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Christmas In London

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"LET'S GO TO LONDON FOR CHRISTMAS!!!!" is a phrase many have uttered. I get it - especially if you are American. In major cities like New York and Las Vegas, Christmas Day is still very active and packed with tourists. You may barely notice much difference except that some things might be closed. But, you'll still find a lot of things open from movie theaters to ice skating rinks as businesses try to milk every dollar out of tourists that they can.

Well, as you are wanting to spend that day with your family, so do the workers of London and London is more inclined to let them.

Let me tell you about last year before I give you advice about this year.

There are three public holidays between December 24 and January 1. They are: Christmas Day, Boxing Day (Dec 26) and New Year's Day. So, in like a 9-day span, 1/3 of the days are legal holidays and a LOT of things will be closed. But, we'll go into that later.

In 2022, it was really bad. Christmas was on a Sunday - which is not usually a workday so the legal holiday aspect of that rolled to Tuesday since Monday was Boxing Day and a legal holiday already. So, you had Sunday, which was Christmas Day and everything was closed, then Monday that was Boxing Day and a lot of things were closed and then Tuesday which was the legal holiday off for Christmas and everything was closed again. Two legal holidays were spread over 3 days. Then you had New Years Day which was a Sunday, also, so that legal holiday rolled to January 2 and everything was closed. So, in 9 days, you had 5 days of things that were either closed or had reduced hours. Add Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve to the reduced hours list and it got even

worse. Seven out of 10 days became tricky for what was open and what wasn't and what the hours were. For some, that was their whole visit to London and there were a lot of people who went from surprised to angry about that. But, honestly, this is why Travel Agents are a good idea. I would have told my clients all that before they ever booked a trip to London on Christmas week.

I am now seeing a lot of people talking about spending Christmas in London. Let me tell you that London at Christmas time is MAGICAL! I've been 3 times and I love it. While London doesn't have great Christmas Markets (they are more of a German thing), it does light up nicely. I would highly suggest going to London around Thanksgiving and not Christmas. The lights come on early to mid-November so it will be all decked out and you'll get the full Christmas In London experience without the headaches of actually being IN London ON Christmas.

Christmas Day is on a Monday this year so you won't be dealing with any extra day off situations But, let's talk about what's CLOSED on Christmas Day in London.

  • All public transportation is closed. You will be reduced to walking or taking Taxis or Ubers at Christmas Day prices. DO NOT fly into London on Christmas Day unless you have sold your Grandma's 4 carat diamond ring for the cash to pay for the taxi from the airport to your hotel. This is always a surprise to Americans because in the US in many places, the public transportation is at least running on a "Holiday Schedule".

  • All major attractions and large stores are closed. You might find the odd ice-skating rink or movie theater open along with some smaller private convenience stores. Stock up with snacks the day before since it's hit or miss. The chain grocery stores will be closed.

  • Most restaurants will be closed. There are some that are open for Christmas Day meals, but booked out weeks to months in advance. Don't assume you can just walk in and be seated. And, keep it close to the hotel because of the cost of transportation. Your hotel room service may or may not be open, too. There will certainly be some random privately owned take-away or fast-food places open. Some pubs will be open but not all. You'll have to check with ones close to your hotel.

London Christmas Lights

Let's talk about what's OPEN or what you can do on Christmas Day (since this is June, you'll have to actually check later this year as things can change):

  • Royal Parks - you can take a Christmas stroll through Hyde Park or Hampstead Heath (and others) on Christmas Day - if you can get to them.

  • Some ice-skating rinks

  • A swimming pool or 2

  • City Cruises has a Christmas Day Lunch Cruise.

  • Golden Tours has a Christmas Day tour with a service at St. Paul's Cathedral or a similar tour without the stop at St. Pauls if you aren't interested in the service.

  • There is also a Hop On Hop Off bus on Christmas Day you can book HERE

  • If you want to hit the road on Christmas Day, you can take a tour to Windsor, Bath and Stonehenge although it will largely just be driving by or wandering around a town that is closed. But, at least you can see those places even if you can't go in anything and there will be few tourists.

  • You can do a similar tour as above but to Canterbury, Dover and Greenwich. Again, nothing will be open, but you'll be able to wander a bit and see the beautiful cities and then have a nice Christmas lunch.

  • Or, another combination of Windsor, Oxford and Avebury's stone circle on Christmas Day with lunch included. I mean, at least you'll see some places and not just be stuck in your hotel room all day.

  • Churches will be open for Christmas Day services but not for touring. Check the individual websites for information.

Now, Boxing Day is a little easier. Most shops will be open but may be on reduced hours. Public transportation will also be running but on reduced hours. All major attractions are still closed. Restaurants will largely be open but it will still be a bit of hit or miss. But, you'll be better able to find something to eat that day. Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park will be open.

New Year's Day is a bit different also. Here are the things that are likely to be CLOSED on New Year's Day:

  • Public transport: Some public transport services in London will be operating on a reduced schedule on New Year's Day.

  • Attractions: Some attractions in London will be closed on New Year's Day, but many will be open with reduced hours. Check with the individual attractions for their opening hours.

  • Shops: Some shops in London will be open on New Year's Day, but many will be closed or have reduced hours.

  • Restaurants: Some restaurants in London will be open on New Year's Day, but many will be closed or have reduced hours.

Here are some of the things that are likely to be OPEN on New Year's Day in London:

  • Royal Parks: London's Royal Parks will be open on New Year's Day, so you can enjoy a walk or a picnic in the park.

  • Ice rinks: Some ice rinks in London will be open on New Year's Day.

  • Museums: Some museums in London will be open on New Year's Day, including the British Museum, the Natural History Museum, and the Science Museum but check the individual websites for actual hours.

  • Zoos: The London Zoo is usually open on New Year's Day - check their website to verify.

  • Events: There are a number of events happening in London on New Year's Day, including the New Year's Day Parade.

On top of all this, many things will close early on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve further reducing the amount of time you have to see London attractions.

Thanksgiving Dinner

Hopefully this gives you a good idea about spending actual Christmas in London vs. going to London at Chistmas time. I would say that unless you have relatives there that you are spending Christmas Day with, pick a different time to go. As stated above, going around Thanksgiving is a great time. And, if you are there ON Thanksgiving, Ffiona's Restaurant in Kensington has been serving Thanksgiving Dinner for years. But, remember, Thanksgiving is an American holiday so that is an unusual thing. You might have to make do with a Christmas Sandwich from Pret that will have turkey, stuffing and cranberry on it. Although there are restaurants around who serve up a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Check HERE for the list.

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