London Tour Guide Nicola Watts looks at some of the fantastic highlights of the upcoming festive season.
London is a wonderful place to spend Christmas, with so many things to do that a single Christmas holiday is nowhere near long enough to sample them all. So here are some highlights for a very special capital Christmas.
There are ice skating rinks at great venues across the city – for example, the Natural History Museum where you can sip mulled wine if you don’t want to skate, or Canary Wharf, where there’s a special children’s rink. One of the grandest and most elegant is the rink at Somerset House. It’s provided by top people’s food store, Fortnum and Mason, and placed in the courtyard of this classical eighteenth-century building. With Fortnum’s providing the hospitality, no one will go hungry – there is an Alpine lodge, a skate lounge and a Christmas arcade.
It has to be said though, that the Tower of London provides serious competition for Somerset House – the moat is filled with ice for skaters, and snowflakes are projected onto the Tower’s walls – a completely different view of one of London’s most historic buildings.
It’s mayhem and madness but also unmissable if children are around – Hamley’s Toy Shop in Regent Street is world famous. Father Christmas and his elves take up residence in late November. There are special “Elf on a Shelf” activities too. We can’t forget, the most amazing selection of toys either, from traditional teddies to high-tech gizmos.
Oxford Street, Bond Street and Regent Street are a must not just for the shops but also for the Christmas lights and nearby Carnaby Street will be quirkily lit up. Selfridges windows are always great, and from here it’s a short hop by bus or taxi to Hyde Park for the Winter Wonderland.
At the Wonderland, Bar Hutte brings alpine apres-ski to the centre of London. There are rustic Alpine huts where a group can gather together to eat and drink, served by the hosts. Elsewhere in the Wonderland, there’s karaoke and cocktails, Britain’s largest outdoor ice rink, two circuses including Cirque Berserk, a big wheel, an ice kingdom, Cinderella on Ice, Santaland and Christmas markets. And for the very young – a Sooty Christmas show each morning.
There’s a brilliant selection of shows and ballets too. What could be more Christmassy than the Nutcracker ballet at the Royal Opera House, with much-loved music and a beautiful Sugar Plum Fairy? Meanwhile, Disney on Ice presents a show at the O2 Arena. Hogwart’s in the Snow is on at the Warner Brothers Studio Tour. Christmas isn’t Christmas without a panto, traditional yet always right up to the minute in their jokes. Dick Whittington at the Palladium promises to be spectacular.
Lastly, to get into the festive spirit, why not join in with the carols at the Albert Hall Carol Sing-along? Or for something really special, choose one of the carol services, often candlelit, at churches large and small across London.
Piece written by Nicola Watts – Expert London Tour Guide
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