People standing under a canopy of fairy lights
London

Six luxurious London Christmas experiences

Come Christmas, nowhere feels more festive than London, where the whole of December functions as an atmospheric countdown to the nation’s big day off. Here’s our pick of six of the very best of Christmas experiences across the capital

Illuminated ice rink at Somerset House, London

Ice skate at a London landmark

The annual pop-up rinks mean you’re spoiled for choice if you want to ice skate in London. For the best panoramic views, Europe's only real ice rooftop rink is at Skylight in Tobacco Dock in East London. Or, for something a little more traditional, visit the rink at the Tower of London, where you can skate in the shadow of one of the city’s most famous buildings. Other returning favourites include the temporary ice rink outside the Natural History Museum and, for foodies, Somerset House's rink in its grand 18th-century courtyard is a must-do. Here, you can follow your skating session with a visit to the pop-up Fortnum’s Lodge, to enjoy winter classics, including cheese fondue, smoked salmon and mince pies.
Insider tip: To glide in peace, consider booking the first session of the day, before the tour groups and after-work groups descend (though it’s not as conducive to mulled wine drinking).

Cosy candlelit igloos at Coppa, London

Drink Champagne in an igloo or hop into a Nordic hot tub

If you’re after an igloo with a view, you can’t beat the Insta-worthy domes overlooking the Thames at the Coppa Club near Tower Bridge. Here, chic PVC domes are filled with fluffy blankets, sheepskin rugs, gently flickering candles and (should you wish) chilled Champagne on ice. All it needs is you and some friends to heat things up. If a Nordic Christmas is more your style, head to Winterland in Fulham. Its authentic Alpine experience features mountain scenery, fire pits, festive feasting tables, chairlifts, and bubbling woodland hot tubs – keeping things cool and hot at the same time.
Insider tip: Book a hot tub at Winterland in advance and you’ll enjoy butler service – meaning you can enjoy drinks from the bar without having to leave your pool.

Ballerinas perform The Nutcracker on stage

Lose yourself in a festive West End show

Discover the magic of the London stage with a world-class West End show. At the London Coliseum, the English National Ballet pulls out all the stops for its performance of the Nutcracker, with more than 100 dancers and musicians bringing a frost-dusted Edwardian London to life. For families, The Snowman at The Peacock Theatre is a real treat. This stage adaptation, courtesy of leading dance theatre Sadler’s Wells, has a set based on a snowglobe, a heart-tugging musical score and a finale that sees (spoiler alert) snow fall onto the audience.
Insider tip: Want the best seat in the house? Visit whichseats.com, which collects seat reviews for every London theatre.

Children enjoy the Christmas lights at Kew Gardens

Explore a winter wonderland at Kew Gardens

Kew Gardens may seem like more of a London summer must-do, but great effort is made to ensure the same is true of these botanical gardens during the run-up to Christmas when, after dark, the grounds are illuminated with more than a million twinkling lights. See them on one of the popular guided walks of the displays, ending with a sensational finale at Palm House Pond. Here, jumping jets of light dance across the water, choreographed to Christmas classics. You’d have to be made of stone not to feel the Christmas spirit.
Insider tip: No time to grab a bite to eat beforehand? No problem: there’s a huge quality selection of street food along the trail, plus spiced cider, mulled wine and hot chocolate to warm you up.

St Paul's Cathedral, London

Sing traditional Christmas carols

Sing and be sung to at one of the many festive carol services taking place in London during December. The elegant St Martin-in-the-Fields, near Trafalgar Square, offers a programme of festive music. If you can only make one event, choose the evening the square’s Christmas tree is lit for the first time. The church’s choir sings traditional carols – and the crowd is invited to join in. Meanwhile, at the iconic St Paul’s Cathedral you can enjoy concerts as well as Sankta Lucia – the famous Swedish Christmas service, complete with a candlelit procession of St Lucy.
Insider tip: The Christmas Eve Carol service at St Paul’s is particularly popular, so if you want to get a seat, arrive at least two hours beforehand. Don’t fancy the wait? Grab yourself a hot drink from a nearby café and head to Paternoster Square, just a minute’s walk away – the service is beamed onto an outdoor screen there.

MO Bar at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London

Toast the season with a Christmas cocktail

There are few things more pleasant, after a chilly winter day of sightseeing, than slipping out of your heavy winter coat and into something a little more comfortable. And it doesn't get more comfortable than a specially curated festive tipple at Mandarin Bar at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London. The Merry Martini is a chilled twist on the mulled wine classic, combining port, Grand Marnier, ginger spice syrup and orange bitters. Available throughout December, it's guaranteed to raise your internal thermostat and imbue you with a suitably festive glow.
Insider tip: Not drinking? Never fear. The bar’s Wild Apple & Cinnamon mocktail is an alcohol-free confection, blending the festive headliners with flavours of almond, lemon, pineapple and rose petals.

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Colourful leather bags and accessories on display at Smythson, London

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