorations to take home.
New Year Celebrations
After all the excesses of Christmas time, why not see the old year out by celebrating with family and friends at some of the wonderful New Year festivities on offer within the capital? Choices are endless, with fireworks, parties, dinner cruises and clubbing to name a few! Whatever your plans though, be sure to book in advance as it’s unlikely you can just turn up on the night!
Central London’s Firework Display
This event has become a dazzling spectacle of world class proportions over recent years. A ticketed event, this pyrotechnic display will dazzle and delight, although if you aren’t lucky enough to get a ticket, you can always see the spectacle on TV whilst enjoying a pint or two! There is a wealth of other activities also on offer to see out the old year. A dinner cruise aboard a vessel on the Thames is one such choice, as you’ll still enjoy the fireworks whilst enjoying a lovely meal in the warmth of the cabin. Champagne/live music are available on some of these cruises, allowing you to dance the night away. You could opt for an exhilarating speedboat ride, a traditional boat trip or welcome the New Year whilst overlooking London’s skyline on the London Eye. Or perhaps watch The Shard light up the sky with a special New Year's Eve light show.
For those who enjoy more cultural experiences, try being transported to 19th C Vienna to enjoy New Year's Eve’s music/dancing in ‘The Magic of Vienna concert’ (Barbican). Experience memorable music by Strauss, whose waltzes and polkas provided the entertainment to the Viennese of yesteryear.
Alternatively, join the Southbank Centre's Vintage New Year's Eve Party, which offers a quirky, yet stylish way to see in the New Year. With 5 pop-up ‘vintage’ nightclubs, the music ranges from the ‘20s to the ‘90s, incorporating swing, rock’n'roll, disco, soul and cabaret. There is walkabout entertainment, good dining options and a private river terrace to watch the London fireworks.
If you want something more modern then the Ministry of Sound Electric (Brixton) could be for you. This flagship all-night club attracts many followers of the global dance and house music brand.
New Year’s Day
So the New Year beckons, although January 1st is often overlooked by those with hangovers and those who didn’t get to bed until 5am! However, there are numerous things to do for those who can manage it.
New Year’s Day annual Parade
This spectacular parade, mixes entertainment and traditional pomp with dancers, marching bands, historical vehicles and more, all descending upon central London to enthral the crowd. This colourful celebration starts at Green Park Tube station at 12pm, finishing at Parliament Square at 3.30pm. Over 10,000 performers will feature, with colourful floats representing countries from around the world, whilst over 500,000 spectators will witness the glorious spectacle, with music and confetti wafting through the London streets.
New Year Sales
If you still have money to spend you could hit the sales in some of London’s top shopping hotspots and pick up bargains in the January sales.
Time for a stroll?
Why not walk off the excess pounds you’ve gained over Christmas with an amble around London’s beautiful parks? Beautiful any time of year, but on a crisp January day they can be even more stunning!
So get planning your wintery stay in London so that you don’t miss a thing. If you decide to extend your visit to our fabulous capital then Euracom can help! We provide a range of reasonably priced serviced apartments within London, making your stay in the capital a memorable one.
Why not try our Short stay studio apartments London, Bayswater Kensington Gardens W2?
These short stay apartments are situated in Bayswater, near to Hyde Park & Whiteley’s shopping centre. With the West End’s many shops, restaurants and theatres nearby, they’re an ideal base for exploring our lovely capital. Apartments range from £140p/n and each is decorated to a high standard, complete with air con, LCD TVs and fully equipped kitchens and bathrooms. They are also close to some of London’s beautiful parks, such as Hyde Park and its Winter Wonderland.
- Air conditioning
- Concierge / security / reception Daily cleaning service/ Lifts Nearby/ Secure storage facilities
- DVD player/ Telephone TV / Freeview Wifi
- Fully equipped kitchen/ Iron / Ironing board/ Laundry / dry cleaning facilities available Bayswater
Alternatively, the Short stay apartments London, Earls Court Road, SW5 provide an excellent base and are close to Sloane Square and Harrods. These Edwardian styled serviced apartments are beautifully furnished boasting traditional, high ceilings & sizable rooms, ranging in size from studios, (£153p/n) to apartments which sleep 8 people. Their proximity to popular destinations like Knightsbridge, Kensington & Chelsea make them ideal for a spot of Christmas shopping. The famous Royal Albert Hall and Natural History Museum are nearby sights and landmarks worth visiting.
- Baby cot / high chair (upon request)
- Breakfast available/ Concierge / security / reception/ Daily cleaning service Desk
- Workspace Dining table & chairs
- Fully equipped kitchen/ Laundry / dry cleaning facilities available/Dishwasher in some apartments/ Tea / coffee making facilities
- Door entry phone/ Lifts/ Welcome pack available
- DVD player/ Telephone TV / Freeview/ Wi-fi
- En-suite Bathroom in some apartments
For an even more spectacular, luxurious stay, with everything you could possibly need in the way of 5 star living, the Luxury serviced apartments Green Park, London W1 Mayfair, are for you.
Located off Piccadilly, these apartments are part of a 5 star hotel, so offer the same amenities you’d expect from a luxury London hotel, with all the added benefits of being self-contained, fully equipped luxury serviced apartments. More expensive than the last examples, (prices start from £765p/n for a 1 bed apartment) yet you get what you pay for, as these luxurious apartments are finished to the highest possible standard, featuring marble bathrooms, spacious lounge, dining area and fully fitted kitchen along with a gym, spa, room/ concierge service. You even have the option of a private garden or penthouse! With Oxford Street and all London’s shops and festive lights nearby, this apartment could be a real ‘dream come true’ of a holiday.
- Air conditioning
- Breakfast available/ Room service/ Radio / Business centre available/ Onsite restaurants / bars /
By Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK (Christmas Lights 2 Uploaded by tm) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
jeffwarder [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Simeon87 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons