‘Tis the season to be merry from A to Z!
A is for Afternoon tea
‘Tis the season to overindulge – and afternoon tea is the way to do so in style.
From a round up of all the classic festive treats at the Bulgari, to a creative, Dyptique-inspired spread at Hôtel Café Royal, a ‘Scent of Christmas Tea’ in collaboration with Penhaligon at The Savoy, a festive feast with a view at the Shangri La, or a slightly mad and definitely tipsy tea party at the Sanderson, the options are plentiful and so-oh-oh cheerful!
B is for Burgers
I love Christmas. I love a good burger. So obviously I LOOOOOOOVE a good Christmas burger.
Every single one of London’s thousand burger shop seems to have (at least) one festive special on this year but the strongest contender in my opinion is Ben’s Canteen‘s Xmas Turkey Burger.
With sage-brined & buttermilked turkey breast, Karma cola-braised ham, squashed stuffing ball, brie, bacon & chestnut mayo, mulled wine & cranberry sauce, buttered Brussel tops, it’s basically a full Christmas dinner in a bun.
And then of course, there’s the croquettes, the loaded roasties (!!) and the doughnuts with festive fillings…
More info & bookings
C is for Carols
From the traditional affairs in classic venues such as Westminster Abbey or St Paul’s Cathedral, to fun-filled Christmas Carol Singalongs, a festive Norwegian concert, and a variety of charity-led carolling events, a few hours of Christmas carols is a surefire way to warm even the most frozen of hearts into the holiday spirit!
D is for Drinks
This time of the year, mulled wine is absolutely compulsory, but there are a few other options worth considering as well…
Icebar London, the UK’s only permanent icebar, is the coolest spot for cocktails in town for chilled drinks (quite literally – cocktails are served in Icebar’s signature ice glasses!).
At the other end of the spectrum, Charlotte’s W5 Sipsmith terrace is all about cosying up. Complete with blankets, fairy lights and roasted chestnuts, Ealing’s own winter wonderland is all about the hot drinks – including innovative takes on traditional Negronis and Espresso Martinis – all made with Sipsmith Gin.
E is for Elf (and other Christmas movies)
In the mood for some festive big screen time? One of those cinemas got you covered!
So pack your bag with mince pies and festive popcorn (Irish coffee, mince pie, brandy butter, mint choc… so many possibilities…) and let the magic of seeing a movie you know by heart at the cinema begin!
F is for Fondue
Looking for a fun festive do? Give the gift of cheese-sharing this Christmas season!
With dozen of winter-themed ephemeral restaurants popping up in the run up to Christmas adding to London’s already strong melted cheese scene, fondue is everywhere – from Broadgate’s Winter Forest, to Soho’s St Moritz, Spitafield’s Androuet, Shoreditch’s Walluc, Southbank’s Jimmy’s Lodge, Dulwich’s French House, Camden’s Cheese Bar and many, many more…
G is for Gelato
Christmas Cake, Panettone, Gingerbread, Speculoos, Stolen, Advocaat (the Dutch answer to eggnog) and even Roquefort & pear – the Christmas flavours at (my favourite!) ice cream parlour Gelupo is celebrating some of the best Christmas flavours from the 6 original EU countries.
Quirky flavours, pro-EU stance and an excellent reason to eat ice cream all year round – not your classic Christmas things but some I can definitely get behind!
H is for History
Want to learn more about Christmas past? The Geffrye Museum’s festive exhibition explores festive traditions in Britain through the ages.
Every year, the museum uses seasonal decorations, lighting, greenery and music to showcase how Christmas has been celebrated during different eras in English history, and explains the origins and meanings of Christmas traditions such as Christmas stockings, cards, crackers and kissing under the mistletoe.
FREE entry – more info
I is for Igloos
Baby, it’s cold outside! Which is the perfect excuse to head to The Sipping Room and warm up in one of their six giant pop-up igloos!
With toasty touches, including electric heaters, sheepskin throws, hot water bottles and Aran jumpers, festive cocktails in abundance and a delicious menu of festive-themed canapés (yes to pigs in blankets and stilton + walnut tarts!), the igloos are the perfect Christmas party hotspot!
Info & bookings
J is for Jumper
Christmas Jumper Day is the perfect opportunity to dig out your favourite festive sweater.
Ugly or whimsical, with fairy lights, baubles, snowmen and Christmas tree, on December 15th, thousands of people will be donning their most wonderful woolies – all for a great cause.
So what do you say? Ready to make the world better with a silly jumper?
More info & sign up
K is for Kew
One of the most beautiful places in London all year round, the Kew Gardens are even more so in the rundown to Christmas.
Every evening from 22nd November until January 1st, as twilight falls, the Gardens light up with over one million twinkling lights, illuminating heritage trees and buildings and the magic begins.
Fairy-tale meets fantasy in a world of singing trees, larger-than-life flora, ribbons of light, giant baubles, and a flickering Fire Garden. The Palm House leaps into life with a dazzling show of laser beams, jets of light and kaleidoscopic projections.
Little ones can catch a glimpse of Santa and his elves at the North Pole village and enjoy a vintage fairground ride. Not so little ones can warm up with some mulled wine or hot chocolate and toast marshmallows around the fire.
And if that doesn’t put you in a festive mood, nothing will, really.
More info and tickets
L is for Lights
My favourite London festive tradition is to take a walk around the city to see the lights.
More often than not, it will mean facing the crowds, but it’s well worth it as each year, London seems to cover itself in decorations more impressive than the year before.
2017 favourites so far include Carnaby’s carnival-themed installations (so different and SO cool!!) and Covent Garden’s giant mistletoe, but there’s a lot more I want to explore before flying home for Christmas!
M is for Mince (pie and everything else!)
