Christmas in London

There is something special about London at Christmas time; the crisp December air, the bright festive lights and the Christmassy jingles everywhere you go. These help produce a festive feeling and certainly gets me in the mood for Christmas. For the past couple of years my boyfriend and I have spent a weekend in the capital a few weeks before Christmas, to check out the lights across the city, to browse through a few of the shops for a few last minute presents and on a few occasions, to try out our hand at ice skating. This year our tradition continued and as soon as my term at Uni was completed, we hopped aboard the train and were London bound!

We arrived in London just after midday and made our way to our Hotel (H10 Waterloo) which was just a five minute walk from Waterloo station. We were a little too early to check in so we dropped off our bags and decided to walk to the river to see what the Southbank had laid out for its visitors. Just behind the National Theatre, was a collection of stalls serving up all kinds of delicious looking food, from Lebanese falafel wraps, to plates of Spanish paella and Indian curry. Much to my dismay we did not stop to sample the food (maybe just as well because I would never have been able to make a decision, it all looked so good) and instead continued up the steps and emerged onto the Southbank promenade along the river.

We stopped for a short while to admire the view of the river and the lovely buildings that line the Thames, before descending down some steps onto the main level of the walkway. We meandered our way through the Christmas market stalls there, mostly housing more food outlets – I noticed an assortment of sweet treats including churros, lots of chocolates, cupcakes as well as rather more filling options such as hot dogs and hog roasts, but typically the most popular huts were those selling alcoholic beverages!

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Heading further along Southbank we came across the smart looking Jubilee Gardens where we stopped to have a sit down and spent a while watching the people go by.

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From there, we passed the ever impressive London Eye and then made our way across Westminster Bridge towards the Houses of Parliament and iconic Elizabeth Tower, home to the monumental Big Ben. Not many people know that Big Ben is actually the name of the giant bell inside!

We walked past the striking Parliament building and on towards St James’ Park, where we said hello to the resident pelicans and also spotted the first of fifty Paddington Bear statues spread across the city making up the Paddington Trail, in front of the Churchill War Rooms.

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Leaving the park behind us, we walked through Horse Guard’s Parade where the ceremonial Changing of the Guards takes place, and made our way along Whitehall and up to Trafalgar Square. Surprisingly it wasn’t packed with people, although the regular street artists and entertainers were performing for the crowds on the terrace in front of the National Gallery.

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We left the square and walked past St Martin-in-the-Fields onto the Strand, stopping for a brief look at the Coutts’ Advent Calendar decorated with pretty ballerinas and smart nutcrackers, before heading further up the street and cutting sideways into Covent Garden. The decorations in and around Covent Garden were as wonderful as ever, with huge red and silver baubles hanging from the canopy over the market itself, as well as a silver Reindeer on top of a sleigh full of presents which sat just outside the Russel Street entrance.

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Dusk was gradually falling and so we jumped on the Tube to Oxford Circus. We had plans to visit the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park but thought we would first stroll along Oxford Street to see the lights and the displays in the many department stores, including John Lewis and Selfridges.

At long last we arrived at Marble Arch and caught sight of the Winter Wonderland lights shining brightly in the park. We spent a good couple of hours exploring the vast market and of course stopping for the statutory hot dog. I was rather impressed at what was offered – there was truly something for everyone, from fun fair rides, to food stalls, as well as more traditional markets tucked away, such as the Bavarian Village and the Stars Market, which are both near the Hyde Park corner exit.

We were soon feeling weary and so decided to make our way back to our hotel for a good nights sleep. The following morning, after a filling breakfast and checking out of our hotel, we travelled over to Chelsea (Sloane Square to be exact) for a morning tea stop at Peter Jones’ where we met my parents, before continuing onwards to Westfield shopping centre for a spot of retail therapy.

As they say, all things must come to an end, and after a great weekend exploring the capital it was time to jump aboard the train and head back home.

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Have you visited London at Christmas?

What are your favourite spots in the city to soak up the festive atmosphere?

Do let me know in the comments below!