20 reasons why Londoners love Christmas

We asked the people who love our city most for their favourite festive activity

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There's just not enough December to fit in all the festive treats London has to offer, whether you favour the more traditional carols-and-mince-pie type of outing, or have had a trip to Winter Wonderland in your diary since July. For some seasonal focus, we asked some London experts what they look forward to most about spending Christmas in London.

  • © Annie and Andrew on Flickr

    1. Festive sights and smells at Borough Market

    'I always find that going to Borough Market around Christmas captures the essence of Christmas in London perfectly. It's a wonderful festive assault on all the senses. Wrap up warm and wander around whilst you sip mulled wine, eat homemade mince pies, listen to the Salvation Army performing Christmas tunes and breathe in the heavenly pine aromas of fresh Christmas trees. All that whilst taking in the visual wonders all around you. Then nip to Southwark Cathedral for a carol service and by then you'll be feeling so festive, you'll probably start sprouting mistletoe out of your ears!'

    Imogen Parsons, 'Miss Immy's London'

    Follow Imogen on Twitter: @MissImmo

  • 2. The hustle and bustle under the Oxford Street Christmas lights

    'My favourite festive thing in London is how the city comes together to celebrate the Yuletide season. Whether it be Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland, Liverpool Street station’s ice skating rink or the Oxford Street Christmas lights switch-on and the hustle and bustle of shoppers on their frantic scramble for presents and secret Santa gifts. A wonderful time of year to drink, eat and be merry, to share a smile and maybe a kiss under the mistletoe.'

    Jacqui Faiman, 'BiteSize Food'

    Follow Jacqui on Twitter: @Bitesize_Food

  • © Millie Cotton

    3. The temptation of the window displays at Harrods

    'It's a challenge to pinpoint just one reason why I love London during Christmas. From the Christmas display windows at Harrods to ice skating at Somerset House, followed by a mug of mulled cider (of course!), the city has something for everyone over the festive season.'

    Millie Cotton, 'It's a LDN Thing'

    Follow Millie on Twitter: @ItsaLDNThing

  • © Mandy Southgate

    4. Covent Garden's cheerful decorations

    'I'm definitely in the mood for Christmas and am more excited than I have been for years! What I love most about Christmas in London is a combination of light and dark. I love all of the bright Christmas lights brightening up Covent Garden and Oxford Street and I also love the blue and white fairy lights along the South Bank. But Christmas also brings a soft, gentle blue daylight to London. I love walking along Bankside in the mornings, past the Tate Modern and over the Millennium Bridge. It is silent and beautiful.'

    Mandy Southgate, 'Emm in London'

    Follow Mandy on Twitter: @mandyist

  • 5. An evening of drinks and street food at Night Tales

    'I love a good excuse to eat and drink nice things and Background bar's winter venue Night Tales is a magical place to do both. It's replete with negroni and gin bars and some amazing street food including Patty & Bun and Pizza Pilgrims in a twinkling, atmospheric and faintly festive setting. It's also close enough to my favourite Dalston bar Ruby's that I can slip up the road for a cheeky night cap.'

    Chloe, 'Faerietale Foodie'

    Follow Chloe on Twitter: @faerietalefoody

  • © Colin O'Brien

    6. Getting a bargain at the Christmas Eve Meat Auction

    'If you want to get a cheap turkey or stock up steak for the next year, I recommend you go to the Christmas Eve Meat Auction held by Harts the Butcher at Smithfield Market on December 24 at 11am. Take plenty of cash and be willing to jostle among the excited crowd as the fowls, piglets and legs of mutton go flying. Be guaranteed of an uproarious adventure and plenty of cut-price meat!'

    The Gentle Author, 'Spitalfields Life'

    The Gentle Author's London Album is available in bookshops now.

  • © Andrew Firth

    7. The joy of an atmospheric concert

    'At Christmas I love seeing concerts at spectacular venues like the Roundhouse or the Union Chapel. This year the Mayoress of Camden, Marcella Puppini, plays the Union Chapel on December 10 as part of The Puppini Sisters. There's an after show with proceeds going to the Amy Winehouse Foundation. I'm also very excited that JW3 in Hampstead will have a December ice rink. The London Jewish Community Centre is such a great addition to Camden.'

