London this Christmas

Old Jul 1st, 2003, 05:41 AM
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London this Christmas

In honor of our 31st and 35th birthdays, my husband and I (who are well travelled) are taking my sis to London from Dec. 22-29 this year. My sister has never been to Europe and my intent is for her to be inspired as I was when I first went in college. On previous search strands, it was suggested that Christmas in London is both beautiful and old fashioned. Also, many people complained about everything closing on the 25th and 26th. We're getting a British Air deal with flight and hotel at the Gresham Hyde Park. With 6 nights based there, I have already begun my London itinerary (easy enough). What about taking a train to Edinburgh point-to-point on Chirstmas day and just self-guiding? Would the Eurostar to Paris be worth it if we have to come back to London that night? Help!
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Old Jul 1st, 2003, 06:17 AM
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What a great way to celebrate Christmas and birthdays!
I don't know about Edinburgh but I have taken the Eurostar to Paris and the trip is 3 hours, so figure 6 hours of travel in one day-to spend how many in Paris? If you could manage to stay overnight, it would be much more feasible.
Start asap to find places that are open Christmans and Boxing Day so you won't be stuck without a place to eat. Remember train schedules also change for major holidays.
Oh boy what a great time you are going to have
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Old Jul 1st, 2003, 06:50 AM
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There are no trains in the UK on Christmas Day or the 26th. In London, even the tubes and buses do not run on Christmas Day. The whole country shuts down. I live in London, but always go abroad for Christmas. In every other European country, public transport runs, and restaurants, etc, are open. In the UK, unless you want to sit indoors and watch TV, there is nothing to do on Christmas Day.
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Old Jul 1st, 2003, 07:10 AM
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This topic was discussed not so long ago and lots of good information was passed along. Do a search for Christmas in London and you will find these posts and more:


Author: Rex
Date: 01/10/2003, 07:41 pm
Message: Two excellent recent threads on this:

http://www.fodors.com/forums/pgMessa...2&tid=34383782

http://www.fodors.com/forums/pgMessa...2&tid=34382606

A
uthor: Andrea
Date: 12/07/2002, 09:03 am
Message: We're in the same position you are. We finally decided to do a day tour (Stonhenge & Bath - I know it gets mixed reviews, but my husband is really interested) on Dec. 26, when most things will be closed.

The best site I've found so far with Christmas day options is:

http://www.hospitalityline.co.uk/xmas/index.htm

They seem to have everything from regular lunches to a Sherlock Holmes Christmas day lunch to a day trip to Northern France to a Chateau for just 65 GBP per person. They also promise to arrange something for you starting at 36 GBP per person (see http://www.hospitalityline.co.uk/xma...inginstyle.htm).

We're still deciding which historic hotel to choose for Christmas Day lunch, but I've run across several (non-hotel) restaurant options that are less than 50 GBP per person. The toptable.co.uk site mentioned above is a very good resource - several choices in your price range, and they've been very helpful, securing menus for me for several of the options.

Londoneats.com also lists several pubs and international restaurants (e.g. Indian, Thai) that are open on Christmas in addition to the more expensive traditional options.

Because of the computer I'm using I can't read the prices at the moment, but I had bookmarked the Londontown page as having Christmas day options, including both high-end and more affordable:

http://www.londontown.com/London/Christmas_lunch/

I found these sites by searching "London Christmas restaurants" on www.google.com - I gave up my search since we decided to go the historic hotel route - but I think with persistence you'll be able to find one that you like!

Also, there are two great walks offered by London walks (www.londonwalks.com) on Christmas day - perhaps I'll see you there!

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Old Jul 1st, 2003, 08:02 AM
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Where do you get the idea that London Christmases are beautiful or old fashioned?

Snow has been almost unheard of at Christmas for the past century. You might get a cold, bright few days. But you're most likely to get the chilly murk that inspired out remote ancestors to invent a Yule celebration as a distraction from the bleak midwinter.

