-Shop the Look-
Every year, London just gets better and better, with the decorations taking the grandest place of all, the many activities to be found becoming so sought after and the department stores offering the best gifts you’ve ever dreamt of. Christmas is a wonderful time of year where there’s the perfect setting for “A Christmas Carol”, the original home of the Christmas cracker and the place where Christmas cards were first debuted – there’s no wonder London is a superbly celebratory city, come each December.
Here in the capital with fabulous lifestyle photographer, Victoria of Vicotria Stories and I have a vast range of festive entertainment for you guys to look at in London. Anything from performances, and distinctly British advent traditions, from seasonal ballets to carol singing in Westminster Abbey. For those planning a London Christmas this year, here are the essentials bound to delight everyone but, before I rush into a world of Christmas, I will definitely need a decent coffee to start the day.
To start the day at Hideaway
This festive fairytale pop-up is a small, but perfectly formed retail emporium and cafe. Cosy, fun and approachable, it is the ideal place to enjoy a coffee and a croissant, or oysters and champagne. Enticed by a window display featuring a bathtub filled with bottles of champagne, once inside, customers will find themselves enveloped in the warmth and timeless charm of a Parisian bistro, offering an escape from the bustling West End. Choose to sit in the dining room, with its view of the lively arcade, or at a communal table downstairs with friends and family: truly a unique environment in which to sample Hide’s Michelin-star fare.
There are many restaurants close by during Christmas where you can get to try out their food and to see the decorations too. You can try out at The Wolseley, The Lanesborough, Dalloway Terrace, Sketch and Mandarin Oriental, Hyde Park.
Shop till you drop
London is famous as the ultimate shopping venue, no matter where you choose to shop, with two of the most famous shopping streets in the world – Regent Street and Oxford Street. It gets even better at Christmas, with the dazzling Christmas lights creating the perfect Christmas shopping experience. Carnaby Street has also unveiled its Queen Bohemian Rhapsody themed lights this year to mark the release of the film in London and it is quite a sight. Perhaps we could start at Burlington Arcade, which is a luxury haven and an ideal place to shop with its many French and British brands. It’s also a perfect place to browse for those who appreciate quality and craftsmanship that combine to create a luxury product that lasts for eternity.
The Burlington Arcade is a covered shopping arcade that runs behind Bond Street from Piccadilly through to Burlington Gardens and is one of the precursors of the mid-19th-century European shopping gallery and the modern shopping centre, bringing out the best of Britishness.
Luckily, there is one of the oldest department stores over the road, which also happens to be one of the world’s most iconic shops, Fortnum and Mason. Fortnum & Mason is so much more than a Queen-approved place where you can pick up canisters of fine tea to gift to friends and relatives back home. While retail therapy is certainly on offer, during advent it hosts special Christmas storytelling sessions by a cosy fireplace and surrounded by festively decorated Christmas trees. Father Christmas is also there to entertain young attendees with special seasonal tales, making their Christmas one to remember.
Let’s not forget another iconic, yet sophisticated, department store, Selfridges which brings their attention from the globe. This year Selfridges has decorated its windows with glam rock panache, along with a rock’n’roll Santa and 1,500 glittery curtains, while its staff of “Elfridges“ are on hand to help handle all manner of shopping needs. The perfect place for those who are looking to have stress-free Christmas shopping.
Exploring St. James and Mayfair
Why not escape the crowds in St James’s, one of London’s best-kept secrets, and experience a Christmas like no other? This is a place where you can enjoy the area more freely away from the crowds and it is home to a wonderful range of quintessentially British shops and restaurants – with the feeling that you are actually going back in time.
Mayfair is only a door away and has probably invested in some of the best Christmas decorations in town. It is home to such world-famous brands as Christian Louboutin, Marc Jacobs, Alfred Dunhill and Balenciaga, amongst many others.
While you wander, be sure to check out places like Pall Mall, Germany Street and St. James Street where you can see some of London’s many picturesque buildings and Christmas decorations, with perhaps afternoon tea at The Ritz after a successful shop?
