Pack Your Bags: The Holidays in London

While the holidays might be officially over,
I wanted to pen down some of the highlights of our Christmas in London
in case you ever find yourself in London during this magical time of the year.

We hosted my family of 16 people!
Adults, kids, infants...
we had the whole crew!

Entertaining for a crowd that size wasn't too difficult
as London offers so much to do in December....
but, in case you find yourself traveling through London at Christmas,
here are our favorites!


Christmas Eve Carol Service at Westminster Abbey

This is a special service that Westminster Abbey hosts every Christmas Eve.

The service will include the choir singing classic carols,
members of the Royal Household staff reading scripture lessons,
and various portions of the service where the audience sings carols by candlelight.

It's gorgeous... and free.

Though while it is free, you MUST HAVE A TICKET to get in.

You apply/register for tickets (max 4 per person registering) in November
through the Westminster Abbey website.

{Editor's Note: You'll need to check with the WA site to see when the sign-up date is, as it changes yearly. Set a reminder on your calendar and sign up that day to insure your tickets.}

If you live out of London, 
you can go to the Abbey's office adjacent to the church a few days before
and collect them then by showing them a valid ID.

(My dad & brother did this and it took about 5 minutes. Easy!)

The carol service lasts about one hour
and I highly recommend getting there early to secure good seats...
especially if you are traveling with an entourage (like we were) 
and would like to sit together.

Winter Wonderland- Hyde Park Christmas Market

If you are in London in December,
please don't miss out on this special celebration.

We have gone to Winter Wonderland for three years, 
and it is always a highlight of the "festive season" for us.

Imagine a giant carnival (of State Fair proportions)
with food & gift stalls from a German Christmas market
transported to the middle of Hyde Park.

It's free to get into
and you can wander the stalls selling trinkets
and delicious German treats like
roasted potatoes, bratwurst, mulled wine, and the like.

Kids will have a great time
with the rides and performers...
and adults can enjoy the larger scale rides
and warm adult beverages. 

It's such a blast!

Daily Christmas Carols in Trafalgar Square

Admittedly, this can be hit or miss
depending on what groups are singing when you arrive...
however, most of the groups represent local charities
and trying to raise support for good causes.

The backdrop of the carols can make the journey worth it..,
and if the group really isn't that great,
just wait about 30 minutes until the next group shows up.

These are held each evening 
from mid-December until Christmas.

Go after dinner with a cup of hot tea!

More information available here.

Skating at Somerset House

While London offers many gorgeous settings to ice skate,
I have to say-
Somerset House is the best I know.

The rink is larger than most of the other rinks,
Somerset House makes for a perfect setting,
it has a separate area for little skaters,
it has a really decent "lodge" tent stocked with hot cocoa & treats...
and I'm particularly smitten with the staff there
who offered to take my (partially paralyzed) niece around the rink
so that she could enjoy the feeling of skating.

We were all blown away watching them skate around with her
and holding her up so she could pretend to move that fast on her own.

It was such a sweet & generous showing of the Christmas spirit.

Christmas Tea at Fortnum & Mason

Having afternoon tea at Fortnum & Mason on Christmas Eve
with the ladies in my family was practically perfect.

For the more mature attendees,
we opted for the Traditional Afternoon Tea
which includes posh options like Welsh Rarebit, Lobster Omelettes & Haddock Souffl├ęs
to arrive before the traditional silver trays of scones & cakes.

For the younger members of our parties,
gorgeous tiered trays were brought for their pleasure
holding little sandwiches, tiny scones & Christmas treats
like mince pies, jam cookies & decorated cupcakes.

Oh, and of course- they had the traditional blue F&M teapots
full of apple & orange juice
to accompany their meal. :)

Since "afternoon tea" offers such heavy portions,
I recommend going closer to noon for your booking.

You won't need to eat before arriving to tea 
(nor should you... you would explode!),
and bookings will be more available at this time
during such a highly coveted day of the year.

Christmas Shopping

I know this sounds a little silly and obvious,
but few cities dress up for Christmas at London...
and the majority of these holiday displays
are made magical at the larger retail fronts of the city.

Landmark shops like Liberty of London, Harrods & Selfridges
doll up with elaborate lights and windows...
and walking through their halls and departments is so much fun.

We were getting obnoxious.

Plan on spending a few hours 
walking down Oxford Street & Regent Street
for the full effect...
but don't plan to be alone.

The streets are crowded, 
so grab a hot drink from Starbucks 
and make the most of it.


So there you have it...
not the complete list,
but definitely a good starting point
for planning your holidays in London.

Other good resources I would use are:

If you're looking for more advice on visiting London,
you can check out my more thorough guide
of sites, places to stay & food not to miss.