Practically everything but churches, most parks and some restaurants are closed on Dec 25.Many shops and restaurants close around lunchtime on Dec 24. Which makes London great for walking round in for those 36 hours, as long as you don't get too close to the office parties on Dec 24, and as long as it's not too wet.

Practically everything is open on Dec 26, though public transport can be congested as it runs on a reduced service, and there's sometimes a slight rush on some shops starting sales early.

The countryside remains open as usual on Dec 25 and 26: so you could hire a car and drive out. Although most visitor attractions at Oxford, Cambridge, Canterbury etc are closed, the towns are even nicer deserted, the Christmas service at the main choral foundations exceptionally beautiful, and they all have some decent restaurants doing lunch. Dec 25 is the absolute best day in the year for people used to driving on the wrong side of the road to motor round England.

But don't build up excessive expectations about "old fashioned" Christmases. Dickens died a long time ago, and personally I find New York a lot more Christmassy than London
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Old Jul 1st, 2003, 08:55 AM
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Having been to London many times, but only once at Christmas I can honestly say it was not our favorite trip. No snow, just cold, wind and rain! Things pretty much shut down by mid-day on 24th and the 25th everything was closed. The city came back to life on the 26th tho, altho public transportation runs at a reduced rate. We spent a lot of time walking around (in the cold and rain!!). It was not all bad, there were few crowds for one thing. Most hotels that cater to tourists will have their dining rooms open so you won't starve!

With only 6 days in London I'd not bother with a day trip to Paris. Eurostar is 3 hrs each way and it gets very dark very early in the winter (think 4 p.m.). Edinburgh is about 4.5 hours from London and again, I would not plan a day trip there in the winter. 6 nights is not much (considering you prohably will all have jet lag the first day which can cut into your schedule). If you feel you must get out of London for a day I'd suggest a trip out to Windsor Castle. It's one hour by train and a nice town as well as castle. Because it gets dark so early it can limit where you go and how much you will be seeing I think.
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Old Jul 1st, 2003, 09:44 AM
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Actually I love London at Christmas time. But Christmas Day is a problem for visitors since everything is definitely closed. The rest of the time is great because of all the special concerts, pantomimes, decorations and sales.

Check w/ your hotel to see if they do Christmas Lunch. Many hotels do a special meal because they know there is no where else for their guests to go. On the 25th plan on eating at your hotel and then just walk around - it is great to be out and about when the crowds are gone. If your hotel does not to Xmas Lunch/Dinner, some pubs and restaurants do lay on a special meal. But they are often booked up by early Autumn. I don't know a specific place to point you to since if I am in the UK over the holidays I eat w/ friends or am out in the country on Christmas Day. But maybe some Londoners can help.

Other than on the 25th you will not have trouble finding things to do or places to eat.
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Old Jul 1st, 2003, 03:41 PM
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Been to London many Christmas visits on to New Years Day. Don't recall any real disappointments over the closings. I think we even went to shows on Christmas day or the next day perhaps. We usually rent a flat and plan enough activities to have a smashing good time. Have you looked through the book, Britain by Britrail? Lots of short day trips. Cheerio!
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Old Jul 1st, 2003, 06:48 PM
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We, too, are planning on being in London over that time -- from the 17th to the 4th. We are also 31/34! (perhaps we should meet up!).

We are planning on relaxing with a picnic in Hyde Park. For dinner we will either be sandwiching in or hitting an ethnic place. I frequently eat out at home on Christmas (family all lives elsewhere), usually at a Chinese restaurant. I imagine the same deal applies in London -- many restaurants are run/owned by those that don't celebrate Christmas.

I imagine it will be cold/brisk, but no snow... for me, coming from Florida, that's just fine!!!! I also understand in certain areas, the department stores decorate the streets in themes... don't know the details, saw it on the Travel channel..

