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ayla Dec 17th, 2006 02:10 PM

Christmas in London
I'll be in the London area between Christmas and New Years. Anything in particular that my family and I should do during that time of year?

NeoPatrick Dec 17th, 2006 02:45 PM

It's a wonderful time. But I'm not sure what types of things you're looking for -- there are hundreds of possibilities. I'm assuming you've already done a search here for "Christmas in London" and have looked at the hundreds of posts giving ideas?
Pantomimes, concerts, opera, plays, lighting displays, museums with special exhibits?

fun4all4 Dec 17th, 2006 03:03 PM

I agree with is a wonderful time to be in London - we were both there last Christmas for the week. I was there with my DH and our 2 boys, ages 11 and 14 at the time.

What are the ages and genders of those in your group? Also, tell us a little more about your interests. One thing our family loved that only goes on this time of year are the pantomimes.

Here is a link to my report if you are interested. It talks about some of the things we saw and did. Maybe it will be of some help.

Happy planning and travels! I'd be happy to answer any questions or try to give more suggestions once you tell us a bit more. :-)

janisj Dec 17th, 2006 03:47 PM

&quot;<i>Anything in particular that my family and I should do during that time of year? </i>&quot;

There are more answers than you can probably imagine-- soooo, what sorts of things do you enjoy, and by &quot;family&quot; what do you mean? Little kids, teen/adult children or ??

W9London Dec 18th, 2006 08:08 AM

Typical christmas production--pantos, theatres, ballet (nutcracker).
Also open-air ice skating rinks.
Funfair in the Hyde Park.
One thing for sure, stay out of Oxford Street and Harrod's if you want to keep your sanity.
Seasonal exhibition at Hampton Court Palace--try to go there when they have their Tudor-style kitchin demonstration.
There are usually several walking tours on christmas day.

sandykins Dec 18th, 2006 11:25 AM

My family and I are going to be in London Christmas week, too. Here are some of the things we are going to do or see:

Charles Dickens Museum: Festive, Victorian Xmas decorations; readings of _A Christmas Carol_

Peter Pan Cup Swimming Race: Xmas morning at 9:00, members of a swim club always have a swimming race in the Serpentine in Hyde Park

London Walks: walking tours on Xmas day, including “Darkest Victorian London: Peeling Forbidden Fruit,” 11:30, meet at tube station Monument, outside Fish Street Hill exit (2 hours), and “Christmas Morning, 1660: Samuel Pepys’ London,” 11:00, meet at Trafalgar Square Christmas tree (2 hours)

Hampton Court Palace: medieval cookery demonstrations begin on Dec. 27

Skating Rinks: a number of places offer skating wioth skates for hire inlcuded in the price, such as Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Somerset House, etc.

The January Sales: of course, which start December 26 at some stores, 27 at others, 28 at Harrods. Check with specific stores.

W9London Dec 19th, 2006 04:01 AM

In case you haven't heard this, there will be no public transportation in London on Christmas Day. Cabs have GBP4 special surcharges. There will be limited services (two loops) on the original tour sightseeing bus.

sandykins Dec 19th, 2006 06:12 AM

London City Sightseeing buses (hop-on-hop-off) will be running on Xmas day also, from 10:00 to 4:00. The Original London Tour buses (also hop-on-hop-off) are offering a special throughout the holidays: 2 days of riding for the price of one.

ben_haines Dec 19th, 2006 07:00 AM

Here are notes I compiled a month go. Many relate only to Christmas Day. They start with direct quotations of points made by early-planning Americans in a Fodors correspondence in July 2006, and add from my experience. Much of the town closes up tight during the holidays.
A correspondent wrote: When I lived in London, I took care to be away at Christmas. I went to Paris and Rome, both of which remain open for the holidays (Rome can be tough on Christmas Eve, though). Another: I could not agree more. I would rather be just about anywhere else. I find it depressing as so many people vacate. I've been home a few times but I always plan to go away for Christmas week.