*all images original to Aspiring Kennedy


  1. Now I need to come to London! Looks so fun!

  2. I still remember how magical Christmastime was in London- nothing in the U.S. has ever compared! We went to St.Paul's for midnight mass one year, which was definitely a highlight. Of course I was a kid so seeing Father Christmas was the best part for me. I think I'd have a different appreciation not being 7 :)

  3. Never been to London during the holidays but I think I might have too!

    Memoirs & Mochas

  4. I love all of these and it makes me wish Christmas wasn't a whole year away! One of my regrets was that we never went to a Carol sing while in London, but the timing never worked out with our travels back to the States. The other thing I would add to the list if I could if getting mulled wine in a pub (although, of course, not for yo this year!)

  5. Prior to this post I wouldn't have thought I would end up in London for Christmas but now I'm hoping and praying I do! I may have to make it a request for a future Christmas :)
    Looks beautiful, fun and delicious :)

  6. Love London! I luckily got to spend it there last Christmas and I agree Winter Wonderland is awesome :)

  7. Hubs won me a furry dog at Winter Wonderland!
    I know I'm being a terrible pedant here but I consider it my one woman mission - High tea is a working class meal a bit like dinner, if you were at Fortnum's s then trust me, you had "Afternoon Tea" !

    I know, I'm a pain in the butt sometimes.

    1. You are not a pain in the butt... you're like my lovely and wise yoda guiding me towards not sounding like an idiot. Corrected!!! :)

  8. is it bad that i now really want to go? but mainly for the ice rink and shopping?


  9. Really, really think I need to convince my family to do this next year- looks amazing!

  10. we were in london a few decembers ago and it definitely is magical!

  11. This is a GREAT guide! Hoping to be on that side of the pond for Christmas next year, so thank you!
    You look stunning by the way, hope you are feeling great & Happy New Year!

  12. looks like an incredible place to spend christmas. happy new year!!

  13. I cannot tell you how giddy this post made me! You need to write for some big wig travel magazine. They would KILL to be able to share such a great account of Christmas in London.

  14. I'm a sucker for Christmas traditions and holidays at home, but man alive, you've made me want to put that aside for a year and hit up London. Then again, I'm dying to go back anytime regardless of the time of year. Looks so gorgeous in these pictures!

  15. I'm going to be in London during the last days of February and the first of March, can I visit these monuments the same???
    They look incredibly amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. 16 people - wow!!! Kudos to you :) And these festivities seem absolutely magical... spending the holidays in Europe is definitely on my bucket list. I would pretend to live out Love, Actually the entire time :) Thanks for sharing!

  17. I loved following along your adventures on Instagram. Go you hosting 16 people; I can't think of a better hostess! Happy New Year!

  18. I love London at Christmas. LOVE. Winter Wonderland is my fave...especially when enjoyed with a cup [or three] of mulled wine. Yummmmmmm

  19. Lauren,
    I'm not sure where I've been, but am just seeing that you're expecting...and it's twin girls! Woo hoo! That is SO SO SO exciting. I guess it's a good thing you've gotten in so much traveling before now, though if anyone can travel the world with 2 little bambinos with style, it's YOU!!!

    I loved seeing your line up for London...I was just working on our trip today. I would love, love, love to see you and meet those cute babies, if it's in the cards. But, definitely want to get your favs for what to do with our 8 and soon-to-be 11 year old. Where does the time go?!!!

    xoxo Elizabeth

  20. Holy buckets. I am taking my next Christmas vaca in London!

  21. Lauren - This is such a lovely post! I wanted you to know that I linked to this post and your blog on my blog today. My post was on my favorite travel oriented posts lately. You are SO good at what you do - I hope you will be able to stay adventurous once the little ones arrive (although that will be adventurous enough!) xoxoxoxo

  22. Lauren, you have an amazing blog. I learned about your blog from Sandy. I am following now on GFC. You feature London so well in your blog. London is one of my favourite cities. Looking forward for more. Have a wonderful weekend. Pamela

  23. So this December, I spent my first Christmas in London. And did exactly...NONE of the things you recommended (ok we went into Harrod's, looked at a few pricetags and laughed our heads off, but really, does that count?) I will be bookmarking this post for future reference! Thank you for sharing and congratulations on your beautiful baby girl.

  24. Hello !
    I like this blog "Pack Your Bags: The Holidays in London "
    happy to see above conversation, i also want to join all of you.if you are planning for Catered chalet holidays in London, Ski Magic is best options.

  25. "Hello !
    I like this blog ""Pack Your Bags: The Holidays in London ""
    happy to see above conversation, i also want to join all of you.if you are planning for Catered chalet holidays in London, Ski Magic is best options.



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