Three years ago my husband and I were lucky enough to experience the magic of London at Christmas Time.
This should be on your bucket list!
My youngest was starting her senior year in high school.
And on a lazy Sunday in June, I saw a photo of London at Christmas time on Pinterest.
And I immediately put seeing this magical Christmas scene on my bucket list.
Then a fare war popped up for the nonstop British Airways flights from San Diego to London in December.
It took me all of ten minutes to book our flights for the coming December!
If you haven’t added London at Christmas time to your bucket list yet – I will be shocked if you haven’t by the end of this post ;)!
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Travel Guide for London at Christmas Time
- Where to Stay for the Most Festive Atmosphere
- Where to Eat
- What to Do in London at Christmas Time
- Our Full Trip Itinerary in a Nutshell
Where to Stay for the Most Festive Atmosphere
I knew I needed to stay at the hotel with one of the most decorated for Christmas lobbies.
However – I also had a budget I needed to stick to…
So after A LOT of research and talking to Instagram friends that actually live in London, I was able to narrow down my list and find this perfect place to stay for us that was in our price range :).
I will tell you that while I obviously could only stay at one hotel – I did manage to check out the decked out lobbies of as many of the hotels I could that I knew would make it worth my time ;).
The Langham London is perfectly located right at the start (or end depending on which way you are going) of the main shopping street of Regent Street in Marylebone in the West End of London.
And right in the middle of all the Christmas lights above the streets.
EXACTLY WHAT I WAS LOOKING FOR!
In the heart of the Mayfair neighborhood of London, even if you don’t actually stay here, be sure to pop into the lobby and check out their Christmas tree of the year.
They change the theme every year and it is 100% always something incredible to see!
When we were there in 2018, we saw a Diane von Furstenburg themed tree ;).
Another hotel that we took the time to check out the Christmas decorations at!
I will say – while I know the nightly rate for this hotel may be a tad pricey – if you are trying to spoil yourself for the most memorable Christmas vacation ever… this or Claridge’s would most certainly do it!
Another London at Christmas time lobby must see!
And yes – there are A LOT of them! I told you it took me a while to do my research!!
Our Christmas 2018 theme was Mary Poppins! How fun and festive is that??
photo courtesy of the Dorchester Hotel Instagram account
While this hotel does not necessarily have an Instaworthy Christmas lobby per se – the location alone makes it absolutely worth a stay!!
I have mentioned in previous hotel and travel posts that I am ALL ABOUT THE LOCATION FOR MY ACCOMODATIONS and Covent Garden Hotel is in my very very favorite part of London…
We recently canceled a stay here for August (2021) because of the Covid-19 pandemic flare-up in our hometown (my husband works in healthcare and is directly affected by the chaos of the virus).
You can bet your bottom dollar though that I will be staying here as soon as I get my butt back over the pond!
Cannot come soon enough…
It is worth noting that the firm that owns this hotel has many charming hotels worth looking into at Firmdale Hotels.
We were also planning a stay at this hotel for our August 2021 trip…
Fun fact – I am actually writing this blog post instead of actually being on our trip to the UK – not sure if that is really all that fun but at least it has me reminiscing of a wonderful Christmas trip I was able to take a few years back ;).
Gotta keep dreaming – right??
I know a stay at this stunning property is in my very near future!
photos courtesy of www.lanesborough.com
Where to Eat
Truth be told I am not a food girl.
I do not travel or live for food.
HOWEVER, I am all about the experience at restaurants.
And making it a fun event.
Having said that – this list of places to experience in London at Christmas time may or may not be up to snuff if you are a die hard foodie that needs every meal to be one of your best 😂.
If you are in London to experience all the Christmas things like we were in 2018, you very likely will just be eating on the go at all the Christmas markets however here is a list of places I find worthy of mentioning in case you want to sit at a nice table ;).
World reknowned for being a fun Instaworthy stop- right down to the egg bathrooms…
Sketch is actually four separate restaurants all in the same building with their own unique character.
Make a reservation and be sure to put your photo from here on Insta!
photo courtesy of 34 Mayfair Instagram account
Photo courtesy of Peggy Porschen Instagram account
Photo courtesy of Dalloway Terrace Instagram account
photo courtesy of Mare Street Market Instagram account
photo courtesy of Minnow Clapham Instagram account
photo courtesy of Gearcy’s Instagram account
photo courtesy of Sophie’s Soho Steakhouse Instagram account
One of Princess Kate’s favorite London restaurants (which kinda makes it a royal eatery – doesn’t it?)
Photo courtesy of Bluebird Cafe Instagram account
photo courtesy of Comptoir Cafe Instagram account
What to Do in London at Christmas Time
While London is not necessarily known for having the quaint and charming Christmas markets that you would find on mainland Europe – they still very easily get you in the Christmas spirit.
We were able to meander through a few of the markets below and have a few beverages on our way.
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland is most certainly the largest in the city with rides and an ice skating rink. We felt it gave off more of a county fair vibe for us though and decided to just enjoy it from the outside at the end of our day :).
- Leicester Square Christmas Market
- Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
- Greenwich Christmas Market
- Christmas by the River at London Bridge
- Canopy Market
BUY YOUR TICKETS FOR THIS TOUR AS SOON AS YOU KNOW YOU ARE GOING!!
I cannot express this loudly enough! I bought our tickets for this tour the same day in August that I bought our airline tickets…
Yes – I meant that far in advance!!
And yes – IT IS WORTH IT!!
