Come winter, London pulls out all the stops. The city shines bright, from Regent Street’s spectacular lights to Selfridges’ whimsical window displays. But Christmas isn’t just about hitting the shops. London stays hip even during the holidays, when seasonal pop-ups sprout up all over town. Go ice-skating on Somerset House’s glorious outdoor rink, take a bewitching walk through Kew Gardens at night, or drop in on the Queen of Hoxton’s magical rooftop. Need more inspiration? Give these five ideas a go, and you might just find yourself believing in Santa again…
With its crowds of puppets and marionettes, this vintage toyshop is sure to spark children’s imaginations – especially during the holidays. Come admire its Victorian model theatres, the trademark of the original shop opened by Benjamin Pollock in 1856. You might just fall under the spell of a pretty music box, a wooden nutcracker, or some old-fashioned decorations for your tree.
Through a wood of glittering trees, under a tunnel of luminous vines… To warm up winter nights, Kew Gardens turns into a landscape straight from a Christmas fairy tale. For this seventh edition, the treetop walk gets the star treatment with a silvery cascade of lights. Meet Santa and his elves, and sample mulled wine and roasted marshmallows. From 20 November 2019 to 5 January 2020; book ahead.
There is nothing like the warm, heady scent of Fabrique’s cinnamon buns to bolster the festive spirit. The Scandinavian bakery has five London locations, but all of its breads and pastries are baked in Hoxton, in a lovingly converted railway arch. Take a well-deserved “fika” break and savour them warm from the oven, while picking up tricks of the trade from watching the bakers at work.
Every winter, Jimmy Garcia sets up see-through igloos (designed for six to 10 people) along the river’s South Bank. Known for his spectacular pop-ups, the plucky young chef has recreated the luxe, cosy vibes of Courchevel. Tuck into a cheese fondue or split a prime rib of beef. Book ahead if you can; if you miss out, the next-door chalet makes a good fall-back plan.
In summer, its façade all but disappears beneath a curtain of flowers; in winter, it’s covered in twinkling Christmas trees. Winston Churchill’s grandparents were regulars at this Notting Hill pub, a local institution since 1750. Inside, beneath a ceiling strung with hanging lanterns and pitchers, people gather around pints of real ale and hearty Thai dishes. A quirky pairing, in true British style.
While London is a city for all seasons, it seriously turns on the charm in winter.
From festive teas to the latest shows, a London adventure is top of our Christmas list.
Get into the festive family spirit this winter with fun in London for your tout petits
Some fun activities for families if you're coming to London with your kids.