Christmas has hit the capital! The lights are on, the tree is up, Christmas markets, ice-rinks and winter festivals are popping up all over London. With some schools closing for the holidays, students tend to find themselves with a bit of extra free time around this time of year. Why not impress your students with some expert local knowledge and a few unmissable recommendations? There is so much on in London this Christmas, you might even fancy taking a break from your busy schedule and visiting one of the events yourself.
Here are our 5 top recommendations for this Christmas.
1) Winter Wonderland
We know, not a very inventive recommendation. However, it is difficult to beat this epic winter attraction takes over much of Hyde Park every December. What is not to like? Which other free to enter attraction offers such a range of winter market stalls, festive fairground rides, ice skating, and of course Santa? You don’t get much more festive than ice-skating next to Hyde Park’s Victorian bandstand illuminated with more than 100,000 lights.
If that is not your scene then why not enjoy a few mugs of Glühwein and head over to the alpine-style village to blast out a few Christmas songs in one of the Karaoke huts.
This year Winter Wonderland is open every day from 10am to 10pm until January 1 2018, except for Christmas Day (December 25). The nearest tube stations are Marble Arch, Green Park, Hyde Park Corner, Victoria and Knightsbridge.
2) Christmas Carol Singalong at The Royal Albert Hall
Throughout December The Royal Albert Hall is hosting a number of Christmas singalong events. Imagine a festive last night of the Proms, with Jonathan Cohen hosting fun-filled jamboree of his most-loved carols and all-time Christmas hits. Not one for the Scrooges out there but if you are feeling festive and like a singalong, this is the event for you. The festive atmosphere will be fantastic as your favourite Christmas songs and carols ring out in one of London’s most iconic venues.
Tickets start from just £19.50 with the closet tube stations being South Kensington and High Street Kensington which are both approximately a 10 minutes to walk away.
3) Watch a Festive Movie in the Hidden Snow Kingdom
This is no ordinary cinema experience. Grab a lantern, venture into the secret tunnel, then walk through the beautiful ice cave, over the frozen lake until you arrive at the cosiest cinema winter has to offer. Then all there is left to do is to grab a cocktail from the bar, sit on one of the comfortable giant bean bags and watch a Christmas classic ranging from Home Alone to Die Hard to family favourites such as die hard.
The Snow Kingdom cinema is located in Borough and is part of the Italian market.The nearest tube stations are Borough and Elephant and Castle both are around a 5-minute walk from the venue.
4) Watch a Panto
Standard Christmas fair for us Brits but an excellent and unusual experience for international students and well worth a recommendation. Internationally going to the theatre is a bit of a serious affair. Even comedies tend to be passive experiences. However, for a few months a year the theatres in the UK go a little leftfield with celebrities and wannabe celebrities playing gender crossing roles, singing, dancing and involving the audience in slapstick comedy loosely based on a well-known fairy tale.
As usual, London has an excellent selection of pantos and there is bound to be a good one near you. To list but a few, you can see Dick Whittington starring Julian Clary and Nigel Havers at London Palladium, Soho. Panto regular Christopher Biggins plays Widow Twankey in Richmond Theatre production of Aladin and Martin Kemp takes on the role of Captain Hook, with Bradley Walsh as Mr Smee and Matt Knight playing Peter Pan at SSE Arena in Wembley.
Tickets usually cost between £15 and £30 depending on the show and the time of day/day of the week you visit.
5) Go For an Outdoor Swim on Christmas Day
So, admittedly we have played it fairly safe with some of the above recommendations but Christmas is not the time of year to mess with success. While the above are all tried and tested festive stalwarts, going for an outdoor dip on Christmas morning is definitely pushing the boudaries. It is, however, the perfect way to wash away any Christmas Eve hangover that might be lingering and will wake you up before the Christmas day festivities begin in earnest.
For those wishing to brave the cold open water, Serpentine Swimming Club members have the annual Peter Pan Cup, a 100-yard swim across the open waters in Hyde Park. This is only open to swimming clubs member but spectators are welcome. A little further afield, all are welcome to join the hundreds who brave the water near the pier on Brighton beach. Back in London and a little more comfortable all are welcome to take a dip in the south-facing, 36-metre open-air pool in Hampstead. This is traditional pool is open to the elements but is heated to a balmy 28C all year round.