The studio is located about a twenty minute train ride from the London Euston train station. There is a shuttle bus that picks you up at the train station and takes you straight to the studios and is included in the price of your tour ticket.
If you have read any of my other travel posts, you know I LOVE Flytographer. I honestly cannot say enough good things about this company.
If you are on the fence as to whether or not to book a shoot with this company, go read my Flytographer post.
You can also get $25 off your first photo shoot if you use the code ‘PASHAISHOME‘.
Rajesh, our photographer, ended up spending the entire day with us and taking us to places we never would have taken ourselves.
Raj also does walking tours of London that look so fun – like showing you all the fun John Lennon and Yoko Ono haunts as well as a Dr Who walking tour!
Go visit his website here to see what else he offers ;).
We visited the Floris Perfume Shop on Jermyn Street where Ian Fleming (James Bond writer), Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana all had their own personal scents created.
And Lock and Co Hatters where Prince William and Prince Charles have their hats made ;).
And then we checked out the cigar shoppe that Sir Winston Churchill got his favorite smokes at called James J Fox Cigar Shoppe.
We truly had one of the best days of our trip with Raj in London – as has been the case with every Flytographer we have ever booked!!!
Shop Oxford and Regent Streets
These streets right here are what I first saw on Pinterest and immediately decided I needed to see for myself…
These are the main shopping streets of the city where you can find pretty much everything as well as all the things you are NOT looking for ;).
Wander the Streets of Seven Dials
As mentioned above – the neighborhood of Seven Dials is my absolute favorite part of the city.
I will be spending a lot more time on these streets in visits to come ;).
Get Hot Chocolate at Covent Garden
Covent Garden used to be a fruit and vegetable market and has now turned into a fun open air destination for shopping, dining, and just chilling.
The Royal Opera House is attached to this destination as well.
We got some pretty tasty hot chocolate here ;).
If you remember above under where to stay – I mentioned this is the neighborhood that I plan on staying at next time I am visiting London ;). Well technically I want to stay in the Seven Dials neighborhood but this is in the same vicinity…
The above photo was actually featured by USA Today back in December 2018 after I posted it on my Instagram account and it caught their eye ;).
Annabel’s is an exclusive (and pricey!) private members club. You cannot get in unless you are with a member…
But they sure do gussy their exterior up every year for Christmas.
Clearly worth a stop to get that Instagram photo ;).
Browse Harrod’s Department Store
The New York City Macy’s of London.
You could spend all day here.
In fact, we only spent a couple of hours goofing around – but did stop in their food court for a late dinner and beer 🤪.
See a Show
Unfortunately we did not plan far enough ahead to get ourselves tickets to Harry Potter The Play.
I wanted to surprise my husband with tickets to this play last Christmas when we were going to have a stopover in London on our way home from Finland…
But alas – Covid had other plans for all of us…
It’s still on the list.
So instead we saw the longest running show in London – Mousetrap.
All I will say about that show is that it was most certainly entertaining and clearly a staple of the London theatre district.
Check Out All the London Tourist Spots
I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you – you have to at the very least walk past all the famous sights in London.
This London at Christmas time trip was our fourth visit to the city so we really had no need to see all the regular tourist sights again.
I am guessing you know what they all are – but in case you don’t here is a list of places we have explored (or walked by) on our past visits that you can’t go to London without seeing:
- Palace of Westminster and Big Ben (was under construction in 2018 and is still so because of the pandemic with no expected end date as of yet). You can only go inside the Parliament building as an organized tour that you need to buy tickets ahead of time for.
- Westminster Abbey – buy tour tickets online so that you do not have to wait in line
- Buckingham Palace and the changing of the guard – you can tour 19 rooms in the palace in the months of July – October by buying timed tickets in advance online. I sadly have never visited during those months!!
- Tower of London and Tower Bridge
- Trafalgar Square (which also has a Christmas market…)
- London Eye – a cantilever observation wheel with incredible views of the city (if it’s not raining that is!) It is in fact the largest observation wheel in Europe. Avoid the lines and buy tickets online in advance! This line gets LONG!!
- St Paul’s Cathedral – fun fact: we attended mass services here on our honeymoon back in 1993 and the Queen Mother was in attendance!! I even curtsied to her (well so I think I did anyway… I might not really know how to curtsy to a royal 😬)
- Hampton Court Palace – about an hour train ride out of the city but 100% worth the visit! Another one that we purchased tickets online ahead of time to avoid the line and were very happy we did!
- Churchill War Rooms – seriously learned so much about WWII in this bunker museum. Probably one of my most favorite museums I have been to (but you might not know I am more of a history buff than an art buff so there’s that..)
Our Full Trip Itinerary in a Nutshell
- Flew San Diego to London via British Airways overnight nonstop flight
- Arrived London 2pm
- London – spent day with Flytographer
- London – morning at Harry Potter Studios and then evening wandering London streets
- London – wandered the streets in Seven Dials and Covent Garden and saw a play
- Train to Strasbourg, France
- Day in Strasbourg, France
- Day trip from Strasbourg to Colmar and Riquewihr, France
- Train to Paris 10:42am – walked around Paris
- Flew home to San Diego from Paris on British Airways flight
I hope this post has inspired you to visit London at Christmas time.
Above all, it truly is a magical place during the holiday season.
And a perfect place to get in the spirit :).
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Oh Christmas isn’t just a day,
It’s a frame of mind.
~ Miracle on 34th Street
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Have a wonderful day my friend! I hope something makes you smile today ;).