London - Christmas: that one glittery moment a year when the clock seems to stop ticking, and all you care about is spending the season with the people you love.
What matters too, of course, is where you spend it. Let’s face it; sun-dappled beaches are not exactly conducive to getting into the true Christmas spirit.
London is. Around Christmas time, London is magical for families, romantic for couples and spell-binding for all.
Traditional Christmas cards forever advertise people happily huddled together around food-laden tables in the glow of crackling fires; the outside world wrapped in snow and lit up by festive lights.
While no one can guarantee a white Christmas, London will spoil you with a postcard one. Embrace the crisp winter sun doing fun activities during the day, and then, with cheeks glowing from the cold, bask in the warmth indoors.
London’s Christmas evenings are synonymous with Christmas decorations. Photograph yourself with ginormous Christmas trees on Trafalgar Square or at Covent Garden and be mesmerised by fairy lights that replace the gloomy darkness through a truly magical sensation of light.
Visit Oxford Circus, the great shopping street, and admire the £1.5 million (R24.8m) lights display, inspired by snowflakes.
Let Carnaby Street dazzle you as hundreds of illuminated 3D robins twirl overhead. Or hop on a one-and-a-half-hour bus tour that not only takes you past well-known landmarks, but shows you all the lights the city has to offer.
The season wouldn’t be complete without browsing authentic Christmas markets. There are many all over London, where you will find toys, crafts, fashion or jewellery inside wooden chalets. Especially at night, Christmas markets have a cozy atmosphere. See how the soft glow of fairy lights illuminates the merry faces of carol singers and sample mulled wine and traditional mince pies.
One of London’s most famous Christmas markets can be found inside Hyde Park’s famous Winter Wonderland (free entry). It’s so spectacular, it’ll whip even the most cynical spoilsports into the Christmas spirit. Apart from finding hand-made presents, you can make pirouettes on the ice rink, laugh in the fun fairground rides or marvel at the Zippos Christmas Circus stunts.
Another Christmassy, if not romantic and fun, activity is ice-skating. Don hats and gloves, rent some skates and challenge one of the many open-air ice rinks across London. At Somerset House, you will feel like you have just entered a Victorian costume drama on ice, and twirl around inside a beautiful, torch-lit courtyard.
Another charming setting is the rink next to the Romanesque Natural History Museum, where you can happily skate around an enormous Christmas tree.
If you fancy hitting the heart of the capital, visit Eyeskate to glide past London’s most glorious landmark, the London Eye.
If there is one character who would never pass up on Christmas, it’s Santa. All over London, Santa will be making magical Christmas memories for young and old. See him and his reindeer at Santa’s Grotto at the London Zoo, admire his gleaming red suit at posh Harrods or visit Santa’s Grotto in 5D at Westfield to be sprinkled with real elves’ dust.
Most of Santa’s grottos are stacked with candy canes, gingerbread men and piles of presents. And Santa won’t let you leave without an early Christmas present.
Then, how would you know how to rate your own Christmas experience in the UK when you’ve never had one? Trail past 400 years of yuletide traditions in English middle-class homes at the Geffrye Museum: discover how the English danced, decorated trees, kissed daringly under the mistletoe and drank themselves under the table at cocktail parties.
Finally, don’t let this London Christmas pass you by without one of two of the most divine forms of Christmas entertainment. Some people feel really Christmassy when listening to heart-warming Christmas choirs at the Royal Albert Hall. If not, savour Charles Dickens’s Scrooge at the theatre, a story that almost belongs to Christmas as much as the nativity story, or enjoy The Snowman, an endearing and traditional Christmas story about a young boy’s snowman come to life on Christmas Eve, involving Santa and the evil Jack Frost.
Evidently, London is ready for an epic Christmas, and this exciting capital can’t wait to have you there. Merry Christmas! - The Mercury