Christmastime in London has long set the scene for Charles Dickens’s treasured novels and many a blockbuster rom-com. This year, locations across the city are offering travelers memorable ways to experience Britain’s most beloved holiday traditions.
Hotel packages with holiday performances
There’s no shortage of festive entertainment during London’s Christmas season. The Shangri-La Hotel, At The Shard, is hosting a six-night performance series in its Signature Suites from Nov. 27 to Dec. 12. The theater company Revels in Hand will perform the play “Four Calling Birds,” a brand-new Christmas comedy, for up to 25 guests per show.
“It’s West-End quality theater in your living room,” said Lucy Eaton, founding director of Revels in Hand. Guests can purchase individual tickets (£95, or about $123), which come with Champagne and canapés, or book the hotel’s Christmas in the Clouds package, which combines a suite stay, buffet breakfast and two show tickets with rates starting at £841.
Two Red Carnation hotels are offering travelers a more classical version of the arts. Guests overnighting in a Junior Suite at The Rubens at the Palace receive two tickets to a Christmas show at Cadogan Hall, featuring the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on Dec. 5 or 14 (suite rates based on double occupancy start from £555). The package also includes English breakfast, afternoon tea and a three-course pre-theater meal. Milestone Hotel & Residences is sending guests to “The Nutcracker” ballet at Royal Albert Hall from Dec. 28 to 31. The offer includes 15 percent off one night’s accommodation, English breakfast, welcome glasses of Champagne and show admission for two (room rates from £525).
“Carol concerts and carol singers are as much a part of Christmas in London as trick-or-treating is to Halloween in the U.S.,” said Christopher Wilmot-Sitwell, co-owner of the London-based travel outfitter Cazenove + Loyd. To showcase this celebrated British tradition, The Kensington hotel is offering a package with two tickets to the Christmas Eve carols at Royal Albert Hall.
“There is no better way to get into the holiday spirit than singing along with carolers in this must-see Victorian-era concert hall,” said Francesco Sardelli, the hotel’s general manager. Additional benefits include daily breakfast, a bottle of Champagne, a surprise gift for children on Christmas Eve and a traditional roast turkey Christmas lunch alongside a roaring fire in the restaurant. The four-night package starts at £1,680 based on double occupancy and is available from Dec. 22 to 28.
“There are a lot of traditions this time of year and shopping is one of them,” said Letitia Dunlop of Original Travel UK. “Classic London department stores like Libertys, Selfridges and Fortnum & Mason really go to town for the holidays and no expense is spared!”
Selfridges London, which just opened a 22,000-square-foot F. A.O. Schwarz flagship store on its fourth floor, unveiled its futuristic, fairytale-inspired windows and in-store décor with “A Christmas For Modern Times” theme. Starting Dec. 12, patrons can enjoy a daily 15-minute light show featuring the retailer’s 42-foot, 1.5-ton Christmas tree crafted from mirrors (7 p.m. on weekdays; 4 p.m. on weekends).
“London is still one of the world’s fashion epicenters and with currency markets as they are currently, shopping in London offers good value for a lot of our guests,” said Marco Novella, managing director of the hotel. Perks of the package include daily breakfast, 24-hour butler service, a chauffeured transfer to the store, shopping with a personal stylist and a 20 percent apparel and accessories discount.
“Our butlers are on hand to collect shopping purchases from the store and deliver items directly to guest rooms,” Mr. Novella said. “They also assist in packing and gift wrapping so our guests have extra time to enjoy the city.”
During the holidays, London has a wealth of bedecked Christmas markets like Covent Garden, Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park and Southbank Centre’s Wintertime Market. On Dec. 4, the Belmond British Pullman is taking guests on a round-trip train journey from London’s Victoria station to spend the day at the Bath Christmas Market. A three-course brunch is served onboard in the train’s restored antique carriages before guests disembark in one of Britain’s most scenic cities.
“Guests can shop locally made gifts and sample festive treats like mince pies and mulled wine in over 200 stalls and chalets,” said Gary Franklin, vice president for Belmond’s trains and cruises. The return trip includes a four-course dinner before arriving in Victoria Station (all-inclusive prices from £503 per passenger).
And for take away
The Mayfair hotel Claridge’s has continued its annual tradition of selling Christmas hampers. The handmade willow baskets are stocked with edible treats like Christmas fruitcake, shortbread biscuits and the brand’s famous Christmas pudding. There’s also a bundle of keepsakes like a Claridge’s cookbook, Christmas crackers and mugs.
“It’s a great way for our holiday guests to get a taste of Christmas in London and travel home with special mementos of their time here,” said Orla Hickey, a spokeswoman for the hotel. (Prices for Christmas hampers start at £150; room rates from £570.)