From glittering Christmas lights and ice skating to traditional markets and seasonal shows, London is, unsurprisingly, a Christmas wonderland year after year. Planning a getaway during the holiday rush can be overwhelming, but making the most of the British capital’s jolly festivities is a unique way to celebrate with loved ones- you may even want to make it a tradition. The following gourmet restaurants, annual events and guided activities are guaranteed to help you ring in the holidays, one wintry treat at a time.
If you know you want to celebrate in London and are looking for the perfect place to stay, consider the Langham London, a luxury hotel dating back to the Victorian Era. Known as the continent’s original “Grand Hotel,” The Langham continues to invite guests to the heart of the city’s Marylebone neighborhood. Within easy reach of Marylebone train station and Marylebone’s walkable High Street, the hotel puts shopping, dining and sightseeing at your fingertips. Featuring full amenities and handpicked decor, spacious suites make The Langham a roomy option for those traveling with friends or family.
Having partnered with the Royal Academy of Music, the hotel has presented a performance- rich event schedule to amp up your holiday soundtrack. Along with regular musical showcases across the hotel, The Langham is also offering a Christmas Carol- inspired Festive Afternoon Tea schedule, experience- based gift ideas and more. Seasonal specials include Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Dining Packages, and even an opportunity to test drive the brand new Aston Martin DBX707, thanks to the hotel’s partnership with the legendary brand. The interior of the hotel is tastefully decorated each year, complete with a resident Christmas Tree- from the lobby to the suites, guests can expect elegant decor and festive touches throughout the building.
Taking place at the Langham’s Palm Court, Afternoon Tea is a classic part of the hotel’s program any time of year, but especially when the holidays come around. Led by Michael Roux Jr. and pastry chef Andrew Gravett, the regularly scheduled afternoon teas introduce visitors to the scones, baked goods, and fine teas that define this English custom. This year’s Christmas- Carol themed Festive Afternoon Tea is set to be served until January of next year.
When you’re not out exploring, enjoy any of the Langham’s dining and drinking venues, including The Wigmore, Palm Court, Roux at the Landau and the Artesian cocktail lounge. If you’re always wanted to learn how to make your own British treats, don’t miss the chance to take an Edible Gift class at The Sauce, the Langham’s on-site culinary school.
After a day spent enjoying London’s blustery winter, choose from The Langham’s wellness treatments, offered by the hotel’s esteemed Chuan Spa. Set in a retreat-like underground space, the spa’s features are inspired by the Five Elements theory, meant to rejuvenate guests in the midst of London’s inherently hectic energy. The Conveniently located on Portland Place, The Langham puts you within walking distance of Regent Street’s Christmas lights displays, shopping destinations and spirit- the hotel is the ideal headquarters for getting to know this iconic neighborhood.
Known for its diverse dining scene, London offers global flavors year round. If you’re looking to spice up your holiday visit with one of the city’s most innovative Pan-Indian menus, stop by Kanishka, located on Maddox Street. Michelin starred chef Atul Kochhar makes this restaurant a must-stop on any culinary tour of the capital, especially if you find yourself in the Regent Street area. For a holiday preview, take a look at the restaurant’s Christmas Menu.
Presented by the Mischief Theatre, “The Play That Goes Wrong” is a twist on the vintage murder mystery concept. Award winning and unforgettable, the comedy is filled with unexpected blunders, descending into a unique brand of controlled chaos. This year, the talented Cornley Drama Society cast brings the play to London’s Duchess Theatre for the eighth year in a row. Guaranteed to be the funniest murder mystery you’ll likely be a part of, “The Play That Goes Wrong” is another must-see, especially if you enjoy both comedy and experimental theater.
For an interactive take on fine dining, make a reservation at Frog by Adam Handling, a Michelin Starred restaurant located in Covent Garden, steps from the River Thames. As you take your seat facing the kitchen, you’ll have the chance to meet team members and learn the intentions behind each dish on the menu. The result is a seamless experience meant to offer contemporary British cuisine in an environment that subverts expectations. Meals are composed with precision and attention to every detail, from subtle garnishes to full flavors.
