Christmas Time in London
I think it’s pretty obvious by now that we live to travel… the only thing better than traveling? Traveling during the magic of Christmastime. Last year, Brian and I were blessed to spend New Years in Scotland with my family. Before heading to my favorite place in the world, we spent a few, amazing, days in London. We left the day after Christmas, commonly referred to as “Boxing Day” in the UK and headed to London on a night flight from Houston. *Side note: 10/10 recommend traveling the day after Christmas.. if you are a Christmas lover like me, it really extends the magic of the season and gives you something to look forward to after Christmas has come and gone!
One of the main reasons that we opted for a long weekend in London was because you have a few options in how to get from Houston to Edinburgh, Scotland. In my opinion, the best way is to fly directly to London because that way you’re able to get a full 8.5 hours on the flight where you can (hopefully) sleep and beat the jet lag. Another option in getting to Edinburgh would be to fly via New York or Chicago – both of these give you a shorter leg over the Atlantic, which doesn’t allow for as much time to sleep.
Where to Fly into:
We flew into Heathrow (most likely, if you’re flying into London internationally you’ll land in Heathrow) and headed straight to shower. United has a fantastic option, if you fly business class you’re able to use their lounge to shower off the “plane” and get ready for your day. This is a great way to start your day in London because not only does it allow you to feel refreshed, but most times Hotel or Airbnb checkin doesn’t start until later in the day. These night flights will get you to London around 8AM. If you’re not flying United, most airlines have this option as well. Brian and I definitely could not have afforded a Business class ticket without my parents (who very generously gifted them to us for Christmas), so an option that we would choose when traveling alone to the UK would be to use the Plaza Premium Arrivals lounge at Terminal 2 in Heathrow. They charge 35 Pounds for a two hour lounge stay – plenty of time to shower and change!
Getting Around London: London is relatively walkable within its different neighborhoods! To get between neighborhoods, I would recommend either the Tube (subway) or a cab! The Tube will be your cheaper option by far, but cabs are super convenient and can be hailed on every corner!
Now here’s a little look at Our Itinerary! *At the time of this post, London was shut down again to tourists due to Covid-19! We will update this post as we see any changes in London!
After freshening up at the airport and grabbing a coffee, we headed to the airbnb to drop off our bags! The beauty of changing at the airport was that we were ready for our day by 8:30AM! We were scheduled to go on the London Eye that afternoon, so we had some time to kill in the morning! We decided to start walking and see where we ended up. Our airbnb was centrally located such that we were in a relatively walkable area (most of London is walkable anyway, with the ability to walk to a coffee shop or two!) – be sure to check out this blog post on how we choose our airbnbs if you’re interested – so we headed out the door and walked until we found a quaint little coffeeshop for a bite! We then hopped on the Tube over to the London Eye.
We had booked the Champagne experience and I 10/10 recommend this if you’re traveling with your girlfriends or with your beau!! The Champagne Experience gives you access to a private Champagne Bar with beautiful, up close and personal, views of the Eye! You essentially sip Champagne instead of waiting in line, and when you finish your drinks you head to the Eye and skip the line! Talk about feeling like Royalty… when in Rome and all that 😉
The London Eye is magic and you absolutely have to experience it if you’re a first time traveler to London… these views of the city are simply unparalleled. I will say, if you’re afraid of heights you may not enjoy it so much… and once you’re on you’re not able to get off until you get back down! It’s very safe but I can see how it would be scary to people with a fear of heights!!
When we are traveling, we have come to enjoy booking one or two things per day and then wandering for the rest of the time… I find trips where we have done this to be far less stressful, and much more enjoyable as we are able to just do our thing, like the locals would 😉 After the London Eye we did not have any plans until our showing of Les Miserable on London’s West End at 8PM. We all had comfy shoes on and decided that we would start to walk… we ended up walking right to the Imperial War Museum. As a kid, my parents had taken me to this free, 4 story museum, and I loved it so much and was excited when we stumbled upon it! If you are a history buff you will be SO AT HOME in London. This war museum has something for everyone, not only does it have all of the history, but you can see the clothes, the houses, and the bomb shelters that Londoners used during wartime.
