This 24/7 city is the gift that keeps on giving over the festive period, bringing seasonal cheer right through the three days of Christmas… maybe you’re not keen on a Christmas day filled with dry turkey, broken games of Jenga and the obligatory family argument, possibly you’re in the capital on vacation or perhaps you just feel like doing something a little different this year.
Whatever the reason, there is something to fulfill all manner of Christmas in London wishes this December and as always, we’re here to help you seek them out…
Christmas Eve 24th December
1. Christmas Service at St Pauls
There is nought more heartwarming on a Christmas Eve than to spend it within the awe-inspiring walls of Christopher Wren’s most iconic post-fire building. With a historical foundation dating all the way back to the Norman Conquest, feel the centuries of the city and traditions of the season by attending one of two joyous services. For early birds, join a Christmas Carol service at 4pm sung by the cathedral choir or to see in the first Eucharist of Christmas alongside the Bishop of London and Dean of St Pauls, get there for 11.30pm. www.stpauls.co.uk
2. Mrs Hudson’s Christmas Corker
Wilton’s Music Hall near St Katherine’s Dock is the one of the last remaining of its kind- the music hall era may have come and gone but this spectacular little building is the place for you if you’re craving a good ol’ cockney knees up. This Christmas Eve, join them for ‘Mrs Hudson’s Christmas Corker’, a brand new take on the legends of Arthur Conan Doyle. Mulled wine, Christmas trees, music hall routines, ventriloquists and magicians- it’s going to be a fest of vintage fun guv’nor. www.wiltons.org.uk
3. I Met Father Christmas at Hamleys
If Santa has an outpost for his Lapland workshop in London then it has to be Hamleys. The city’s most famous toy shop will play host to the bearded gent himself this yuletide eve alongside a stocking-full of fun for the kids including seasonal stories, festive snacks and a very special gift bag. If your little elf has a last-minute request for Santa, then Regent Street is the only place to be. www.hamleys.com
4. Christmas in London with Santa coach tour
There’s no denying that London is especially beautiful come Christmas time so if you fancy marveling at its splendor whilst playing tourist in your own city, Evans & Evans have an incredible full-day excursion for you and the family. Take a luxury coach through the sights and sounds of Westminster and the Old City, complete with a guided tour of St Pauls and traditional fish & chip lunch to help you reconnect to the streets of your hometown. Santa himself will even be coming along for the ride… fancy that! www.evansevanstours.co.uk
Christmas Day 25th December
1. Fill Your Festive Boots
There’s a surprising amount of eateries prepared to throw open their doors and share their Christmas day with you… so many in fact, we’ve had to whittle it down to just five top picks to help you on the quest to eat, drink and be merry.
Dean Street Townhouse (Central)
Ok, so at 95 quid this lunch may not be the cheapest around but hey, it’s Christmas and this menu is worth every penny! This fantastic 3* Georgian hotel right in the heart of Soho is laying on a truly traditional British spread of everything from turkey and Xmas pud right through to delectable tipsy trifle. www.deanstreettownhouse.com
Almeida, the Islington purveyor of British cuisine with a hint of pan-Euro inspiration, was recently voted in the Top 150 restaurants in the Telegraph’s ‘Good Food Guide’ don’t ya know? If this wasn’t reason enough to join them for Christmas Day lunch then I’m sure the stunning menu of authentic yuletide dishes with some rather exotic twists will go some way to convincing you. www.almeida-restaurant.co.uk
Dosa n Chutny (South)
The interestingly spelt ‘Dosa n Chutny’ are, as you imagine, not offering anything even resembling a conventional Christmas spread so if you’re looking to put a bit of spice into your celebrations then shimmy on down to Tooting High Street. With a veritable smorgasbord of delicious South Indian cuisine to choose from, you won’t find finer for 20 quid a head anywhere in the city.
Hoxton Grill (East)
All the homely festive atmosphere with none of the arguments about the washing up. Hoxton Grill have got something for everyone this Christmas Day as, nestling comfortably alongside the time-honoured festive treats on the menu, you can take your pick from halibut with leeks & salsify or fillet of beef with wild mushrooms for main. This diversity is carried on throughout the three courses so save yourself the headache and let someone else do the cooking for a change.
Min Jiang (West)
There is never a bad time for Chinese food and Christmas Day is no exception. Forget the turkey and go Beijing duck the whole way as you chow down on a seriously sumptuous four-course dinner overlooking a (hopefully) snow-covered Kensington Gardens. Who needs tradition when you’ve got a warm honey and ginger cake with lychee and rosewater icecream eh?
2. Warming Pubs
Roaring fires, welcoming landlords and a whopping great tankard of local ale- somewhere between opening the presents and eating lunch, this is what Christmas day is made for. Plenty of taverns are opening their doors for the afternoon to keep the locals full of Xmas spirit and ready for the festivities ahead with all areas well-catered for. The Running Footman in Mayfair is always a good bet for those in Central with the Spread Eagle representing for the North London compatriots. Down South, for your traditional glass of buck’s fizz, head to the cosy little cottage-style The Nightingale and for you East-enders? We think the Coborn Arms in Bow may do very nicely indeed.
3. Take A Walk (and a dip)
If you are one of those select few that love to absolutely freeze their baubles off on the big day, then head down to Hyde Park for the annual swimming race across the Serpentine. For those less equipped to deal with sub-zero temperatures, a bracing walk around Hampstead Heath or one of the 8 royal parks in this green city may just help blow those eggnog-soaked cobwebs away.
Maybe the commercialism of Christmas makes you want to run screaming into the New Year with not even a whiff of turkey to blight your way- if so, volunteering could be for you. There are hundreds of opportunities across the capital on the 25th to help your fellow city-folk and rediscover the real meaning of the season.
Requiring over 8000 volunteers to run their Christmas centres nationwide each year, the homeless charity Crisis are always on the lookout with jobs going in hairdressing and dentistry or maybe just to help with the dinner and activities. Places tend to fill up quite fast but please do check with other local charities to see how you can be of service this Christmas.
Boxing Day 26th December
1. The Sales
Brace yourself if you’re heading to Oxford Street or Westfields for the Boxing Day sales… with prices that low, you’re going to need an attack plan and a very early start. If braving the hordes is not on your itinerary but that Christmas money is burning a hole in your pocket then the Spitalfields annual Antique and Vintage market could be a much more enjoyable experience with a plethora of unusual retro pieces to choose from. www.oldspitalfieldsmarket.com
2. William Hill Winter Festival
One for the betting man (or woman)- head down to Kempton Park for a day of festive races at the William Hill Winter Festival. Make sure you don’t miss the King George VI Chase to find out who will be joining equine icons like Desert Orchid and Silviniaco Conti as this year’s victor. Tickets sell quickly so book early for fresh air and fun for all ages. www.kempton.co.uk
3. Kew Gardens
Time to walk off the chocolates and cheese boards as you take a stroll through a mile-long wonderland of snowflakes, botanical light installations and Christmas trees at the immaculate Kew Gardens. Opening at 5pm, enter a magical world in an exotic garden that outdoes itself in splendor year after year. www.kew.org
4. Boxing Day Baroque- St Martin-in-the-Fields
Inject a bit of culture into your Boxing Day with a candlelit baroque recital in the crypt of this fabulous church on Trafalgar Square. Spanning the classical greats from Vivaldi and Bach to Handel and Pachelbel, feel the ‘Now That’s What I call Christmas’ CD that’s been on loop for weeks melt away as you revel in some truly stunning sounds. www.stmartin-in-the-fields.org