From twinkling Christmas lights and bustling winter markets to scenic skating rinks and cosy seasonal pop-ups, there’s no shortage of fun to be in the United Kingdom's capital during the colder months of the year. True Londoners would argue that the capital truly comes into its own when the nights are darker and the temperature falls.
No festive season in London is complete without a visit to one of the many ice skating rinks that appear around the city for the winter months. From the palatial 900-metre square arena that takes over Somerset House’s magnificent neoclassical courtyard to the already iconic new rink outside Battersea’s revitalised Power Station, there's no shortage of atmospheric pop-ups to glide around on come the winter months.
If you’d prefer to be next to the ice rather than on it, you could try your hand at another increasingly popular winter sport with a visit to The Curling Club’s winter pop-up on the South Bank. With lively après-ski vibes including Alpine-themed street food and a variety of entertainment packages on offer, it’s a great place to indulge in some friendly competition with your loved ones over the winter period.
There’s a good chance that younger visitors to London this winter will be full of excitement about Disney’s new animated musical-comedy Wish movie, which showcases all the sparkle and wonder that help make Disney films feel so festive. Marriott Bonvoy teamed up with Disney's Wish, inviting guests to experience the film's magic during their visit, with everything from free stays and meals for children to a very special afternoon tea experience: 'Wish Upon A Star Afternoon Tea inspired by Disney's Wish' at Lanes of London at London Marriott Hotel Park Lane features delicate themed sweet and savoury delights including Shooting Star and Enchanted Bubble dessert.
It's not just London visitors who can dive into all the Marriott Bonvoy and Disney's Wish fun, either. In properties right across the UK, Marriott Bonvoy members can take advantage of special family accommodation offers and enjoy wish trees where little guests can hang their wishes.
From fine dining to street food, London’s vibrant and diverse food scene has something for everyone to sink their teeth into, but never more so than in the festive season, when winter food markets and indulgent seasonal menus start to appear around the city. Christmas shoppers can pick up the very finest festive produce at the historic Borough Market, or pay a visit to the iconic Fortnum and Masons to shop for festive food hampers.
Booking a Festive Afternoon Tea at a five-star Mayfair hotel is a Christmas treat to remember. At the Sheraton Grand London Park Lane, guests can sample traditional finger sandwiches and picture-perfect cakes in the sumptuous Art Deco surroundings of the Palm Court. Or opt for the JW Marriott Grosvenor House’s Festive Afternoon Tea package to sample fresh scones and decadent pastries in the Park Room while enjoying unparalleled views of the nearby Hyde Park.
Alternatively, pay a visit to the Excel Centre to be one of the first to explore the London’s newest festive destination, the Kingdom of Winter, entry to which is free for Marriott Bonvoy members. The Kingdom of Winter features everything from winter circus performances and a traditional fairground to an immersive ice trail and endless shopping opportunities. To claim your free ticket, simply use the code ‘BONVOY23’ at checkout. With magnificent views over the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf and excellent facilities including an indoor pool and gym, the Aloft London Excel is right on the doorstep of the exhibition centre, making it the perfect base from which to visit the UK’s largest indoor winter event. The hotel's Docksider Restaurant and W XYZ Bar are great spots for refreshments before or after visiting the Kingdom of Winter.
Further west along the Thames, the Southbank Centre’s Winter Festival features festive street food stalls, light installations and festive concerts. Alternatively, take a stroll further down the South Bank to Between Two Bridges for a raucous programme of festive events including drag brunches, brass band concerts and Christmas singalongs at Massaoke.
London is full of atmospheric experiences that will really get you into the Christmas spirit. The Museum of Architecture’s edible Gingerbread City, an annual collaboration between some of the city’s most impressive architecture firms, is an experience not to be missed. There are homely Christmas scenes to explore at Dennis Severs’ House, a quirky Spitalfields property where each room is decorated to reflect a different historic style.
But most Londoners will tell you that no Christmas in the city is truly complete without a visit to Hyde Park’s sprawling seasonal pop-up, Winter Wonderland. A must-visit fixture in the city’s festive calendar, the bustling carnival features everything from theme park rides and a street food village to a festive circus and a magical Ice Kingdom carved from 500 tonnes of ice and snow. Explore it all during a stay at The Park Tower Knightsbridge, a Luxury Collection Hotel, London in Knightsbridge. Located on the doorstep of Christmas shopping spots like Harrods and Harvey Nichols, its striking circular rooms offer magnificent views over the action in Hyde Park.
Christmas Day is one of the rare times when London truly grinds to a halt, with public transport reduced for the day and the usually bustling streets suddenly empty. Make the most of the quiet with a Christmas Day stroll around the city centre to see the twinkling Christmas lights, or do some sightseeing with a guided open-top bus tour, taking in Buckingham Palace, Tower of London, St Paul’s Cathedral and many more of London’s most famous landmarks.
Spending New Year’s Eve in the city? See it in truly unforgettable style at the W London’s glamorous celebration. Located in the heart of Soho just minutes from many of the city’s most celebrated nightlife venues, the hotel has excellent party-throwing credentials, hosting weekly DJ nights and cocktail making classes at its lively in-house bar The Perception. And with its fabulous views over the West End, the hotel’s state-of-the-art sixth floor gym and spa is the perfect place to detox the following morning. An alternative but equally enticing invitation is to the elegant, wood-panelled Gillray's Steakhouse at London Marriott Hotel County Hall, whose New Year's Eve Gala will sweep you off your feet.
Published: November 06, 2023
Last Updated: November 07, 2023
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