One month ’til Christmas, people!

As much as I don’t like the cold I could never imagine the festive period without snow before moving to Martinique. I’ll be honest and say that I did hope for a tiny sprinkling in London last year. Alas, no such luck. What I did come to appreciate is that Brits put real heart into Christmas – they don’t have the silly distractions like shovelling six feet of snow or other holidays like Thanksgiving and Black Friday to get in their way. Christmas in London is serious business.

So here we are – it’s the last week in November, the lights are up on Regent Street, Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park is open, and Christmas markets are cooking up gluhwein and bratwurst. There are so many things to do in London at Christmas, but here are six to get you started:

1. Southbank Christmas Market

Southbank Christmas market, London, Christmas in London, things to do at christmas in london
Southbank Christmas Market

I love the Southbank. I don’t mean the touristy London Eye and London Dungeons Southbank, I mean the street food market, break dancers in the Royal Festival Hall, rooftop garden Southbank.  It’s beautiful in the summer, they always have interesting festivals or gallery shows on, and in the winter they set up the Southbank Christmas Market.

It’s music, mulled wine, and fairy lights galore. I was still new to London and disorientated when I went there last year, but I had my first roasted chestnut here (still not sure if I liked it), a delicious chimney cake, and got really excited about silly things like knitted finger puppets. It will always be a special place to me!

2. Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

Hyde Park, Winter Wonderland, London, Christmas in London, things to do in london for christmas
They seriously go all out.

I admit. I didn’t know that a Bavarian Beer Hall was a thing – or even what it was – until I came here with Tug and the SEO team last year. It’s insane. It’s like Nathan Phillips Square at Christmas on steroids meets the CNE. There’s a giant Ferris wheel, a star flyer, an Ice Kingdom, an Ice Bar, rollercoasters…like they don’t mess around.

Bavarian Beer Hall Shenanigans
Bavarian Beer Hall Shenanigans

Then there’s the food. There’s a lot of it: donuts, sausages, pretzels, and even Chinese food if you fancy it. And alcohol. Not only can you get steins the size of your head but they serve boozy hot chocolate, mulled wine – basically anything that will help you get off your face. And you will, because it’s not really Christmas yet.

3. Ice Skating

Ice Skating, Natural History Museum, things to do at Christmas in London
Freshly zambonied ice at the Natural History Museum

Growing up in Canada, ice skating was an integral part of my childhood. My mom is Jamaican and has never skated in her life but she took my brother and me skating anyway. She would just walk on the ice with us. We went on a school trip to the Scarborough Civic Centre once and I have a very vivid memory of a girl in my class hitting her head on a metal railing so hard she had a lump the size of a golf ball (at least that’s what it looked like when you were 8).

Little kid ice skating, Scarborough Civic Centre Ice skating
Am I cutest little ice skater or what? I can’t be more than 3 there I consulted my mother – I was 2.

London has a lot of really amazing places to go for a skate and it’s always fun Christmas thing to do. Somerset House is very popular and the rink at the Natural History Museum is beautiful. I went on a little date there with my partner last year – it was a lot of fun though I feared for the lives of the children! I also went with Tug as part of our Christmas party at the Tower of London – another very fond memory! (I must say, two mentions of Tug in one post? I think if there’s one thing I miss as a freelancer it’s the social events!).

4. Christmas Lights Tour

Mozart statue, Pimlico and Ebury Street, Belgravia, things to do in London at Christmas, Christmas in London, Christmas lights, bicycle tour of London
Statue of Mozart, age 8, Belgravia

London loves Christmas lights. And you know what? It really brings life to the city and makes me less depressed about it getting dark at 4:30 every day. Last year I had the chance to take the Christmas Lights Bicycle Tour and it was lovely. I learned a lot about the city and saw places in a completely different light…

5. Christmas Shows

Swan Lake in London, things to do in london for Christmas, Christmas in London
Begoña Cao as Odette/Odile. Photo: © Laurent Liotardo | Design: Nik Pate

I haven’t done a Christmas show yet but I really want to go to my first ballet. In typical Christmas spirit, the Nutcracker and Swan Lake are on and I would love to go see one (coughHint to bae!cough).

I’ve had a blast seeing shows in London – I’ve seen the critically acclaimed play Chimerica, I took my partner to see Wicked, and a few weeks ago we had the pleasure of taking a couple friends to see Neville’s Island featuring some famous people only Brits and people into British comedy know.

This is the ultimate treat of a Christmas experience!

6. Eat Proper English Christmas Food

Dessert, Christmas Afternoon Tea, Conrad St. James, Things to do in London for Christmas
Winter snow scene dessert, anyone?

None of my posts are ever complete without a mention of food. Last year, I indulged in mince pies, puddings, turkey, stuffing and everything in between. This year I was lucky enough to have a preview of the Christmas Afternoon Tea at the Conrad St. James in London and it was delicious. I’m going to have to be extra creative this year since I’m mostly off the meat, but I have been dying to try a nut roast – this makes the perfect excuse!

Spending the holidays abroad – especially when you’re an expat – don’t have to be just like home for you to feel like you’re at home in a place. Embrace the differences and find something you love about it!


12 thoughts on “The 6 Experiences You Must Have at Christmas in #London”

  1. Yeah, coming from Florida, even after 6 years in Europe, I still don’t love the winter cold, but I DO love the Christmas markets here 😀 Looks like they also have some great things to do in London. As for the Christmas desserts, love those log cakes!! Yummy

    1. I’ve got to say: I complain, but this winter cold is still far better than the winter cold in Canada! ha. Thanks for commenting, Dana!

  2. Such beautiful photos! I love London during the holidays – it makes my favorite city in the world light up even more. I am with you on the ice skating – I grew up in Wisconsin so like it or not, it’s a part of life! But there’s no rink like an outdoor one in central London – I think it even tops Rockefeller Center 🙂 Lovely blog, I look forward to following your adventures!

  3. great list! I have only been to London once and it looks like my return should be at Christmas! I love seeing the nutcracker this time of year and Wicked is wonderful. The Christmas lights tour sounds fun! I am Jamaican and lived in cold areas in the US but I don’t know how to ice skate!

    1. It’s a great time to come, and you should learn! It’s a lot of fun 🙂 Thanks for commenting!

  4. I love that photo of you on the ice! I’m pretty sure you’re bundled up enough that if you fell, you’d bounce right back up. 🙂 We are going ice skating at Somerset House this weekend and it will be my first time in, oh, probably 20 years. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep the embarrassing falls to a minimum. 🙂 Happy holidays, Alyssa!

    1. I’m glad people are loving the outfit, I’ll be sure to share it with my mom ha! Have fun, Sarah, let me know how it goes!

  5. What a cute little kid you were all bundled up!!! I love London during Christmas time. These all look great. My favorite is walking from Oxford street to Oxford Circus under all those lights and Christmas decorations, practically being moved along by the gazillion people out and about. Love it!

    1. Thanks! I had to pull that one out of the archives haha. Oxford/Regent Street are gorgeous. Thanks for commenting, Kemkem!

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