Mince pies are the Christmas-sy equivalent of Marmite.
But love it or loathe it, as soon as Halloween’s past (and sometimes even before!!), they’re everywhere.
On the counter of every coffee shop worth its name and next to every hot drink served to you from Nov. 1st, obviously, but as the years go by, there’s more and more mince pies in disguise across the capital.
In croissants at Paul, doughnuts at Crosstown, cheesecake, ice cream, flat white, gin… there’s enough fruity goodness to get your 5-a-day in mince pie form the entire festive season!
N is for Nutcracker
Set on Christmas day and filled with cheerful decors and magic, The Nutcracker is the quintessential Christmas show.
This year, London’s top music and ballet venues all have it on their festive program – from the Royal Opera House, to the London Colliseum and the Royal Albert Hall.
The Royal Opera House’s production will also be shown in local cinemas across the UK on December 5th.
O is for Ornaments
Choosing a new ornament to add to your collection each year is a brilliant Christmas tradition.
London’s best selection are to be found at Liberty’s ever-so-fantastic Christmas store on the 4th floor of their flagship Oxford Circus store.
Alternatively, Etsy local pop-up markets are bound to have beautiful, locally-made options too!
P is for Presents
Present-shopping (and wrapping!) is one of my favourite pre-Christmas activities, but it can be quite daunting if your nearest and dearest are on the notorious ‘difficult to shop for’ list.
Some of my personal favourite shops to hit when the gifting inspiration is low: Fortnum & Mason for the foodie types (I love their jam/tea/biscuits), Botanique Workshop and Oliver Bonas to treat the women in your life, Anthropologie for quirky home bits, We Built This City for London-themed-and-made knick-knacks and J Crew for the cutest socks and most gorgeous knitwear.
Oh, and TKMAXX’s wrapping papper game is very, very strong this year, in case you were wondering!
Q is for Quiz
Festive trivia at the ready!? You’ll definitely need it to triumph at any of the incredibly cheerful pub quizzes taking place in the capital this month!
R is for Races
Maybe it’s just for good fun & charity, maybe it’s linked to the extra calorie intake (see ‘mince pie’), but London is especially obsessed with all sorts of quirky races around Christmas time.
There’s the world-famous Santa Run, where thousands of people dressed as Father Christmas raise thousands of pounds for charity each year. There’s the Great Christmas Pudding Race – the most festive of obstacle races. And then there’s the Peter Pan Cup, where brave outdoor swimmers compete in the icy waters of the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park on Christmas morning…
All welcome spectators and should be a fun addition to any festive calendar!
S is for Sauna
Dreaming of a Scandi Christmas? Southbank Centre’s festive calendar’s got you covered!
In December, they’re hosting a whole lot of Nordic inspired events as part of their Wintertime festival.
Think fondue in a snow globe, mulled wine, ABBA singalongs and a full-on Finnish sauna on the rooftop, complete with a sauna expert showing you all the ropes!
Info & bookings
T is for Tree
Christmas trees are everywhere in December, but the most iconic one is the gigantic one on Trafalgar Square. It’s actually a present from the people of Norway in gratitude for Britain’s support for Norway during World War II, a tradition that’s been going on since 1947.
Usually over 20 metres high and 50-60 years old, the tree is selected from the forests surrounding Oslo with great care several months, even years, in advance. The tree is felled in November during a ceremony in which the Lord Mayor of Westminster, the British ambassador to Norway and the Mayor of Oslo participate, before being brought over to London and decorated in traditional Norwegian fashion, with vertical strings of lights.
This year, the lighting ceremony will take place on 7 December 2017 in Trafalgar Square at 6pm.
U is for Urgh
As beautiful and magic as it is, Christmas time in London can also be incredibly upsetting.
The crowds, the queues, the wait time… none of those are on anyone’s wish list.
Be mindful of this when planning your festive activities. Get up early if you want to hit Oxford Street or Covent Garden for a spot of shopping. Book restaurants activities and events whenever possible.
And if it all gets too much, there’s always Amazon & Deliveroo #justsaying…
V is for Volunteering
As much as present buying is good for the economy, Christmas is really all about giving – and there’s no gift more precious than the one of time.
If you want to volunteer this festive season, The Londonist has put together a helpful list of the volunteering operations taking place over the festive period that could use an extra hand…
W is for Windows
Another Christmas time favourite of mine – doing the round of store windows and oh and ah at the creative displays put up each year for shoppers’ enjoyment.
The usual suspects for the title of best Christmas windows include Liberty, Fortnum & mason, Selfridges and John Lewis. that being said, I must admit that this year, I’m especially taken by Hackett’s magic-themed ones!
X is for Xmas day
The most wonderful time of the yeaaaaaaaar!
(and a great day to see London zombie-apocalypse style as pretty much everything’s closed and most people have fled the city!)
Y is for YOU!
With all that Christmas cheer in the air, the many Christmas parties making their way into your agenda and the never ending to do / to buy / to pack lists to keep track off, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.
So make sure you save some time aside for yourself and relaxing ahead of the always-wonderful-but-oh-so-tiring festivities!
Z is for Zigzags
The ones you’ll invariably do in streets and shops as you spot pretty little (and bigger) things you want to take a closer look at.
Don’t fight it – in the end, every little helps when it comes to increasing your daily footsteps to allow for one more mince pie!
This blog post was written as part of this month’s #travelinkup, where we unwrapped another fun topic: Festivities. Do you love them, hate them, put up with the season? Anything goes! Want to join this cheerful edition? Pop your post up over the first week of the month (the 1st – 7th December 2017), add it to the link up widget found on Adventures of a London Kiwi, SilverSpoon London, Follow Your Sunshine or The ZRW.