Christmas in London- ideas? Suggestions? Warnings?

So we have decided on a last-minute Xmas trip to London this year. We will have about 10 days, and we will be there over Xmas Day & Boxing Day.

Any ideas about what to see or do during the holidays? Food suggestions would also be helpful, especially about Xmas Day itself- I’m afraid we might end up with a take-away curry if nothing is open! :slight_smile:

Some pertinent info-

  1. We are staying in Mayfair, so we’re pretty central.

  2. We are traveling with our boys, ages 10 & 7. They are great travelers and well-behaved in restaurants, so a bit fancy is fine.

  3. Husband and I have both been to the UK before- him for short visits, me for long ones. But having the kids with us means we will probably overlap previous itineraries.

So Dopers, what have you got for me?

One of my favourite things to do Christmas Eve is attend the Carols by Candlelight (not real ones) at Royal Albert Hall. There is a late afternoon and early evening performance. The orchestra dresses in powdered wigs and brocade coats and the audience is invited to sing along for many of the carols. It’s a nice way to feel Christmas-y if you don’t have a regular church service to go to. There is actually some variation of a Christmas carol performance at RAH every night from the beginning of December.

Also in the neighbourhood, at the Natural History Museum is an outdoor skating rink. You have to book in advance but the price includes the skates. There are lots of pretty lights in the trees and there’s a small Christmas Market. There are also rinks at Somerset House, The Tower of London and Hampton Court. View - Your Guide for Pubs and Bars, Restaurants, Clubs, Cinemas and Whats On View - Your Guide for Pubs and Bars, Restaurants, Clubs, Cinemas and What's On.

Be aware that in the past there has been NO tube or bus service on Christmas Day and very limited service on Boxing Day. There has been talk of changing that policy this year but I don’t know for sure if they will.

Seconded the Carols by Candlelight, but if you can’t make that particular night, the Royal Albert Hall does a whole season of Christmassy themed evenings every year - they’re an essential part of my Christmas. Lots of places around London do the ice rink, and that is a great experience.

You should do a pantomime, just for the hell of it. It probably won’t matter which one or who’s in it, that’s not really the point.

If you’re staying in a hotel they should be able to do something for Christmas dinner - more and more people seem to be booking to go out, so it’s not unheard of these days for even residents to do the hotel version of Christmas dinner. Be prepared to have to book anywhere well in advance (pretty much now) and for it to be horrendously overpriced, but good fun if you get the right place.

The other thing is that central London will be really really really busy in the week before Christmas - particularly the last couple of days - and immediately afterwards for the start of the sales.

More if I think of it - how wonderful for you, it’ll be a great experience!

It should be a great trip.

Weather averages look okay- should we expect a bit of wet? We don’t mind cold- hell, we’ve spent the last 2 Xmas holidays in New York City. But wet kind of sucks when you’re doing a lot of walking.

The only predictable thing about UK weather is it’s unpredictability. That said, sadly wet weather is common around Christmas but rarely bitterly cold. Also note that the winter days will be shorter than you are used to and the sun sets before 4 p.m.

If you are fortunate enough to get some of that dry, crisp winter weather I would suggest you make the most of it and go to Richmond & Richmond Park and perhaps check out if Ham House nearby has any Christmas events going on.

If you are in Britain for Christmas and are not British, chances are you might not be familiar with the phenomenon of the pantomime. They seem to be uniquely British and they are on in all the theatres in every town and city over Christmas. They are for kids and adults, there is a lot of silliness and slapstick, audience participation, singing and dancing, people vanishing through trap doors, other people appearing in a puff of smoke, still other people flying about on high wires, a bit of cross dressing and a love interest, all wrapped up in a happy ending. They’re usually a (very) loose adaptation of one or other childrens’ story you and your kids will already be familiar with and a lot have topical jokes and gags that the adults will get.

As an added bonus for you, the ones in London will probably have big names in the starring roles, so you might actually know who’s dressed up as the baddy. It’s a good family night out, especially for kids who are the age your kids are. And you and your husband will probably enjoy it for the whole “WHAT THE HELL IS THIS???”-ness of it. :smiley:

Can you tell I love a good panto?

I think I am sold on a pantomime! :smiley: Sounds like a lot of fun. I remember reading interviews with the Eastenders folks about taking time off to do pantomime, and I never knew what they meant.

We are also probably going to take the chunnel train to Paris for a day- the price seems reasonable and the boys would get a kick out of it, I think (the train & tunnel, anyway- Paris? Who knows? :wink: ).

If you book ahead, you might be able to find a nice pub lunch to book in for. We did that when my wife’s mother was visiting on our first Christmas here last year, and were given a massive amount of decent food (hardly had to worry about dinner).

Sorry but I cringe when I hear that word “chunnel”, it seems now only Americans use that word. The correct name for the train service is Eurostar (not to be confused with the Italian high-speed train network of the same name)

Umm… you’re going to go from London to Paris and back in one day? Not a good idea. There’s as much to see in Paris as there is in London. Save Paris for next time.

We thought of that, but we have so many days in London that we are thinking seriously about it… And to be so close, with time to spare, and not see at least a bit of Paris seems a shame.

Sorry about the “chunnel” thing- I do know it’s called Eurostar, even! :slight_smile: The idea of taking a train under the channel makes my boys all giggly (although it makes me paranoid as hell).

But it is the equivalent of taking advantage of a plane change in Newark “to go see Manhattan.” I see it, I see it not!

I would go for that day-trip to Paris. Don’t forget you will be going from city-centre to city-centre, so no wasting time in getting from a distant airport. You could have over 12 hours there, if you don’t mind a very long day.

Yeah, it’s a day of leaving St Pancras at about 5:30 AM and getting back about 11:00 pm. But the kids can sleep on the train both ways.