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Sure, New York may have the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree and the Rockettes, but for a Christmas to remember, visit London, where you’ll find charming cobblestoned streets lined with holiday markets, ice skating outside historic castles and some of the best renditions of A Christmas Carol live on stage.
One of the most beloved holiday spots in London is the Southbank Centre Christmas Market, comprising traditional German-style wooden huts on the Queen's walk along the river by the London Eye. Visitors will find toys and gifts, food and drink, including Glühwein, Bratwurst and gingerbread. The famous Camden Lock Market becomes even more festive as a Night Market in the run up to Christmas, where shoppers peruse the stalls for fashion, arts, crafts and homewares. Live entertainment and street food add to the thrill. If you’re opting for a more traditional shopping outing, head to Covent Garden. Centered around the piazza, Covent Garden Christmas offers a wide range of festive treats, from beautiful light displays to a performance by the Gay Men’s Choir every Saturday. A range of other activities includes the opening of a Lego advent calendar window every day, reindeer petting every Saturday and a food market every Thursday.
Some of the best lights in London can be found along Regent Street, where the mile-long display is decorated with gold holly and red berry garlands together with plaques recounting the story of the 12 days of Christmas. Don’t miss the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree, a seasonal symbol in London for more than 50 years and decorated in traditional Norwegian fashion, using vertical strings of lights. The tree has been a gift from the Norwegians to the British since 1947, a gesture of kinship during WWII.
Hyde Park goes all Christmassy in its Winter Wonderland, with the sparkly additions of rides and attractions including a Giant Observation Wheel and two circuses. While most activities are ticketed, entry to the Wonderland, including Santa Land and the Christmas Market is free and an after-dark stroll is surprisingly atmospheric. If temperatures plummet, there's rustic revelry on offer around open fires, with hot cider, mulled wine and food for sale. New this year is The Magical Ice Kingdom experience, which is sculpted from 200 tons of ice and snow and gives visitors a chance to explore frozen pathways and an ice forest to discover sculptures and characters in themed rooms—you can take a seat in a unicorn-pulled carriage, dare to approach the ice dragon's lair or meet the ice queen in her throne room.
Winter Wonderland's ice rink, the biggest outdoor rink in the UK, surrounds the Victorian bandstand and is illuminated with more than 100,000 lights. For a more historic setting, you can skate on the dry moat at the Tower of London ice rink with views of London's ancient fortress, or head just out of town for a spin on the rink at Historic Royal Palace Hampton Court. In the shadow of the London eye lays the Eyeskate rink, situated in Jubilee Gardens.
There may be no better place to see Dickens’ A Christmas Carol than on a stage in London and there are plenty of productions to choose from: Solo shows starring Clive Francis at the St James Theatre and Simon Callow at the Arts Theatre; a puppet-heavy adaptation at the Waterloo East Theatre and musical takes at Middle Temple Hall and the West End’s Scrooge.
Discover even more great things to see and do in London this Christmas, visit Britain.