The winter holiday season is charming for many reasons, but London (and the city’s world-renowned festivities) may just take the cake.
For those of you that have already been to England, or simply have it on your must-travel list – you’d be the first to recognize the iconic rolling hills, grey misty winter mornings and the red busses zipping through the crowded streets of their capital city.
Perhaps a little biased, I find myself feeling quite mystified with each of these aspects of England that many have come to know and love – but also with the extravagance that is London at Christmas time.
What makes Christmas in London so special?
If you’ve never been to England’s capital city during the holidays, then you’re in for a treat. Brits certainly take the festive decorations seriously, with many displays going up in early November, and the official lighting of the city’s main Christmas lights taking place in the second week of the month. You’ll find carolers popping up at train stations around the city, skating rinks on the ground and even on the roof (check out this Sipsmith-sponsored event from 2019), bellies full of mulled wine and sloe gin alongside the roaring fires at nearly every pub in sight.
Christmas enthusiasts around the world have flocked to this English city for years to see the splendor of every borough, and for good reason. Each area of the city is unique in its decor, truly reflecting the personality of the areas in which you’ll find it. From Chelsea’s gold and white luxury, to the neon of Coal Drops Yard – you’ll find a version of Christmas that can suit anyone’s taste – unless you’re the grinch, of course. Though, perhaps they might have made a Mt. Crumpet by now.
Iconic Christmas displays that you can’t miss
The UK, and London specifically, are incredibly well-known for their Christmas displays. From lights to massive trees, a wrapped building to “snowglobe” tables at the Coppa Club – it’s hard to miss out on the holiday cheer.
Covent Garden is the place to be for all things festive with beautifully decorated trees and lights that could make anyone envious, not to mention the fantastic restaurants and take-away spots situated within it’s close quarters.
Bond Street is a personal favourite – this year displaying lights in the shape of peacock feathers. This is said to mimic the 1800’s habit of men walking down the streets in their finest clothes, coining the term “peacocking”.
If you’re looking for one of the most striking light displays in London, Regent Street is a can’t miss. The iconic angel lights are a year to year staple, with people flocking to one of the busiest London streets every year to see them light up the sky.
The Churchill Arms
If Christmas were a pub, it would be the Churchill Arms. All of you Christmas enthusiasts will love their maximist displays. This year, their display consists of 90 trees and 12,000 lights – and there’s nothing wrong with stepping in for a mulled wine either.
The Duke of York Square and Sloane Street are two spots that every Chelsea resident will tell you to stop for. This year, the switch on happened a little earlier than normal to bring about the holiday cheer – which many seemed to love.
The Kew Gardens is a beautiful stop on its own – but with the added Christmas displays, it becomes the photographer’s dream.
A neighbourhood that’s hard to pronounce and filled with shops, Marylebone was another borough that added the early switch-on this year. These lights are perfect for holiday parties on the various rooftops, and gorgeous to view from the street.
Massive tree? Check! Head to Trafalgar Square to see the 25 meter Christmas tree light up the square – a breathtaking view, to say the least! Fun fact, since 1947, it’s been Norway’s “thank you” gift for the UK’s participation in World War 2!
The lighting of Central London
By far, the lighting of London’s Christmas lights is a personal favourite for so many. It draws a massive crowd every year, all waiting for the countdown to end, the lights to shine bright and the jaws to drop.
Known for the angels that span the width of one of London’s largest main roads, Regent Street is a must see – whether you’re living in the city or just there for a visit. Just a short skip away, Oxford Street and Bond Street both have light displays that vary depending on the year – part of the fun is seeing whether or not you can predict what the theme will be. In a normal year, the ‘switch-on’ events typically see not only the lighting of these displays, but being the busiest shopping street in the UK/EU, it hosts a variety of in-store shopping events and other multi-industry holiday festivities as well.
Where will next year’s festivities take you?
So, is Christmas in London as dreamy as we’re told? The short answer: yes!
Though COVID-19 has impacted travel plans worldwide, whether you were planning on travelling for the holidays or not, it’s still a nice distraction to think about future trips you might like to take.
Technology has really made an impact this year – virtual tours have allowed us to see places we’ve dreamt of straight from our living room couch. Not that it’s the same by any means, but it’s still a nice escape.
Do you think you’ll head to London around the holidays at some point? Or perhaps you have already done so? Whether you choose the UK, or one of the other fabulously festive places on this list, we’re sure they won’t disappoint.
Interested in reading about other places and their traditions over the holidays? Check out this blog post with 3 German Christmas traditions you might not know about.
About the Author
Gretchen is Wild Bum’s Guide Architect of the Month for December, to read more about her and her travels check out this blog post.