Let’s face it: running across London to finish Christmas shopping in this arctic climate may not be the cosiest activity on your to-do-list this winter, but regardless it is often a necessary evil. Pushing past crowds on Oxford Street, shoving yourself through the corridors Westfield shopping centre or trying to maximise your shopping accomplishments in one of the major department stores like Selfridges can easily turn into a living nightmare, making Christmas season in London not at all resemble anything like the movie “Love, Actually”.
However, there are few ways to make the holiday season more relaxed, laid-back and interesting. As a general rule-of-thumb, good company will always help to shed the load and inspire out-of-the-box thinking when it comes to shopping for that certain someone, who already has everything (or nothing at all). Visiting a less touristy area may also go a long way in reserving your energies while getting all preparations ready for the holiday. So grab a few friends, make a plan to spend the day together and check out some of our recommendations to turn Christmas season more into more of a silly season, far away from the bright Christmas lights of Regent Street and other crowded hotspots.
WINTER WONDERLAND IN HYDE PARK
For several years now, this Christmas market has been gaining momentum and turning into a tour-de-force during December as part of London’s advent offerings. Inspired by typical German Christmas markets, you’ll find everything here rom mulled wine to stocking fillers, ice-skating, candied apples and even a full-size ferris wheel, which is loved by children and adults alike. They are even throwing in a roller-coaster this year for the more adventurous ones among you. The atmosphere is pumping with “joy to the world”, providing a much-welcome escape from the nearby shopping horrors of Knightsbridge and Chelsea. And no Christmas market would be complete without a trip to Santa’s Grotto for the little ones, of course. Make sure you arrive well ahead of dusk to beat the crowds. NEAREST TUBE: HYDE PARK CORNER
SOUTHBANK CHRISTMAS MARKET
Equally charming but less designed to look like a small theme park the Southbank Centre Christmas Market features around 80 stalls, which hug the curvature of the River Thames around Waterloo and bring you fresh ideas in arts and crafts, as well as traditional eateries from the heart of Europe. You can sample some delicious Gluhwein from Germany, little pancakes from Holland or go for some hearty treats from Austria. Shows, events, and free music round off this picture while adding more excitement to your day. And should you want to return to the comforts of the “real world”, you have the Southbank Centre with all its cafés, restaurants and shops closeby as well. NEAREST TURE: WATERLOO
Carnaby Street is well known for its inventive Christmas street lighting, which like the rest of central London is usually heralded in with a big ceremony in late November. Much cosier and less frantic than the nearby shopping powerhouses of Regent Street and Oxford Street, you can actually do some quality shopping on this stretch of Soho while shifting down a gear a taking it easy. From designer boutiques to some well-known big brands, you can accomplish a lot here without having to hassle through ridiculous masses. For luxury items, you also have the exquisite Liberty’s department store, where you could just spend a whole day getting lost by yourself alone. You might find some great stocking fillers here as well actually, as Liberty’s offer some great luxury items at affordable prices, especially in their eclectic stationary section on the ground floor. NEAREST TUBE: OXFORD CIRCUS
BARBICAN DESIGN MARKET
This is a true gem in London’s Christmastime events landscape and remains a largely undiscovered one. Each year throughout December, the Barbican Centre organises a fantastic design market for Christmas shoppers with more discerned tastes perhaps. However, there are some real steals and great bargains to be found. Everything on offer features cutting-edge technology and original design – often sold at hugely discounted prices. Whether you pick up some unusual homeware or come back with some ingenious jewellery, this is certainly the place to come if you want to shop at for that “wow factor”. NEAREST TUBE: BARBICAN
CHRISTMAS AT KEW
London’s botanical epicentre of Kew Gardens puts on a spectacular light show each winter to attract revellers young and old, transforming it into a magical world of pre-Christmas wonderment. In addition to this beautiful lights installation, there is also a charming Christmas market, with chalets featuring interesting and creative goods from around the world. No Christmas market would be complete, without targeting foodies, of course, so there are many delicious temptations for even the strongest of stomachs out there. Children are especially paid attention to, with rides (like the Victorian Carousel) catering to their needs, as well as a visit from Santa Claus himself – to make sure he knows what they want for Christmas. NEAREST TRAIN STATION: KEW BRIDGE