So, since I’m now on a grad scheme in the City it seems fitting to make my first real blog post about London. I’ll be honest, this post probably isn’t too helpful for backpackers because London is expensive. Oh, and I may have mentioned the Ritz … Firstly, London is beautiful. Sure, it’s got ugly bits too but that’s what makes it so beautiful. If you haven’t experienced London in winter, it’s definitely one to put on the bucket list. This is my second Christmas in London and it hasn’t disappointed thus far.
Whether it’s the Christmas market on Southbank (where street performers still work their butts off to entertain us despite it been finger-freezing cold), the London Eye all lit up on New Years Eve, the ice-skating rink at the Natural History Museum, the hustle and bustle of stressed last minute Christmas shoppers on Oxford Street or mulled wine and fairground rides at Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, there is no shortage of cosy things to do in London when the temperatures drop. Here are some of my favourites!
1. Go ice skating
There are barrels of places to go ice skating in London in winter. Bare in mind they will probably all be very busy! My favourite is the one in Canary Wharf because they had some cracking tunes playing and it was all lit up with little fairy lights on trees. I also really enjoyed the ice rink at the Natural History Museum (below). There’s a cute Christmas tree in the middle AND a Hotel Chocolat van if I remember correctly. You can also ice skate at Somerset House and the Tower of London.
2. Go to Winter Wonderland
If you’re into mulled wine, hot cider, rollercoasters, hot doughnuts, candyfloss, lots of tourists, slightly drunk people by 9pm and a medium-to-strong chance of rain (it is England after all), then this is the place for you. Admittedly it was hella crowded when I went and the queues were out the door (with one of the bars I went to being “one-in-one-out”) and to be honest I’m not the biggest fan of mulled cider but it’s still a must-do.
Bare in mind that about 90% of the activities there are OUTSIDE and since England is very cold in winter you will want to wrap up warm – see below for my OOTD ft. a very furry hat. You will also notice a lack of gloves which I regretted so wrap up or be prepared to buy a hot drink just to keep your mitts warm.
3. Go for a winter walk in a London park
Okay, hear me out. I know it’s cold. But the parks in London are just as glorious in winter as they are in summer. My favourite will always be Richmond Park, go and spot the deer! They’re adorable. I also love going to Primrose Hill. If you make the effort to walk to the top, the skyline is superb, day or night. If you’re stuck for things to do at New Years, Primrose Hill is always a good shout. I went last year and it was fab – people sit at the top with picnic blankets and fizz and listen to music and have a good time. Regents Park, Greenwich Park and Hyde Park are all great options too.
4. Walk along Southbank
Southbank’s Winter Market features wooden chalets selling all sorts of treats such as food, drink (lots of mulled wine) and unique Christmas gifts. I work near London Bridge so love walking from London Bridge all the way down to Waterloo and seeing views like this on my way (yep that’s Tower Bridge and the Shard:
If you walk the whole way down you’ll pass a whole host of famous buildings and landmarks such as the National Theatre, Tate Modern, the Oxo Tower, the Globe Theatre, and the London Eye, just to name a few. Not to mention all the bridges in between (there are lots!) Near London Bridge station is the Shard, if you fancy a touch of class or alternatively check out Borough Market where you can find all sorts of fun festive food and drink.
5. Afternoon tea
There’s nothing cosier than pausing to warm up with some afternoon tea or some hot cocoa. There are a billion places to go in London for this sort of thing. If you want somewhere slightly upmarket I recommend Café Concerto (sorry it’s a chain!). This strawberry/cream/sorbet situation was SO good.
If you want a traditional afternoon tea and don’t mind spending a bit more dolla, head to the Ritz (pls don’t literally just head there lol, it gets very busy and you will need to book way in advance!). There is a dress code at the Ritz and you’ll see why as soon as you enter. Probably this sense of formality is one of the things that draws tourists in to experience a true sense of Britishness. You can make an evening of it and bathe in the lavish ambience complimented by a musical ensemble from the resident pianist/harpist.
6. Visit Greenwich!
When you’re done with Southbank, take a boat trip from Westminster to Greenwich. I’m slightly biased because I spent a year living there but Greenwich is fantastique! I could honestly rave about Greenwich for days. Not only is it home to the o2 (which you can climb up!), and London’s only cable car, it also happens to be packed with royal heritage. Not to mention the Maritime Museum, Cutty Sark and Planetarium! Walk up to the Royal Observatory and cross the Greenwich Meridian. The view from the Observatory is honestly breathtaking. Just pause and take in that incredible view of London. Then afterwards go get a full English at one of the many restaurants Greenwich has to offer.
7. Check out Harrods window display.
Just go see for yourself!
8. Go to the theatre
I spend half my life at the theatre (ps. that may not be 100% accurate). There are so many good things on in London at the moment (including incredible Broadway show Hamilton, which is now on at the West End). I would highly recommend seeing An American in Paris, Mama Mia! and Phantom of the Opera. There are so many amazing shows on at the moment and the theatre provides the perfect shelter if it’s raining/cold/snowing.
9. New Years Eve fireworks
Unfortunately tickets are now sold out for New Years Eve 2017 so if you’re desperate to see it you might have to watch it on telly in true British fashion. Something to bare in mind for next year though – book early!
Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoy London as much as I do.