London is one of Europe's most captivating cities. Founded by the Romans, the English capital has survived fires, plagues, and wars to blossom into a powerhouse for the arts, upscale global cuisine, and unique experiences. When the temperatures plummet, the holidays bring light, festivities, and copious mulled wine to the city streets. Illuminations, caroling, and ice skating – wrap up warm and experience London in winter.
In the heart of London’s theater district, Covent Garden is a year-round hub for dining, shopping, and culture. The winter holidays arrive in the piazza and old Apple Market in late November when the square is festooned with lights and a densely decorated Christmas tree. Despite the chill, the stylish restaurants of Covent Garden never shy away from providing an al fresco dining experience on their heated patios. The surrounding luxury hotels are primed for winter-inspired traditional afternoon tea starring mince pies.
Department stores in London vie for the number one position of most enchanting window displays during the holidays. Harrods – the world's principal luxury department store – is emblematic of winter in London. Last year’s theme saw the iconic Knightsbridge facade transformed into a giant gingerbread house courtesy of Dior. Selfridges on Oxford Street, Liberty London near Carnaby Street, and the entire avenue of Regent Street are equally worthy of a window shop (or spot of gift-buying). This retail center is richly decorated with street lights as well.
Skating is the trademark of a winter vacation in London. Moët & Chandon sponsor the annual rink in the courtyard of the neoclassical riverside palace, Somerset House. Gourmet dining brings alpine-inspired cuisine to the rinkside while world-class DJs provide the perfect soundtrack for a whirl across the ice. Whether you skate or visit solely for the atmosphere, toasting a glass of the headliner champagne house is a must.
Come the end of November, all of London’s neighborhoods are awash with German-style Christmas markets where you can browse artisanal gifts while sipping mulled wine. Cheerful Thameside fairs are located outside the Royal Festival Hall and More London at London Bridge while Borough Market gets a yuletide makeover. Spare yourself the nippy weather and take refuge at the indoor Selfridges pop-up. This maker’s market spotlights a boutique selection of London’s most innovative small businesses and focuses on eco-luxe sustainable and high-end vintage goods.
The seat of the Bishop of London, Christopher Wren’s St Paul’s Cathedral is one of the foremost Anglican houses of worship. The cathedral floor, crypt, and dome galleries are open all year but it’s a truly special experience to catch a carol concert. St. Paul’s hosts a short series of free, unticketed carol concerts, usually on 23 and 24 December. Events are published on the cathedral website in early fall and seats go fast, so you will need to arrive early and wait in line.
There’s so much more to discover while in London. You may want to extend your stay and take a day trip to Highclere “Downton Abbey” Castle or a rural English village. Contact me to design your winter getaway to London, England.