As Christmas gets closer, London begins to get festive. Christmas in London means lights, festive windows, an outbreak of Christmas Markets and Ice Rinks popping up all over the city.
Whether you live in London or are just visiting, there’s bound to be something for you. We’ve rounded up a few of our favourite bits that Christmas in London has to offer.
Lights, camera, action for Christmas in London
If I’m honest, London’s Christmas lights can be a bit hit-and-miss. Sometimes they get an “ooh” at others it’s more “oh”. However, we know that some people (ourselves included) love to whiz around London to see them. This year, the hot theme for London’s Christmas lights seems to be recycling.
For the second year in a row, the Oxford Street lights are sponsored by the NSPCC, partnering this year with Sky Cinema. They aim to raise money for NSPCC and Childline with the festive “Light up Christmas for Children” campaign.
2017 is the 58th year that the road has been lit up for Christmas. This year, Oxford Street’s lights consist of 1778 decorations made from 750,000 LED lights, which is impressive. The designs are inspired by snowflakes and also feature advent calendar doors.
You can give money to the charities by buying one of the NDSPC pins from selected retailers on Oxford Street or by texting “Lights” to 70744 to donate £4. (Text costs include your donation of £4 plus your standard network rate. The NSPCC will receive 100% of your donation.)
Oxford Circus marks the crossing point of Oxford Street and Regent Street. In the past Regent Street has had some decidedly underwhelming lights. However, 2016 saw them get back on track with some pretty amazing angel displays. Clearly, someone decided that if it ain’t broke don’t try to fix. 2017 saw the angels making their second outing.
Despite the fact that it’s a repeat performance, the angels are spectacular and well worth a visit.
Another area of London that has decided to do some light recycling is Covent Garden. 2015 saw the arrival of some great big golden bells, adorned with lights that look like mistletoe berries and very attractive they looked. Alas, 2015 also marked the last outing of the Covent Garden Christmas Market.
In 2017, there’s still no sign of the Christmas Market and the Lego Christmas model hasn’t returned. However, make their third appearance are the big golden bells and they still look very attractive.
As a central London shopping street, Bond Street bears very little resemblance to it’s Oxford Street neighbour. In Bond Street, high street staple Primark, Matalan and Forever 21 give way to Prada, Moncler and Fendi. Given the upmarket nature of the shops, you would expect Bond Street’s Christmas lights to be just a little bit special.
Although they are making a return visit, Bond Street’s lavish giant Peacock feathers curve across the road like a feathery arch of diamonds. Stylish and spectacular, Bond Street has matched its upscale shops by having some of the elegant lights you will see at Christmas in London.
In the ’60s, Carnaby Street was at the very centre of the London fashion scene. Having degenerated into a road packed with tourist tat shops in the 1980’s, Carnaby Street and the surrounding area has now come full circle to be being a fashion hub once more. Independent boutiques rub shoulders with higher end high street brands in an area that buzzes with life.
As you might expect from an area that owes its fame to fashion, Carnaby Street usual puts on a stylish Christmas Light display. The 2017 theme is Carnaby Christmas Carnival. Splashes of colour arch over the streets, while brightly painted parrots take to the air amongst the party poppers.
A spot of window shopping
The tradition of decorating shop windows for the festive goes way back. By the 1880s it was a tradition for poor working-class people to travel to the West End on Christmas Eve to gaze at the displays of luxury items that they could never afford.
Today, the capital’s department stores go all out with their window displays for Christmas in London. From the wonderful to the occasionally weird, the big stores try to outdo one another with ever more lavish displays.
Selfridges, Oxford Street
For me, Selfridges Christmas window displays are a bit hit and miss. This year’s effort is all in all more of a hit. They certainly get an “A+” for eagerness, thrusting their festive displays at an unsuspecting public in the middle of October, with a “With love from” theme.
The Pearly Kings inspired Santa’s party in the corner window is a fun-filled monument to hedonism. The Oxford Street Windows are a blast of colour and style. They include an inflatable robin and market scene that apparently contains 5,000 hand-painted Brussel sprouts. However, my favourite windows were those on Orchard Street. The elegant cardboard cut-out scenes of London at night were amazing detailed and superbly executed.
John Lewis, Oxford Street
John Lewis usually themes their windows to match their Christmas advert. This year the advert centres around Moz the Monster. John Lewis never does “small” on their Christmas display and with Moz they have plenty of scope to go large.
