Christmas isn’t cancelled, it’s just a little different this year, what with face masks and social distancing. We've teamed up with St. Pancras to create a guide to this year's festive season in London...
Christmas isn’t cancelled, it’s just a little different this year, what with face masks and social distancing. Where better to start your festive day out in the capital than St. Pancras International station, where you can eat drink and be merry? As the gateway to London's best shops, restaurants and bars, and with enhanced cleaning measures and even a 34-foot Christmas tree, it makes for a safe and exciting start to your visit, too.
That's why we've teamed up with St. Pancras International to bring you this guide to how to spend Christmas 2020 in London. Read on to find out how to keep your festivities on the right track at this gateway to London and beyond...
Baby, it’s cold outside, so start your journey in the station. Get into the Christmas spirit by heading to Searcys’ Champagne Bar. Take a seat at the longest Champagne bar in Europe and toast yourself for making it through 2020. The Champagne Democracy menu has four types of bubbles, from Lanson to Perrier-Jouet, for £9.75.
Forget about scotch egg-gate. All drinks must be served with food and Betjeman Arms has a menu filled with British classics, from fish and chips to a Sunday roast. If you can’t wait for the big day, feast on the Christmas menu – orders must be placed one week in advance.
Unleash your inner influencer at the station’s recently opened EL&N Café. Brimming with flowers, it blushes with pink hues and wears its candy love hearts on its walls. Enjoy salads, sandwiches and queue-worthy desserts. Few menus have a section called Instagrammable Lattes, so cameras at the ready and order the Lucky Charms latte.
EL&N Café is open for takeaways while London is in tier three.
You’ll be dashing through the capital, thanks to St. Pancras International. Next to Bond Street Station is the legendary department store Selfridges, which has opened its first street food market: Christmas Market on the Mews. Located in nearby Edward Mews are nine food trucks, fairground rides and stalls. Look out for bratwurst hot dogs by Pop Dogs and a vegan pick n mix at Ask Mummy Daddy.
Borough Market, near London Bridge Station, is the capital’s longest-running fruit and vegetable market. You are spoilt for choice with street food, from Iraqi flavours in Juma Kitchen to sustainable Cypriot dishes at Gourmet Goat. Saturdays are the busiest, so drop by during the week. Personal shopping is available – food can be collected or delivered for free within the M25.
East London’s Skylight Christmas at Tobacco Docks, which is an outdoors rooftop venue, has the ultimate social bubble: heated igloos. Get cosy with five others from the same household, enjoy 360-degree views of the city, a jug of winter Pimms punch and comfort food, from chicken schnitzel to beef cassoulet.
Gone are the crowds and celebrity switch-ons, which once gave Christmas lights that extra sparkle. You can rejoice, however, as there are plenty of places to light up your trip...
Most trees have presents under them, but the 2020 Tree of Hope has a carousel – for pictures, of course. St. Pancras International’s 34-foot Christmas tree, which looks like candyfloss with a helping of marshmallow, has been wrapped with love as the ribbons around it are adorned with quotes from NHS staff, key workers and carers. Create a wish-you-were-here moment in the selfie station, which is open daily from 4-6pm. Visit nearby EL&N café for an edible version of the tree and 10% of the proceeds go to the food charity FareShare.
Jingle your way to Charing Cross Station for The Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree, which is a gift from Norway to Britain as a token of gratitude for its support during the Second World War. Not even a pandemic can stop this 73-year-old tradition, but the lighting ceremony had a digital upgrade: it took place virtually.
From Oxford Circus Station walk to Carnaby Street and you’ll have more than a twinkle in your eye. Always on trend, it has lit up the sky with neon lights beaming “thank you”, “hope” and “hero”. The street partnered with the charity Choose Love and launched the world’s first shop selling items you can buy for refugees, from blankets to tents.
St. Pancras International is more than just a station – it’s home to big brands and boutique shops. Buy legendary labels in a quieter location: choose toys from Hamleys or a hamper at Fortnum & Mason. Neuhaus Chocolates, who invented the Belgian praline, are open for click and collect. If you’re travelling via the station, slot in some retail therapy, so you don’t have to carry your shopping across town.
If you want to feel like you’re in a Richard Curtis movie, go to Notting Hill Station for Portobello Market. The largest antique market in the world is open every weekend, but on each Sunday in the run up to Christmas it is given a festive twist. Pick up one-of-a-kind items, from vintage clothes to rare jewellery.
Fit for a hipster, East London’s Hackney Christmas Market (12-13, 19-20 Dec) offers artisanal gifts from ethical businesses. For the ultimate stocking filler, visit YenZ’s sock stall – the Brick Lane-based group’s designs include the city’s skyline and Pop Art.
While St. Pancras International is more than 150 years old, there is plenty of history on its doorstep...
Charles Dickens is often credited with being the father of Christmas traditions. Discover why on Christmas Carol and Charles Dickens Old London Walking Tour, which takes place daily and lasts up to four hours. Relive scenes from the classic book, from hidden alleys to one of the capital’s oldest pubs. For safety the tour is limited to six people.
What better way to social distance than with The London Bicycle Tour Company? The Christmas Lights Tour, which takes place daily in English and Dutch, supplies bikes, helmets and a free Santa hat. Whizz from Kennington Road to landmarks including Westminster Abbey, Oxford Street and Covent Garden. As your guide has a boombox blasting seasonal songs, you’ll be having a wonderful Christmastime.
Instead of relaxing in a boat, ride one with The London Kayak Company. Go on an adventure as you kayak from Greenwich to Battersea and paddle under the world-famous Tower Bridge. For a festive twist, book a night ride and see the lights. All equipment is disinfected.
St. Pancras International boasts more Underground connections than any other station in London, as well as train links to the rest of the UK and Europe. Destinations across the country include Brighton, Cambridge and Gatwick Airport. The four main services include East Midlands Train, Southeastern, ThamesLink and the Eurostar. A gateway to Europe, the Eurostar travels to cities including Paris in 2 hours 16 minutes and Brussels in 1 hour and 53 minutes. Masks are mandatory on public transport.
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