London is one of the most exciting cities in the world, and at its very best during the colourful Christmas season. We highlight nine reasons to visit the majestic capital this December, for those planning a winter getaway.
1. The Christmas shopping
As a fashion capital of the world, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to designer boutiques – from Burberry to Victoria Beckham. Giant department stores such as Selfridges have something for everyone in the family, from ultra exclusive Tiziana Terenzi fragrances to pink Soda gadgets. Meanwhile, Verso Contemporary carries Banksy street-art prints that’ll excite the boys in your life.
2. Arts and crafts
If you are more the creative type, then you may want to make your own personalised gifts at Carousel London, which offers candle-making classes, or check out Midas Touch for fun-packed pottery workshops, so you can take home a handmade ceramic for a loved one. You’ll learn to wedge, centre and mould a stunning creation, which can then be decorated by paint or pattern. Union Jack-painted teapot for mum, anyone? Arts and crafts are a big deal in London, so book a course ASAP.
3. Classy winter dining
In the English capital, you’ll enjoy food fit for a princess. City Social is the place to go for incredible skyline views; Laurent at Hotel Café Royal is where you’ll enjoy fine dining including the best wine in Europe; and Aqua Neuva is where the fashionistas hang out. Shopaholics can rest and refuel at Chucs, Harrods – Christmas is the time to splash out, after all.
Image: City Social
4. A Royal-themed time
This is truly a year for the Royal family, with millions around the world tuning in to see Meghan Markle marry Prince Harry. Try and get a glimpse of the Queen at Buckingham Palace, or take a look up close with a waxwork version of her at Madame Tussauds. If you’re travelling in groups, then keep the theme going and take part in a game inside a giant jewel at The Crystal Maze experience.
5. The gorgeous ice
South Africa isn’t really the place for festive ice-skating, so head over to London for beautiful rinks. Somerset House’s rink is arguably the most stunning; Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park has one of the biggest; and if you don’t want to skate, then how about enjoying ice sculptures instead at the Belowzero Ice Bar, which serves cocktails in ice cubes.
Image: Somerset House
6. The warm high tea
The English invented the high tea, so no visit to London is complete without three-tier cakes, scones and sandwiches. Berners Tavern is a favourite with George and Amal Clooney and one of the most Instagrammable locations in the city. Their scones will warm up those winter chills, and so will the punch over in the Punch Room. The Wolseley serves a traditional British selection that is simply majestic, and the servers are perfect gentlemen. You’ll feel like a princess.
7. The festive shows
The Cabaret Club’s Gatsby Christmas is the hottest December ticket in town, combining a winter spectacle with fine dining. There’s also Swan Lake at Sadler’s Wells for ballet, and Kinky Boots for a drag extravaganza. Of course, Christmas isn’t really Christmas without Miss Festivity herself. Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ tour presented by Live Nation is on sale now throughout the UK.
Image: Mariah Carey
8. The Christmas lights
It’s not just Oxford Circus and Carnaby Street that have spectacular displays. For a more chic experience, head over to the After Dark light show at Chiswick House & Gardens until 30 December, and the annual Christmas at Kew botanical gardens display, on until January 2019. If you’re feeling brave, zip down the Thames River on the Thames Rib Experience and see the glittering London Eye at dusk. It’s the best way to see London.
Image: Christmas At Kew
9. The pampering
Christmas is stressful, so you’ll be grateful for the spa at Hotel Café Royal, which is pure pamper heaven. Alternatively, see what Londoners are fussing about at London Cyrotherapy. You’ll get into a chamber with temperatures of -140 degrees. This extreme cold forces the blood to rush to the internal organs, allowing them to be replenished with nutrients. After three freezing minutes, the body will be flowing with oxygen-rich blood, rejuvenating the skin, increasing energy levels, improving sleep quality and relieving overall stress. The cold outside will be a breeze afterward!
Find out about James’ recent trip to London in the December issue of Marie Claire.