Christmas is a magical time all across Britain but none more so than the nation’s capital where London comes alive with all manner of festivities. There is truly no better place to spend the festive period, whether that be with family or friends the months leading up to and after Christmas day are some of the most special than any other time of year in London.
Whether you’re spending Christmas at your university house trying to catch up on degree study in London or spending it with family, here is your ultimate guide to the festive period in the big smoke, from all-star pantos and Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park to mulled wine beside the Thames, London is the place to be.
Winter Wonderland Hyde Park
There is no event in London at Christmastime more celebrated and looked forward to than Winter Wonderland Hyde Park, with its ice skating and sculptures, rides and warming winter food and above all- festive cheer, it is the one Christmas event not to miss. Entry to Winter Wonderland Hyde Park is free but it is recommended going online to book entrance to certain activities such as the ice skating and Magical Ice Kingdom to avoid disappointment on the day, you can do so via the Winter Wonderland Hyde Park website.
There is something for every age as the Bavarian Village provides traditional Bratwurst and beer while the Santa’s Grotto and Circus is a guaranteed hit with younger siblings. Open all day and most of the evening and running from the end of November until the beginning of January most years, Winter Wonderland is the London Christmas event that everyone must visit during their time living in the capital.
Ice Skating London
While the ice skating at Winter Wonderland Hyde Park is among the best in London, there are a number of other venues that blow Hyde Park’s offering out of the water.
Somerset House’s Skate at Somerset House with Fortnum & Mason, London (11 November 2014 – 11 January 2015) is one of the classics, with LED lights making the venue feel more like a disco than an ice rink you are sure to find the courage to adorn the skates and give the circuit a twirl. The venue hosts great music from live DJs and with a bar and huge Christmas tree for a backdrop even the biggest Scrooge will start to sense that festive feeling.
Set in the moat within the fortress battlements the Tower of London is one of the most historic settings in London where you don a pair of skates. Open until late the rink boasts beautiful night-time lighting and has its own Ice Bar and cafe to warm up with.
Another iconic landmark the London Eye’s Eyeskate is just one of the festive events this attraction puts on. With its very own Frostival, the London Eye has been known to host winter cocktail experiences, a champagne experience and the frosty guided experience hosted by an expert guide.
With the reputation of one of the largest pop-up ice rinks during the Christmas period the Natural History Museum is popular for more than its dinosaur displays and exhibits, so try ditching the business management degree books in favour for donning a pair of skates as the Natural history Museum is sure to get you in the festive mood. With a choice of two rinks, one for beginners and one main rink, every capability is welcome.
This year see the Vauxhall Pleasure Garden’s first ever ice rink with Ice Skate Vauxhall. They also boast London’s biggest Christmas tree maze along with many other great attractions. There’s a cabin bar, pop-up food market and even festive fish and chips served by the iconic London Bus Fish & Chip Company.
Located in the grand Atrium event space, is the famed Westfield Shopping Centre ice rink. An unrivalled skating soundtrack is produced in the form of live DJs and performances and being illuminated after dark it makes for the perfect night skate option when it’s cold and wet outside. At the other end of the spectrum is Westfield Stratford City Grimm Fairy Tale inspired immersive experience The Hidden House.
Another shopping centre offering a fantastic ice skating experience this year is Broadgate’s Exchange Square. Samantha Rush, Head of Marketing, Communications and Events at Broadgate, said “Broadgate Ice Rink is going to be spectacular this year. We’ve expanded the ice pad to create more room for skaters, have a fantastic programme of special events and will be introducing our brand new rink side bar and smokehouse, The Tasting Room. Now in its 29th year, Broadgate Ice Rink was the first open air rink in London and its popularity keeps on growing.”
London Christmas markets
The Southbank Centre hosts one of the best annual Christmas markets in the capital; the Winter Festival with Natwest is set along the river at Queen’s Walk the traditional wooden chalets display all manner of festive goods. From gifts to ginger bread and mulled wine, this market provides an evening of utter cheer and goodwill and this year will see the addition of a Rekorderling Cider Lodge and performances from LA SOIRÉE’s world of circus and burlesque among other delights.
Alongside its ice rink, rides and Bavarian village, Winter Wonderland Hyde Park is also a favourite on the Christmas market schedule. The Angels and Yuletide Christmas markets consist of over 200 individual wooden chalets selling decorations, toys and scrumptious treats, because no Christmas market would be complete without a giant gingerbread adorned with icing that you can take home to help get you through that accountancy degree course revision.
Hosted by the Finnish Church, the Finnish Christmas Market celebrates Christmas the Finnish way. Salty liquorice, gingerbread and reindeer stew are all on the menu at this Christmas market but if you’d rather leave Rudolf be then you can indulge your inner child by meeting Father Christmas and exploring the range of Moomin products on offer. Last year they had about 8000 visitors during five days so expect plenty of excitement.
No Christmas activity is quite as heart-warming and traditional than that of belting out your favourite Christmas carols, especially if you are lucky enough to take part in the snow. Should London snow not be on the cards this winter there is also the family favourite of the Carols by Candlelight performance at the Royal Albert Hall. With a number of performances taking place during the festive period there is no excuse to miss this spectacular Christmas activity.
Set to rival carols at Christmas, the English National Ballet’s performance of The Nutcracker at the London Coliseum is an annual Christmas favourite in London. Each year this long-established ballet returns to the stage to perform what is now considered one of the most traditional ballets and Christmas events of all time. The English National Ballet is never one to disappoint and its scale and grandeur just adds to the magic that is around at this time of year.
Few Christmas scenes are as magical as that of the Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio Tour in London. The Hogwarts in Snow Christmas tour experience is like no other. Casting the Hogwarts castle model in snow, the studios really know how to get visitors in the festive spirit. With actual Christmas props from the films, Warner Bros. really know how to put the magic into Christmas.
Their Christmas advert has become a hotly anticipated institution that gives Coco Cola a run for their money. John Lewis’ bringing to life of Monty the Penguin this year captured the heart of the country and now they’re bringing the penguin that just wants to be loved to life for the shoppers of London. In partnership with Samsung, shoppers in Oxford Street, and numerous other locations, can experience Monty’s Den where you can take a photo with him and explore more of his Christmas story.
Finally, he is the face of Christmas. No not, Father Christmas himself but Michael Bublé, who will be performing at London’s O2 Arena on the 15th and 16th December. His dulcet tones are the soundtrack to the festive season for many so why not give yourself and early Christmas present with tickets to his London show.
So whether you end up whizzing around the capitals ice rinks or perusing the market’s wooden chalets for family gifts, share your best London Christmas memories on the GSM London Facebook page and let’s see whether this year is the one to beat.
Image Credits: (Main image: Broadgate Ice Rink, John Lewis, Winter Wonderland) Winter Wonderland, Club Nights – Skate at Somerset House © James Bryant, London Eye, © The Trustees of The Natural History Museum, London 2014. All Rights Reserved., Ice Skate Vauxhall, Westfield London, Broadgate Ice Rink, Southbank Centre’s Winter Festival with NatWest. Lights at Southbank Centre’s Winter Festival_CREDIT Jason Alden., Finnish Church Christmas Fair, The English National Ballet – Annabel Moeller, John Lewis, Michael Bublé – Dean Freeman
This content was written by Rachel Smith. Please feel free to visit my Google+ Profile to read more stories.