The English capital is a fantastic city to visit at any time of year, but at Christmas there are even more wonderful things to do in London. I've listed my top tips below:
Liberty of London
This store has to be seen to be believed. in fact, if you didn't know it was there, it would be quite easy to miss. Many people unknowingly just walk down the nearby Regent's Street with its lights and plethora of high street stores. However, Liberty of London, on Great Marlborough Street is worth the small detour, even more so at this time of year. Even before you go in, its wood timbered facade is stunning. Inside, the Christmas lights are always quirky, chic and, quite simply breathtaking. Plus you get to look, and hopefully buy, lush shoes like these.
The Ballet at The Royal Opera House
I had a proper treat this week and went to see the Nutcracker at the Royal Opera House, which I would implore anyone to try to do. The whole evening was simply spectacular - the building itself is awe inspiring and worthy of dressier garb than I would usually wear to the theatre. The Nutcracker is also inherently Christmassy so my family and I had one of those pinch yourself experiences that I will treasure for as long as I can remember.
Columbia Road Market
Whilst I lived in London, I always found it more trouble than it was worth heading up to just North of Shoreditch. From my home in Battersea, the rail, bus and tube links weren't wonderfully compatible for what the eagle would deem a short journey. It meant, even when my brother lived in Dalston with all its fabulous restaurants and bars, I made the journey infrequently. I made an exception for two reasons 1) said brother 2) Columbia Road Market at Christmas. The street it is on is literally the most jam packed road in London on a Saturday morning in December, which isn't usually my thing. But the Christmas spirit and the spirited stall sellers makes for a sprightly visit. I buy a couple of poinsettias every year and enjoy working my way round the cute coffee bars laden with people escaping the cold and the crowds with a hearty brunch.
Visiting Harrods on any trip to London is a touristy cliche, but at Christmas, it is well worth the foray simply to see it wrapped and lit up ready for festive good cheer. It is also a great stop for buying overpriced goods that make great presents for the tricky people in your life. The food hall in particular is the perfect place to buy macaroons and jams emblazoned with the Harrods logo that will impress those you have no idea what to buy as their Christmas gift. The racing green packaging always goes down well, even if the contents are similar to those that can be found in Sainsbury's.
I remember a time in London when there were no special outdoor ice rinks around Christmas. Then, if my memory serves me rightly, Somerset House opened up Skate in its courtyard on the North bank of the Thames. Now, everywhere I look, there is a new location that has a lump of ice put outside it from about mid November onwards with a bar that sells overpriced and underspiced mulled wine on its sidelines. Skate is still my favourite though - perhaps simply because it was the first. Both Hampton Court Palace and the Natural History museum also have excellent ice rinks due to their impressive backdrops. Ice skating in London at Christmas is not cheap, but it is a fabulous experience for all the family.
A Christmas Light Tour of Covent Garden
Covent Garden is horribly busy at the best of times, but at Christmas it is for good reason. The lights in the over commercialised market place, down the Seven Dials and around Neal's Yard are very very very pretty and hopefully you can catch a free, and good, street show at the same time. It's also very close to Trafalgar Square where a Christmas tree from Norway, given to the Brits as a thank you for help during thecsecond World War, stands proudly every year outside the National Gallery. There are often free outdoor carol concerts to catch in these two areas, but a self guided walk is one of the best cheap things to do in the UK capital. Plus, if you steer clear of the main thoroughfares when looking for something to eat, you can pick up some fab food for pretty reasonable prices, even for London.