Christmas Time in London Town

Christmas lights

December 2012

Whether you love it for the shopping, the decorations, the food or the magical atmosphere, London is bursting with festive cheer at Christmas time with so much to see and do.

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Hyde Park plays host to a popular Winter Wonderland every year, this time from 23 November 2012 to 6 January 2013. Entry to the Wonderland is free so you only pay for the attractions you’d like to experience. With a magical ice kingdom, Christmas circuses, a huge Ferris wheel, fairground rides, a Santa grotto and an ice rink, you’ll be spoiled for choice.

Hit the IceHarrods

If getting on the ice at the Winter Wonderland has left you hankering for some more skating, you’re certainly in the right city! For some Christmas skating with a spectacular backdrop, check out the rink at the foot of Canary Wharf’s skyscrapers. For a combination of sightseeing and skating, the Natural History Museum has an outdoor rink from November to January. Hampton Court, Somerset House and the Tower of London all offer a more historic setting for your time on the ice. For a little extra Christmas sparkle, go after dark to see the landmarks and ice rinks beautifully illuminated. Browse the VisitBritain Superblog for more information.

A Very British Afternoon

What do you do if you’ve worked up an appetite on the ice, but you’ve already had lunch and it’s not time for dinner yet? Two words to bridge the gap: afternoon tea. This centuries-old British tradition has found itself back in vogue in recent years and is a fabulous way to spend an afternoon in the festive season. For afternoon tea with the finest teas, excellent sandwiches and sumptuous cakes, make a reservation at Fortnum & Mason in Piccadilly. Once you’ve finished tea, browse the store to choose a few Christmas gifts – even if they’re for you! If you fall in love with one of the famous Fortnum & Mason hampers but are worried you won’t get it on the plane, don’t worry. Not only do they offer international delivery, they also have a range of hampers specially designed for export!

That Special Something for That Special Someone…

Of course, not all your Christmas shopping is for food, so for your other Christmas essentials head to one of the world’s most famous department stores, Harrods. Just a few stops down from Fortnum & Mason on the Piccadilly line, Harrods is known for doing Christmas in style. With a Christmas department that opened in July and a magnificent Santa’s grotto, this is a London Christmas destination not to be missed. In fact you would struggle to miss it anyway, as the grand building is specially illuminated by 12,000 bulbs for Christmas. One of Harrods’ famous limited edition Christmas baubles makes a great souvenir of your time in London in the holiday season.

SkatingIce skating at Somerset House…and the Latest Gadget for the Kids

The children’s toy department at Harrods is a special place to be, especially at Christmas time, but how about a department store just for toys? Step inside the legendary Hamleys on Regent Street and be sure to find those special gifts for the little ones, and maybe a couple for the ‘young at heart’ friends and family members too! Intersecting with Regent Street and just up the road from Hamleys is Oxford Street - be sure to check out the Christmas lights and more great shopping, including three famous department stores.

Meet Santa a Little Early – and Rudolph Too

For some festive flora and fauna, Kew Gardens and London Zoo both host special Christmas events. Kew Gardens caters for festive fact-finders with a winter trees tour of the gardens and free sessions for families to learn about the plants and trees that have become symbols of the festive season. The ultimate festive symbol, Santa Claus himself, will also be in his grotto (with free entry), while Christmas shoppers looking for something a little bit different will love the stalls and shops on offer at Kew, with late opening on Thursday evenings. Santa is certainly keeping busy in 2012, as he is also welcoming kids to his grotto at London Zoo. If the kids want to meet Rudolph as well as Santa then this is an essential stop on your Christmas trip, as London’s herd of reindeer will be keeping Santa company at the zoo.

Go Walking in the Air with a Christmas Musical

You may have been shopping, you may have been ice skating and you may have met Santa and Rudolph, but you haven’t experienced Christmas without seeing a West End show or musical in London. From the all-time Christmas classic The Snowman and the ballet set in a snowy wonderland, The Nutcracker, to fine family fun with Roald Dahl’s Matilda: The Musical, there’s a show to suit every taste in London. If it’s a real British Christmas show you want, however, a pantomime is the option for you. Sometimes known as a ‘family musical’, a pantomime combines song, dance, slapstick and audience participation to entertain both young and old. For a highly rated pantomime in an iconic venue, look no further than Aladdin at the O2. For some more inspiration and all the latest tickets offers, see the Theatre Deals page on the VisitBritain Shop.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, with love from London!

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