A must for visitors of all ages this Christmas, the Winter Wonderland in London’s Hyde Park, encompasses the essence of festive atmosphere Particularly enchanting at night, you can stroll past the quaint German market stalls all lit up with fairy lights, along with cafés and bars selling warming glühwein. As well as an ice rink and Giant Observation Wheel, this year there will also be performances from Zippo’s Circus, with their ‘Cirque Beserk’, including spinning acrobats and high wire acts. Entrance is free, and the Winter Wonderland will run from Friday November 22nd until Sunday January 5th.
Just south of the river, the Southbank Centre Christmas Markets are definitely worth a visit to get into the festive spirit. Traditional German-style huts, set up along the river at Queen’s Walk, are filled with Christmas gifts and goodies, including food and drink. Accompanying this market (open until 24th December) are three associated markets – a Designers’ Christmas Market (16th – 22nd December) with over 50 British designers selling jewellery, ceramics, textiles, housewares, and prints, and both a Chocolate Festival (7th – 9th December) and a Real Food Christmas Market (14th – 16th & 20th – 23rd December) offering delicious culinary fare and gifts, at the Southbank Centre Square.
3. Ice Skating Rinks
As well as Hyde Park, there are several more ice rinks dotted around London, notably at the Natural History Museum, which provides an impressive backdrop for what is arguably London’s prettiest ice-rink, with a Christmas tree at its centre, and surrounding trees decorated with fairy lights.
The 18th century courtyard at Somerset House is another stunning venue, this year sponsored by Coach, the leading American design house of modern luxury accessories. The iconic Coach Horse and Carriage stands at the base of the Christmas tree, while on Sundays in the lead up to Christmas, Coach will offer skaters an American brunch treat.
Perhaps the most spectacular skating venue of all is the Tower of London ice rink , located in the moat, against the backdrop of the magnificent fortress battlements, and illuminated at night. The ice rink is now open every day from 10am to 10pm until 5thJanuary (closed on Christmas Day).
Marking the arrival of the Oslo Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square (a tradition that goes back to 1947), this celebratory concert features some of Norway’s finest classical and jazz stars, with a feast of music drawn from classical repertoire, Nordic roots and Christmas carols. Tickets from £9
Be transported to an enchanted kingdom as English National Ballet perform The Nutcracker at the London Coliseum. Tickets from £10.00. From 11th December to 5th January 2014
A treat for both adults and children, the Reindeer Lodge at London Zoo gives families the chance to meet with Rudolph, Dasher and Blitzen. This unique festive experience incorporates a trip round Santa’s Grotto with gifts for children. Santa and his reindeer will be available every weekend until 24th December. The grotto will be open from 10.30am-3.30pm.
In the lead up to Christmas, you can take a one mile illuminated walk around a magical interactive landscape of surprises, with light, sound and performances taking place for all ages to enjoy. The gardens will be sparkling with festive decorations, and Santa will be in residence in his enchanted woodland grotto. Christmas at Kew takes place from Thursday 28th November until Saturday 4th January.
Not a Christmas-linked event, but a not to be missed exhibition if you are at the Southbank over the festive season. Celebrating his career to date and exploring future developments, the exhibition references Paul Smith’s influences and fashion designs, charting the rise of this quintessentially British label which has become one of the leading fashion brands in the world.
Carry on walking down the river from the Design Museum and you will reach the Tate Modern, which is hosting a brilliant retrospective of the works of Paul Klee. One of the great creative innovators of all time, this superb exhibition, with its collection of paintings and drawings from collections around the world is a homage to one of the greatest influences on the modern art world.
10. Borough Market
Borough Market is a great source of fresh produce at any time of year, but Christmas is an extra special time here. For last minute Christmas food shopping there is nowhere else like Borough Market, which its huge array of fresh fruit and vegetables, cheeses, fish, meat, bakeries – there are so many inviting things, you are only limited by how much you can carry! As December approaches, the Market’s historic arches will be decked out in beautiful decorations while the sound of bells and the scent of mulled wine will fill the air. Opening hours are extended and the market will be open every day from Wednesday 11th December until Christmas Eve when the Market will close at 2pm. Late evenings until 8 p.m. will be on Thursday 12th December and Thursday 19th December.
Where to Eat
This growing chain of French bistros is widely acknowledged for its simple menu comprising good, authentic classic dishes, which are not over-priced – and it’s a personal favourite of ours! A couple of the restaurants will be open on Christmas Day (see website for details) but, in the meantime, until 4th December, a number of the restaurants are offering a bottle of festive champagne to every four diners partaking of the £29.95 Christmas Menu.
Where to Stay
You could be experiencing all these delights from one of our Mayfair Apartments, just off Park Lane, easily accessible to all the Christmas attractions, with Hyde Park and Winter Wonderland literally just over the road. These luxury apartments have two bedrooms and are perfect for couples or families. They are serviced, and you can even have room service if you like, or use the spa facilities at the nearby Metropolitan Hotel – and, you should and pop in for a cocktail at the stylish Met Bar during your stay.
For a comprehensive guide to Christmas events in London, see Time Out