The festive period is one of the best times of the year to visit London. Colourful decorations light up the streets, the city explodes with exciting events and an infectious festive buzz fills the air right up until the New Year. With so many people heading to the capital to enjoy a holiday break or do some Christmas shopping, London can get extremely busy. Avoid the crowds and discover a different side to the capital with this alternative guide to Christmas in London.
Alternative Shopping Destinations
While throngs of visitors swarm London’s main shopping artery, Oxford Street, take a different path and instead visit the city’s luxurious arcades and high-end shopping streets for a more relaxed experience. Burlington Arcade, a 19th century high-end arcade in the heart of Mayfair, is home to myriad boutiques dedicated to fashion, accessories and fine jewellery. Elsewhere in Knightsbridge, shoppers can browse the designer label boutiques of Sloane Street or explore the world-famous Harrods department store, which offers over one million square feet of luxury shopping. If quality or bespoke menswear is on your gift list, take a stroll down Jermyn Street to discover the likes of Hawes & Curtis, Hackett and John Lobb, or visit London’s illustrious tailoring street, Savile Row.
Alternative Christmas Markets
While crowds flock to Winter Wonderland in their thousands, enjoy a more intimate Christmas shopping experience at one of London’s upscale winter markets. Close to Brown’s Hotel is the Mayfair Christmas Market (Friday 25th and Saturday 28th November 2016) at Mayfair Place. The market, hosted by Novikov Restaurant and Bar, brings together local retailers who showcase an array of festive gifts, such as jewellery, high-end accessories and quality decorations. In nearby Chelsea, Selvedge Artisan Christmas (1st – 3rd December 2016) is the best place to go for artisan gifts. The market displays a wide array of items, from antique textiles and handcrafted decorations, to organic snacks and vintage haberdashery. To support a good cause while shopping, visit the long-running Rugby Portobello Trust Market (15th – 16th November 2016) in Notting Hill, where high-end stallholders stand side-by-side with local eateries to raise money for disadvantaged young people in the local community.
Alternative Winter Walks
Rather than taking a winter walk in Hyde Park, one of the city’s most famous and popular parks, explore beautiful green spaces a little further afield for a quieter but equally charming ambience. Kew Gardens is especially attractive during the festive season, when it’s transformed into a magical winter wonderland. Colourful lights illuminate a mile-long trail through the gardens, and there’s also a ‘North Pole’ village with festive foods and vintage rides to entertain the whole family.
Alternative Festive Settings
Instead of joining hundreds of others to admire the giant Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square, discover Christmas through the ages at the Geffrye Museum. From 22nd November 2016 to 8th January 2017, the museum hosts a festive exhibition, ‘Christmas Past: 400 Years of Seasonal Traditions in English Homes’. Taking visitors on a journey through time, the Geffrye’s period rooms are beautifully decorated and offer guests a glimpse of how decorations and festivities have changed and developed over the years. Visitors could also take a trip to Windsor Castle, which is elegantly decorated for the festive season. From 25th November 2016 to 5th January 2017, the castle celebrates Christmas with an exhibition devoted to The Queen’s style through the years, and fireside family storytelling sessions in the grand St George’s Hall, where a giant 30ft Nordmann Fir tree forms the centrepiece of a magnificent festive display.
Alternative Christmas Shows
Rather than booking a pantomime or a festive show in the West End, why not choose to see a festive concert at the Royal Albert Hall? In the weeks leading up to Christmas, the iconic concert hall presents a series of carol concerts and musical performances, which are guaranteed to get you in the festive spirit. Elsewhere, the iconic Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club hosts a popular Christmas cabaret.
If you’re looking for something extra special for a loved one, consider gifting experiences rather than gifts. Brown’s Hotel offers a variety of exclusive gift ideas, from luxurious spa pampering treatments to memorable dining experiences. The hotel also offers monetary gift cards, which can be redeemed on experiences at nine participating Rocco Forte Rocco Hotels around the world.
If you’re planning to celebrate Christmas in London, take advantage of one of the seasonal escape packages at Brown’s Hotel, or treat yourself to the exclusive Mayfair Christmas with Smythson package, where a festive stay comes with extra special gifts.
Image credits: Burlington Arcade © British Tourist Authority, Christmas at Kew © Richard Haughton, Geffrye Museum Christmas Past 1930 © Chris Ridley