Day 1- Explore London
We landed in London, it’s early in the morning. We head straight for some airport coffee, I hear the sounds of espresso machines, and the smell alone of coffee beans roasting are beginning to wake me up from my sleepless flight. As I have my first sip of coffee I look around the airport, it was full of energy and people waiting for loved ones for the Christmas holiday. I wait to listen for the British accents to yell “Happy Christmas” as they reunite with their loved ones, but instead I hear a jumble of languages. I look around to see religious attire of all kinds filling the area. I heard Italian and French, German, Spanish, Arabic, you name it, we heard it and saw it. My husband and I waited for my parents’ flight to land to join us on the Christmas adventure in London. Once they land, we grab a Taxi into the city and step out to our flat, I can immediately feel the energy of the city, the city hustle is palpable, and the diversity prevalent.
As the day continued, we walked and explored all that London had to offer. We jumped aboard the top level of an open-air classic red double decker bus (BigBus Tours) with the brisk air waking our sleepy faces. We watched icons we’ve only seen on TV and movies, like Big Ben and the London Eye, pass us by. We hopped on a boat ride to see the Tower Bridge, scoped out a nearby train station for our upcoming tours, drank tea, stood in a red telephone booth and worked our hardest not to take a nap to adjust our sleep schedules.
In the evening we snuck out to Hyde Park and immersed ourselves in London’s biggest Christmas market and winter wonderland. As we approached the bright neon lights, the carnival-like rides and festive music brought about a youthful and fun environment. We grabbed ourselves a crepe and a hot cocoa at one of the German market stands and we watched the elaborate festival unfold in front of us.
Day 2 – Harry Potter Museum (plus Christmas Markets and lights)
If you are any bit a Harry Potter fan as much as my mom and I are, then you must go to the incredible Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour (we used Viator). Pack your Harry Potter Christmas sweater, pick up a butter beer and spend a couple hours immersing yourselves in the incredible artistry behind the making of Harry Potter. During Christmas it is especially beautiful as it is decked out in Christmas themes throughout the multitude of rooms.
After our day of all things wizarding world, we brought ourselves back to reality and strolled the streets of London in search of Christmas lights. The lights did NOT disappoint. We stumbled upon many Christmas Markets and many different streets full of immaculate lights. We enjoyed Leicester Square Christmas Market and Trafalgar Square Market (although their tree was mighty skinny). There are so many more great London Christmas markets! Make sure to check out Regent Street and Carnaby Street for lights, or any of these other great streets for Christmas lights.
Day 3 – Explore London (Covent Garden, Ice Skating, Harrods)
London is a huge city, and there’s no way to do it all, but we sure did try. On our third day we started with Ice Skating at the Natural History Museum Ice Rink and giggled as we watched locals flail around the rink. We booked our tickets beforehand. If you don’t manage to get tickets try out any of the other beautiful Ice Rinks in London. After that we walked over to Covent Garden which was full of decorated Christmas trees, massive Christmas bulbs and adorable shops. We grabbed lunch at a nearby pub called The White Lion. We sat near the window on the second floor and ordered some delicious Indian Cuisine (a must in London!). Our lunch was warm and cozy which contrasted the chilly hustle of the holiday shoppers outside. Next, we made a stop at the one and only Harrods where we saw some of the biggest price tags we have ever seen on everyday items. It sure felt luxurious and left you wondering who were the people being escorted into the department store from their fancy cars outside. Finally, we managed to get a seat at a local church, St Martin-in-the-Fields, for Christmas Eve service. Note to self, do not attempt to see a service at St. Paul’s Cathedral ever again, there will be a line that wraps the whole city when you arrive three hours early.
Day 4 – Christmas Day Tour – Canterbury, Dover, and Rochester
Christmas day in London started with a walk to the train station on the eerily quiet streets of London. As we approached the train station, which was actually quite busy, we searched for our tour guide. A man with a Victorian top hat with wild hair sticking out the rim and a bright red scarf stood out amongst the crowd. He looked frazzled as he scoured his documents and proclaimed in a dry English accent “7am Tour of Canterbury, Dover, and Rochester”. He was the perfect man for the job of the day, he filled our Christmas tour with classic English dry humor and plenty of facts and history. We started in Canterbury, which ended up being my favorite stop of the whole trip. Although you cannot go inside of the infamous Canterbury Cathedral due to Christmas day service, you can walk around the grounds and through the darling town. You will see the inspirations behind classic literature like Canterbury Tales and spot locations frequented by Charles Dickens himself. I will never forget walking around the back of the beautiful cathedral, the archways calling you deeper into the halls, the stained glass giving you peeks of small rooms inside. As I walked deeper in, I heard a sound, something soft and peaceful, it was singing. I strolled deeper through the halls and the women’s vocals began to fill the halls echoing the sounds of Christmas songs. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes, I smiled and stood very still as I took a moment in the back halls of Canterbury Cathedral on Christmas day. Our day continued on to see Rochester and the Cliffs of Dover with a Christmas lunch in between.
