Tis the season and London at Christmas lights up and sparkles like nowhere else. Towering Christmas trees twinkle with a million lights, streets are strung with the prettiest of illuminations and London Christmas markets pop up in the squares, parks and along the banks of the Thames. In London at Christmas there’s a definite sprinkling of magic in the air.
It’s become a tradition that me and Mr Jones take a day trip to London to put us nicely in the mood for the festive season. We spent the day soaking up the Christmas atmosphere, checking out the trees, ice rinks, Christmas markets and lights. Here are some of my favourite festive London spots which’ll get you feeling Christmassy.
Festive Shop Fronts
Our National Express coach dropped us at Victoria Coach Station. We had a coffee and a rather decadent pastry at Baker and Spice before taking a look at the festive shop fronts in the area. If you’re on Instagram you’ll already know about Peggy Porschen Cakes. The pretty pastel pink shop has been beautifully adorned with ice white and silver foliage and flowers. Too pretty. Other shops nearby have caught on to the trend so check them out too.
Covent Garden always looks lovely but at Christmas it pulls out all the stops and puts on a gorgeous display. This year, as well as its giant Christmas tree and the sparkling reindeer you’ll find a beautifully bedecked old green car on the northern side of the Piazza. It’s piled with parcels and foliage and oh so Instagramable. (They knew what they were doing when they put that there…)
In the Apple Market the huge baubles and giant mistletoe are back and there’s a beautiful display of Christmas trees and foliage by the florist’s hut.
Drop into nearby Petersham Nurseries shop (27 King Street, Covent Garden) to browse the gorgeous Christmas decorations, homeware and gifts. It’s a great place for lunch too.
Somerset House Skate Rink
There’s nothing like feeling your skates cut through the ice before gliding into a figure of eight and ending on a double Axel as you come to a neat halt under the Fortnum and Mason Christmas tree. In my dreams. It’s as much as I can do to unclamp my hands from the side of the rink for the first five minutes. But as I gain confidence and manage more than a mere totter around the ice it becomes a lot of fun and it’s a great family activity. There’s another skate rink at the British Museum.
Somerset House Ice Skating is on from 14 Nov – 13 January – make sure you book before you go.
There are loads of London Christmas Markets to choose from and more pop up every year. We visited two; Christmas in Leicester Square and Winter at the South Bank.
Christmas in Leicester Square is set up in the centre of the square with about 30 huts decked out in full-on festive foliage. Delicious aromas of food from around the world fill the air and mingling with the delicious smell of steaming mulled wine. Stalls sell everything from Christmas decorations and candles to tea light lamps and the ultimate in Christmas jumpers.
The South Bank market starts near the London Eye and runs along the riverside to the Southbank Centre. There’s a gorgeous carousel which is great for the kids, craft stalls and bars. Jimmy’s Lodge is on the River where you can eat in an Alpine inspired wooden restaurant. Alpine themed street food like Raclette, Schnitzel and Wild Boar burgers are dished up in the open-air Lodge Grill. If you’re feeling extravagant hire one of Jimmy’s private igloos with views over the river.
Fortnum and Mason
Fortnum and Mason, purveyors of ‘Christmas in a basket’ aka the luxury hamper, is a must visit. The Christmas window display is always enchanting and inside the Christmas décor is delectable. The store is the Queen’s official grocer and if it’s good enough for her Majesty. The chocolate and confectionery section is my favourite with plenty of stocking filler treats to choose from. I’m partial to the Marc de Champagne truffles if you were wondering…
London Christmas Lights
There’s a sparkling array of Christmas lights in London and the city shimmers throughout the season. As dusk fell we were dazzled by the gazillion twinkly lights which cast a magical glow over the capital. Regent Street, Oxford Street, Soho, Carnaby Street and Bond Street are all lit to within an inch of a major power outage. Here are some of my favourites.
Regent Street Christmas Lights
Seven Dials Christmas Lights
Carnaby Street Christmas Lights
We loved our festive day in London. It was a lot of fun and just what we needed to nudge us into a festive mood. In fact, I enjoyed it so much I’m going back again next week to meet a friend and do it all over again. It’s the perfect day out for families and all the above suggestions don’t cost anything so it’s budget friendly too. That’s always a win just before Christmas.
National Express is a great way to travel around the country for Christmas markets or any shopping expeditions. They offer high frequency services linking more than 900 destinations. With tickets from £5 (plus booking fee) it’s also a very budget friendly form of travel
Our modern coach arrived promptly at pick up time and we enjoyed the journey in comfortable leather seats with air-con and complimentary on-board entertainment via VUER, an app showing films, TV and magazines. Free WIFI is available and you’ll find power sockets (although not USB) on board. Seats can be reserved on selected services and there’s a generous luggage allowance. Most services have wheelchair lifts and there’s a toilet on board all coaches.
It’s good to know that coach travel is the most environmentally friendly form of public transport and that they’re not affected by engineering works on the line at weekends. We arrived at Victoria Coach Station bang on time.
National Express also offer terminal services at all UK major airports 24 hours a day which I shall definitely consider using in the future.
This post is sponsored by National Express
Suzanne Jones is creator, writer and photographer at The Travelbunny. When she’s not indulging her wanderlust you’ll most likely find her enjoying coastal walks in her home county of East Sussex, UK.
Suzanne co-writes Sussex Bloggers which showcases the best of East & West Sussex.