If the thought of braving the crowds of Christmas shoppers on Oxford Street fills you with horror, why not take a detour south into Mayfair, where the quieter streets are home to high-fashion brands and hidden gems. Whoever you are shopping for, your best bet is to make a beeline for Mount Street, with its mix of fashion and beauty brands and art and antique dealers. And Mayfair is also the place for fine dining in venues such as Scotts, Sexy Fish as well as the many luxury hotels to be found there too.
Lunch is Calling
London has so many places to eat, however, here is something you should know about one of the more recent venues. Are you ready? Think of contemporary, artistic and elegant, and that is Brasserie of Light – a new destination restaurant and bar offering all-day dining in a chic, Art Deco space set within Selfridges department store.
The centrepiece of the restaurant is a 24ft crystal-encrusted Pegasus statue, created especially by Damien Hirst, his largest scale artwork in London. Martin Brudnizki consulted on the design, which features bold, colourful and light-filled interiors, with an impressive central bar and private dining room. Diners enter the double-height space via an exclusive entrance on Duke Street.
Brasserie of Light serves an eclectic mix of classic British and internationally inspired dishes by Head Chef, Emmanuel, with an extensive all-day A La Carte menu featuring breakfast, elevenses, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and weekend brunch alongside wine and cocktails. A perfect place to dine with your family, friends and colleagues all year round but even more special when it comes to the festive season – and let Pegasus shine on you all.
It’s so cold outside
At the end of the year, a number of open-air ice rinks magically materialise across the capital – many of them in view of London’s most beautiful landmarks. Two of the best are the rink at Somerset House, held from 14th November 2018 to 13th January 2019, and the rink at the Natural History Museum, open this season from 25th October to 20th January. Both are stunning backdrops for an active London Christmas.
You’ll find a wide range of other rinks across the Capital such as Canary Wharf, Winterville, Winter Wonderland and Skylight where you can skate under the stars and delight in views across the London skyline.
My favourite place is Somerset House, heralding the start of the festive season when its neoclassical courtyard is transformed into the capital’s quintessential winter destination. The signature 40ft Christmas tree welcomes visitors to Somerset House with Fortnum & Mason, where unique experiences for all ages await, from learning the art of skating at Skate School, to discovering new music at Skate Lates. Off the ice, guests can relax in the comfort of the alpine-inspired restaurant Fortnum’s Lodge, whilst the Fortnum’s Christmas Arcade offers an array of gifts for festive shoppers. From a warming morning coffee to a special date night or after-work drinks, Somerset House’s atmospheric setting and central location form the perfect place for friends and family to enjoy the winter season.
Woolly hats and gloves, mulled wine and mince pies, sparkling lights and tinsel – are you getting into the Christmas spirit yet? Indulge in a bit of shopping, or just browse and take in the sights at one (or more!) of London’s best Christmas markets and fairs this winter.
Originating in Germany, they are now a big part of the festive period throughout Europe, and London is home to some of the best Christmas markets with Bavarian style stalls, offering food and drinks, sweet treats, a wide range of festive crafts which you can buy as gifts (or just treat yourself) and even fun rides. You never know you might meet Santa and Rudolph too!
From the enormous Christmas markets at Winter Wonderland to the dazzling Southbank Centre Winter Market, find the perfect Christmas gifts for loved ones and savour live music, street food, theatre and entertainment throughout the festive season at London’s most popular Christmas markets. I thought I would introduce you to Leicester Square Christmas market as it’s my first time visiting and it truly brings a festive mood.
Experience festive fun with Christmas in Leicester Square, which gives the home of blockbuster film premieres a yuletide makeover. Browse more than 25 stalls in the traditional market, filled with a wonderful array of crafts and tempting treats. Then, head to the Belgian Spiegeltent to enjoy a brilliant line-up of comedy, cabaret and burlesque shows.
There’s so much more to do and see whilst visiting London and you can follow me and Victoria on our Instagram for more inspiring places to enjoy. We do hope you have a pleasant visit during the festive season and we wish you all a wonderful Christmas! Time for some mulled wine now – cheers everyone!
Photos by Victoria Metaxas