I love the buildup to Christmas. As soon as we hit mid-November, I start to get that sparkly festive feeling.
Listening to Wham! on the radio. Humming along to Mariah Carey. Watching the Christmas lights slowly turn on down the street and across the city. The first mince pie. The first glass of mulled wine.
The Big Day itself is obviously awesome too, but I almost (almost) prefer the days that come before it. Especially in London, where there are so many Christmas events going on!
You could go out every night in December and still not claw your way through every festive activity the city has to offer, so I’ve made it easy for you and tried out a bunch for myself.
Here are my top 5 picks of festive things to do in London this year (that aren’t Winter Wonderland!)
SEE THE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS
One of my favourite festive things to do in London is to wander around town in the evening, soaking up the lights in the streets and shop windows.
Pick up a coffee and cinnamon swirl from Ole & Steen (the Dutch bakery on Haymarket), then head up through Piccadilly Circus and Regent’s Street.
Carnaby Street has an EXCELLENT light display this year, with a tropical theme that’s bursting with color.
The Ritz is one of my favourite places to drop by at Christmas. I’ve still never been inside, but you don’t really need to: the outside is worth the journey alone.
Selfridges and Fortnum & Mason are my pick of the best shop windows. F&M have a cuckoo clock outside the entrance this year, which plays the Sugar Plum Fairy music on the hour, every hour!
Gary and I went to Christmas at Kew last weekend and we LOVED it. It’s beautiful designed, quietly festive, and a perfect evening out for the whole family.
They’ve done a really clever job with lighting the trees, the music is great, and there are a couple of extra surprises, including a marshamallow roasting fire pit, and a mini pantomime for the children.
My particular favourite was the light show at the main conservatory, and a glorious tunnel of white fairy lights that looks straight out of a fairytale.
We had pints of Mortimer’s Orchard cider and mince pies at the entrance, followed by tartiflette (potato, cheese and bacon) and mulled wine halfway through the trail.
A beautiful event, and one I definitely plan on turning into a yearly festive tradition in our house!
TRY A COOKING CLASS
Too cold for the outdoors? Sign up to a cooking class and get cosy by the oven instead.
You already know that I’m a huge fan of cookery classes, so this December, book a class and learn all the best tips for cooking your perfect Christmas dinner.
I attended an event with AEG and Curry’s PC World at The Cookery School London a couple of weeks ago, where we learned how to make vegan filo pastry parcels (perfect for a festive starter!), and pate sucré (sweet pastry) for mince pies.
They also showed us the best oven tricks for cooking a perfect turkey, and then we got to eat our creations.
So whether you want to learn the secret to perfectly crispy roast potatoes, or just want to bake up a festive storm, book a class and make something delicious!
If you’re looking for a cool place in South London to meet your friends for festive drinks, look no further.
South Pole Saloon has taken over Brixton Rooftop and turned it into a joyous, festive ball of fun. Think fairy lights and greenery, live music, delicious food, festive drinks, and a venue licence that keeps them open til the early hours.
The Bangarang girls and I had our Christmas drinks here last week and LOVED IT. We sang along to the music. We sipped mulled wine, plum cider, and a fab cinnamon cocktail called “Santa’s Tart”. We ate yummmmy street food from Mac To The Future and Vudu Kitchen.
Insider tip: download the Embargo social app, and you’ll automatically receive a free dish from any of the food stores. Now that’s what I call festive spirit!
PS. Keep in mind there’s an entry fee for this venue.
Tucked away beside the Marble Arch Primark is a tiny doorway marked with a neon ‘B’. Pass the doorman, climb the stairs, and you’ll find yourself at Woody Bear, a fabulous rooftop bar, decked out with neon lights, tinsel and a huge Christmas tree.
Space is tight (they can only let 150 people in at a time), so it’s best to get there early.
Pick up a glass of the hot gin punch, then make your way to the kitchen area, where Madame & Monsieur have set up home for the season. We ordered the baked camembert (served with half a baguette), and a Welsh cheese toastie each to share. GLORIOUS. Melty and hot and full of beery-oniony-cheesy flavour.
The perfect beginning to any festive gathering!
Photos by Immy