One month ’til Christmas, people!
As much as I don’t like the cold I could never imagine the festive period without snow before moving to Martinique. I’ll be honest and say that I did hope for a tiny sprinkling in London last year. Alas, no such luck. What I did come to appreciate is that Brits put real heart into Christmas – they don’t have the silly distractions like shovelling six feet of snow or other holidays like Thanksgiving and Black Friday to get in their way. Christmas in London is serious business.
So here we are – it’s the last week in November, the lights are up on Regent Street, Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park is open, and Christmas markets are cooking up gluhwein and bratwurst. There are so many things to do in London at Christmas, but here are six to get you started:
1. Southbank Christmas Market
I love the Southbank. I don’t mean the touristy London Eye and London Dungeons Southbank, I mean the street food market, break dancers in the Royal Festival Hall, rooftop garden Southbank. It’s beautiful in the summer, they always have interesting festivals or gallery shows on, and in the winter they set up the Southbank Christmas Market.
It’s music, mulled wine, and fairy lights galore. I was still new to London and disorientated when I went there last year, but I had my first roasted chestnut here (still not sure if I liked it), a delicious chimney cake, and got really excited about silly things like knitted finger puppets. It will always be a special place to me!
2. Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
I admit. I didn’t know that a Bavarian Beer Hall was a thing – or even what it was – until I came here with Tug and the SEO team last year. It’s insane. It’s like Nathan Phillips Square at Christmas on steroids meets the CNE. There’s a giant Ferris wheel, a star flyer, an Ice Kingdom, an Ice Bar, rollercoasters…like they don’t mess around.
Then there’s the food. There’s a lot of it: donuts, sausages, pretzels, and even Chinese food if you fancy it. And alcohol. Not only can you get steins the size of your head but they serve boozy hot chocolate, mulled wine – basically anything that will help you get off your face. And you will, because it’s not really Christmas yet.
3. Ice Skating
Growing up in Canada, ice skating was an integral part of my childhood. My mom is Jamaican and has never skated in her life but she took my brother and me skating anyway. She would just walk on the ice with us. We went on a school trip to the Scarborough Civic Centre once and I have a very vivid memory of a girl in my class hitting her head on a metal railing so hard she had a lump the size of a golf ball (at least that’s what it looked like when you were 8).
London has a lot of really amazing places to go for a skate and it’s always fun Christmas thing to do. Somerset House is very popular and the rink at the Natural History Museum is beautiful. I went on a little date there with my partner last year – it was a lot of fun though I feared for the lives of the children! I also went with Tug as part of our Christmas party at the Tower of London – another very fond memory! (I must say, two mentions of Tug in one post? I think if there’s one thing I miss as a freelancer it’s the social events!).
4. Christmas Lights Tour
London loves Christmas lights. And you know what? It really brings life to the city and makes me less depressed about it getting dark at 4:30 every day. Last year I had the chance to take the Christmas Lights Bicycle Tour and it was lovely. I learned a lot about the city and saw places in a completely different light…
5. Christmas Shows
I haven’t done a Christmas show yet but I really want to go to my first ballet. In typical Christmas spirit, the Nutcracker and Swan Lake are on and I would love to go see one (coughHint to bae!cough).
I’ve had a blast seeing shows in London – I’ve seen the critically acclaimed play Chimerica, I took my partner to see Wicked, and a few weeks ago we had the pleasure of taking a couple friends to see Neville’s Island featuring some famous people only Brits and people into British comedy know.
This is the ultimate treat of a Christmas experience!
6. Eat Proper English Christmas Food
None of my posts are ever complete without a mention of food. Last year, I indulged in mince pies, puddings, turkey, stuffing and everything in between. This year I was lucky enough to have a preview of the Christmas Afternoon Tea at the Conrad St. James in London and it was delicious. I’m going to have to be extra creative this year since I’m mostly off the meat, but I have been dying to try a nut roast – this makes the perfect excuse!
Spending the holidays abroad – especially when you’re an expat – don’t have to be just like home for you to feel like you’re at home in a place. Embrace the differences and find something you love about it!