Where to enjoy a spectacular Christmas in London
It’s time to get in the spirit and embrace the seasonal traditions we love: here's where to revel in the sights, sounds and smells of Christmas in London
The twinkling lights, tinsel-frosted windows, the rustle of shopping bags and the feeling of giddy excitement as you dash between shops in the dimming winter light, flitting between buying Christmas presents and finding a cosy corner to refuel with a warming hot chocolate and a mince pie. After 2020’s mass closures and a festive season spent largely at home, it’s time to get in the spirit and reacquaint ourselves with the seasonal traditions we love this winter, revelling in the sights, sounds and smells of Christmas in London.
As for where to do it, you’ll be hard-pushed to find as versatile an experience as that on offer at Regent Street and neighbouring St James’s. Steeped in centuries of history but housing some of the most exciting in-store experiences in the world, these stately streets deliver a picture book British Christmas. And don't forget to look up, where the annual Spirits of Christmas display – a chorus of angels glowing warm and bright – glitters above the streets. Regent Street was the first central London location to introduce festive lighting back in 1954. Over 60 years on and the annual Christmas lights display (now encapsulating St James’s too) remains the largest in London.
Before the shopping comes the dining, because once you’ve found a date for your visit, you’ll want to book a table if you’re hoping to dine at one of the many leading restaurants in the area. Perhaps this trip marks your first in-person reunion with your colleagues in over a year? You’ll want to book somewhere with the right atmosphere, service and well-rounded menu to make it count. Both Corbin & King’s French-inspired Brasserie Zédel and consistently good steakhouse Hawksmoor are great options for larger groups.
If you’re visiting the area on a romantic day out or with a fellow foodie friend with whom you could spend hours luxuriating over a meal, then try Sabor, where you can sample some of the best Spanish fare served in the city; Aquavit, for Michelin-starred Nordic dining in the heart of St James’s Market; Scully, for Asian dishes with a western twist; or Ikoyi for the latest West African flavours to arrive in London.
Christmas shopping the London way
The frustrations of online shopping have left many of us craving the IRL reliability of touching clothing rails, trying things on for size and studying goods up close for quality. Shopping in person is never as lovely as at Christmas, when chocolate box window displays glitter enticingly from the likes of Fortnum & Mason and Liberty London, enchanting us with their miniature marionette shows.
What's more, it’s often on walking from the dressing rooms to the tills, exploring a different street or taking a chance on a little-known boutique that we discover the last-minute stocking fillers or a gift for that hard-to-buy-for relative that turn out to be our biggest shopping triumphs.
Princes Arcade is a good place to start, home to Prestat’s divine colourful chocolates, Grenson’s timeless footwear and just about everything in between. Tucked away Jermyn Street is another hub for heritage brands: menswear label Charles Tyrwhitt, fashion house Hawes & Curtis and leading British cheesemonger Paxton & Whitfield are among the household names with stores here. St James’s Market, meanwhile, is your one-stop-shop for gifting, housing outposts for leather specialist Aspinal of London, stylish homeware brand Smeg and smart sportswear stores Paul & Shark and Snow Peak.
Culture and lifestyle experiences
If you manage to complete your Christmas shopping and still have a window before your restaurant reservation, it’s time to take a moment for yourself and enjoy a spot of pampering. On Regent Street and St James’s you can find some of the most innovative salons in the world, including Glow Bar, where you can warm up in an infrared sauna before enjoying a High Vibe facial. These streets are also home to some of the most prestigious male grooming institutions, Truefitt & Hill and Ted's Grooming Room among them, where experienced teams will help him smarten up in style.
If culture is more your thing, then use your extra minutes to pop into one of the many galleries lining the streets of St James’s, including the Royal Academy, where an exhibition showcasing the late sweeping vistas of Romantic artist John Constable will vie for your attention against a neighbouring show celebrating the architectural photography of Hélène Binet.
Festive concerts and carol services are a highlight of the season too. Visiting on Saturday 11 December? The Piccadilly Sinfonietta is performing a Christmas Concert at St James’s Church Piccadilly – book in advance to avoid missing out.