Spending Christmas in London

For the past three years, we’ve spent the Christmas period abroad. First in Lake Louise, then Quebec City, and finally in London town.

Being overseas during Christmas can be difficult. It’s a little isolating when you’re in an unfamiliar place, in a different time zone from friends and family, and with unfamiliar people all around. But, the magic of a winter Christmas is hard to beat!

It helps that London really takes Christmas seriously. There are plenty of events and activities to take part in, winter markets and fairy lights galore, and mulled wine and Sunday roasts at every turn. The only thing missing for us was the snow! So we didn’t quite get a white Christmas this time around, but we came pretty close.

Explore the streets of London

Because it was Christmas, and because we like to treat ourselves at Christmas time, we had booked three nights at the St Pancras Renaissance. The name alone is fancy. And, it’s in a pretty great location, being right next to Kings Cross Station. It seemed like the most Christmassy place we could possibly choose. So I was stoked when, upon check-in, they offered us a complimentary warm apple cider and a mince tart. Good start.

Christmas in London

In our room was a beautiful Christmas card and more mince tarts. These guys really know how to make a girl feel welcome!

We had barely scratched the surface during our last trip to London, so decided to go exploring on foot. We hit up a very Christmassy Soho, Trafalgar Square, and the Southbank market, before wandering along to Buckingham Palace. Because I feel like you can’t make a trip to London without popping in to see the Queen. And yes, I know she’s not actually there for Christmas, but still.

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Finally, we checked out the Winter Wonderland Christmas Market in Hyde Park. This was definitely the largest market I have ever been to. There were hundreds of stalls, food carts everywhere you look, and heaps of carnival games and rides. Definitely a must-do at Christmas time.

Yer a wizard, Harry

You guys already know by now that I am a huge Harry Potter fan. So, of course, I was super keen to do the Warner Brothers Studio Tour since we didn’t get enough time during our last visit. Bear in mind, this tour sells out fast, so you definitely have to book in advance. What’s more, at Christmas time, they decorate Hogwarts in snow! We ended up going with the full day Studio and Oxford tour on Christmas Eve, and I’m so glad we did.

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The Studio Tour is amazing! It really is like stepping into the world of Harry Potter. I loved seeing the costumes, the sets, and discovering how the magic was created. I pretty much walked around wide eyed and grinning from ear to ear the whole time.

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The trip out to Oxford was a really great addition to the tour. Parts of Oxford were also used for filming, and as a University town, unfortunately some of the locations were closed for the holidays. But, I still got to walk the steps of Hogwarts and see the inspiration for the Great Hall.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas

It’s always so weird to wake up Christmas morning, on the other side of the world. But there’s something truly magical about a winter Christmas. London doesn’t usually get snow, so we weren’t expecting any. But what we did get was the perfect Winter day with blue skies and sunshine (for the most part).

We found a cute little Christmas stocking hanging from our door handle, filled with an orange, a Santa cookie, mini Christmas cracker, and some chocolates. Such a nice and unexpected touch.

Our hotel had recommended a great cafe nearby, no reservations required (yup, even on Christmas Day!). So we headed over to Karpo for a super filling and absolutely delicious British Christmas brunch to start the day.

We had no real plans, and since all the shops were shut, we decided to wander. We ended up at Regent’s Park, which turned out to be a perfect way to spend the day. We also made our way along Abbey Road and watched people try and re-create the iconic Beatles album cover. So awkward.

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Our last major stop ended up being Little Venice. To be honest, I never knew this area of London existed, but it really was like wandering the canals of Italy.

And if all that walking wasn’t impressive enough, I’ll have you know that I was wearing a new pair of leather Converse that I hadn’t yet worn in. Only 10 minutes or so after leaving the hotel, they started digging into both of my heels. Plasters did nothing to help, and pulling my socks up only made it worse. The struggle was real. Somehow I survived the day, but not without a great deal of agony and complaint.

When we finally made it back to the hotel, we were stoked to find another Christmas treat! This time we were gifted a bag of caramel and Spanish brandy popcorn (omg so good), and a couple of chocolates. Staying in a hotel during the Christmas period is no cheap feat, but I really loved all the little touches the Pancras offered. It really makes you feel like a valued guest, rather than just another body in a bed.

We had managed to secure a last-minute booking for a five-course Christmas dinner at our hotel, but it wasn’t until 8.30pm. When dinner time finally rolled around, we weren’t that hungry, and if we were being quite honest with ourselves, the menu wasn’t really our style. We’re more burgers and chips than caviar and champagne. The meal was going to be really expensive, too, so we bashfully asked if we could cancel our booking and sit at the bar instead. Smooth. The bar menu was actually pretty decent, so we ordered fish and chips (classy) and a couple of cocktails while we soaked up the Christmas atmosphere. The restaurant was dimly lit, everyone was in a great mood, and it just felt super romantic and magical. Or maybe it was the cocktails, I can’t be sure.

All in all, we had a wonderful Christmas away. London really turned it on for us, and I’m so glad we were able to finally explore the sets of the Harry Potter films.

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Author: Michelle

Michelle Harvey is a kiwi traveller, writer, photographer, list-maker, coffee drinker, and wanderer. Winter holidays are her favourite kind.

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