    Jonathan Simpson, Mayor of Camden

    Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @CamdenMayor

  • 8. Eating between meals at Christmas markets

    'I have an unnatural attraction to markets at all times, and in December I am allowed to drag friends along to as many as I like under the pretence of present shopping. And there are absolutely loads for them to be dragged to. Crafty Fox is my favourite for emergency presents, while the South Bank's Real Food Christmas Market is best for snacks. This year in particular many involve excellent food, which gives me yet another excuse to eat cake (or gua bao, or doughnuts, or burgers) between meals. And of course mulled wine should replace tea wherever the opportunity arises.'

    The Feeder, 'Worth Getting Fat On'

    Follow 'Worth Getting Fat On' on Twitter: @worthgettingfat

  • © Suke Driver

    9. The cheer of rubbish Christmas lights

    'I love the rubbish 1990s Christmas lights in Bethnal Green. They're garish, primary coloured and the designs include a flickery snowman waving a top hat. Last year they replaced the ones on Bethnal Green Road with some more understated blue and white stars, but you could still see the snowman and his pals on Roman Road. Fingers crossed they'll still be there this year.'

    Lynn Roberts, 'For Folk's Sake'

    Check out the For Folk's Sake charity Christmas compilation

    Photo by Sukesukesue on Flickr

  • © Roelof Bakker

    10. Being able to pretend you're in a period drama

    'As an American expat living in London, Christmas time makes me think of "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens. I reckon Spitalfields has the most Dickensian feel for London these days, and I love roaming round there this time of year. A visit to Dennis Severs' House near Old Spitalfields Market to view its "still life drama" is a great way to journey back in time with evocative style, especially during the festive season to see the Christmas Installation.'

    Chris Osburn, 'Tiki Chris'

    Follow Chris on Twitter: @tikichris

  • © Steve Speller

    11. Discovering London's Christmas past

    'I always make time to visit the Geffrye Museum's annual Christmas Past exhibition. They cover seasonal traditions from the last 400 years in little mocked-up houses and it's just lovely. It's also free!'

    Rachael Gibson, 'Fur Coat, No Knickers'

    Follow Rachael on Twitter: @furcoat

  • 12. A wander around Winter Wonderland

    'Our fave Xmas outing has to be Hyde Park when it's covered in snow and Winter Wonderland is in town. You can't beat spending the day wandering round the festive market with mulled wine and hot dogs before donning some skates and taking to the rink, even if it's pretty cheesy!'

    Jules and Ben, 'London On The Inside'

    Follow Jules and Ben on Twitter: @Londontheinside

  • 13. Admiring Carnaby Street's decorations

    'We love how London gets into the Xmas spirit and streets are decorated with lovely lights and baubles. We're especially delighted to see boring offices getting involved and Carnaby Street doing something amazing every year. We also love to warm up with mulled wine and spiced lattes at Broadway and Borough food markets.'

    Steven, 'Informed London'

    Follow 'Informed London' on Twitter: @informedlondon

  • © Nick J Webb on Flickr

    14. Drinking mulled wine at Myatt's Park Carols

    'A visit to the Myatt's Park Carols in Camberwell is an institution with my friends. Each year I bake and brew every festive thing I possibly can, and horrible knitwear is encouraged. We mull ourselves into a merry state at my flat, then head over for a loud sing-song with mulled wine and Christingles from the café. It rained last year. We were so mulled we hardly noticed.'

    Kat Brown, 'Domestic Sluttery'

    Follow Kat on Twitter: @KatBrown82

  • © Godfrey's

    15. Waiting for meat at Godfrey's

    'It couldn't be more British to love the queue outside Frank Godfrey butchers in Highbury on Christmas Eve. The best bit is when they bring out mulled wine while you wait patiently to pick up your turkey/goose/duck.'

    Catherine and Gavin Hanly, 'Hot Dinners'

    Follow 'Hot Dinners' on Twitter: @hotdinners

  • © Peter Kindersley

    16. Trying to ice skate at the Natural History Museum ice rink

    'Also, hot booze in the wigwam at the Queen of Hoxton. Pubs with fireplaces – Drapers Arms, for example – and mulled cider. Transport breaking down when there's snow and the resulting snow days. Hawksmoor's Christmas burger.'

