I’m a HUGE fan of Christmas. I love getting into the festive spirit as early as possible, playing Christmas tunes and watching Love Actually at least 10 times before the day itself. Mince pies are eaten, mulled wine is drunk and I can be found standing under twinkly lights as often as possible – and I love to have a Christmas weekend in London.
I’ve travelled to other countries at Christmas time, often to partake in all of the above but in a new setting – I love European Christmas markets as they just go really big at this time of year. But you know what? London, my home city, has it all – the best of all the Christmas charm right on my doorstep. So I decided to spend a Christmas weekend in London instead of jetting off, and it was the most magical weekend I’ve had for a long time!
Visit a Christmas Market
There are so many Christmas markets in London, it’s difficult to know which to choose and where to go. Very many people will opt for the experience at Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland, which although free has many ticketed attractions and is extremely busy most evenings and weekends. I’ve had a great time at Winter Wonderland in the past, but this year I wanted to opt for a more traditional and slightly calmer Christmas vibe.
One of my favourite alternative Christmas markets is the Southbank Wintertime Market, where you can combine festive cheer, hot mulled wine and gorgeous views of The Thames. With beautiful Nordic-inspired wooden chalets lining the Southbank, with a huge range of tasty street food options, Christmas gifts and crafts and cheeky treats an afternoon spent wandering the stalls and nursing a warm drink is a well spent afternoon indeed.
Other Christmas markets in London that you might want to visit include:
- Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
- Christmas By The River at London Bridge City
- Winterville on Clapham Common
- Winterfest at Crystal Palace Park
- Leicester Square Christmas Market
The Southbank Wintertime Market is open Sunday – Thursday, 11am – 10pm and Friday – Saturday, 11am – 11pm until the 30th December 2017.
Have a big fat Christmas night out
London is awash with night out options at this time of year – I’ve sung carols at the Royal Albert Hall, seen a Matthew Bourne ballet or two at Sadler’s Wells and of course you can’t forget that long held British tradition of the humble pantomime.
But what if I told you that you could combine cabaret vibes, Christmas spirit and gorgeous food? Well you can, and I spent Saturday night with the world’s most wanted man, St. Nicky, and his anarchistic entourage of festive fugitives, for a debauched, but decadent immersive dinner party called Christmess.
It’s incredibly difficult for me to describe the evening and do it justice, but I’ll try. After being led into the imaginarium, we waited to be taken to the rebel-elf stronghold. We were collected by Salt, the head rebel-elf who took us upstairs, and seated us at a long communal table with other rebels whilst an incredible jazz band played. Once everyone was settled, we were introduced to all the other characters of Christmess – Jingle Bell, Fifi La Rue the Green Fairy, Minty the Butler and Mama Christmas who were all revelling rather naughtily on a high stage.
Then St Nick arrived, climbing over the tables to much fanfare and cheering and the night could really begin as we all stood to take a shot of fireball whiskey. We were served a twelve dish dinner including cajun roasted turkey with all the trimmings, red cabbage, candied yams and gravy and we tucked in with abandon whilst the band continued to play.
But then it really kicked off. As our plates were cleared, we were joined by our hosts and invited (or dragged) up on the tables to dance, and before I knew I was sandwiched between a twerking St Nick and a sexually promiscuous elf dancing the night away without a care in the world. The crowd that had gathered were amazing – everyone was up for a good time, helping each other up and down from the tables and chatting like old friends. At one point dessert was brought out in what looked like long pieces of drainpipe and we were handed spoons to dive in – I think I remember being fed desert by both Jingle Bell and Salt, but by this point everyone was too busy revelling to think about any inhibitions.
As we though the night was drawing to a close, we were invited to limbo towards a new room (we thought it was the exit), and all of a sudden we found ourselves in some sort of Christmas speakeasy to continue the party. We finished the nick being handpicked to join St Nick in his office for more fireball whiskey shots, a sing song and games before we headed out into the cold and back to our hotel.
It was truly an incredible evening. At various points whilst dancing on tables with total strangers, we found ourselves looking at each other as if to say this is madness, but at no point did we ever feel uncomfortable. This is high camp, alternative Christmas at its finest.
There are still very limited tickets available for the midweek Christmess events, as well as many of the other festive activities at the Imaginarium.Want to get in the festive spirit? Here's how to spend an awesome Christmas weekend in London!Click To Tweet
Make a weekend of it and stay overnight
Even if you live nearby, it’s not a treat filled Christmas weekend in London if you are not going to stay overnight. As I live a little further out of town, the amount I’d have to spend on taxis to get home is so huge that it makes far more sense for me to book a hotel and enjoy my big night out to its fullest.
I opted to stay at ibis London Blackfriars which is such a perfectly located hotel for festive fun in London. Close to the London Underground and a major mainline station, it’s on many night bus routes (and the Night Tube), making it a great place to rest your head if you are planning on staying out into the small hours.
But this isn’t the only benefit of this hotel. ibis hotel rooms are soundproof and air-conditioned and it isn’t an exaggeration to say that the bed was the best I’ve ever slept in (they call it their Sweet Bed™). As I had some time to catch up on things on the Sunday morning (including sleeping off the hangovers), their later checkout of 12pm and super-fast Wi-Fi came in handy for scrolling through Facebook with a cup of tea in bed and laughing at the pictures from the night before.
If you are planning a Christmas weekend in London, you are probably going to want a decent breakfast afterwards. This ibis hotel gave good breakfast. Excellent breakfast in fact, and it was hard to choose what to have. I could have had the classic millenial choice of avocado on toast, a healthy yoghurt and granola vibe or a full English breakfast packed with crispy bacon, egg, chorizo and sausage. Obviously, I went for the full English. Obviously.
Get crafty and make some Christmas decorations
For the second year in a row, I headed to Villandry near Great Portland Street for some festive flower arranging fun with incredible florists Moyses Stevens. last year I made a table decoration (and was pretty proud of it too), but this year we opted to go big and make a gorgeous Christmas wreath.
Starting with a demonstration of what we will be making (that I photographed at every step to get just right), we were then given top quality supplies to recreate our own version to take home. Last year my table centrepiece lasted well into January, so it’s a lovely way to brighten up your home too.
The workshops are delivered alongside a festive afternoon tea, and we opted to add a bottle of champagne to the proceedings, because what is a crafty festive afternoon without some bubbles?
Unfortunately all the remaining flower arranging workshops ay Villandry are sold out for this year, but the tickets tend to go on sale around September so don’t miss out! Instead, why not try this jazzy and free Christmas jumper workshop on the 15th December, a bunting workshop on the 17th December or try your hand at blowing your own glass bauble?
Go for a wander and enjoy London’s Christmas spirit
There is so much Christmas beauty scattered all around London at this time of year. Whether it is the famous lights on Oxford Street and Regent Street or the huge Christmas tree at Trafalgar Square there is a lot to spot in the capital.
My favourite Christmas thing to see in London includes a mini city made entirely of gingerbread. Created by the Museum of Architecture it is back for its second year and you can visit through December for just £3. You could also go ice skating at one of London’s many pop up skating rinks, but as I’m like a deer on ice, I prefer to grab a warm alcoholic beverage and spectate to get in the Christmas spirit.
The Charles Dickens Museum is too getting into the Christmas spirit, running a range of events and exhibitions about his Christmas books, as well as some costumed Christmas walks that I am going to try and squeeze in before Christmas is over!
I’d love to know how you celebrate Christmas in your home city – let me know in the comments below!
*ibis Hotels supported my Christmas weekend in London by providing my hotel room and tickets to Christmess for free, but all my Christmassy opinions are my own!
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