Hope to see you there, teachersue!
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Old Jul 1st, 2003, 07:32 PM
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Gee, this is getting depressing..and undoubtedly you've already bouth the tickets, etc. But take heart...surely there will be Christmas decorations and so forth that would be interesting to see and sometimes I think just walking around can be fun in and of itself. Besides, it is only ONE day of your trip. Hope it works out for you.
 
Old Jul 2nd, 2003, 07:11 AM
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It is wonderful just being there! Tally ho!
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Old Jul 2nd, 2003, 09:06 AM
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Just spent Christmas in London last December - not a great time to visit weather wise, dark days with few hours of sunlight and lots of drizzle. Expected much more special things like Christmas lights and decorations but found few. Oxford Street had some - actually the hectic shopping at Oxford Street department stores was a sight. The buying frenzy heightens after Dec 26, starting on the 27th with popular sales bringing droves of shoppers to Oxford Street stores. Otherwise I saw little special about London during Christmas. The day after I left London got its first measurable snow in years - a few inches that ground the city to a halt. But London in any weather is a fascinating city that's always a treat to spend time in.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2003, 10:00 AM
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We took the Eurostar to Paris from London last year. It is approx. 3 hrs each way. We enjoyed the trip but you leave early and return late and it can be tiring. We found the trip to be exciting since we had not been to Paris before but you have to realize you will not be able to explore the city in depth.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2003, 10:10 AM
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Thanks everyone for the continued messages. I have been all over Europe, and even to London twice, so I do know that Dec. is not the ideal time of year to see the land across the pond. My sister is an introvert whose every attempt to travel abroad has ended in disaster (Rhine River cruise most recent cancellation due to Germany's response to the war in Iraq--don't get me started). I'm a teacher, so Christmas is a good time for me. She's an accountant, so she's not too adventurous yet. I'd love to take her to Switzerland or another Alipne haven to see the markets and the winter fantasy lands, but it ain't going to happen on her first trip. If it were just my husband and me, we'd buy cheap tickets, and Brit passes or rent a car. Anyway, that's why I am trying to overplan this early and have something to do on the 25th--plus, she's still my big sis, and would say, "I told you this wasn't a good idea!" if anything went horribly wrong.
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Old Jul 10th, 2003, 06:24 PM
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GO FOR IT! How could you have a bad time in London at any time? We were there Dec 20 - Jan 3 in 2001 and had a great time. Yes, the 25th is quite - a great day for long walks. We had a flat with a kitchen so meals were not an issue, but this is not insurmountable. Try Christmas Eve service at St. Martin in the Fields, or Evensong at St. Pauls to get you in the spirit, so to speak (and I'm agnostic!). Have a great time.
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Old Jul 17th, 2003, 07:42 AM
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Thanks for the positive replies. Reading through some of the old strands, there seems to be a 50/50 split and a lot of outright contradictions on London during Christmas. For a lot of married teachers like myself, winter break is often the best time to go, as I am positive my husband will be able to get the dates around Christmas off. My spring and summer breaks are always risky for him being able to know in advance whether or not he can get more than a few days vacation. I have a realistic expectation of this vacation though. I know it won't be as festive as my last Christmas, in Vienna, Salzburg, and Berchtesgarten... with all of the markets and ice sports. We'll at least have the 23rd, 24th, 27-28th to site see. London Walks has the Christmas day tours, and we're going to do theater on Christmas Eve followed by Christmas Day lunch at a nice hotel, complete with goosee and puddings! I'm packing our good days with bus and van tours, in and oustide of London. I am taking old advice and getting Ray Skinner's car service to pick us up from Heathrow. Thanks everyone.
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Old Jul 17th, 2003, 09:07 AM
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I haven't had a chance to read all the posts, but I wanted to let you know that I did an overnight train to Edinburgh. We left about 10pm at night and arrived bright and early in Edinburgh. It's a great way to travel--you kill two birds with one stone...sleeping and traveling! Sleeping on the train isn't the most comfortable thing in the world, but it helped us make the most of our time.
Edinburgh is WONDERFUL!!!
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