Great at Christmas mood, but lacking cash? Yes, the same. This is your guide to getting a dose of the festivities for free.
Take a big bike ride of all the Christmas trees in central London
What’s more fun than casting a judgmental eye on wonderful things that people have lovingly created to celebrate a wonderful part of the year? Not much, really. So go ahead and grab a ballpoint pen and get your most organized friend to make an overly complicated result scheme. So go out together on a tour of central London’s large and large Christmas trees. Remember to make your way past the chubby Covent Garden 60-footer before ending at Trafalgar Square, home to the extremely tall and crooked boy we are gifted from Norway every single year. More places.
2. Have a brief spiritual moment
Get in touch with the so-called ‘true meaning of Christmas’ by attending a Christmas service at St Paul’s Cathedral this year. The boys at Big Paul’s always deliver a) beautiful words and b) even more beautiful music that will help you mark this special time of year with all the pomp it deserves.
3. Hang on to Harrods just to feel something
Close your eyes. Imagine thick, glorious branches of holly, streams of light-reflecting tinsel and shiny gifts tied with bows. Imagine the scent of cinnamon, hot chocolate and freshly cut wreaths. Imagine giant piles of toys, suitcases full of luxurious food and … a Burberry-clad child named Milly or Miles screaming for their nanny to buy them a giant teddy bear. That’s what you get by standing in Harrods or Fortnum’s: 100 percent unfiltered Christmas spirit, served with a side of horrible kids to give you something decent to beat up against your friends in this gossipy year. This is exactly the little pick-me-up we all need in 2021. 87-135 Brompton Rd.
Spend an afternoon in one of London’s beautiful countryside
Plan a day hanging out in the Christmas movie London. The one where Hugh Grant, Keira Knightley and Colin Firth spend much of their screen time in December saying things like ‘gosh’ and ‘goodness’ and ‘oh, that’s awfully nice of you’. You know the things: beautiful houses with stucco fronts, shops that only sell wooden toys for children. The best place for this mood? Notting Hill. There you will fall over 27 St Luke’s Mews, the place where Mark awkwardly declares his love on signal cards in ‘Love Actually’. Stop at The Churchill Arms while you are there. It is a pub decorated with row upon row of Christmas trees sprinkled with thousands of candles each year. Magical things. More places.
5. Meet the deer in Richmond Park
Did you know that Richmond Park is one of David Attenborough’s favorites? You can understand why: this large expanse of fields and forests in south-west London houses everything from a semi-secret Victorian flower garden (the Isabella plantation) to a large hill that you can see as far as St. Paul’s from. But the best thing about it? The red deer and fallow deer. They have lived there since 1625. That was when Charles I brought his court to Richmond Palace to escape the plague (AND) and got the deer to go too. When you see them tooting around on a frosty day, it’s about as much Christmas as London has. There is still nothing to say about whether they are distant relatives of Rudolph and his crew, but we are sure that the results of their 23andMe tests will come anytime now. Richmond Park.
6. Take a walk down London’s most Christmas street
Strolling down Lower Morden Lane in December is like drinking a bottle of nice Christmas cheer. Residents of South London Road have been decorating their houses in OTT decorations for more than 20 years. We’re talking about American suburban decorations – big inflatable Santas, lighted reindeer, massive bullets. It has become so good at glowing up that people come all the way from bloody Portsmouth to visit them. If you also want to take a look, know that the houses are free to look at, but the event is a fundraiser for St Raphael’s Hospice, so it’s good to cough up a few pounds if you can. It is probably best not to mention electricity bills for any of the locals. Lower Morden Lane.
