There’s no better gift than waking up on Christmas Day in London with the whole city to yourself. Public transport has its annual day off, but you can still wander the deserted streets or hire a Santander cycle to explore the city in peace.
After you’ve woken up at the crack of dawn to check if Santa has stopped off at your hotel, have a hearty breakfast and head down to the Serpentine lake in Hyde Park to watch the annual Peter Pan Cup at 9am. Every year since 1864, plucky swimmers have raced across the icy waters in aid of charity, so go and cheer them on.
Then why not work up an appetite in preparation for your mammoth Christmas dinner? There are plenty of gorgeous walks in town and you’ll be able to savour the sights and architecture even more now it’s quiet. You could wander around Mayfair’s pretty streets and along Piccadilly to see The Ritz, Piccadilly Arcade and Burlington Arcade in all their festive glory. The shops will be shuttered but the lights will still be sparkling.
Or you could see the famous Christmas tree on Trafalgar Square (a yearly gift from Norway), before walking over Hungerford Bridge to the South Bank. From here, you can stroll along the river, past Tate Modern and Shakespeare’s Globe towards Bankside with its Frost Fair’s augmented reality installations, illustrations, street art and animations.
Then, from an eerily quiet Borough Market, cross London Bridge towards Leadenhall Market on the northside – this spectacular Victorian setting complete with cobbled streets will transport you back into a Charles Dickens novel. If you don’t want to walk, you could always hire a Santander bike and see the sights that way, or hop on a bus tour.
Golden Tours offers a hop-on hop-off tour of the capital on Christmas Day and there’s a great guide providing commentary on certain departures. If you prefer to see the city on the water, take a City Cruises circular sightseeing tour – live commentary, mulled wine and mince pies are included!
The Holly Bush © Shutterstock
And now for the feast! There are plenty of places where you can enjoy a slap-up Christmas dinner without peeling a single sprout yourself, from Michelin-starred meals and cosy pub food to crispy duck in Chinatown and biryani in Brick Lane. If you are feeling flush, treat yourself to a six-course Christmas Day dinner at The Ritz (a snip at £495 per person) or go really glam at Bob Bob Ricard in Soho, where you can press a button to top up your Champagne flute and eat oysters and caviar at Christmas.
If you fancy traditional turkey in a pub with a roaring fire, head to Hampstead Heath to The Spaniards Inn or The Holly Bush, though if that’s too far afield, try The Windmill in Mayfair. This old-school boozer just off Regent Street has won awards for its pies, so you can expect Christmas dinner to be top-notch.
However, if you are all turkeyed out by now, you could always go to Chinatown: among the best (it’s Christmas after all) are Plum Valley, which serves Chinese, Thai and Japanese fusion food, and the Four Seasons with its award-winning roast duck (both on Gerrard Street). If you fancy Michelin-starred Indian food, Amaya in Knightsbridge keeps its Christmas Day menu festive, with venison seekh kebab, caramelised Brussels sprouts and chestnut chilli fry on the menu. Whatever you decide to do, have a very Happy Christmas!