Londoners excel at Christmas. Give us some mistletoe and fake snow and we’re happier than pigs in blankets. And that means we know how to avoid the pitfalls of festive tourist traps, and instead of risking death by shopping bag on Oxford Street, we go local, avoiding the perils of a frenzied Zone 1, and supporting smaller retailers.
Of course, it’s right that you experience all of London’s dazzling Yuletide sights at least once, but for those who’ve already been there, done that (and got the scars), here are some tips from locals on how to make the most of our city this holiday season.
For most Londoners, a happy Christmas centres round a belly full of food and glass full of, well, anything actually. That’s why you’ll witness an unparalleled dedication to say, finding the best mince pie in town. One contender for that crown is Konditor & Cook (konditorandcook.com) – whose glazed, crumbly pastry is enough to reduce your mum to tears. Admittedly that’s probably not the effect you’re going for on Christmas Day, but give her a box of six and that should soften the blow.
For the all-important cheeseboard, people head to Hamish Johnston (hamishjohnston.com). This place is so popular on Christmas Eve that the queue reaches out the door, so come prepared with a flask of mulled wine and watch the time fly by in a festive haze.
Speaking of mulled wine, Gordon’s Wine Bar (gordonswinebar.com) is the undisputed don of aromatic awesomeness; while Kopapa (kopapa.co.uk) is the king of spicy mulled cider; and Shoreditch pop-up Night Tales is a one-stop-shop for the best wintery cocktails in the east.
It’s behind you!
No Christmas is complete without a panto trip, and for Londoners, there’s really only one venue you need to experience – Hackney Empire (hackneyempire.co.uk). This year’s performance is Mother Goose, and as ever, you can expect more cheering, heckling and innuendo than you can shake your jingle bells at.
Then there’s Union Chapel (unionchapel.org.uk) in all its twinkling, traditional beauty. There’s a whole calendar of events scheduled throughout December but the Yule Rock Ultimate Christmas Singalong will have you in the mood before you can say ‘Ding Dong Merrily on High’.
London’s markets at Christmas time rival any European city, and one place you can revel in Christmassy vibes with an added dose of east-end charm is Columbia Road (columbiaroad.info). Get down there early on a Sunday to avoid the crowds and to get the pick of the most majestic Christmas trees. For the best window displays, locals head to Liberty (liberty.co.uk) – their creativity never disappoints.
Londoners are a caring bunch, with the festive season making them even more appreciative of what they have and eager to help others. Many volunteer for Crisis at Christmas (crisis.org.uk), and sign their names at one of Amnesty International’s Write for Rights events (amnesty.org.uk).
These are just a few ways to embrace Christmas like a Londoner. And, since ‘tis the season to be jolly, maybe we’ll even look someone in the eye on the tube this year. Just maybe.