Another wrote: If I were only going for two or three days, I'd think twice about including Christmas and Boxing Day, since so many things are closed. But we loved those two days in our ten day stay. It was so wonderful to experience old London with very quiet streets.
MUSIC in St Martins in the Field, on Trafalgar Square. Book at &lt;[email protected]&gt;.
Boxing Day Baroque by the Belmont Ensemble of London. Autumn and Winter from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Corelli’s Christmas Concerto, Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, Vivaldi’s Christmas Violin Concessionserto, Bach’s Concertofor Two Violins in D minor, Handel’s Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, Torelli’s Christmas Concerto and the Overture to The Messiah. Tuesday 26 December at 7.30.

The Complete Brandenburgs at Christmas by the London Octave. Thursday 28 December at 7.30.

Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite by the London Concertante. Friday 29 December at 7.30.

Saturday 30 December at 7.30. A Night in Old Vienna by the Brandenburg Sinfonia.

The Barbican may have a concert for New Year.

Probably our worst experience was looking for coffee on Christmas morning. Finally I passed a young couple carrying coffee cups and although they didn't speak English (Russian, I think), managed to figure out where they got it. It was from a little Spar (sort of a bad interpretation of a 7-11). The worst coffee I ever drank, but at least it was coffee.
DAY TRIP on Boxing Day
Day trip to Bath or to a small and pretty town like Faversham in Kent or Marlow in Buckinghamshire, or even to Paris if you're feeling especially ambitious.
A daytrip on Boxing Day may be a good idea. I guess it would depend where you went and if you made sure wherever you were going was open - it isn't just London that is shut down for Boxing Day as it is a national holiday. There are probably more things open in London, but, again, it depends what you were thinking of as an alternative.
I thought to send my husband on an Evan/Evans Boxing Day tour to Warwick Castle, as my daughter and I need to collect a friend who will be flying into Heathrow mid-day.
It gets dark by 4:30 p.m. and is not really light in the morning till 8 a.m. or so. That can affect what you plan on doing during the day.
The lights on Regent Street are magical.

It is usually best and easiest to simply have Christmas lunch at your London Hotel.

Otherwise - you could book at any of the mainstream hotels within walking distance of where you are staying. But at many hotels, this special seating will be over your &pound;50 limit.
Christmas Day dinner at a hotel in Mayfair.

