As the year draws to a close and the weather turns crisp, the London’s landscape is transformed with cosy pub fires, festive decorations, and an infectious Christmas spirit. Far from closing down the city, winter is actually one of London’s liveliest seasons. From sipping glühwein at Hyde Park Winter Wonderland and ice skating at Somerset House to discovering London’s best Christmas markets and shows, here are the top things to do in London this winter.
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland is a popular family-friendly annual event in one of London’s best-known Royal Parks, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2016. Best known for its Bavarian village – where visitors can try traditional glühwein and snack on authentic German delicacies – there are also many other rides and attractions, from market stalls selling festive trinkets to an ice skating rink and an exciting schedule of spectacular shows.
The Somerset House ice rink offers an impressive setting for this most festive of activities, and is the key to making some truly special winter memories (open from mid-November to mid-January). Elsewhere in the city, the National History Museum temporary ice rink offers a spectacular architectural backdrop and a convenient café bar for pre and post-skating indulgence. For those willing to travel slightly out of the centre of town, Hampton Court Palace and Alexandra Palace are home to excellent ice rinks with beautiful views of these iconic structures.
Christmas shopping in London is about far more than just the purchases; it’s about the experience itself. Upscale department stores such as Harrods, Liberty and Selfridges are decked up to the nines in festive décor, while leading shopping streets like Oxford Street, Bond Street and Regent Street are covered in show-stopping light displays. South of the river you can sample winter-themed foods at Borough Market, while Covent Garden’s grandiose Christmas tree is just a short hop north of the Thames, and is perfect for quirky trinkets and gifts.
Winter is fireworks season in London and there are a number of occasions at which to enjoy colourful displays. First up is Bonfire Night on 5th November, which commemorates Guy Fawkes’ gunpowder plot of 1605. Each year, a large fireworks show takes place over the parliament building and thousands of people gather along the riverbank to watch. As you might expect, New Year’s Eve is also a great time to see fireworks n London, with displays hosted all over the city. Ask for a room with a river view at Corinthia Hotel London for a view of the displays.
While Germany may be the king of Christmas markets, London is increasingly vying for attention with an excellent spread of festive markets across the capital. The Southbank Centre Christmas Market brings together local traders in wooden chalets on the riverside Queen’s Walk. Here, visitors can shop for gifts, festive foods and warming winter beverages such as mead and mulled wine. The German-style London Bridge City Christmas Market presents pop-up stalls selling handmade crafts by independent traders, alongside Christmas cocktails, craft beers and hot food. The Christmas market at Leicester Square features traditional stores as well as a busy programme of festive entertainment. Or for something a little different, head to the Christmas Markets of art centres like Tate Modern and the Barbican to pick up stylish stocking fillers, handmade trinkets, jewellery and prints.
London’s West End is renowned for its world-class theatre, and in winter the program shifts up a gear with extra performances and new festive shows. Catch one of London’s famous productions or look out for seasonal offerings such as The Nutcracker at the Royal Opera House. Pantomimes also bring a welcome dose of comedy to the season and many, such as Cinderella at the London Palladium, are planned throughout winter. A show is one of the best things to do in London this winter, make sure to book tickets while you can!