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24 reasons to love London at Christmas

Posted at 8:00 am, December 19, 2014 in Fun London

Blackheath Snow. Nialetto
© Nialetto

Sometimes we need a little help to see the wonder all around us. Get yourself into the spirit of Noel with 24 brilliant reasons why Londoners love Christmas – as shared by you the readers, neighbourhood bloggers and Time Out’s very own excited elves.

borough market christmas

Borough Market goes full-on festive
‘Going to Borough Market in December captures the essence of Christmas in London. It’s a wonderful festive assault on all the senses. Sip mulled wine, eat homemade mince pies, listen to the Salvation Army performing festive tunes and breathe in the heavenly pine aroma of fresh Christmas trees.’ Imogen Parsons, blogger at Miss Immy’s London

You can inflict your singing on complete strangers
‘I visit Myatt’s Fields Park Carols in Camberwell every year with my friends. I bake and brew festive things to take there, and horrible knitwear is encouraged. We mull ourselves into a merry state at my flat, then head over for a loud singsong. It rained last year. We were so mulled we hardly noticed.’ Kat Brown, blogger at Exotic Maypole

gary-oldman-smiles

It’s okay to smile (for once)
‘I love seeing the change in usually dreary Londoners, trying to be cheery and getting into the Christmas spirit (eventually).’ Laura Rigby via Facebook

Oxford Street - Christmas Lights - Photos of London - the boygeniuz

[© the boygeniuz]

The Routemasters take you to the stars
‘Late at night or early in the morning, when the roads are empty, I like to nab the front seat on a double-decker bus. As it travels under the Christmas lights decked across Oxford Street, I pretend that I’m travelling in a “Christmas galaxy” far, far away.’ Mayla David, photographer

Christmas lights in London

Some people take things a tinselly bit too far
‘Londoners don’t go all out for Christmas like the Americans do. We’re a reserved bunch, so most of our decorations are more subdued, noble and quaint than those across the Pond. Except at the Churchill Arms in Kensington, which looks like it’s been decorated by someone whose gone “You want a fucking Christmas tree? I’ll give you a fucking Christmas tree!” As a result, throughout December, the whole pub is covered pavement-to-roof in firs. It’s totally bonkers, and that’s a good thing.’ Eddy Frankel, Time Out staff writer

mariah carey

There’s plenty of Carey in the community
‘Each year my friends spend weeks deciding where to go for a classy festive dinner. The night always ends the same way, though: with us screaming Mariah Carey songs at each other as the lights come on in The Dolphin. It’s perfection.’ Kate Lloyd, Time Out assistant social content producer

‘Marketing opportunity’ means something else
‘I have an unnatural attraction to markets at all times, and in December I am allowed to drag friends along to as many as I like under the pretence of shopping for presents. And there are absolutely loads for them to be dragged to. Crafty Fox is my favourite for emergency presents, while the South Bank’s Real Food Christmas Market is best for snacks. This year in particular many involve excellent food, which gives me yet another excuse to eat cake (or gua bao, or doughnuts, or burgers) between meals.’ The Feeder, blogger at Worth Getting Fat On

You can warm your hands on your nuts
‘There’s one thing that instantly puts me in a Christmassy mood, and that’s tucking into a bag of steaming chestnuts. While roasting them at home is good fun (be careful – they have a tendency to explode), for the ultimate festive experience I suggest buying them from a street seller and munching on them while wandering through Covent Garden’s chilly December streets.’ Gail Tolley, Time Out features editor

There’s some salvation amid the chaos
‘The Salvation Army band playing on Oxford Street is a beautiful reminder that there should be more to Christmas than just consumption of stuff. Always brings a tear.’ Sam Smyth via Facebook

Pantomime Dames

One word: panto!
‘You can’t beat the pantomime at the Hackney Empire, with Clive Rowe as the quintessential OTT dame. Seasonal Grinches will always try and tell you that panto is trite, formulaic and hopelessly out of date. Oh no it isn’t!’ Andy Hill, Time Out contributor

