I was recently asked for some advice on things to do in London over Christmas for a couple and their 10’ish year old son. So here’s my list of the best things to do if you’re visiting London during Christmas.
1. Shopping – If you’re staying in town, you’ll have Oxford Street and Regents Street but if it’s too cold (they are coming from Hong Kong) then I’d suggest you head to Westfield. It’s not far, a few stops on the Central Line to Shepards Bush (from Bond Street) and you’re there. It’s a huge mall with all the high street outlets as well as high end fashion stores. Another shopping haven is Bicester Village. It’s in Oxford (there’s a direct bus from Marble Arch) and it takes alittle over an hour. It’s a designer shopping outlet (open air). You can get some pretty good deals there.
2. The lights on Oxford Street and Regents Street are usually amazing. Debenhams has undergone a total makeover and I think their lights are pretty spectacular. The windows in Selfridges (Oxford Street), Harvey Nicks and Harrods (Knightsbridge) are usually really good. You have to see Harrods at night, it’s lit up (all year round) and looks like a Golden Palace. Selfridges also have a huge Christmas shop in the basement.
3. The great outdoors – Hyde Park have a winter wonderland. I went a couple of weeks ago with my son and he really enjoyed it. They have an ice rink at Somerset House which is at Aldwych (you can catch the No. 13 bus from Baker Street going South). Diagonally across the road from there you can go up to Covent Garden and they turn the whole piazza into a Winter Haven with a 60ft tall tree!!
4. Touritsy things to do – There’s Madame Tussauds, the Dungeons, the houses of parliament and the Tower of London (their son likes history). You can do the big red bus tour which also includes a river cruise. The commentary on that is really good and you learn so much about the city in such a short time. I’m just not sure how comfortable it’ll be riding on an open top bus in December though! There’s the London Eye which includes a 4D show at the end which is good. The Eye ride itself is okay. It takes 26 minutes to go around. Worth it if it’s a good day. The Harry Potter tour which is located at Watford is worth it for fans of the infamous Wizard. The British Museum (Tottenham Court Road), the National History Museum, the V&A (South Kensington), the Transport Museum (Covent Garden): they are all free to visit and well worth it.
5. Stuff for Kids – I only have one word…Hamleys! On Regents Street, it’s a must see for any child visiting London.
6. The West End – Plays and Musicals: Although I’ve never seen a show on Broadway, people say the West End is a lot better. Maybe I’m biased I’ve heard the Book of Mormons is really good and 1 Man 2 Guvnors is very very funny. I saw Wicked last year which was amazing. Mamma Mia (great to sing along to), The Lion King (the story was okay but worth watching it just for the sets and to see how they create the animals, etc), Phantom of the Opera (pretty dark but one of my favourites). My Fair Lady, Legally Blonde, Sister Act – they were all good. Ghost has been out for a couple of years now and I heard that is good too (it’s on my list!). If you like history then you may enjoy Les Miserables (based on the French revolution). Again I’ve heard fantastic reviews from some people and not so great reviews from others. There is a box office on Argyll Street (Opposite Niketown at Oxford Circus, beside Warehouse, the women’s clothing store). It’s called Stargreen Box Office. You can get great deals on theatre tickets there. I’d suggest you call them on the day, ask them for tickets for the same day and collect before the show. Good tickets for the top shows can be around £60+. Matinee shows are usually more reasonable and most theatres have matinee shows on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
7. Afternoon Tea – You’re in London, darling, how can you not have Afternoon Tea?! Personally I love good ol’ fashioned Richoux on St. Johns Wood High Street (they have other branches as well) but for a little something extra special, I’ve heard great things about Afternoon Tea at The Ritz and The Wolseley.
More than anything, being in London at Christmas is magical. It can be really cold but if you wrap up you won’t feel it so much. There’s heating on in all the stores and anywhere indoors so it’s only really while you’re outdoors that you’ll feel it. All the shops play Christmas songs, everyone’s in a really good mood as they shop and get ready for Christmas. I’m sure you’ll have a lovely time!
Let me know if there’s anything I’m missing!