November 26, 2018
The setting for A Christmas Carol, original home to Christmas crackers, and the place where Christmas cards were first debuted – there’s no wonder London is a superbly celebratory city come December. You’ll find a huge range of festive entertainment, performances, and distinctly British advent traditions in the capital, from seasonal ballets to carol singing in Westminster Abbey. For those planning a London Christmas this year, here are the essentials bound to delight visitors young and old.
While it’s best known for its teddy bears, beloved Hamleys, the world’s oldest toy store, has as many modern gadgets as it does traditional games. After browsing the shelves across the store’s seven floors, children can whisper their greatest wishes in Father Christmas’s ear: he’ll be in town on select dates between 24th November and 24th December, with games and treats alongside.
It isn’t really Christmas in London until you’ve heard the tinkling strains of the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Whether you’re a connoisseur of the balletic arts or simply want to witness the Nutcracker battle the Mouse King, the English National Ballet will perform a highly anticipated (and étoile-studded) production this season, from 13th December to 30th December 2018.
At the end of the year, a number of open-air ice rinks magically materialise across the capital – many of them in view of London’s most beautiful landmarks. Two of the best bets are the ice rink at Somerset House, held from 14th November 2018 to 13th January 2019, as well as the rink at the Natural History Museum, open this season from 25th October to 20th January. Both are stunning backdrops for an active London Christmas.
Where else in London can you find a Christmas circus, life-sized ice sculptures, a Christmas market, open-air ice rink, and carnival rides – all in the same place? Winter Wonderland is a London favourite for a reason, and the long-running event will return to its place in Hyde Park once more, from now until 6th January 2019. For something further out of town – and even more picturesque – you can also venture to Lapland UK, which sees Berkshire dress up like it’s the North Pole.
Need to get some shopping done? For those arriving to celebrate a London Christmas but in search of a few final gifts, the city’s top department stores make for perfectly festive browsing. This year Selfridges has decorated its windows with glam rock panache, along with a rock’n’roll Santa and 1,500 glittery curtains, while its staff of “Elfridges“ are there to help handle all manner of shopping needs.
To experience a traditional London Christmas head to the city’s historic churches. Under its famous dome, lovely St. Paul’s hosts an annual Family Carols Service, which this year will be held on 22nd December. The quintessential London experience is furthered by a trip to Westminster Abbey, which also holds an enormously popular annual Christmas concert; this year, the Choir of Westminster Abbey will perform a selection of choral works on 13th December.
Traditionally, Santa is flanked by a small posse of elves – maybe a reindeer or two. But sign up to Christmas at ZSL London Zoo, and you can bet there will be some pretty exotic critters lit up for the occasion on the fairytale-meets-fantasy illuminated trail. From 22nd November to 1st January 2019, little ones are invited to this after-dark experience, where they’ll gaze up in wonder at more than 100,000 twinkling lights before a mug of warming hot chocolate and a vintage carousel ride.
Fortnum & Mason isn’t just a Queen-approved place to pick up canisters of fine tea to gift to friends and relatives back home. While retail therapy is certainly on offer, during the advent it also hosts special Christmas storytelling sessions. By a cosy fireplace, and surrounded by festively decorated Christmas trees, Father Christmas will entertain young attendees with special seasonal tales.
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