London is abuzz with Christmas festivities and with glittering lights, Santa’s grottos, carol concerts, ice rinks, festive markets and theatre performances this is a guide to the ultimate Christmas in London experiences.
Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park, W2
The royal Hyde Park comes alive until 5 January 2014, with its annual extravaganza that celebrates all things Christmas! Located in Westminster, this year’s winter wonderland features an ice kingdom, ice rink, circus extraordinaire, arctic circle experience, giant observation wheel, theme park rides and of course, the opportunity to meet Sant Claus himself in his own magical Santa Land. This is Christmas in a nutshell!
See the Christmas lights
London is ablaze with millions upon millions of twinkling fairy lights in every conceivable colour and shape. Of course the main streets and department stores really go to town with eye-popping festive displays. The most extravagant examples are undoubtedly along the main shopping highways of Regent Street and Oxford Street.
Sing your heart out at a carol concert
There’s nothing quite like singing a few festive carols to get you into the seasonal spirit. The organised concerts across the city provide the perfect opportunity to witness seasoned carollers. Don’t miss the renowned Philharmonia Chorus at the Royal Albert Hall, catch a performance at the beautiful St Paul’s Cathedral and imbibe the history and majesty within Keats House in Camden.
Meet Santa at one his grottos
A little pinch of Christmas magic ensures that Santa will be popping up at a whole host of festive grottos this season. Meet Santa and his reindeer at London Zoo, follow the festive trails around the Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew before meeting Santa in his woodland grotto and experience Christmas in all its Victorian splendour at the London Docklands 19th century grotto.
Get this season’s must have toys
London has a superb collection of speciality toyshops which sell everything from old-skool toys such as board games, puzzles, puppets and chess sets to modern toys such as gadgets and model airplanes. Hamleys is probably the most famous toyshop in world, established in 1760 and today located on London’s Regent Street. The seven floors sells more than 50,000 toys and the specially themes Christmas department is an absolute delight. Watch the YouTube video below which shows the must-have toys for Christmas 2013. The Science Museum Shop contains all manner of state of the art gifts and gadgets to keep even the most surly teenager and hard-to-buy-for man happy. And finally, if you’re stuck for a gift, try the ubiquitous Disney Store on Oxford Street – the Mickey, Donald and Piglet themed items can’t fail to wow. Kids will also be captivated by the soaring Princess Castle in the window.
Take in a theatre performance
There are plenty of theatre shows across London this winter aimed at families and kids. With shorter performances and early finishes, even those with short attention spans will be kept entertained. Don’t miss Boing! at Sadler's Wells in EC1R which captures the anticipation of the season perfectly, running until 5 January 2014. Catch the family favourite The Gruffalo at the Lyric Theatre W1D to 12 January 2014 and kids and adults alike will appreciate the Horrible Histories series on offer at the Garrick Theatre in WC2H until 5 January 2014.
Shop ‘til you drop at this year’s Christmas markets
There’s no excuse not to get all of you Christmas shopping done ahead of time – and these specially themed markets are the ideal one-stop shop for even the most awkward to buy for family member! One of the biggest seasonal markets in the UK is the Southbank Centre Christmas Market which is open until Christmas Eve with over 80 traditional chalets selling everything from crafts, jewellery, glassware, food and clothing. The Barbican Design Market has a raft of designer goodies on sale until 22 December and the Spitalfields Winter Festival suffuses markets and music to create one magical event, until 17 December 2013.
Get your skates on at the pop-up ice rinks
Get fit and festive at one of the many ice rinks that spring up all across London at this time of year. As well as the one at Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland (see above), there are also spectacular ice rinks across the city. The rink at the Natural History Museum is accompanied by reams of fairy lights, the Tower of London ice rink is set on one of the ancient moats and at the rink at Hampton Court Palace is set against a spectacular backdrop. Its time don your earmuffs, gloves and scarves and get skating!
Image Credit: 1; Man vyi 2; Christine Matthews CC 2.0