The tour will be fast paced and Christmas lunch will be in a hotel, but it is delicious and fun. We did our Christmas day tour through Viator, I am not sure if the exact tour is still available, but you can keep up to date on Viator tours here.
Day 5 – Boxing Day Tour – Windsor, Stonehenge, Bath, Lacock
The wind was picking up, I wrapped my scarf around my neck a few more times and secured any loose items. I took off my hat to adjust my hair and as I did, my long blonde hair went flying in all directions. My husband and I laughed at the scene as the air was getting colder and windier. Between pieces of hair flying in my face, I looked up, and there it was. A Wonder of the World, Stonehenge. We were astonished, sure a couple of rocks, but the mystery, the history, the beauty of the land, it enthralled us. Boxing day is a great day to see Stonehenge as it will not have large crowds. Another day out of London was perfect due to it still being a holiday and not knowing what may be closed in the city. Our tour continued to Windsor, where we walked the town and even caught a glimpse of horses and chariots entering the castle. We enjoyed a stop in Lacock, featuring famous scenes from Harry Potter. We grabbed lunch at a darling pub and made a final dash to Bath. Bath looked incredible, however because it was winter, the days were short and it was very dark when we arrived. We would absolutely come back for a whole day to explore Bath alone!
We did our tour, once again, through Viator called “Boxing Day tour from London: Windsor, Stonehenge, Bath and Lacock, Including Lunch“. Note that Windsor Castle is closed on Boxing Day so you cannot go inside.
Day 6 – More of London (Changing of the Guards, Churchill War Museum, Westminster, Shakespeare Globe Theatre)
The sirens went off, the warnings to seek shelter. I sat in silence in a concrete bare room feeling chills go up my arms. The radio is warning us of what is coming. We were sitting in the Churchill War Rooms and were completely transcended into a time unfathomable to us. The War Rooms were left untouched since the war ended and the museum does an incredible job giving you an immersive, hands on, and unforgettable experience. London is full of history and it would be a shame to go to London without going to one of the many incredible museums. After our time in the War Rooms (my parents went to St Paul’s Cathedral while we were there and loved it) we sprinted over to catch the Changing of the Guards (always check dates/times beforehand here). I only elbowed a couple people, okay not really, but it was absolutely packed! We managed to capture a few pictures and then moved on with our day. We hopped on the Tube (London’s subway system which is very easy to navigate), we “minded the gap” (if you know, you know), and we headed to walk through Westminster Abbey. You will stand in line to get into the church, which we weren’t used to seeing how quiet the past few days in London had been. It was well worth the wait, I thought I had seen enough churches in my day, but my goodness the interior and the history is an absolute must. Finally, we went over to the Shakespeare Globe Theatre, because I am a theatre nerd and I had to see it. Not sure I would recommend spending money on a tour of the theatre, but if I could see a show there, that would be awesome. We ended the day with a stop in a traditional English Pub and enjoying the last bit of Christmas lights. We had a very busy trip to London, and we can’t wait to return to see and do more.
Other important Info:
Where we Stayed: We used AirBnB and stayed in a flat in Pimlico, which was a nice walking distance to the train station and other attractions.
Dates: We did our trip on December 22–27, 2019.
COVID Advice: Always check things in advance. We did our trip just before the COVID-19 outbreak, so things may have changed. Always do your research well in advance especially for Christmas Markets and areas prone to high tourism. Try to embrace the beauty of being flexible, even if things close or cancel, there is so much more to see and do in London!
Christmas Travel Tips: Always book tickets in advance, expect long lines and weird closures. Figure out Christmas Eve Dinner and Christmas Lunch/Dinner well in advance! You may be surprised to find some attractions open on Christmas day, do your research and you may get to experience a unique and less crowded experience.
London Travel Tips: Overall, be smart in big cities, secure your valuables in an Anti-theft Travel Purse, research accommodations in safe neighborhoods, avoid being out too late, and explore public transportation options like The Tube or bus. Enjoy the hustle and bustle!
What we Would do Next Time: Next time we would love to stay in a small town like Canterbury or Windsor for a day or so, do more museums in London, and see a Christmas show!
Leave me a comment or message and tell me about your London Christmas trip! Have a Merry Christmas!
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