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Help me plan a London/UK Christmas!

(22 Posts)
FollowYourOwnNorthStar Wed 23-Jan-19 04:28:19

I live in Australia, and I love Christmas. However reading about the love everyone has for a traditional cold weather Christmas has set me thinking. By a coincidence of events, my family won’t celebrate Christmas together on the day (will no doubt all get together before or afterwards), but it leaves the Christmas period free, and I am weighing up the idea of taking 3 weeks holidays and flying to the UZ to experience a winter Christmas.

Obviously, there are things I need to wait and see about (Brexit and a job opportunity here), but if I did this, can I have your suggestions as to things to do to get the full experience?

Some notes:
- I have been to the UK before, just not in winter (so it’s not a first-time-see-everything-trip)
- I know Christmas is a family time, but I am generally happy with my own company, and don’t think I will be lonely. I am quite happy to go to things on my own
- people talk about getting Panto tickets very far in advance. What is this and where do I get them?
- I am not wedded to the idea of London, if other places are suggested, I would go there too, or instead of. Just trying to start somewhere.

Any thoughts/activities make a winter Christmas so magical would be appreciated!

FollowYourOwnNorthStar Wed 23-Jan-19 04:30:30

Forgot to add this would be for Christmas 2019. This window has just come up and I’m just organising thoughts now to see if it really is a plan. I don’t want to regret not using this one “off” year to go!

WinterHeatWave Wed 23-Jan-19 06:03:39

Does snow feature in your version of a magical Christmas? Because the chances are the weather will be cold, damp and grey. Not cold, crisp and snowy.

Not sure how cold your bit of Aus gets. We life somewhere hot, that doesn't do Christmas, and if I take the kids to the UK, we try and do the following:
Walk through a city centre after dark (about 4pn) to see the lights
Go ice skating
Go to the theatre/panto - when you know what city, Google theatre, December, city and see what comes up. Not sure about sending ticketsxabtoad (Mum does this for us!) But you should be able to find an option to collect from the ticket office the day of the performance.
Go to a snow dome, we play in real snow (you can prob go skiing instead of sledging and mucking about in a snow covered playground!)
If you are in a big city, some of the displays in the shop windows are worth looking out for.

I wonder if Manchester or Edinburgh might be worth going to? With a trip out into the hills for a bracing walk one day might be worth doing?

Accomadation and food on Christmas day coukd be hard to find /very expensive. Check out this bit if you put your plan into action.

Have a fab trip!

Toomanycats99 Wed 23-Jan-19 06:35:19

If you are going to / near London there is a beautiful light display at Kew Gardens. I think I booked tickets late summer - they sold out pretty quickly.

London has winter wonderland but i find it a bit of a rip off but maybe if you are a solo adult just having a wander it will be better.

John Lewis in London often have little wood cabins on their roof on oxford street and you can sit up there with blankets cushions and a hot chocolate!.

London has a really big well known name panto in one of the main theatres (palladium?) but there are loads more all over.

stridesy Wed 23-Jan-19 10:11:32

If you were doing London there's seeing the Christmas lights along oxford street and the window displays I think at selfridges and liberty. Visiting Haroods. Maybe afternoon tea at selfridges or claridges if wanted to push the boat out. Winter wonderland (get there early if want to avoid crowds) and hard rock is opposite. There's sometimes stalls along the south bank river.
Not sure how in advance would need to book tickets but depends what your seeing and when but lots of places to book online.
As someone mentioned Edinburgh. My bil once spent Christmas in Cornwall overlooking the sea.
You could split it and see the Xmas markets in Europe ie Germany/Belgium first.

Polly99 Wed 23-Jan-19 10:31:50

Things to do in London are:

Ice skating (or just watching) at Somerset House after dark.

A pantomime - my Australian colleagues could not believe what they were seeing. We went to the Old Vic some years ago. I’m not sure if they do one every year, but the Palladium does - search ‘panto’ on their website - tickets are not yet on sale but you can join their mailing list.

Carols at the Royal Albert Hall- tickets are already selling for December.

Kew Gardens lights are supposed to be lovely.

The Tower of London is worth visiting in December as it is dark in the afternoon so rather atmospheric and lovely.

Christmas in London is often grey and damp - and not always properly cold. So if snow is important you might want to head north. I think if I wanted a proper cold Christmas I might go to Braemar (about 1.5 hours from Aberdeen and Dundee). There are some nice- looking hotels up there. There wouldn’t be a huge amount to do (although there are some small art galleries etc) but if you want walking and Christmas cosiness I think it would deliver.

tentative3 Wed 23-Jan-19 18:36:11

I would definitely consider European markets as well as UK, the atmosphere is great and it's usually colder IME. You'd only need a couple of days so wouldn't take out much of your time. I wouldn't recommend Bruges for the markets although Bruges itself is gorgeous.

Chingling Sun 27-Jan-19 13:32:12

We did Christmas in London last year- very expensive, much more than Asia or the Usa where we often go but we had a reason to be there.

We did:
Ice skating at Somerset House
Carols at albert hall
Midnight mass at st pauls
Christmas carol at old vic
various meals out, oxo tower, sheekys,
museums, post train etc
Winter wonderland-only a few of our party wanted to go

Most museums etc closed on christmas eve.
Very limited number of places to have Christmas lunch- we to The Cinnamon Club which was nice and compared to their usual prices quite good value.

London hotels don't tend to be very christmassy- I would do London between Christmas and New Year and go to a country house hotel for Christmas. Then go somewhere cold for New Year - Helsinki or Tallin are great.

You just buy tickets online and download them for most theatres. You can opt to pick up a physical ticket from the box office.