7. See beautiful snowy landscapes at the National Gallery
For all the white stuff without any of the tube cancellations, visit the many snowstorms in the National Gallery’s permanent collection. Start with Hendrick Avercamp’s heartwarming ‘A Winter Scene with Skaters Near a Castle’ (Room 25). Then visit room 44 for Camille Pissarro’s ‘Fox Hill, Upper Norwood’, a shabby scene looking towards Crystal Palace, over the hill, just out of sight. Finish with Caspar David Friedrich’s existential ‘Winter Landscape’ in Room 45. It features a Gothic church looming over the horizon, and an abandoned little Tim figure sat on a cliff after leaving his crutches to pray for salvation. Ahh, festive cheers! Trafalgar Square.
8. Go and see the decorations in Piccadilly’s arcades
Oxford Street and Carnaby Street get most of London’s Christmas lights lit up every year. (And fair play, they’ve got people like the Spice Girls and Kylie Minogue stopping by to do that.) But there are far nicer twinklers to check out in our city. The real delights can be found in Burlington and Piccadilly Arcades. These glazed streets run from Piccadilly in the West End and have been home to upscale shops for more than a hundred years. Strolling through them now is like stepping into a glamorous period drama-making of London’s past. Piccadilly and Burlington Arcades.
Plan a day trip to see the spruces of King’s Wood in Kent
Of course, the Christmas tree you have in your kitchen lounge is beautiful. Good height, good circumference. Looks great with those who know news bullets you bought from Stoke Newington Church Street to pick it up. But is it not sad that here in London we only see spruces in captivity? Every year we cut them off from their roots and drag them into our small apartments to die alone. Wouldn’t it be nice for once to see them frolic (metaphorically) in the wild habitats where they belong? Well, you can if you go on a day trip to King’s Wood in Kent: 1,500 acres of former royal hunting forest, dotted with sculpture trails. It is about an hour and a half drive from the true center of London (M & M’s World) and offers hundreds of opportunities to watch Christmas trees cool off with their families and friends in nature. Ashford, Kent.
10. Walk along the South Bank
This is one of the things that people living in non-London imagine Londoners have to do all the time. ‘Just a little walk down the South Bank, maybe go up the Oxo Tower and then dinner at Zizzi !!!’ And to be honest, why do not we do it? Strolling along the South Bank on a December evening is a hell of a party. There is a smell of mulled wine and roasted nuts. There is a glimmer of light on the nearby bridges and their reflections in the Thames. This year, it’s all even more Christmas thanks to ‘Winter Light’: a series of glowing works of art commissioned by the Southbank Center. ‘Winter light’. Southbank Center. Until February 28, 2021.
11. Go to the Christmas market
There are lots of good Christmas fairs at this year. Maybe Selfridges’ mew-side one (with rides, gift shops and street food) might be for you? Whatever you choose, we can recommend taking your richest loved one and pointing things out and saying ‘Oh, that’s not so nice! I wish I could buy it to put my monstera in! ‘ before they run ‘to the toilet’ to give them time to buy it. More places.
12. Experience a vibrant Advent calendar in Walthamstow
Back in 2015, a community art project was launched in Whitehall Park, Highgate. The plan was for 24 volunteers to turn their front windows into a giant Advent calendar for the entire neighborhood. Every day in December, a household would illuminate their window with a beautiful design. The goal? To make both volunteers and passers-by feel part of a community and less lonely at a difficult time of the year. (A feeling needed in 2020 more than ever.) The project is still running and has been joined by another vibrant Advent calendar this year in Walthamstow – with windows to light up Winns Terrace, Brighton Avenue, Hove Avenue and Camden Road. See how many windows you can see. More places.
13. Attend a virtual Christmas carol concert
You can catch a glimpse of the beautiful Lambeth Palace as you stream its concert ‘A Starry Night’ on December 7th. Expect performances from the English National Opera Choir and the Male London Welsh Rugby Choir. Disclaimer: You want to donate some money to the organizers because even though they are free, they are also fundraisers. Tickets for both are available via Eventbrite.
More free sights to see? Seek out these secret wonders of London on your next walk.
And check out several incredible Christmas light exhibits in London this year.