I have read about and seen pictures on Instagram of London at Christmas. Wow, they weren't lying! London definitely knows how to do Christmas with lights and trees and markets at every turn. I had only two and half days so I had to cover as much ground as I could.
I think hands down my favorite neighborhood was Covent Garden. I may be biased though, because this was my first stop after stepping off the train from Paris. The darkness of the evening had just settled in and the streets were aglow with lights and festivity.
I mean, look at the size of that tree!
If high energy and swarms of people is what you are looking for then head to the streets near Piccadilly Circus. I was brave enough to venture there twice, once during the day and once at night. It was two different experiences so I recommend both.
My first stop was Hatchards, the oldest bookshop in the UK. It was founded in 1797 by John Hatchard. I could have spent hours and hours in this store. What a selection and the booksellers know their business!
Just next door to Hatchards is Fortnum and Mason. This high end market store was founded in 1707 and has been putting together quality hampers packed full of specialty items such as preserves, wines, chocolates, and biscuits for over 300 years. Through the years the store has retained its elegance and splendor.
A short walk from Fortnum's is Selfridges on Oxford Street. This department store was founded in 1908 by Harry Gordon Selfridge. His idea was to transform shopping from the chore that it was into an adventure and a form of leisure. He revolutionized the shopping experience with his windows and displaying merchandise in the store so that shoppers felt welcome and free to browse.
The streets were full of busy shoppers and you could literally feel the excitement in the air.
A short tube ride will deliver you to the steps of Harrods Department Store. Charles Henry Harrod took over a small shop on the site of the current store. This beginner store only had one room and two assistants. Today that store occupies 5 acres covering one million square feet. This is the moment I made my big mistake. I only walked by the window displays and did not go inside the store. What?!! Who does that? I can only imagine that I must have been sleep deprived, jet lagged and had not had my morning cup of tea. Oh, if I could only zap myself back to that time standing right there by the front door.
There were two pleasant surprises up the street waiting for me so maybe that makes up for my mishap with Harrods.
After recently seeing the movie The Man Who Invented Christmas, the story of how Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol, I just had to make time to visit the Charles Dickens Museum. It was a good decision because they had a special Christmas exhibit including some behind the scenes facts and a few of the film's costumes.
Day becomes night and London continues to put on a show. The streets are lit with the splendor of Christmas.
After miles and miles of walking, I stumbled upon Brown's Hotel, the oldest hotel in London. It was opened in 1837. Alexander Graham Bell made the first phone call in Europe from the hotel. The hotel has hosted Victorian writers such as Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker. There have been many royal guests and Agatha Christie also stayed at the hotel. I walked in, turned towards the tea room, eyed a seat by the fire and promptly sat down to order a glass of wine and rest.
The next morning it was time to head to the airport to fly home. London had outdid herself. I was full of Christmas cheer and excited to get home to celebrate Christmas with my family. Merry Christmas to all and a Happy New Year!
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