Deminism Fri 01-Feb-19 00:11:02

I would do Christmas in London and new year in Edinburgh, with a night or two away from London before Christmas somewhere Christmassy with a market like Bath. I would get tickets for the Hackney Empire Pantone first and maybe a good show somewhere like the royal festival hall on Boxing Day. Christmas Day has potential to be lonely. A morning walk through central London is fab though as v empty. You can take amazing empty pics.

FollowYourOwnNorthStar Sun 03-Feb-19 02:04:25

Thanks everyone! I appreciate the great ideas.
@WinterHeatWave I hadn’t even thought about snow! (Silly I know, but it is 40 degrees Celsius here at the moment!) It doesn’t form part of the “must have” experience, but of course, it would be nice if it was there!

MumUnderTheMoon Mon 04-Feb-19 22:31:15

London is an amazing city but I find it very overwhelming myself, Manchester and Edinburgh are also great it will bee colder the further north you go and probably mor grey and wet over Christmas. I'm from belfast and it's lovely here on the run up to Christmas the Christmas market is lovely and the grand opera house always has a great Panto. If you are going to do three weeks why not do a bit of a tour? Here in Northern Ireland you can do tours of the city and Game of Thrones locations (if you like the show) it's not a huge place so you could stay two/three nights here and then fly on to England or Scotland.

Loopytiles Tue 18-Jun-19 20:43:43

Snow v v unlikely.

Would do London, Yorkshire, Lakes or Northumberland, and Scotland! By train, although that can be a bit ropey as they save all the engineering works until holidays angry

Maybe plane 😀

Deminism Tue 16-Jul-19 18:16:13

Are you going to do this OP?

user27495824 Fri 19-Jul-19 23:55:43

Why IS a winter a Christmas tradition in Australia though? It's always baffled me. Why don't you have traditional summer themed decorations and summery songs? I can't wrap my head around it.

That query asside, I'd love to experience an Australian Christmas with a barbecue maybe and boxing day on the beach. My suggestion would be to consider Chester, or Manchester. Chester is a tiny city and absolutely beautiful at Christmas, it is quaint but not rural, has Roman walls you can walk around which is nice in winter and their Christmas shopping is the best. Google Chester Christmas and see it all lit up. Manchester is a lot bigger than Chester and would have more things on, (but not as quaint). They have a huge international christmas market on. They are close enough for you to do both. York is another suggestion.

user27495824 Sat 20-Jul-19 00:03:20

Just found an advert for a singles Christmas hotel break in Chester and it gives a good description of the city, the 'friendship host' might be useful if you are coming on your own. httpss://

TheGrapefulDread Sat 20-Jul-19 00:25:09

Dickens and Snow anyone ?

HappyInL0nd0n Sat 20-Jul-19 00:36:56

Christmas Bach to Baby concert if you have young kids

sleepwhenidie Sat 20-Jul-19 08:41:44

Christmas in London is great and actually should be pretty quiet, so many residents leave so it usually is. My list would look very much like Chingling’s.

Kew Gardens light display or London Zoo also does one now
A Christmas Carol at The Old Vic (definitely!)
Ice skating at Natural History Museum or Somerset House
A walk on Hampstead Heath followed by lunch at The Spaniards Inn
Harrods if only for window display
Gingerbread city exhibition (if on again)
If it was just me and I was feeling very flush I’d go to one of the rooftop cinemas for a Christmassy film and hot chocolate The Berkeley looks amazing but £shock
Christmas lights around Mayfair (don’t stick to Oxford and Regents St)
Jazz Cafe in Camden for London Gospel Choir’s Christmas gig
Carol service at a church - All Souls Church by the BBC (nr Oxford Circus) have several lovely ones.

ExpletiveDelighted Sat 20-Jul-19 08:47:13

A few years ago we went on an after-dark open top bus tour to see the lights in London, perishingly cold but so beautiful and the commentator made it fun and interesting.

sleepwhenidie Sat 20-Jul-19 09:28:52

South Bank for Christmas markets etc (nicer than Winter Wonderland)
Go on a Christmas Tree tour...Trafalgar Square, St Pancras, Berkeley Square (Annabels), Claridges. Having a glass of something bubbly at each one makes this even more fun smile

jackparlabane Sat 20-Jul-19 09:58:09

The Old Vic usually does a panto aimed at adults (even more filthy jokes than usual), or for the more traditional version try Wimbledon or Richmond theatres - you want a good script and dame for comedy, but some focus on getting C-list celebs in.

Ice skating at Somerset House is beautiful. The shop windows From selfridges to Hamlets are often worth it but the lights aren't always great. Covent Garden Market will have entertainers around it and loads of crafts on sale. And the South Bank for food like mince pies and mulled wine by the river (or inside the Tate Modern or RFH if the weather means inside is necessary)
Kew usually has a light show but there's been amazing ones in Canary Wharf the last couple years.
Also a carol service in St Paul's, Westminster Abbey or cathedral, or a Carol concert in a smaller church.

SwearyWhitehouse Sat 20-Jul-19 10:04:19

I’d do one of the big churches for Midnight Mass (base this on where you’re staying, it can be hell to get back from when transport has shut down). I don’t know about St Pauls but at Westminster Abbey you have to register for tickets in around September - they’re free and you can return them if you change your mind but you can’t just pitch up.

The Southbank market is much nicer than Winter Wonderland but if you’re over before Christmas and coming all the way from Australia it might be worth a flight to Cologne or similar for their Christmas markets. EasyJet do cheap flights and hotels aren’t expensive. They all shut by Christmas Eve though.

I like meandering around. Christmas is so quiet in London so a river walk or run on Christmas Day is heavenly.

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