This is this time of the year again! If you’ve been to central London lately, you can’t have failed noticing that the festive season is already in full blast.
Christmas excitement starts much earlier in England than in France, so it is perfectly acceptable to buy your Christmas tree and put up Christmas decorations as early as 1st December. And the Christmas spirit is very strong all over December, so boozy lunches and Christmas parties take place over several weeks – good luck! Also, beware that the English send Christmas cards, not new-year cards, so it is definitely not appropriate to wait until 31st January (I previously wrote a full article about Christmas card etiquette here).
The nice thing about all this Christmas excitement is that there are myriads of events taking place all over London now to put you in the Christmas mood. Here is a quick summary, so that you can fill-up your diary!
- WinterWonderland is a giant funfair taking place in Hyde Park between 18th November and 1st January. It is free access, with vouchers available to buy on site, which give you access to all the rides – so no need to book your entry in advance. That said if you want to see Cinderalla on Ice , The Magical Ice Kingdom, the Zippos Circus , use the ice rink or have a drink at the Ice Bar , pre-booking is highly recommended. We go every year with the children and my personal advice is: 1/ go in November or early December, it gets more and more crowded as Christmas approaches; 2/ I know it is a struggle but… be there for the 10am opening, to avoid massive crowds from noon onwards; 3/ dress warm – lined boots, big coats, hats, scarves, gloves, it is freezing there!; 4/ be prepared to spend too much money, it is an expensive family outing.
- Ice rinks are popping-up all over London those days, so just pick and choose – but do book your tickets in advance! The most traditional ones are at the National History Museum, Somerset House and Hampton Court Palace; but the ones in Canary Wharf and Hyde Park Winter Wonderland are very popular too. New ones I didn’t know about before: Greenwich Wintertime Festival, Alexandra Palace (in Wood Green, not so far from LIL), Skylight (a rooftop ice-ring in Whapping!), Winterville in Clapham. Closer to LIL, we have the JW3 ice rink; and the one at the Wembley Outlet.
- Watching the Christmas Street lights is another excitement of Christmas and London. The best way to see them is to drive around in my view or to take a bus when night has fallen – always practical with the children of course! The go-to areas are Oxford Street , Regent Street , Carnaby Street , Bond Street and Covent Garden . The Magical Lantern Festival at Chiswick House & Gardens is technically not a Christmas display as it celebrates Chinese New Year; but this year is falls in December and it looks wonderful!
So I hope all this will put you in the mood for Christmas!