Seasonally sensational: London’s Christmas highlights to savour

If you thought that all that London’s about come the festive season is the illuminations that brighten up the streets of the West End and its stores’ windows and the traditionally giant Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square; think again.

Yes, the Christmas lights are worth seeing if you’re in the area, of course, and indeed Trafalgar Square’s worth paying a visit in the run up to the ‘Holidays’ this year – not only will there be the usual tree donated by the people of Norway, but also a huge Menorah for Chanukah and lashings of carol-singing (9th November-5th January) – yet, for those planning on visiting the UK capital this December (perhaps enjoying one of the many London honeymoon packages), there truly is so much more besides to get revved up for.

So, with a veritable multitude of festivals, pop-up Christmas markets vending everything from handmade gifts to yuletide food, outdoor ice-skating opportunities, pantomime performances and more to choose from, you’re really spoilt for choice this most seasonal of seasons in the capital…

Christmas

Seasonal festivals

  • Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland (22nd November-6th January) is where to head for an in-your-face commercial Christmas experience writ large; featuring the UK’s biggest outdoor ice-rink, a huge observation wheel, any number of seasonal stalls and several family-focused festive shows, it’s centralised location means it’s very easy to get to wherever you’ve made your base, not least a luxury London hotel Barbican
  • The Southbank Centre’s Wintertime Festival (8th December-6th January) will be home not just to a Christmas market, but also yuletide-themed shows and food stalls
  • The similarly named Greenwich Wintertime Festival (held in the leafy environs of the glorious Old Royal Naval College’s grounds; December) will play host to ice-skating, live musical performances, a welter of Christmas shopping opportunities and much more for visitors of all ages.

Popular festive events

  • Back once more, Christmas at Kew (22nd November-5th January) transforms the world-leading horticultural venue into a winter wonderland thanks to a magical trail of lights, vibrant illuminations and live music every evening throughout its duration (all ideal if you’ve booked for your stay a romantic honeymoon suite London)
  • West London’s Chiswick Gardens are the location for After Dark (15th November-30th December), a celebration of wintry evenings with a walk-and-light display that features stunning light installations to transform the appearance of Chiswick House’s oh-so elegant architecture
  • After its hugely successful first run last year, Hogwarts in the Snow (17th November-27th January) is back again, affording visitors the chance to go behind the scenes of the Harry Potter cinema saga and check out its iconic sets (as well as many props) all suitably decked out for the festive season.

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Christmas Day and Boxing Day

In the UK, both Christmas Day and the following day (referred to as Boxing Day throughout Britain and the Commonwealth) are Bank holidays, so should you be planning to actually spend the 25th and 26th December in London this year, bear in mind that you’ll encounter not just reduced opening times at many and various venues and attractions but also reduced public transport services. That said, you’ll also find the following taking place on those very days:

  • Watch on as the Peter Pan Cup (25th December) is competed for by Serpentine Swimming Club members as the hardy/ crazy folk (delete as appropriate) take to the Hyde Park lake’s waters
  • Throw yourself into the Boxing Day/ January sales (from 26th December onwards) and browse the shelves of the capital’s greatest stores for deals on fashion, electronics, homeware items and much more.
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