There’s something cute in an ugly sort of way about Moz. The windows won’t appeal to the fine art crowd, but kids will love them as will those adults who have retained a little bit of their childish sense of humour. The window displays are packed with details, little jokes and snoring & farting sound accompaniment. Moz is joined by a few naughty bears and other friends in windows that will raise a smile.
If, after seeing the windows displays, you want a bit more Moz, you can visit him at home on the fourth floor.
Fortnum and Mason, Piccadilly
If I had to sum Fortnum and Mason up in a single word, it would be lavish. And lavish is a good word to describe their Christmas window displays too. Fortnum and Mason are often my favourite windows at Christmas.
This year’s theme is “Together we are merrier” and features some unusual pairings in vibrant scenes that are cleverly constructed. Again, these are windows that are worth taking the time to study as even the smallest mouse is fabulously detailed.
Liberty, Regent Street
Taking inspiration from the famous Clement Clarke Moore poem ”Twas the Night Before Christmas’, Liberty have excelled themselves this year.
Their fantastic display puts the store itself firmly at the centre of its Christmas windows. The centrepiece of the design is the stores 150-year-old iconic rooftop. Dusted with snow, the rooftops highlight some of the amazing items that can be found in the store.
Ralph Lauren, New Bond Street
If you go down to New Bond Street today, you’re in for a big surprise…
In a street that is jammed full of awesome window displays, there’s one that really stood out for us – Ralph Lauren. They have gone down to the woods (amongst other places) and their displays feature bears. These furry fellows are elegantly showcasing Ralph Lauren’s designer duds in a variety of settings. In outfits ranging from full black-tie to casual chic, these are some very well-dressed bears.
Very cleverly done, the windows manage to be elegant and stylish, while at the same time being oh-so-cute. There’s even a bear’s picnic (though at this one, it doesn’t look like anyone’s mummy and daddy will be taking them home to bed at six o’clock).
For a store with its history, people have high expectations of Harrods. We’re talking here of a store that burnt to the ground on the 6th December 1883 and yet still managed to deliver all its Christmas orders that year. It was also the first place in England to have an escalator.
Now part of the investment portfolio of the State of Qatar, 2017 has seen Harrods really go to town on its Christmas display. This year, they commissioned no less than Dolce and Gabbana to create their festive windows. The designing duo has created 14 amazing window scenes, featuring colour, humour and puppets. My personal favourite was the Italian kitchen, which features puppet Dolce & Gabbana as chefs (it also has a fridge that someone I know would die for).
Slip sliding away
If you fancy a Christmas treat that’s a little more active, then maybe a spot of skating is for you. In the festive season, ice rinks pop up all across the London. Winter Wonderland and Winterville both have rinks, so if you’re visiting either of them, you can get your ice fix there.
Every year, the East Lawn of the Natural History Museum is transformed into a rink with twinkling fairy lights, a carousel and a huge Christmas tree. You can also indulge in some Hotel Chocolat hot chocolate to warm up your frosty paws.
Somerset House is another regular on the winter skate scene. You can glide around in the beautiful courtyard, surrounded by neoclassical architecture. There’s a rink-side refreshment lodge, serving a range of drinks, where you can chill out after your skate session. This year, there is a Christmas pop-up shop from Fortnum and Mason, which features some of the fabulous foods and decadent drink.
Two other options for ice skating are two of London’s famous towers. At the Tower of London, you can skate against the backdrop of a 1000-year-old London landmark. Meanwhile, a bit further east in Lonon’s second financial district, you can skate at the foot of One Canada Square, aka the Canary Wharf Tower, where 1,000s of pounds change hands every second.
Doing a bit of marketing
Christmas in London means that a load of Christmas markets spring up across the city. We love a Christmas market and we’ve scouted around a load of them (some more than once) and you can read all about them in our Christmas markets in London article.
The Big one is, of course, Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park. There are also markets on the South Bank and at London Bridge City, if you fancy something by the river. Centrally, there is Christmas in Leicester Square. Heading south to Clapham Common we have Winterville. (even further south is the market at Kingston on Thames).
With so many options for things to do at Christmas in London, it can be hard to choose. Still, variety is the spice of life and with so much choice, there’s something for everyone. So, skating, window shopping or mulled wine drinking? What would your London Christmas treat be? Let us know below.