This is a guest post by Natasha, a.k.a. Eat Sleep Shoot Travel.
If you’re heading to London during the Christmas season, ditch the tourist trail. Come and experience Christmas like a local.
Here’s a few things us Londoners like to get up to over the festive period.
1. See the Christmas lights
London’s Christmas lights are some of the best in the world. A good way to see all the lights close up is from the top deck of a London bus. Nab a seat in the front row and take in the sights. (Don’t forget your Oyster card!)
This lovely meandering route will show you all the best lights of London:
1) Starting at Grosvenor Place, take the 52 to Knightsbridge, then get off.
2) Hop a 10 or 73 from Knightsbridge. Take it up Park Lane, along Oxford Street, and get off at Oxford Circus.
3) Now take a 3, 88, 159 or 453 from Oxford Circus down Regent Street.
2. Spend an afternoon at Winter Wonderland
Kids will be spoilt for choice at Hyde Park’s annual Winter Wonderland, which includes a giant observation wheel, Zippo’s Christmas Circus and the capital’s biggest ice rink. There’s also a Santa Land with rides, games and food stalls. Kids can meet Father Christmas then jump on board the Santa Express.
Entrance is free, but you’ll need to buy tokens for the rides.
3. Grab a Santa suit and join SantaCon
SantaCon is on 6th December. It involves a gang of Santas running around London, singing carols, giving out gifts, and encouraging strangers to sit on their laps.
Anyone can take part as long as they follow the 3 rules for participating. All Santas must:
1) Be jolly
2) Wear a Santa suit
3) Don’t get arrested
The meeting point and route is top secret and won’t be announced until 24 hours in advance. Keep an eye on the London SantaCon website and make that appointment at the fancy dress shop now.
4. Check out the Christmas Tree in Trafalgar Square
The Trafalgar Square Christmas tree is donated by the city of Oslo each year, in gratitude for our support during the Second World War. The tree will be on display in Trafalgar Square from the beginning of December until 6 January.
5. Go for a skate in the open air
Nothing feels like Christmas more than skating in open air at an iconic London location. Choose from Hampton Court Palace, Somerset House or The National History Museum. (It’s also compulsory to have a post-skate hot chocolate.)
6. Exercise those vocal chords at a traditional carol service
From the end of November, carol services start popping up all over London. Check local listings magazines such as Time Out for the week’s services. Most are in aid of a specific charity, so are free to enter but donations are expected.
7. See a traditional Christmas Panto
Taking the kids to the pantomime is as much a part of Christmas as decorating the tree and giving presents. Pantomime dames, heroes and villains are a British institution. For a panto near you, check out http://www.bigpantoguide.co.uk/
8. Grab a meaty bargain for Christmas dinner at the Christmas Eve Meat Auction.
London butchers Harts of Smithfield have held Christmas Eve meat auctions annually for the last 30 years. Everything’s got to go, so get a wad of cash, a sturdy bag and be prepared for a load of yelling to secure that bargain turkey. It starts at 10 am, but for a prime spot in the auctioneers’ sight line, get there early.
9. Attend Midnight Mass at Westminster Abbey
All faiths are welcome at midnight mass at Westminster. Services start at 11.30 p.m. It’s a free service but you do have to reserve your seat.
10. Christmas Day service at St. Paul’s
Christmas isn’t just about the presents. For the true meaning of Christmas, head to St. Paul’s Cathedral for their Christmas Day service. For the early birds there’s a service at 8 a.m., or if you fancy a lie-in head on down for the 3.15 pm service. But there’s no public transport running on Christmas Day, so you’ll have to beg, borrow or steal a lift to get there.
Natasha, a.k.a. Eat Sleep Shoot Travel, is capturing the world one frame at a time. Globe trotter, travel blogger, photographer, TripAdvisor’s London Guru, drinker of tea. Follow Natasha on Twitter and her Eat Sleep Shoot Travel blog.