Another option would be an Indian or other ethnic restaurant since some of them do open on Christmas Day.
Other than a few hotels it is very difficult to find much open on Christmas Day or Boxing Day. You should book ahead for a place to eat on Christmas Day, or else check to be sure your hotel has a restaurant open on the 25th, although many Chinese and Indian places, and Lebanese restaurants along the Edgware Rd will be open.
The thing that surprised us the most was how much was closed not just on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, but for the whole week. Many of the smaller, local, restaurants were closed as were some of the smaller shops and such, especially off the main shopping drags. I had taken a lot of notes on the recommendations of those on the forum, and was not able to dine at the Indian or Chinese restaurants recommended close to our hotel. It did not spoil our trip, but was a bit frustrating a few times during the week.
Hospitals - yes I said hospitals. Most if not all National Health Service (public) hospitals have a canteen or restaurant that is open to visitors. They don't advertise it because it is supposed to be for people visiting relatives but there is nothing to stop anyone eating there. Don't expect fine wine and waiter service, just expect basic food
On Boxing Day we arrived at Wagamama at 11:55, our predetermined lunch spot, to find it closed.
We really liked Noura Brasserie, a Lebanese restaurant. Our meal was excellent and the price reasonable for Christmas Day - many places were charging &pound;100 to &pound;200 per person which was more than we wanted to spend. Four places, in Hobart Place, Belgravia, for a restaurant and brasserie, in William Street, Knightsbridge, for a delicatessen and patisserie, in Curzon Street, Mayfair for a restaurant, cafe and take-away and in Piccadilly Noura Central, their newest restaurant. Please phone to check which are open
Chinatown in bustling on Christmas Day. We had a nice lunch there on Christmas. Piccadilly tube
On Boxing Day we did fish and chips lunch at Harry Ramsden (near Piccadilly) and we had a great dinner that night at Boulevard Brasserie in Covent Garden. There were many places open on Boxing Day! We also saw two shows on Boxing Day -- both half price from TKTS. So I see no reason to think you have to leave town on that day. In fact it was delightful as there was so little traffic in the city.
Got on Boulevard Brasserie's website and they are offering Christmas dinner between 12 and 3:30- the menu looks great. Covent Garden
Christmas type dinner at Rule's, the oldest restaurant in London, Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, but closed on Christmas Day.
Last year we had a very nice Christmas dinner (despite it being a buffet) at the Chesterfield Mayfair Hotel, tucked away off Berkeley Square, near Green Park
Harrod's Food Court (for already prepared items or for cooking from scratch) would be my choice for picking up something for Christmas dinner: near Knightsbridge. Marks &amp; Spencers also have a good selection.
We walked to a close dinner spot by Victoria Station called ASK. There are several locations around London, and this Italian pizza and pasta spot suited our family well. We had Caesar salads, 3 pizzas, and wine/sodas. A little pricey for what we got, but the service and food were good. Hey, it’s London and we’re on vacation. Total bill was &pound;55.60 including tax and tip.
I don't know about restaurants near Sloane Square doing Christmas lunch, except for the Bluebird Brasserie which isn't all that special and it runs about &pound;50.
If you are in a private home - I'd bring in prepared Christmas dinner fixings and eat in,. Then go for a long walk afterwards. About the only time you can see London traffic-free.
Le Cercle, near Sloane Square should be open on Christmas Day, or at least it was two years ago. email them and find out
[email protected]
There is a very nice grocery store in Sloane Square called Partridges. I would expect that they would have a lot of good pre-prepared things that you could buy and have a very nice meal.
By the way, I'd highly recommend Maggie Jones off Kensington High Street -- where we did Christmas Eve dinner. It is wonderfully atmospheric and seems so &quot;perfect&quot; for a traditional British meal. We had hoped for that on Christmas, but they were going to be closed so we booked Christmas Eve (after an early candlelight Carol concert at Royal Albert Hall).
On the recommendation of a friend whose brother lived in London, we took the tube to Notting Hill Gate for dinner at the Churchill Arms on Kensington Church St. This was a very neat pub, but the cool thing was that at the rear of the pub they serve delicious Thai food……Yes, you read correctly…..Thai food at the Pub, but they serve you drinks from the bar. We loved this place, but you really need reservations for dinner. The total bill was &pound;35 with all entrees priced at &pound;5.85, plus wine, beer, sodas, etc…. This was a Fullers pub so B had to have a pint here and compare it to his Young’s at the Lamb. Our “official” opinion was that we preferred the Young’s Bitter to the Fullers Pride (that part is for you, Pub-7), but I know that is a subject certain to rouse debate.
Savoir Faire is at 42 New Oxford St. near Tottenham Court Road. We had a good pre-theatre prix fixe meal with garlic bread, salads, a pasta dish, a pork dish, and 2 salmon dishes….add to that ˝ bottle of claret, a couple of soft drinks and water. It was a cozy small bistro and everything was very nice. Total bill came to &pound;55.
Walked to Tas for one of our favourite meals of the trip. There are several locations around London, but I think this may be the original. We had an excellent dinner with fantastic service. We had 2 appetizers along with lots of yummy bread (hummous and kisir), 4 main dishes (lamb with aubergine, mussels, moussaka, and another lamb dish with vegetables), bottled water, wine, beer, lemonades, 3 Turkish coffees, and a baklava. All was yummy and the bill came to &pound;72.68 inclusive. Phone first to be sure which Tas restaurants are open. See next six entries
Tas Levantine restaurant, 22 Bloomsbury St, Tottenham Court Road tube

Tas Levantine restaurant, 37 Farringdon Rd, Farringdon tube

Tas Levantine restaurant, 72 and 76 Borough High Street, London Bridge tube

Tas Levantine restaurant, 20 - 22 New Globe Walk, London Bridge tube

Tas Levantine restaurant, 33 The Cut, 020 7928 1444, Southwark tube

EV Levantine restaurant, Bar and Delicatessen, The Arches, 97-99 Isabella St, Southwark tube

