Christmas and Boxing Day in London

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Slavas Snowshow

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Slavas Snowshow
Explore London by boat
Explore London
Hit the Oxford Street sales
A Christmas swim in the Serpentine
Kiss me Kate
Go to the Theatre
St-Martin-in-the-Fields
London Fields Lido
Kempton Park William Hill Winter Festival
St Pauls
Christmas Carols at St Pauls
Lend a Hand
Explore London by boat
 

 

Christmas Day is the one day of the year when London practically shuts down. Major sights and shops close their doors, the Tube and buses come to a standstill, and most people are at home unwrapping presents. But it's also the ideal time to take advantage of the crowd-free streets and go for a stroll. Most churches hold services on Christmas Day, with those at St Paul's, St Martin-in-the-Fields and Westminster Abbey among the most spectacular. Come Boxing Day, there's the traditional Premier League fixtures, the race meeting at Kempton Park and, of course, the start of the end-of-year sales.

 
 

Go for a Bracing Christmas Day Dip

What better way to wake yourself up on Christmas Day than a refreshing dip in one of London's pools.

 

Take inspiration from the hardy fools who take part in the Peter Pan Cup race, a Christmas day swim around the freezing Serpentine that has been an annual fixture on the calendar since 1864. Or if you're feeling a little less daring take a trip to Hampstead Heath, where the pools are heated all year round. Quite a few pools will open on Boxing Day, including London Fields Lido which will be open in the morning, giving you the chance to burn off the box of Quality Streets you munched through the day before.

 
 
 

Christmas and Boxing Day Sport

Christmas can be fairly sedentary, so liven things up with some live sporting action.

 

The Barclays Premier League is a highlight for many at Christmas and this year many of the top games will be shown on live television. Monday 23rd sees Arsenal play Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium while on Boxing Day it's Hull vs. Man Utd, Newcastle against Stoke and Man City take on Liverpool. If football isn't your thing get down to Kempton Park for the William Hill Winter Festival, which runs for two days on the 26th and 27th December. Get out with friends and family and enjoy some jump racing action from some of the sport's most exciting stars. The annual King George VI Chase takes place on Boxing Day, and you can make it a really special occasion by booking a table at the Kempton Park Panoramic Restaurant.

 
 
 

Have a Christmas Drink in a London Pub

A cosy London pub could be the perfect place to spend the 25th.

 

In keeping with the true spirit of Christmas, lots of warm and friendly London boozers open up their doors to loyal customers and weary travelers on Christmas day. Many of the Young's pubs remain open throughout the festive period, including The Founders Arm in Southwark which is open on Christmas day between 12pm-5pm, serving food from midday to 4pm. The Spread Eagle in Camden is also open (until 4pm on the 25th and 11am-11pm on the 26th), as is The Flask in Hampstead (Christmas Day 12-4pm and Boxing Day 12-10pm). Popular East London pub The Dove has a lovely cosy atmosphere and opens up on Christmas Day to offer a tempting seasonal menu including pan roasted scallops, Norfolk free range roast turkey and Black Cab Christmas pudding. If you just fancy letting someone else sweat over parsnips and sprouts all day, book yourself a three course Christmas banquet at The Only Running Footman in Mayfair. The set dinner costs 72 and promises to be a real Christmas delight.

 
 
 

Hit the Sales

For serious bargain hunters Boxing Day is a chance to get first in line at the sales.

 

Whilst most of us are sinking into our sofas and tucking into a third helping of leftover stuffing, masses of serious shopaholics are limbering up to battle the mayhem of the January sales. In London, the key areas to target for a Boxing day bargain hunt are Oxford Street, some of the major department stores and a couple of the big shopping malls. Oxford street is the shopping heart of London and is home to all the major highstreet labels including the flagship Topshop, Primark and Niketown. Most of the big department stores will be open and gearing up for the January rush, Selfridges and Harvey Nicks are always good for bagging yourself some designer deals. Debenhams usually opens its doors at a rather ungodly hour on the 26th, where as John Lewis allow their employees an extra day of rest and remains closed on Boxing Day. Westfield in Stratford opens back up for business from 8am-11pm on the 26th, and the Westfield in Shepherd's Bush opens from 9am-11pm.

 
 
 

Take a Christmas Tour of the City

Take advantage of the deserted streets and explore the crowd-free city.

 

This is the one day of the year that the streets of London will be free from the crowds, so if you fancy making the most of this unique opportunity take to the streets with one of the guided tours taking place this Christmas. See the city as you've never seen it before, through the eyes of Charles Dickens. The London Walks company's Dickens tour departs from the Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree at 2pm on the 25th and transports you on a historic festive journey around the capital. The company are also running a Samuel Pepys tour on Christmas day morning, taking full advantage of the fact that the streets will be almost automobile free, as they would have been back in 1660. HiddenCity are another company offering a festive option, with Scrooge's Cryptic Christmas Trail. Upon solving curious clues sent via text message, teams will prove they have Christmas spirit within and be rewarded with festive treats along the way.  If all that sounds a bit tiring, hop on a Christmas Day Thames Cruise. A few of the boat tour companies will be running special luxury boat trips which including a full festive slap-up meal.

 
 
 

Lend a Hand

Give something back this Christmas and help out at one of the city's charities.

 

Christmas is about giving as well as receiving, so if you really want to get into the spirit of things this year try donating some time to a charitable cause. Many London charity centres are appealing for volunteers to help out over the holidays, assisting in the kitchen, making tea and generally making the festive period a little better for vulnerable people in the city. The Christmas period can be tough for many people, particularly for the homeless, sick and the elderly. So if you think you can help make it a little easier, the charity 'Crisis' is calling for volunteers (aged 16 ) who would be willing to give up sixteen hours of their time over Christmas. They are particularly interested in anyone with medical training or hairdressing and dentistry skills, but are looking for anyone who can 'muck in' and make a real difference.

 
 
 

Go See a Show

Make Boxing Day a day to remember with tickets to a London show.

 

Lots of shows run almost as normal throughout the Christmas holidays, so if you're feeling restless and don't fancy another day of rubbish Christmas telly, get out there and enjoy some of the amazing entertainment on offer across the capital. Here are just a few of the shows you can catch this Christmas: How about the wildly entertaining theatrics of Slava's Snowshow at the Southbank Centre, which only takes one day off for Christmas and resumes for a 2.30pm and 7.30pm show on Boxing day. Or the Roundhouses's fastest ever selling show, Fuerzabruta, which returns on 23rd December and has performances on both Christmas Eve and Boxing Day. Popular family show The Snowman also returns and the Royal Opera House production of The Wind in the Willows plays at the Duchess Theatre for an eight week Christmas season.

 
 
 

Go to a Classical Music Concert

Relax with one of the outstanding classical music concerts taking place this Christmas.

 

A calming classical music concert could be just the antidote to the chaos and commotion of Christmas. Many churches hold carol services and concerts across the holidays, here are a few well worth a visit. St-Martin-in-the-Fields on Trafalgar Square has a wonderful schedule of events at this time of year, join them on Boxing day for an uplifting post-Christmas celebration. Their Boxing Day Baroque features the English Chamber Choir alongside one of the city's finest orchestras, the Belmont Ensemble of London, who have previously played over 500 concerts at the church. St Paul's Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and many London churches have good concerts and carols on Christmas and Boxing day. Some of the events are ticketed, so be sure to book early if you want to ensure your visit.