By the time we finished in the Museum it was dark outside (granted, it gets dark around 4pm) and we thought we would head back to our airbnb to freshen up before our show! We hopped in a cab and headed back to change. We didn’t have any dinner plans for either of the nights that we were in London, so we decided that Chinatown was the move… I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… you cannot beat Chinese food from China Towns in big cities!! You really cannot go wrong with any of the restaurants in this area of town… at least, I never have! If you wander into a restaurant that has Peking Duck on the menu, order it!!! You will not be disappointed.
After dinner, we walked to West End for our show. If you’re unfamiliar, West End is the equivalent of New York’s Broadway – our show was absolutely phenomenal. I consider myself somewhat of a musical theatre nerd… so of course I knew all the songs and was just in awe watching the actors portray the characters on stage. If you have time to see a show in West End, it is such a fun way to spend a night! You can get a bit dressed up, go for a few cocktails before, and then enjoy your show! I would suggest seeing either Les Mis or Lion King!
By this time, Jet Lag was catching up with us (to the point where both my husband and my brother FELL. ASLEEP. during the show for a brief moment… yikes!!). We figured it was best to head back to the airbnb so that we were rested for next day!
I think you’re catching onto a theme here in that we love to experience places as the locals do! We also like to get up early so as to enjoy every minute of our time! We decided we would sneak out around 7:30AM to get coffee and croissants for everybody. We didn’t know where we were going, so we just wandered until we found a cute spot! By the time we got back, everyone was starting to stir! We had tickets to the Churchill War rooms on this morning, again something that I highly highly recommend. The War Rooms are where Churchill, his wife, and his staff rode out the 2nd World War. It is absolutely fascinating in the way that they have set it up. You can walk through their real living quarters and you can hear conversations and recorded phone conversations between Churchill and people all over the world. Even if you’re not particularly into history, I think you’d enjoy this one. The War Room museum is very centrally located in that when you come out, you are walking distance to the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, and the Abbey Church. When we came out, we walked all around this Royal area of London, taking in all of the sites – London is filled with so much history and character. Tickets to the War Rooms are between 11-22 pounds depending on which tour you do! I think the 11 pound tour is just fine!
By this point it was nearing lunchtime… and my favorite part of our London trip.. eek!! We had reservations for Afternoon Tea at Harrods! If this is something that you’d like to do (which… why wouldn’t you!?!?), I would say that you should book your reservation the same day you book your flights to London as it fills up quickly. This is such an amazing experience at any time… but especially at Christmas time! If you do the traditional tea, it is 59 Pounds/pp for the meal and you can get a bottle of prosecco to accompany your meal for an additional $50. You can also buy drinks by the class for $9. We had so much fun at afternoon tea. My sister has a nut allergy and they are incredibly accommodating whether you tell them in advance or when you arrive! Another plus 🙂 After tea, we spent about an hour just walking around Harrods – I do love a good department store – before heading home.
The boys had us on a very strict deadline as OU’s bowl game was this evening at 7PM London time… of course, we could not miss OU playing! We decided to head to Marks and Spencer to grab some game time snacks for that evening! Marks and Spencer is like a department store x target grocery section. It is so amazing! My mom used to shop there all the time when we lived in the UK, and my Gran still does! They have a whole little section with appetizers and hors d’oeuvres, not to mention an impeccable wine selection! We headed home with our goodies and were in for the night!
On this day, we were getting the Train to Edinburgh at 12! We all decided that we would get up early so that we could do some shopping (ladies, you cannot beat the “high street” shops in the UK!) before catching our train! We headed out to Zara, Dorothy Perkins, French Connection and Primark to name a few. My mom, sister and I had ourselves a little shopping spree while the boys grabbed us some coffees! We then headed to the train station to catch our train up to my favorite city!!
I want to say that we did not hit all of the touristy stops in London, mostly because I was born there so we are fortunate enough to have been a few times! If you’re looking for some more recommendations for things I have done on previous trips, here’s a little list!
Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament (they were closed when we were here Dec 2019)
Tour of the Tower of London – so fun!
#10 Downing Street – this is where the Prime Minister lives (equivalent of the US White House)
Covent Garden for Food and Shopping
Notting Hill for Food and Shopping – and pictures ugh it is soooo cute!
Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace
Fish and Chips (we did this in Scotland)