The holiday season has arrived, and we would like to share with you why Christmas in London is one of the best.
Locations all across London begin stringing up lights and decorations come the end of November. New events and markets pop up and there are always things to do and see (in addition to everything there is to do and see in London). The purple team have gone out and picked out three key locations for you to spend your time this holiday season.
The South Bank
The South Bank already has so much going on outside of the Christmas season, but come December it really breaks out the festivities. Two key changes to the area are the Frostival and the Winter Festival.
The Frostival transforms the area around the London Eye into one of celebration. You can ice skate right in front of the Eye, watch live ice sculpting, and enjoy cocktails.
The “Eyeskating” sits in the foreground of the Eye. The rink is spacious and adjoined by a closed off section full of music, disco lights, drinks, and warmth. While you can skate around in the day, the rink lights as well as the London Eye are most dazzling in the dark.
Ice Carvings take place on the weekends (Saturday and Sunday) around noon. These live carvings take place until the 29th of December and are completely free, so take advantage of this display of skill before it’s gone.
The Eye itself also features new decorated pods. So just take a ride on the Eye and not only experience Christmas inside a Frosty pod but take some great panoramic pictures of the lights across London.
What we really cared about was the biggest change to the South Bank area (around the Eye) aka the Christmas Markets/Winter Festival.
The Winter Festival transforms the area beneath the bridge into a place of good food and drink, festival music, and Christmas cheer. There’s an array of food to choose from including German sausages and delicious cinnamon treats. Vendors display unique goods along the water, and there are lounge spaces dotted around allowing you to enjoy the lights and music.
The Christmas Markets are a fun addition to the area and worth strolling through. You don’t have to pay to enjoy the lights, sounds, and experience of the markets. It’s a great free event that can be enjoyed by families and friends alike. With good company, it’s an experience on its own.
Furthermore, there’s no shortage of entertainment. The National Theatre stands right behind the Christmas Markets, further back is the BNI Imax, and across the Thames is a variety of shopping locations like OXO Tower Wharf.
Plus, you’re situated with all the iconic images of London. You’ve got the London Eye right there, Big Ben across the river, the Houses of Parliament right next to Big Ben, and then Westminster Abbey right behind the Houses of Parliament.
Piccadilly Circus is one of the more iconic scenes of Central London. At the centre is a statue of Eros, now decorated as a gigantic snow globe for the holidays. The streets leading out from the statue are all lined with beautiful lights that depict different stories about Christmas.
The real draw of the location is the atmosphere and convenience. You’re literally surrounded by lights and attractions every which way you turn. The area is really transformed and it’s a nice place to stroll or meet up with friends.
There are usually street performers around and groups upon groups of people just enjoying each other’s company. Piccadilly Circus is a great photo opportunity and a nice place to relax for a while. And when you’re ready to move on there are lots of places to go to in the area or extremely close by.
There are plenty of things to do right off of the centre of Piccadilly Circus. Ripley’s Believe it or Not is literally right off the corner. The Criterion Theatre is also right on a corner and is currently showing 39 Steps (we’re not just saying it’s there, but it’s a good show too). There are a variety of bars and clubs (like Piccadilly Institute) to enjoy either for a nice afternoon chat or a night out to celebrate the holidays. And, of course, there is shopping off of any of the roads leading into Piccadilly Circus.
The area is also a gateway into a variety of other areas around Central London. You can quickly walk to the Berwick Street Markets down the road. As always there’s good food and produce to purchase (good food always being a priority). The markets are also decked out in lights and have their own Christmas tree at the centre. Most importantly, the markets are there every weekday.
Leicester Square and Trafalgar Square are extremely close by. The former is London’s Chinatown and has a great selection of food, boba (tapioca/bubble tea), and bars/clubs. If you walk straight from Piccadilly Circus, you’ll also hit at least three Odeon Theatres, a casino, and the M&M Store. Trafalgar Square is also a quick walk from Piccadilly Circus. It’s not as bright as Piccadilly Circus but it has its own Christmas spirit (giant Christmas tree and everything). Take your photos, relax a bit, and then head off to the National Gallery or the London Coliseum/ENO.
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
Finally, make your way to Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland. The festival runs until January and is open every single day (except Christmas) from 10am to 10pm.
Hyde Park itself is beautiful and you can take a nice leisurely stroll about the grounds. But if you’re looking for some Christmas fun, head over to Winter Wonderland. Winter Wonderland can be accessed via the Hyde Park Corner or Knightsbridge Underground station (the “main” entrance is by Hyde Park Corner).
From Hyde Park Corner you are met with food and vendors. There is so much to eat, buy, see, and experience so feel free to come back several times because it’s completely worth it.
If you can only visit the park once, go to the Bavarian Village. You get live music, really good bratwurst, and a pint. The Bavarian Village is a relatively large lounge space (compared to some of the other bar locations) so it’s a really great place to meet up and chill for a bit. If you have time to see other bars, the Carousel Bar is another place to hit up. Get on the Carousel, grab a pint, and enjoy tunes and company (by the way the bar literally rotates like a carousel). Lastly, Mirror Bar is a new bar that is decorated with a variety of disco/mirror balls and “nostalgic” music from the 60s to the 00s. Note that these bars tend to fill up quickly (especially Carousel), but there are plenty of other bar options you’ll happen upon so no worries.
Aside from these alcohol venues, there are a lot of stands that sell food and drink as well. You can grab a wild boar burger at one stand and then stop by another to get some waffles. There’s so much to try and it’s worth spending either the day or multiple visits in order to taste everything.
Winter Wonderland is more than just food and alcohol. There are a lot of attractions to go see. You’ve got rides that vary from a fun house to a rotating and spinning contraption intended to make you hurl (but super fun regardless). A beautifully lit Ferris Wheel at the centre of the festival gives you a view of the park and Knightsbridge. There is also ice skating, a Magical Ice Kingdom, a circus, and plenty of games to play.
If anything, walk through Winter Wonderland. Everything is lit up with Christmas lights and lanterns and it’s just fun to mingle with everyone else there.
London really goes all out for Christmas from decorations to festivals. Not only does it possess a great Christmas vibe, but it’s so convenient to get to one place to another.
You can start off at Waterloo Station. Once you’re done exploring the South Bank, just hop on the Northern Line to Leicester Square. From there you can stroll around and then walk to Piccadilly Circus in under five minutes. From Piccadilly Circus you can hop onto the Piccadilly Line and make your way to Hyde Park Corner. And that’s it. You only take two lines and there’s a variety of buses you can use to get to all three locations as well.
The three places we visited are just a small glimpse of what London has to offer. There are still so many other places to explore. Everywhere seems adorned with Christmas cheer and unique decorations. And the best part of all is everything is lit in a beautiful purple light.
Happy Holidays from the Purple Team!