It’s been a long time since we visited London at wintertime and I put the call out on social media, friends and family to give me their tips and recommendations. With just 24 hours in London – culminating in the launch of the Landscape Photographer of the Year exhibition at Waterloo Station – we stopped centrally at the Travelodge Covent Garden this time round. No schlepping in from Tower Hamlets this time round.
So where did we go for a festive vibe? It was mid-November so London hadn’t quite got all it’s Christmas razzle-dazzle on but it gave a pretty decent showing…
Covent Garden is one of my favourite places to mooch around at any time of the year, and it’s no exception at Christmas. It has one of London’s largest Christmas trees on the Piazza and as expected, it’s beautifully decked out. Inside the market itself are huge baubles and glitter balls strung from the ceiling, and some pretty huge mistletoe chandeliers if you fancy a smooch! And of course, there’s no end of shops to pick up a few last minute pressies, from quirky independents to high-end designer and well-known high-street brands. You’re also only steps away from Seven Dials, also looking pretty spectacular this wintertime.
London’s famous shopping streets
Some of the most iconic shopping streets in London put on their twinkliest outfits for the festive season. We were lucky to be able to see the Regent Street angels in all their glory as the street was closed to traffic on the evening we were there… no fear of being run over by a black cab or a London bus despite being in the middle of the road! Each street and area has it’s own signature light displays – my favourite being the carnival vibe of Carnaby Street, resplendent with its own giant parrots.
One of the thing’s you shouldn’t miss is the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. Although you may want to pick your time carefully. We originally went to visit on the Sunday evening, only to be met with with a writhing heaving mass of bodies waiting to go through the bag check at the entrance. Instead we returned on the Monday afternoon, where it was the complete opposite with only a few hardy souls milling around.
It’s a sprawling celebration of all things Christmas, festive, wintery and fun. There are plenty of fairground rides, from the tame to the ridiculous, food stalls, winter markets, a circus, hook-a-duck and other assorted games, and plenty of bars to get all your glühwein cravings satisfied. There’s a revolving bar, a carousel bar, karaoke cabins – and my favourite – a bar with stools with animal legs. I’m easily pleased. And there are the more traditionally cosy snugs, grottos, lodges and yes, a giant Bavarian beerhall if you want to drink something alcoholic before being flung around on a gravity-defying ride.
I love to stroll along the Thames, and the South Bank always seems to have some sort of event or market on whatever the time of year so its unsurprising that in winter time the riverside walk is lined with Nordic-inspired wooden huts selling all manner of warming food, mulled alcohol, sweet treats and crafty stuff. It was also a handy final stop before schlepping off to Waterloo Station, where the organisers of the Landscape Photographer of the Year exhibition kindly plied us with free wine to make the late night train ride back to Brum a little more fun…
What are your favourite festive cities? Have you been to London at Christmastime? Let me know in the comments!
I’m Emmalene, a 40 something with a passion for travel, theatre, food, drink and the occasional accidental hike! I’m a born-and-bred Birmingham native so expect lots of Brum content on here too…