Columbia Road gets spruced up
‘Normally people go to Columbia Road for flowers, but it’s even better for Christmas trees. The stallholders are all freezing their bums off, so towards the end of the day they start offering hefty discounts on festive greenery. The home and garden shops along the street sell some great, nontacky decorations to hang from your new tree.’ James Manning, Time Out Music deputy editor

Mixing your drinks becomes traditional
‘My Christmas tradition is a quest to find the best festive drink. Each day, I try a different coffee, chocolate, spiced apple or mulled wine, jumping from independent coffee houses to high-street chains, creating a sort of festive liquid advent calendar! You should definitely try a glass of gloggi (the Scandinavian answer to mulled wine – sadly alcohol-free in the UK, yet still delicious) at the Nordic Bakery in Golden Square or grab a quick Honeycomb & Cream Hot Chocolate from Costa (my top pick of high-street drinks).’ G, blogger at The Magnificent Something

You’re reminded of Christmas past
‘This time of year always makes me think of “A Christmas Carol”. I reckon Spitalfields has the most Dickensian feel in London, and I love roaming round that area of the city in December. A visit to Dennis Severs’ House near Old Spitalfields Market to view its “still life drama” is a great way to journey back in time in evocative style, especially during the festive season to see the Christmas Installation.’ Chris Osburn, blogger at Tiki Chris

mull2

Wine gets tastier
‘The only good thing about the weather getting so darn chilly is the mulled wine. I wouldn’t be able to get through London’s winter days without heading down to the South Bank to slurp some of that hot seasonal juice amid the wooden chalets selling tacky presents surrounded by twinkling lights. Even the dark, wintry waters of the Thames look pretty through glühwein goggles.’ Daisy Bowie-Sell, Time Out Theatre deputy editor

skate at somerset house

Landmarks seem even lovelier
‘I adore London at any time of the year, but Somerset House is very special, particularly at Christmas.’ Anne Martlage via Facebook Bethnal Green turns on the charm ‘I love the rubbish 1990s Christmas lights in Bethnal Green. They’re garish and the designs include a flickery snowman waving a top hat. Fingers crossed for them being there again this year.’ Lynn Roberts, blogger at For Folk’s Sake

People start playing catch-up
‘Do Londoners secretly suspect that their friends are going to make New Year’s resolutions to disown them? It explains why everyone’s so keen to catch up before Christmas. Or maybe all these meet-ups are just a good excuse to treat the whole month of December as one long, astonishingly drawn out drinks thing? Either way, I’m on board.’ Jonny Ensall, Time Out deputy editor

mince pies

Tinsel comes to town
‘I love watching all the cinemas, pop-ups and film clubs trying to outdo each other in the festive fun stakes. Just sticking on “It’s a Wonderful Life” doesn’t cut it any more; now they’re either stuffing mince pies down your throat during the intermission or unearthing weirdo seasonal oddities crammed with psycho Santas and elves on crack. Well, ’tis the season!’ Tom Huddleston, Time Out Film writer

You get to take a detour past that house
‘It would be most unseasonal to judge someone for their Christmas enthusiasm, and there are few more enthusiastic than the inhabitants of the house on the corner of Roman Way and Mackenzie Road (near Caledonian Road tube). Every year they smother their home in flashing festive representatives of all levels of religious gravitas. There aren’t many works of art that would have Father Christmas hover over the Nativity scene in a helicopter, and I take my Santa hat off to them for going for it.’ Ashleigh Arnott, Time Out Things to Do writer

London becomes a window shopping wonderland
‘I love scurrying along cold, dark winter streets with twinkling lights to shop or just explore the Christmas displays in old classics like Fortnum & Mason, which also has a lovely pop-up market at the church next door. Then there’s listening to carols with warm soup in the crypt of St Martinin- the Fields. Magical.’ Frankie White via Facebook

You can eat, drink and be merry… very merry
‘My favourite thing about Christmas here is Londoners’ insatiable appetite for partying. Despite social calendars being completely packed, there will always be someone who wants to go large.’ Lizzie Mabbot, blogger at Lizzie Eats London

Feel festive and check out the 50 best Christmas songs.

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