(Repost from 2016) This would have been my first Christmas away from home, if my wonderful parents hadn’t offered to fly me home for a few days over the holidays. That being said, many expats don’t get the chance to go home for Christmas. Though London can be a cold and lonely city, they sure do a hell of a lot to make sure you don’t lose your Christmas spirit. For those of you who have followed my blog for a while, you’ll know that I’ve always dreamed of experiencing London during the Christmas season. It has exceeded my expectations! Here are some of the festive things you can take part in if you live in London!
London makes it easy for you to scope out all the Christmas lights in one evening, as all the major streets are in the same vicinity. Make sure to put Oxford Street, Regent Street, Carnaby Street, and Bond Street on your list! This year, Oxford street is lit up with stars and lanterns, Regent street is canopied by glittering angels, Carnaby Street has bright signs promoting world peace, and Bond street is lined with silver peacock feathers stemming out of storefronts and feathered chandeliers at the intersections (seen below).
Aside from the street lights, it’s actually the storefront displays that are the most spectacular sight. Some are glam meets funny (like Selfridges turning Santa into a P.I.M.P.), some look like a gift you wish you could
give someone special keep for yourself (Cartier seen above), and some deserve a step inside (Fortnum and Mason). Spend a day exploring the storefronts and then check out the street lights once the sun sets.
Typically, I watch Love Actually 3 times per holiday season, but this season I’ve been holding off because I’m going to see the movie at a screening event!
The event is hosted by the £1 Cinema Club. You pay £1 in advance, £5 for a last minute ticket (assuming there are any left), or £20 for a bundle of 5 tickets, 5 beers, and 5 after-party passes!
Even better, the event is more than just a screening of a holiday movie. You can get popcorn (unlimited for £1), mulled wine, and minced pies. You can also participate in activities like a photo booth (with a Hugh Grant cutout for this one *swoon*) and intermission entertainment. The entertainment for Love Actually is a Prime Minister dance off – I’ve had that dance memorized for years, so I am set!
The £1 Cinema Club shows a variety of films throughout the year (I’m currently looking at getting tickets to the Spice World event in January), but for holiday movies, December is the prime time!
For a more classy holiday movie screening, you can check out the Backyard Cinema.Though I’m afraid it normally sells out a month in advance; especially for movies like Love Actually. If you can snatch up tickets, do so. If not, there’s next year!
Especially as a Canadian, a skating rink can bring on nostalgic feels. Did anyone else have a DIY skating rink in their backyard? If not, don’t worry it’s not as fancy as it sounds.
Luckily for everyone who loves to skate, there are a ton of beautiful ice rinks to choose from. My top picks are: Somerset House (seen below), Natural History Museum, Tower of London, Canary Wharf, and Winter Wonderland (described further down).
Make sure to get your tickets in advance!! You can try walking up to the ticket booth on the day of, but the odds are not in your favor.
For mulled wine, sweet treats, and gift ideas, there are many markets to check out throughout the city. The Southbank has a couple; one near the London Eye (at the Southbank Centre) and one at the Tate Modern.
Leicester Square also has a great market, but I will warn you, it is more packed with tourists than the Southbank ones.
Of course, it’s worth a visit to Covent Garden. Even though it’s a year round market, they lavishly decorate it for the holiday season.
And the biggest market of all is …
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
Winter Wonderland is a huge winter tradition that takes place in Hyde Park. There’s rides you would find at a fair, Christmas markets, food stalls, carousel bars (with hot beverages, that may also be alcoholic), an ice rink, a performance of the Nutcracker on ice, and more!
For more info on this can’t miss holiday event, check out their webpage here.
If you are still struggling to find a group of friends in the big city, or simply want to be surrounded by more people to fill the gap of missing home, check out an expat social! There are many pre-organized events. If you don’t see an event that tickles your fancy, you can also create your own by simply writing a suggestion in the Facebook groups.
The Facebook groups that I’ve joined are: Expats in London, London New Girl, Girl Crew London, Kiwis in London, Aussies in London, and Canadians in London.
Yes, you can join the Aussie and Kiwi groups as a Canadian (that’s how I found my flat)!
Additionally, keep an eye out on the MeetUp App!
TimeOut’s Christmas Map
To make this guide even more user friendly, I’ve just found this Christmas map on TimeOut.com that could come in handy!
Those are my tips on how to feel festive this holiday season! If all else fails, order something at Starbucks so you can get a festive cup. I’ve heard people go crazy for those … *As I’m sipping on a festive Matcha Latte at Starbucks … it’s the only coffee shop that’s open late near my flat!!*