Christmastime Trip in London
Arts & Culture
Food & Wine
London is an electric city full of history and culture. It's old and new buildings and spaces are beautiful and rich in culture. I've traveled solo in London and have always found the city friendly and easy to navigate. It's public transportation is one of the best in the world and the city is incredibly walkable. There's a way to tap into food, history, adventure and art. It's also a magnificent destination to relax and unwind. I actually spent Christmas alone this past year in London and it was one of the best travel experiences that I have ever had.
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Where to stay in London
The Savoy Hotel
Beloved London institution a stone’s throw from the River Thames, known for its exacting service, sumptuous interiors and rare treat indoor swimming pool.
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Kimpton Fitzroy London Hotel
Upscale property overlooking Russell Square with sophisticated rooms and suites.
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The Hoxton, Southwark
192 creatively-designed rooms just a stone’s throw from the River Thames and South Bank’s best galleries and food markets, including Borough Market and the Tate Modern.
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Things to do in London
Just walk, you can learn and find so much by just walking. Walk through Trafalgar Square, Hyde Park and Kensington Palace. Walk along the Tower Bridge to get incredible photographs. I love graffiti art and Charles Dicken's literature. I created my own walking tour of street art through Shoreditch and of famous sites from Charles Dicken's life and works. And for any true crime fans, I also joined the Jack the Ripper walking tour through Whitechapel that was fascinating and changing everything I thought I knew about this story. Download the citymapper app and you will navigate the city on foot, by bus and by the tube so easily. Also look into getting the London Pass which is a cheaper option to see multiple sites in London.
The Tower of London is a must see historical site. Normally, I love to do all my own historical research and tours, but I highly recommend joining the tours they offer here.
Westminster Abbey is beautiful and serene around Christmas time. It is stunning on it's own, but decored for Christmas it's magical. Big Ben is also right outside and looks beautiful on a snowy night!
Hyde Park and Kensington Palace Gardens are both beautiful to walk through or sit down to read and enjoy a coffee.
Catch a West End Show and you won't be disappointed! I saw Les Miserables in December and was blown away by the performance. I was enthralled by a story I had seen and read many times. It was incredible, easy to get to and pretty affordable! Download the today tix app for tickets. This app also has the ability to let you see the stage view from different seats to help you choose. I walked through Chinatown on the way to the show and that is a really cool part of town too!
The British Museum is a controversial spot given that there is a long history of other countries' art, history, and treasure being taken here. However, it offers an opportunity to learn and see so much from all over the world.
The National Gallery of Art is one of my favorite art galleries in the world. I was there for hours looking at the timeless pieces. Monet's Water Lilies was there along with many of his other famous pieces. At Christmas, sparkling garland and giant Christmas trees are all throughout the building.
Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour is a must for any Harry Potter Fan. It is expensive, partically takes up a whole day, and must be reserved well in advance, but it is beyond worth it. The books and characters absolutley come to life and the making of the films is fascinating. There is also Platform 9 and 3/4 inside Kings Cross Station, but it's mostly a cool photo op.
Churchill War Rooms is a fascinating learning opportunity about World War II, England's role and Winston Churchill himself. It's one of my favorite things to do in London.
St. Paul's Cathedral is also gorgeously decorated for Christmas and offers large services that are open to the public by reservation on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Climb to the top (but brace yourself, it's 581 stairs) for a beautiful view of the snowy city.
Windsor Castle is the epitomy of beauty around Christmas time. Take the train out of the city to tour this gorgeous estate and the adorable town surroudning it. I went on Christmas Eve and was in awe of the spirit and decor around the castle and in the town.
London also has some of the best shopping in the world. It's absolutely perfect for any kind of holiday shopping. My favorite London stores are in Covent Gardens. But there is also amazing shopping at Harrod's and down Regent and Oxford Streets. I also recommend the Bourough and Camden Market for shopping and food.
Places to eat & drink in London
The food and drink in London is amazing and really diverse! Here is a list of my personal favorites:
Bob Bob Ricards: I absolutely love the ambience, the staff and the food here. My favorite location is in SOHO, which happens to be my favorite part of the city for nightlife. It's absolutely delicious and a life-changing experience for a foodie. Please if you go anywhere, make it Bob Bob Ricards.
Emilia's: This is the best pasta I have had outside of Italy. I think about my meal at Emilia's all the time. The bruschetta is required, the Aperol spritz are incredible, and there is no pasta dish on the menu that won't blow your mind. And just to honor the amazing staff members for a moment, I have to say they are the best. The only time I got lost in London was on Christmas Eve trying to find Emilia's by the wharf. I was panicked and called the restaurant's host. The host left the restaurant, tracked my location, found me almost 10 minutes away and walked me back to the restaurant. It was unbelievably kind, she and the entire staff are beyond welcoming and I had an amazing time there that Christmas Eve.
Gōng on the 52nd floor of the Shard in London offers amazing and fresh sushi and the best view of London by night. On Christmas Day night, this meal and the sparkling city were a beautiful way to celebrate the season.
Buns and Buns in Covent Gardens was a last minute find on my way to a West End show. I love Korean buns and I stopped in to grab a quick bite and was blown away. I have never had better Korean buns and I loved this meal so much that I actually went back after the show to try some more!
The Black Pig in Bourough Market has quick and absolutely delicious food to break up the shopping and walking. Their port sandwich I would give anything to be able to recreate.
Churchill Arms is covered in Christmas lights, has the funniest bar staff and servers that I have ever met, and also serves excellent Thai food. I went by myself for some apps and a pint and everyone in there was friendly and had potential to go into stand up comedy. I've never laughed so hard with total strangers.
For a homestyle Christmas Day meal: the Alexandra in Wimbledon makes you feel like you're in a cozy cottage surrounded by family on Christmas Day. Their eggnog is fantastic along their classic British menu. When I was there, I met seven other people traveling along for the holidays and we had a great time that day!
For afternoon tea (which I would like to incorporate into my everyday life), I have two favorites: the Royal Horseguards Hotel and the Ivy at Windsor. Tea at the Ivy goes hand in hand with touring Windsor castle. And the strawberries and cream tea and the Royal Horseguards is incredible. Both places are warm and stunningly decored for Christmas. If you're by yourself, bring a book and read and unwind. I strongly recommend making a reservation for both of these places so you're sure to get in!
They're all over the city and so cozy at Christmas time! Here are some of my favorites: the Red Lion, the White Lion, Punch & Judy, The Sherlock Holmes Pub and Mr. Foggs.
And finally for cocktails, the Rockwell at the Trafalgar St. James. I can say confidently that there are not better cocktails anywhere. These were stunning in every possible way. The Rockwell is also known for it's incredible food, brunch and tea trays, but please, go and grab some of the most unique cocktails in Europe.
Need to Know
Looking for more travel inspo? Check out my guide, A Guide to Traveling Greece in the Off Season.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to London.