December 2019 has a lot in store for visitors – it is city-break goals at this time of year. Between festive markets with mulled wine for the parents and Santa’s grottos for the kids, you are in for a treat this Christmas-time. From The Montcalm London to Montcalm at the Brewery, and all the yuletide activities in between, you will go home feeling refreshed and ready to tackle 2020 with a newfound sense of excitement and energy. Don’t only go for the obvious options – though they are great, no doubt – and try to get a good scope of the annual, text-book-London celebrations as well as some more alternative activities.
Christmas markets certainly fall into the category of “tourist-dense activities”, however, this is for a reason – they are quintessential London experiences when it comes to the festive period. There are a number of markets you can visit all over the city, but the most famous is the Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park. For the festive season, what is year-round an open, green expanse of park and space becomes a bustling Christmas market brimful of delicious treats, warm drinks, fun-fair equipment and an ice skating rink. There is something for the whole family, from spiced wine for the parents to meeting Santa Claus for the kids. The Leicester Square Christmas Market is another top class option, with a number of stores, lights and smells to get you feeling jolly, as is the London Bridge City Christmas Market, which includes spectacular London-views and a riverside perch to enjoy your big cups of hot chocolate.
Ice skating in London at Christmas-time is a festive bucket list activity. During the day is the best time to visit for the whole family, as they are much more geared to children and family-fun. There are rinks scattered across the city, but there are a couple of gems which shine the brightest. First on that list is the rink at the Natural History Museum in South Kensington. With the backdrop of the museum, a little penguin to keep your children standing upright on the ice and festive tunes blasting from the speakers, you will feel confident in your choice to visit. Second on that list is the rink at Somerset House, where the Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court is transformed from historically significant, architecturally brilliant courtyard into a festive paradise. If you and your kids aren’t experienced skaters, there is a skate-school for all ages and a polar bear club for under 8’s to learn the skill in a safe, fun and friendly environment which facilitates laughter and friend-making – two of the season’s most loveable qualities.
The pantomime is a classic pillar of festive fun in the UK, with family-friendly shows filled with music, dancing, outrageous costumes and laughter on stage. They take place across the city, so it will be easy to find one near your hotel. The slapstick-style plots are often just up the kids’ alley, with plenty of jokes for adults that soar over the young ones’ heads – it is the perfect combination. The familial tradition of pantomime is rooted as far back as the Middle Ages and is something slightly different to enjoy for the whole family, whilst retaining that yuletide sparkle. Two great shows to get booking are Aladdin: Everything You Could Wish For In A Panto and Goldilocks and the Three Bears, at the Churchill Theatre and London Palladium respectively.
Biscuit decorating is that double-whammy type of Christmas activity, where you get the joy of baking and decorating them compounded with the bliss of eating them. Make sure you take some pics before they get devoured, though, because if you have been to Biscuiteers Boutique and Icing Café in South West London then you are going to have some pretty attractive biscuits in your possession. The DIY Icing Café sessions take place every day at the Northcote Road and Notting Hill Icing cafes, but the season gets busy so be sure to book ahead to avoid disappointment. You don’t need to bring anything except your cheerful disposition and a rumbling in your bellies for some hand-iced biscuits – everything else is provided. There is no minimum age for the young star bakers of the family. It is up to you whether you think they will be able to ice a biscuit so if you think they are the next Michaelangelo of the biscuit-art world, then bring the whole family.
A Christmas Meal
People vary in their favourite part of Christmas, but it is safe to say that a fair few people consider the food to be the best part. While travelling over Christmas time, the prospect of a home-cooked meal seems like an idol hope. However, in London, there are so many rustic pubs and family-friendly restaurants serving up Christmas dinners that you will feel like you haven’t had to leave your living room – better yet, you don’t even have to clean up afterwards!
There are three Christmas menus at Gordon Ramsay’s Bread Street Kitchen in St Paul’s of epic proportion between 19 November and 26 December. There are special prizes for kids who won’t be partaking in the champers as well as all the favourites, like traditional roast turkey with all the trimmings, and a couple of Ramsey-style additions, like a mushroom, truffle and ricotta tortelloni.
Another killer option is The Lighterman at King’s Cross. This spot is beautiful as it is, given its location next to the Regent’s Canal at its perch in Granary Square. Throw in some Christmas lights and roast free-range Norfolk bronze turkey breast, confit leg with pork stuffing, cranberry compote and roast trimmings, and you have yourself a winner.
Spa breaks in London can be dreamy and relaxing, but so can family-orientated, seasonal fun provided you know where to go and don’t only do the activities that come out the old-fashioned tourist guides. Mix things up and do a range of things: you will find this so much more rewarding and you won’t spend your whole family festive trip in lines or crowded rooms.