At Frog, visitors are treated like guests as opposed to customers, with a special focus on storytelling and interaction, without the usual barriers. After your main course, head to the lower level of the restaurant to enjoy a night out at the Eve Bar and top things off with a hand crafted cocktail.
When it comes to outdoor festivities, Christmas at London’s Kew Gardens is a tradition for locals and visitors alike. This illuminated, immersive experience takes guests on a 45- 60 minute walk through the royal gardens, which are outfitted with artist-designed light and audio installations to mark the season. As lights flicker among the trees and along the surface of the garden lake, bundle up and enjoy seeing the gardens from an entirely new perspective. Food and drink vendors along the route complete the night, making sure you navigate the route with a hot chocolate or spiced mulled wine in hand. Advance tickets are recommended, and family ticket options are available.
Set along the Thames’ south bank, Sea Containers offers luxury accommodations inspired by the romance of the transatlantic ocean liner. Towering over the river, the hotel is sleek and sophisticated, with interiors that match a timeless facade. Offering a selection of rooms, suites and amenity-rich apartments, the hotel is centrally located, meaning you’ll have easy access to the best of the capital.
As the day winds down, settle in to incomparable city views, a treatment at Agua Spa, or drinks and light fare at 12th Knot, the hotel’s rooftop bar and terrace. Once the weekend comes along, don’t miss a night at the Curzon Cinema, a film screening room located inside the hotel. Sea Containers’ “Festive Season” dining program is another way to celebrate your time in London- specials include a festive feast menu, a four course Christmas Day menu, and unlimited drinks and tunes at the annual 12th Knot New Year’s Eve party. Throughout December, 12th Knot is partnering with Reyka Vodka to bring patrons the Fire and Ice Winter Terrace, an Icelandic-inspired cocktail experience to complement the chill of a classic London winter.
While the hotel itself offers plenty to do, the South Bank Winter Festival takes place within walking distance, meaning you can get your gift shopping done while sampling drinks and snacks from local vendors.
Based at the hotel, Sea Containers Restaurant pairs festive menus with riverside views, adding nightly gourmet dining to any stay. This year’s Christmas Menu features seasonal vegetables, homemade flatbread and decadent main course options of roast turkey, grilled sea bass, or egg pasta. Classic favorites, culinary innovations and decadent dessert options round out your holiday by the Thames.
Offering classes in Notting Hill and Belgravia, the Biscuiteers School of Icing brings an unassuming craft into the spotlight. Encouraging participants to not only ice but add their own flourish to a tin of biscuits, classes offered by the school are a great way to spend quality time with a loved one. After ordering from the high tea or prosecco menu, sit back and try out different icing techniques with the materials provided. Once you’ve decorated all of your Christmas- shaped sweet treats, take them back to your hotel to share over the next few days. The festive tin you’ll get to carry your cookies makes a heartwarming memento to take back home. They invite beginner biscuiteers of all ages, making this an engaging option for the whole family.
Neill Strain Floral Couture London
To awaken your creative spirit further, join Neill Strain Floral Couture London for a masterclass in an age old Christmas tradition- wreath making. Organized by one of London’s premiere florists, the workshop teaches you how to design and form your own wreath- all while enjoying cocktails and canapes in true British fashion. Securely packed into a special box by Neill Strain’s expert staff, your creation can adorn your door back home for holidays to come. Neill Strain is located in Belgravia, making this an ideal complement to a class at Biscuiteers Belgravia- that way, you don’t have to interrupt your creative flow!
Named for a British suffragette, The Pem Restaurant serves exquisitely prepared meals from Chef Sally Abe, each brought to life with presentation and flavor in mind. With a focus on local, seasonal ingredients, the venue offers an exclusive Christmas Day Lunch and New Years Eve Dinner, along with lauded daily menus. Located a short walk from Buckingham Palace, The Pem is a London staple representing both the unwavering spirit of Emily Wilding Davison and a dedication to the culinary craft.
