Pack Your Bags: The Holidays in London

While the holidays might be officially over,
I wanted to pen down some of the highlights of our Christmas in London
in case you ever find yourself in London during this magical time of the year.

We hosted my family of 16 people!
Adults, kids, infants...
we had the whole crew!

Entertaining for a crowd that size wasn't too difficult
as London offers so much to do in December....
but, in case you find yourself traveling through London at Christmas,
here are our favorites!


Christmas Eve Carol Service at Westminster Abbey

This is a special service that Westminster Abbey hosts every Christmas Eve.

The service will include the choir singing classic carols,
members of the Royal Household staff reading scripture lessons,
and various portions of the service where the audience sings carols by candlelight.

It's gorgeous... and free.

Though while it is free, you MUST HAVE A TICKET to get in.

You apply/register for tickets (max 4 per person registering) in November
through the Westminster Abbey website.

{Editor's Note: You'll need to check with the WA site to see when the sign-up date is, as it changes yearly. Set a reminder on your calendar and sign up that day to insure your tickets.}

If you live out of London, 
you can go to the Abbey's office adjacent to the church a few days before
and collect them then by showing them a valid ID.

(My dad & brother did this and it took about 5 minutes. Easy!)

The carol service lasts about one hour
and I highly recommend getting there early to secure good seats...
especially if you are traveling with an entourage (like we were) 
and would like to sit together.

Winter Wonderland- Hyde Park Christmas Market

If you are in London in December,
please don't miss out on this special celebration.

We have gone to Winter Wonderland for three years, 
and it is always a highlight of the "festive season" for us.

Imagine a giant carnival (of State Fair proportions)
with food & gift stalls from a German Christmas market
transported to the middle of Hyde Park.

It's free to get into
and you can wander the stalls selling trinkets
and delicious German treats like
roasted potatoes, bratwurst, mulled wine, and the like.

Kids will have a great time
with the rides and performers...
and adults can enjoy the larger scale rides
and warm adult beverages. 

It's such a blast!

Daily Christmas Carols in Trafalgar Square

Admittedly, this can be hit or miss
depending on what groups are singing when you arrive...
however, most of the groups represent local charities
and trying to raise support for good causes.

The backdrop of the carols can make the journey worth it..,
and if the group really isn't that great,
just wait about 30 minutes until the next group shows up.

These are held each evening 
from mid-December until Christmas.

Go after dinner with a cup of hot tea!

More information available here.

Skating at Somerset House

While London offers many gorgeous settings to ice skate,
I have to say-
Somerset House is the best I know.

The rink is larger than most of the other rinks,
Somerset House makes for a perfect setting,
it has a separate area for little skaters,
it has a really decent "lodge" tent stocked with hot cocoa & treats...
and I'm particularly smitten with the staff there
who offered to take my (partially paralyzed) niece around the rink
so that she could enjoy the feeling of skating.

We were all blown away watching them skate around with her
and holding her up so she could pretend to move that fast on her own.

It was such a sweet & generous showing of the Christmas spirit.

Christmas Tea at Fortnum & Mason

Having afternoon tea at Fortnum & Mason on Christmas Eve
with the ladies in my family was practically perfect.

For the more mature attendees,
we opted for the Traditional Afternoon Tea
which includes posh options like Welsh Rarebit, Lobster Omelettes & Haddock Soufflés
to arrive before the traditional silver trays of scones & cakes.

For the younger members of our parties,
gorgeous tiered trays were brought for their pleasure
holding little sandwiches, tiny scones & Christmas treats
like mince pies, jam cookies & decorated cupcakes.

Oh, and of course- they had the traditional blue F&M teapots
full of apple & orange juice
to accompany their meal. :)

Since "afternoon tea" offers such heavy portions,
I recommend going closer to noon for your booking.

You won't need to eat before arriving to tea 
(nor should you... you would explode!),
and bookings will be more available at this time
during such a highly coveted day of the year.

Christmas Shopping

I know this sounds a little silly and obvious,
but few cities dress up for Christmas at London...
and the majority of these holiday displays
are made magical at the larger retail fronts of the city.

Landmark shops like Liberty of London, Harrods & Selfridges
doll up with elaborate lights and windows...
and walking through their halls and departments is so much fun.

We were getting obnoxious.

Plan on spending a few hours 
walking down Oxford Street & Regent Street
for the full effect...
but don't plan to be alone.

The streets are crowded, 
so grab a hot drink from Starbucks 
and make the most of it.


So there you have it...
not the complete list,
but definitely a good starting point
for planning your holidays in London.

Other good resources I would use are:

If you're looking for more advice on visiting London,
you can check out my more thorough guide
of sites, places to stay & food not to miss.

*all images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on January 3, 2013 and filed under "England", "London", "holiday", "travel tips", "travel".