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Christmas in London
There are many ways to participate in the festivities that mark out Christmas in London. There things to do for free and there are things to do which are worth the price. Because Christmas in London takes place during winter, wherever you go and whatever you do, you’d best dress warmly. If it snows and you have the full white Christmas, then it’s likely to be one you’ll not forget.
Things To Do For Free During Christmas In London
The City of London has a long and rich history surrounding Christmas. You only have to think of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol to know that Christmas has always been a time of special celebration in Britain.
One of the most famous local festive events is the lighting of the Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree. The tree itself is a Norway spruce and can reach over 20 meters in height. Since 1947, the tree has been gifted to London by Norway to commemorate the help the British gave the Norwegians during the Second World War. Like much of the seasonal festivity, you won’t have to wait around until Christmas Day for the spectacle. The tree lights up on the first Thursday of December. It’s the Lord Mayor of Westminster’s job to oversee the ceremony. People flock in from all over London to cheer and listen to the choral music and band and, of course, watch the lights get switched on. Throughout the season, the tree is a spot for carollers and is a central gathering point for those who want to enjoy London’s Christmas spirit.
Carols are a popular feature of the season all around the city. They can be heard in the traditional environments of places like the famous St Paul’s Cathedral. At Southwark Cathedral, you can experience carols by candlelight. There are many other churches and few cathedrals which also offer carol singing.
The Westminster Abbey Christmas Eve service is filled with tradition and is always well attended. It’s not a short service and begins at 11.30pm, so it’s not for younger children. This is where to sing favourite hymns, like Silent Night, when they mean the most.
Santa’s Grotto is must for the younger ones. Where better to whisper your Christmas toy gift list into Santa’s ear than at Hamleys, London’s most famous toy store and, with seven levels, one of the biggest in the world. If you want to mix your gift shopping in with a trip to the grotto, then you’ll be pleased that many of the big department stores have one. You’ll find a Santa’s Grotto at both Harrods and Selfridges.
Quite a few markets have Christmas-themed displays and events. The Belgravia Christmas Fayre offers places to eat and and shop, while the Southbank Christmas Market has a Santa’s Secret Village. It’s a popular place to wander around with others dressed in their winter scarves and gloves.
Visit Covent Garden on the 3rd of December for The Great Christmas Pudding Race. Teams navigate an obstacle course to arrive at the finishing line with their pudding still on the tray. The race has been going for over three decades and part of the fun is that the contestants wear fancy dress.
On Christmas day at 9am you can watch the brave swimmers of the Serpentine Swimming Club race in the river’s cold waters for the Peter Pan Cup. The race has been going since 1864 and although you’d won’t be able to compete, you’re welcomed to come along and cheer the swimmers.
Theatre And Dance During Christmas In London
The Christmas Pantomime is a staple of British entertainment. Many theatres have a panto running during December, and it’s a great way to entertain the kids during the day. Expect performances of festive favourites like Jack and the Beanstalk and Cinderella. Ticket prices will vary from theatre to theatre, but, because it's entertainment for the kids, they are mostly quite affordable.
West End Theatre will offer plays and musicals which might not have a Christmas theme, but will still be geared towards the fun and spirit of the season.
As it has done for over five decades, the English National Ballet performs Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker every year. It’s a special treat for all who haven’t yet been. Book via the box office for performances staged at the London Coliseum.
Dining Out During Christmas In London
There are many restaurants which offer a four, five or six course Christmas day lunch. You can go for the full upmarket experience at a renowned place like The Ritz Hotel’s restaurant. At The Ritz, there are adult and child prices for the set menu and, aside from good food, you’ll get to enjoy live musical entertainment and even a surprise visit from Santa with a bag full of goodies.
For an unusual Christmas Day meal, why not book the Lunch Cruise along the River Thames. The boat leaves from Westminster Pier at 12.30 pm and travels through Central London while you enjoy a four-course meal. The boat returns to the pier at 3.15pm. Like all special dining options on Christmas Day, make sure you book early to get your table.