All museums and attractions are closed on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, except that the Dickens Museum is open on Christmas Day.
London Christmas museum events:
We went to the Hard Rock shop to browse and, mostly, to get warm. Sometimes the highlights of a trip come at the most unexpected moments. It turns out that there is a special room in the basement vault of the shop which has memorabilia on display. Jimmy, our Scottish, “bandanaed” (is that a word?), tattooed and pierced, guide brought the 4 of us on a “tour.” J, our guitar playing music fan, got to hold and play both Jimi Hendrix’ and Stevie Ray Vaughan’s guitars…..really a wow moment! Other special items were guitars of BB King, Jeff Beck, Kurt Cobain, Eric Clapton, and more along with a pair of glasses and jacket belonging to John Lennon. Highly recommend this to all rock n’roll or blues fans.


If you are in London in December you might like to try the knockabout farce of the pantomime. The playwright takes an old tale, and stages it according to outrageous traditions. The male lead is a woman. The female comic lead is a man. The audience take a big part, hiss the villain, and tell the heron where the villain is. There is a transformation scene before your very eyes. The best way in London is to choose a show, phone, and book a performance about two in the afternoon. Over the phone, too, you should ask where to find lunch, perhaps in a pub, perhaps in the theatre buffet, and how to get ton the theatre by tube. I used a helpful but incomplete web site,, and added three shows.

List of pantos in London

PARADE for New Year's Day: parade in the area of Trafalgar Square to Piccadilly.
SHOPPING. With the current value of the dollar in pounds, there really aren't any bargains. Almost anything you find in London can be bought in the US for considerably less.
Saturday 9 December. 11 to 4. Christmas Market at Southwark Cathedral, London Bridge tube

Around Christmas, Oxford Street becomes a madhouse, even worse than usual.
When the Oxford Street shops open with their sales after Christmas, you cannot get down the street faster than a shuffle. But then, you might like shopping in dense crowds. This site gives Jan 2006 dates - shouldnt be too different in 2007
SPORT I highly recommend a football match, and it doesn’t even have to be a big, expensive Premiership match…..just go for the fun if you like the game at all.
If you plan to go to the open-air ice skating rink at Somerset House get reservations.
THEATRE. Daily except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Open Boxing Day. Lists in Time Out magazine, which sells out so should be bought on the Wednesday before Christmass.
Ballet: Nutcracker etc. Last year there was the interesting ballet of Edward Scissorhands at Sadler Wells. If you've gone to a Nutcracker performance in NYC, Chicago or Philadelphia, be advised that the London productions are not nearly as lavish in terms of sets and design (esp. in comparison to New York's production). The ballet performances themselves are very good, but be prepared for something more pared down.
*IF* there is a performance of Die Fledermaus scheduled (I haven't checked), that might be fun to attend; it's a light opera (and not too long) and it's tradition to do a sharp, funny and topical monologue in the middle. But Die Fledermaus tickets usually sell out well in advance.
TRANSPORT. None on Christmas Day except for Heathrow Express, with raised fares. Fewer busses and tube trains on Boxing Day.
You are pretty much going to have to walk. There are a very few cabs working that day but not many.
We stay right in Covent Garden so transportation was not an issue at all.
I'm not sure what the big deal is about no transport. There are dozens of car services in London and last year I noticed lots of people being dropped off at various places by these services. You might want to call a few days ahead to book one, but I can't imagine that it's that big a problem.
I use Swiss Cottage Cars 020 7431 2700, which is actually a conglomeration of more car services with drivers and their own cars. I don't think most of their drivers celebrate Christmas.

A walk on Christmas morning through St. James and Green Parks. Another in Regents Park. Ben Haines, [email protected], sends to enquirers his notes on self-directed walks in London.
London Walks operates, including a Dickens London walk.
WINDOW SHOPPING. In department stores like Selfridges.

Ben Haines, London
[email protected]

sandykins Dec 19th, 2006 03:49 PM

Thanks, Ben, for a great compendium of Xmas week notes.

I just want to add that this year, unlike years before, the Charles Dickens Museum will be closed on Xmas day (and only this one day). I have it on the best authority, having written to the e-mail address on their website to inquire about Xmas-day hours and admission fees. In fact, the Xmas-day closing is by now posted on the museum's website at

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