Theatre Royal Drury Lane afternoon tea in the Grand Saloon
When in London, a visit to the Theatre Royal Drury Lane is a must, whether you’re there for dinner, drinks, a special behind the scenes tour, or all three. Starting on the 1st of December, this historic theatre will also play host to a Christmas Afternoon Tea, taking place at the venue’s Grand Saloon. Featuring the latest from famed London baker Lilly Vanilli, exquisite teas and glasses of champagne, the Lane’s take on the ritual considers every element, from the fine china to the menu offerings. Making a reservation is the best way to experience the beautiful interior of the historic theatre while taking part in a tradition like no other.
Theatre Royal Drury Lane Behind the Scenes Tour
To learn more about the theatre’s extensive history, sign up for a behind the scenes tour of the impeccably renovated space. Guided walking tours introduce you to the intricacies of the space while explaining the innovations the theatre was known for in its heyday. Dating back over three centuries, the Lane, as it’s affectionately known, continues to operate as one of London’s most treasured cultural attractions. After a recent renovation, the theatre (which is also known as the oldest theatre still occupying the same site) continues its far- reaching legacy. Said to be haunted by a number of apparitions, the space is worth a visit for both its splendor and mystery.
The Lane is also offering a new late-night Theatre Tour schedule, now available for online booking. The Lane by Candlelight late-night tours come with a cocktail to keep you warm and are set to take place on December 1st, 8th, 15th and 22nd, starting at 9:15pm.
Christmas Lights London By Night Bust Tour
Inviting guests to take in the best of London by night, this sundown bus tour is an extravagant introduction to the capital’s holiday spirit after dark. Passing Piccadilly Circus, the London Eye, Trafalgar Square’s huge Christmas tree and more, the guided tour takes you on a tour around the city’s iconic sights with plenty of holiday cheer in between. Illuminated by hundreds of light displays lining Oxford Street and surrounding areas, this is the London you might have imagined when planning your trip- and there’s no better way to soak it all in than from the classic comfort of an open top bus.
For yet another luxury dining experience in the heart of the city, schedule a lunch at the Landmark Hotel’s Winter Garden Restaurant. Featuring contemporary European dishes served under a famed glass atrium, the restaurant offers an unforgettable, sophisticated environment and festive menu. The hotel also offers High Palms High Tea, inviting guests to savor hot drinks, British specialties and fresh baked goods under the indoor courtyard’s towering palm trees.
Within easy reach of Marylebone train station and Marylebone’s walkable High Street, The Landmark puts shopping, dining and sightseeing at your fingertips. Featuring full amenities and handpicked decor, spacious suites make this a roomy option for those traveling with friends or family. An on-site spa, pool, and private gym facilities mean you can spend as much time relaxing at the hotel as you do touring the city. If you’re visiting for Christmas, don’t miss the hotel’s holiday packages, including this experience-based gift guide.
Finally, be sure to devote a day to Christmas at Covent Garden, a seasonal event that turns the iconic area into the city’s premiere holiday destination. Gift shopping, vendors, take away mulled wine and a spectacularly dressed, full-size Christmas Tree draw crowds to the Covent Gardens Piazza year after year. Live music, heated sitting areas and plenty of dining options turn the event into an extended experience. Don’t miss dinner at the Frenchie– be sure to sample the restaurant’s Pre-Theatre menu before stopping by the Miracle Bar at the Henrietta Hotel. The Miracle Bar’s Christmas- themed cocktail list, decorative interior and genuine love for the holiday make this a popular pit stop for revelers, so you’ll want to reserve your spot in advance!
While there’s no doubt that London is a year round destination, the city embodies the holiday season like no other. Designing your winter itinerary around seasonal events is the best way to get to know the city in its naturally festive, bustling state. From sampling fine dining to enjoying the arts, hunting for gifts, and letting loose, London does it all- and so can you.