What does feeling festive mean to you? For me, it’s being cosy whether in a coat, cosy scarf and bobble hat or snuggled up inside wearing a comfy jumper; twinkling Christmas lights; mulled wine and mince pies; merry songs; and Christmas films with a tub of chocolate. All enjoyed with family or good friends laughing and wearing big smiles.
In a capital city like London that festive feeling can be easy to find but you often have to consciously make an effort to push through the crowds and lift your head up to find that happy place.
I’ve enjoyed so many Christmases here but I tend to do the same things, adding something new each year. After seven Christmases in the city I’m feeling pretty knowledgable about what’s on these days so, since it’s 1 December today, I thought I’d share my guide for where to feel festive in London.
Find the festive window displays at Fortnum’s
Fortnum and Mason’s became a Christmas tradition a couple of years ago when I started to buy small gifts like their jam, marmalade and biscuits. Since then, it is always on my list of places to go at least once. The food treats are fit for a queen and it has some of the best window displays in London.
Dash into Liberty London
If time is against me then the historic department store is a must-visit. Between this year’s Nutcracker door guards and a Christmas shop that meets all our needs, it has festive sorted. The Christmas lights inside aren’t as good as they have been in the past this year but it’s such a lovely store anyway.
Take a week day trip to Winter wonderland or South Bank’s Winter Festival
Being from Birmingham (the home of the UK German Christmas market in my opinion) means the Christmas build up isn’t complete without a Christmas market. They tend to pop up all over the city but Winter Wonderland and the Winter Festival are my favourites. You’ll find me eating bratwurst and poffertjes, drinking mulled wine and watching the fair ground rides whizz by. As people travel from far and wide to visit, the best time to go is during the week or before nightfall at the weekends.
Grab some goodies at the market on a Saturday
I buy food gifts every year and they go down a treat. But I love getting all wrapped up and leisurely browsing market stalls for goodies. Broadway and Borough are my go-to markets with cheeses from around the world, London honey, creamy fudge and colourful meringues. But seeing people collecting their Christmas trees and smelling mulled drinks too, makes me feel so festive.
Sing along to Christmas carols
This year will be the first time I’ve ever made it to a carol concert in London and I can’t wait. Carols are the one thing that pull all of my Christmas memories together, from the nativity plays in nursery (I’m always proud to tell people I had the role of Mary one year), concerts held at the end of the school term, or just quietly listening to carols whilst wrapping presents up a few presents. Carols just give me that spine-tingling festive feeling. I’m off to the Royal Albert Hall but Time Out London and Visit London have some really great guides to help you find the best one for you.
Go wreath hunting in West London
OK, you’ll find wreaths all over the residential areas of London but I’ve found that some of the most opulent ones can be spotted in West London (Notting Hill and South Kensington being the usual suspects). It might not be the most festive thing on the list but it’s good to get outdoors when I’ve been eating plenty! And it’s a good way to get some great Instagrams too.
Visit an ice rink
Even though I’m not the best ice skater, visiting an ice rink makes me feel super festive. I’ll head to Somerset House or the Natural History Museum even if I don’t have tickets. They’re like real life Christmas snow globes, don’t you think? I’m hoping to visit Hampton Court this year but there are plenty of other places to get tickets.
Complete THE Christmas lights tour (or make up your own)
A few years ago I shared a great Christmas lights tour. Whilst I don’t usually have time to do it all in one night these days, I’ve virtually memorised the route and try to see as much of it as possible. It’s guaranteed to give me that heart-warming feeling. I wrap up warm, grab my camera and get going. If I can squeeze in a hot chocolate, all the better. If you do it I really would love to know. Tell me where you’re from, what you think and share any pictures. You can send me a tweet, tag me on Instagram or drop me an email.