    Lizzie Mabbot, 'Hollow Legs'

    Follow Lizzie on Twitter: @hollowlegs

  • © Jane Parker

    17. Going on a Christmas Day walk when London is deserted

    'I don't really do "Christmas". It's not a denial thing, just I hate the consumerism and excessive spending. I tend to go abroad, but if I am here I will always try to go on a Christmas Day walk in central London because I love seeing the West End so devoid of people and traffic. It's great to stand in the middle of Oxford Street at 10am and experience it so still and quiet. Two years ago I went on Peter Berthoud's walk: highly recommended.'

    Jane Parker, 'Jane's London'

    Follow Jane on Twitter: @JanesLondon

  • © Kerstin Rodgers

    18. Sharing a meal at a supper club

    'I like to spend Christmas in London because frankly, I like to be at home, with my log fire and my Aga. It feels like the countryside, even though I’m located in Kilburn. I often have a supper club around Christmas or on New Years Eve. It’s a time when one should open one’s house to strangers, waifs and strays, whether you run a supper club or not. And people without families really treasure the opportunity to eat with others and break bread with strangers that a supper club affords.

    This year I’m doing a Mexican New Year supper club. We will follow a Mexican New Year tradition of writing a sort of letter to the universe but with all the bad things that have happened over the last 12 months, then throw it into the log burning fire just before midnight. A bit like a reverse letter to Santa detailing all the stuff you don’t want to happen in the next year. This means you can start off with a karmically clean page for the year to come.'

    Kerstin Rodgers, 'MsMarmiteLover'

    Book for Kerstin's Mexican New Year supper club here. Vegans welcome, bring your own champagne and tequila.

  • © Rob Greig

    19. Enjoying a festive treat from Nordic Bakery

    'My Christmas tradition combines my love of festive hot drinks with my habit of writing in cafés, resulting in a quest to find the best festive drink. Each day I try a different coffee, chocolate, spiced apple or mulled wine, jumping from independent coffee houses to high street coffee chains, creating a sort of festive liquid advent calendar! You should definitely try a glass of Gloggi (the Nordic answer to mulled wine – sadly alcohol-free in the UK, yet still delicious) at the Nordic Bakery in Golden Square, grab a quick Honeycomb & Cream Hot Chocolate from Costa (my top pick of high street drinks), or head over to the food market behind the Southbank Centre for some proper mulled wine (and a festive nibble) on a Sunday afternoon.'

    G, 'The Magnificent Something'

    Follow G on Twitter: @magnisome

  • © Royal Festival Hall

    20. Showing a sensitive side at Slava's Snowshow

    'We love the South Bank during Christmas because it's full of lights and Christmas goodies. Walking along the river, we always begin our night by visiting the market, have a mulled wine, and then go to the Southbank Centre to watch a show. This year we have chosen Slava's Snowshow. Suggesting a show you have to pay for is not really in the style of Broke in London, but we decided to make an exception for this one. Slava's characters will really move you, creating a surreal atmosphere full of magic, hopes and dreams. It is a thrilling theatre piece, enchanting for all ages and especially suitable for the festive season. Definitely worth investing some money for a Christmas gift.'

    Manolis Zografakis, 'Broke in London'

    Follow Manolis on Twitter: @brokeinlondon1

© Annie and Andrew on Flickr

1. Festive sights and smells at Borough Market

'I always find that going to Borough Market around Christmas captures the essence of Christmas in London perfectly. It's a wonderful festive assault on all the senses. Wrap up warm and wander around whilst you sip mulled wine, eat homemade mince pies, listen to the Salvation Army performing Christmas tunes and breathe in the heavenly pine aromas of fresh Christmas trees. All that whilst taking in the visual wonders all around you. Then nip to Southwark Cathedral for a carol service and by then you'll be feeling so festive, you'll probably start sprouting mistletoe out of your ears!'

Imogen Parsons, 'Miss Immy's London'

Follow Imogen on Twitter: @MissImmo

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2 comments
Richard Butt
Richard Butt

Your pathetic attempt to garner pageviews and adclicks with this terrible 'slide show' have shaken my faith in humanity

Christmas in London

Discover all the festive activities to be enjoyed in London this Christmas, including markets, Christmas lights, pantomimes and carols.

See our guide to Christmas in London