It’s been established that London is my favorite city in the world two days after I landed in this magical place last year. It might have been because holiday season is just a wonderful time to be here, but it could also be because London is just phenomenal in general. I’ve had this post sitting in my draft for almost a year now, and I guess I’ve never really gotten around to it because I was still in the process of getting to know the city. So that I did. (READ: London For First Timers: Basic Things You’d Want To Know)
After very little contemplation and analysis, I have decided that London is definitely one of the best cities to celebrate the holidays. You see a lot of visuals about it in social media, but there’s really so much more than the grandest decorations or the cute winter ootds.
Why is London such a great place to celebrate the holidays? It’s a lot easier to say “because it’s London” (because really, that’s all there is to it), but to help you understand the severity of the Christmas obsession here, I’ve written down the best reasons I can think of on why you’ll love Christmas time in London that the film Love Actually didn’t get to emphasize.
1.) It’s lit af.
Nothing says Christmas season more than a street all lit up festively. London doesn’t play games when it comes to bright lights. As the weather gets colder at the end of November, the streets gets brighter. Get in the spirits as you walk around Oxford St. or Regent St. as they’ll never be behind when it comes to Christmas lights and decorations. Of course, the more popular a place is, the more grand the decors are. Make your way to Tower Bridge or The London Eye for a great winter holiday experience! Christmas in London is all about grandiose, bright lights, and the true holiday spirit. London absolutely wins in the lit division. (READ: Beyond Buckingham and Big Ben: 10 Awesome Places To See In London)
2.) It’s a very festive place.
Lights are one thing, but the spirit itself is another. It’s hard not to get into the spirit when you’re in London at this time of the year. Unless you’re The Grinch, it’s almost impossible. Almost every cafe or restaurant has a holiday menu, every store is decked out in holiday decoration, and Christmas trees are pretty much everywhere you go– whether it’s the museum or a Primark store. Forget the fact that Christmas time is tainted with consumerism and just get in the spirit! Get that Christmas sweater (or jumper, as they call it), walk around drinking hot chocolate, and take a picture with Santa! Embrace the festivities!
3.) They have an actual winter season.
Even though my childhood memories includes Christmas time in the tropics, there’s still nothing like winter time to celebrate the holidays. The cold will always be reminiscent of Christmas to me and boy is it freezing in London. With or without snow, the city is just a lovely place to experience winter itself. The low temperature simply just adds to the magical winter holiday vibe. And though others might actually despite the cold, I actually really love it. What’s not to love if it reminds you of Christmas! Plus, let’s not forget how amazing winter fashion can be.
4.) The Coca Cola Truck will remind you that holidays are coming.
The British has a certain affinity to the Coca Cola truck. I wasn’t kidding when I said it’s a very festive place, and this truck will very damn well remind you of that. When the truck is in town, you’ve gotta chase it. Despite the long line (queue, if you may), the Coca Cola Truck tradition is a quintessential British Christmas thing. It’s not just in London that the famous truck cruises to. In fact, they go all around Great Britain as far as I know. I heard hardcore fans even chase them, literally, by going on a road trip. Doesn’t seem like such a bad idea as roadtripping in the U.K. actually sounds fantastic. Finding a reliable car rental is quite easy anywhere in the world these days, after all.
5.) Christmas markets and pop ups!
UK may not necessarily have the best Christmas markets in Europe, but they still got ’em. Without lacking the typical Christmas market goodies such as mulled wine, hot chocolate, and dessert favorites, visiting London in the holidays still wouldn’t be complete without this quintessentially European holiday experience. Londoners are also big on Christmas pop ups and events are always happening— from Christmas themed bottomless cocktails to Christmas musicals and shows, there’s just too much to choose from! Let’s also not forget to acknowledge Winter Wonderland, London’s holiday theme park slash Christmas carnival. It happens yearly at Hyde Park and the best part? It’s free entrance. Tip: Follow “Secret London” on Facebook to find the latest events and happenings in the city.
6.) The ice skating rinks are practically everywhere.
Nothing says a romantic winter more than a good ole outdoor ice skating rink. I suck at ice skating to be honest, but whether you’re a pro or quite a virgin in this department, the ambiance will get you wanting to get your skates on. Most of the best ones including Natural History Museum’s usually showcases a tremendous tree in the middle, making the experience even more magical.
7.) The Christmas sandwiches!
What is it about Christmas sandwiches that Londoners love so much? It’s not like it’s new or anything because I’m sure you’ll find it in the US too, but, it’s almost ubiquitous in the entire country so it was impossible for me to miss trying it out. Like, it’s seriously everywhere. Every Pret and Costa (quintessential British coffee shops), even Starbucks serve them and you know what, they’re actually quite nice. What’s in a sandwich, you ask? Think deconstructed Christmas. Turkey, gravy, maybe even cranberries. It’s an absolute Christmas explosion in a sandwich. What’s not to love?
8.) Their quirky traditions are fun.
I spent Christmas with my aunt’s family in Ireland but their traditions are quite similar. Of course I’m only basing this on the British tv series I watch (Him and Her is a fave), but I’d like to think I know a little about these traditions. First of all, they say “happy Christmas”, which is a little annoying at first, but it’s quite nice actually from the usual Merry Christmas greetings. Advent calendars are probably my favorite, because you get to eat a piece of chocolate everyday. The weird paper crown that everyone puts on at Christmas dinner is… different? But very interesting. And the cheesy jokes in the poppers that every one takes turn reading? So non-American and definitely non-Filipino. I love it. But seriously though, what’s with the funny paper crown?
9.) Long live the ugly Christmas sweaters!
They’re not even considered ugly here. They’re just sweaters. Actually, they’re “jumpers”, but they’re not as hideous as we believe them to be. I love that it’s still a thing to wear here during the holidays just because it’s the holidays, not because it’s this year’s Christmas party dress code. Reindeers and Frosty The Snowman? Comfy knits and light up Rudolph nose? Long live the ugly Christmas jumpers!
10.) It’s London, ffs. Enough said.
Whether you practice this holiday or not, London is a beautiful place to be in the winter. The lights, the decorations, the music… those are just a piece of the city that contributes very little to the spirit of the holidays. It’s beyond the traditions and the culture that makes London such a great holiday destination. It’s the joyfulness that everyone seems to be sharing this time of the year that’s highly infectious, from the last minute shoppers to the musicians serenading everyone with Christmas melodies, whether you like it or not, you’re bound to feel the spirit.