There are loads of ways to enjoy the festive season in London. Whether you're looking for tradition, luxury, retail therapy or even a little adventure, our selection of special events, fabulous flower displays, sparkling lights and a brilliant Christmas shopping package is sure to put you in the Christmas spirit...
THE ULTIMATE CHRISTMAS SHOPPING BREAK
As December 25th looms ever closer the big question is... have you done your Christmas shopping yet? If not, the London Marriott Hotel in Grosvenor Square has introduced the perfect package combining shopping for family in London's festive shopping quarter, as well as treats for you in the hotel (well it's hard work ticking everyone off the list!).
We tried it and managed to buy the majority of our gifts in just over half a day (having Selfridges around the corner from your hotel room helps), plus did it with more style and less stress because you don't have to carry all your shopping bags on the tube or bus.
The Marriott's Selfridges Shopping package includes a £50 Selfridges gift voucher and an overnight stay in a Deluxe Room with breakfast in Gordon Ramsey's maze Grill (we recommend having dinner there too - the steaks are delicious and aged in special Himalayan salt fridges). Plus for fans of ITV's Mr Selfridge there's a book claiming to tell the real story of Harry Gordon Selfridge left in the room which makes a great stocking filler in itself. But by far the best part of this brilliant seasonal package is the fact it also includes the Marriott Grosvenor Square's ‘low tea' (usually from £48pp Weds - Sat 12noon-15.00 and Sunday from 12 noon to 17.00), served in the atmospheric original Luggage room - now a speakeasy cocktail bar.
Low tea was, in the 1920s, the original form of ‘afternoon tea' served by the upper classes on low tables and thought of as a rare and expensive delicacy. In the luggage room it comes ‘hidden' inside an old medicine cabinet (well it was prohibition) and includes a charming selection of hot savoury dishes such as Devonshire wild boar sausage rolls with Tiptree grain mustard and sweet delights including a Tiptree jarred scone trifle (delicious!). Your choice of tea is also brewed to perfection and includes everything from China White Monkey tea to Lapsang Souchong and Christmassy tasting Chai.
The Marriott Grosvenor Square's Selfridges Shopping package costs from £435 based on two sharing. Valid from the end of November until January 31st (so you could book in to make the most of the sales instead).
More details: MarriottGrosvenorSquare.co.uk
HIGH ON HUMAN NATURE
Head for the 31st floor of the Shard and tuck in to a festive meal while enjoying the amazing 'Human Nature' installation created to celebrate the 90th birthday of Sir Richard Attenborough. You'll find thousands of 3D printed British leaves made from 100 per cent recycled waste plastic. The flowing nine-metre structure hangs from the ceiling of the restaurant's triple height atrium, depicting the beauty and variety found within the natural world, and highlighting the importance of preserving this diversity.
A two-course festive lunch costs £34, or for three courses it's £39. Sip the specially-created ‘Human Nature' cocktail (£16), or tuck in to the ‘Human Nature' dessert (£9), with 50 per cent of sales going to the conservation charity Flora and Fauna International.
More details: aquashard.co.uk
CHAMPAGNE CHRISTMAS TREE AT NUMBER ONE ALDWYCH
One Aldwych hotel, Covent Garden, gets the holiday season off to a sparkling start with a dazzling Champagne Christmas Tree in the Lobby Bar. Designed by the hotel's resident florist Mark Siredzuk, the towering 25-foot tree is adorned with 140 Champagne bottles covered with thousands of pearls,
decorative leaves and glitter. Champagne-hued asparagus fern, as well as matte gold and silver garlands, give the tree a suitably frothy look. Lobby Bar guests may admire the Champagne Christmas Tree while enjoying five specially-created Festive Classic Cocktails including the bubbly Mistletoe Punch and the Christmas Royale, both topped up with Perrier-Jouët Brut Champagne.
More details: onealdwych.com
WINDOW SHOPPING AT THE MAY FAIR HOTEL
The May Fair Hotel has launched its #AMayFairChristmas window display in the form of an interactive advent calendar, created by renowned artist Terry Jackson. The calendar went live on 1 December, unveiling a gift every day from a range of businesses across the Mayfair community including the likes of Sophia Webster, Nicole Farhi, La Perla, Pickett and Temperley. Gifts inside the boxes can be won via social media on Instagram @themayfairhotel, whilst store discount vouchers will be available at the hotel reception and other prizes will be exclusively available to hotel guests.
More details: themayfairhotel.co.uk
CHRISTMAS ON ICE
Time to lace up those skates for an energetic lap or two of one of London's many seasonal pop-up ice rinks. You'll find them at several locations including Hampton Court Palace, Somerset House and the Natural History Museum, as well as at Westfield shopping centre.
More details: visitlondon.com/tag/ice-skating-london
CHORAL CHRISTMAS CHEER
Fill yourself with Christmas cheer with two weeks of concerts amid the Baroque features of St John's Smith Square. Choral works, classical recitals and theatrical performances combine to make up this year's Christmas Festival, which returns for the 31st year and runs right through to 23 December. Listen to Christmas music recitals from several Oxford and Cambridge colleges, or take your seat for Handel's Messiah on Friday 23 December.
More details: sjss.org.uk
SANTA'S VICTORIAN GROTTO
Come face-to- face with Santa at the Museum of London in the Victorian Santa's Grotto. Situated in an atmospheric 19 th century street, the grotto gives children the perfect opportunity to tell Father Christmas their particular wishes. Prices from £5 to £9 per child, which include a special gift. You can take a photo of this magical moment home with you for an additional £8.
More details: museumoflondon.org.uk/museum-london/whats-on/grotto
PARTY TIME ON THE RIVER
Celebrate Christmas in style with a party on the Thames. The night begins with a glass of sparkling wine which will be sure to get you and your companions into the party mood. A three course festive menu follows, with half a bottle of wine per person. Then it's time to take to the dance floor where
a DJ will be playing top party songs and Christmas hits. And all the while, the ship sails along the River Thames, giving you sight of London's magnificent skyline, including the London Eye, Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. Cruise departs daily until 21 December, at 7.15pm from Westminster Pier, returning at 11pm. Prices from £49.
More details: citycruises.com
WREATH-MAKING IN BLOOMSBURY
Nestled in the heart of Bloomsbury is the enchanting Dalloway Terrace, fully winterised for the festive season. With snow covered, Narnia-like foliage, you can escape the winter chill on the heated covered terrace, complete with sheepskin rugs and hot water bottles. Dalloway Terrace has partnered with master florist Orchidya, launching a beautiful pop-up flower shop next to the terrace, which also offers Christmas wreath-making masterclasses. The class can also be combined with a delicious Pierre Marcolini Chocolate afternoon tea, hot chocolate cocktails, or even a cheese Fondue from La Fromagerie, on offer alongside the new festive winter à la carte menu. Masterclass bookings via email@example.com. £120 per person for two, £100 per person for groups with a minimum of five participants.
More details: dallowayterrace.com
THE MOST TRADITIONAL CHRISTMAS DECS
In the heart of Covent Garden lies Rules, the oldest restaurant in London. Established in 1789, Rules has hosted writers, lawyers, actors, film stars and artists - Sir John Betjeman described the ground floor interior as ‘unique and irreplaceable'.
The Christmas flowers and decorations by Derek Isaac of Supernature Flowers (supernatureflowers.com) get better every year and adorn every corner of the restaurant, bar and private rooms. From pheasant feathers to Venetian masks, everywhere you look is a tribute to traditional celebrations. Go there to be inspired and for a delicious seasonal meal.
More details: rules.co.uk