If you're visiting or living in London over the winter, you won't have any trouble finding fun things to see and do. Unlike some cities, where entertainment, shopping and sight-seeing can be difficult to come by in the winter, London becomes even more bustling and active as Christmas approaches. Ice rinks are frozen, Christmas lights are lit, shopping festivals are set up, and carolers take to the streets.
1. Ice Skating
Each winter in London, a variety of ice skating rinks are frozen. Many of these rinks, which are typically open between the middle of November and the middle of January, can be accessed late into the evening, and include special events throughout the winter season. For 2010, Merlin Entertainment's London Eye will be opening their own ice skating rink, which will be located on the Southbank. Ticket, which include skate hire, can be purchased for £10.50 from 10AM - 3PM, or £12.50 from 4PM - 9PM. Skating sessions last 45 minutes.
If you'd rather enjoy a more laid back ice skating experience at a smaller, quieter venue, London has plenty to offer during the snowy months. Below is a list of just a few of the ice rinks in London youll find over winter.
Winter Wonderland Hyde Park Somerset House Ice Rink Broadgate Ice Rink Alexandra Palace Ice Rink Wembley Stadium Ice Rink Canary Wharf Ice Rink Hampton Court Palace Ice Rink Tower of London Ice Rink Natural History Museum Ice Rink
2. Shopping Fairs
Londoners take their shopping very seriously, and Christmas time in the city sees a number of shopping fairs that are only present during the winter months.
The a href="http://www.countrylivingfair.com/xmas/" target="_blank">Country Living Magazine Christmas Fair has thousands of attendants each year. This fair is host to handmade crafts, clothing and jewelry, as well as unique foods, beverages and home accessories. Over 400 vendors gather each November to peddle their wares. Although the prices can be steep and the crowds are sometimes overwhelming, you shouldn't let these factors stop you from enjoying a great way to get you gift shopping done before December arrives. If you do decide to attend, make sure you allow yourself enough time to visit the popular gift wrapping demonstration, as well as the other boutiques and restaurants located on Upper Street in Islington.
The Frost Fair is becoming more popular as well. Although the festival was cancelled in 2009, it is expected to return in 2010. This fair celebrates the history of the Bankside area near the London Bridge. You'll find over 50 vendors, each with unique jewelry, ceramics, and wooden and leather crafts made by hand. Festival food, ale and mulled wine are served to keep Frost Fair patrons happy during their shopping.
If you'd like to do some Christmas shopping while supporting a good cause, consider attending the British Red Cross Christmas Fair, held near the end of November. You'll find food stalls with delicious homemade fare, designer accessories, jewelry and Fair Trade crafts. The fair, which costs £5 to attend, raises around £40,000 annually.
3. Trafalgar Square Christmas Carols
If you really want to get into the Christmas spirit, you might check out the Christmas caroling that occurs during the two middle weeks of every December at Trafalgar Square. You can get to the Square by exiting at either the Charing Cross or Leicester Square tube stations. Additional Christmas caroling can be found at St. Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. If you have time to visit Trafalgar Square earlier in December, you might check out the annual Christmas Tree lighting. Each year, a massive tree is specially shipped to London from Norway as a way of saying thanks for British aide during World War II. The lights are turned on during the first Thursday of each December, and the tree stays in place until January 6th.
4. English National Ballet
Each winter, the English National Ballet performs a series of special holiday-themed performances at the London Coliseum. The company has performed The Nutcracker every year since the 1950s, and the winter ballet season includes other Christmas repertoire such as Giselle and The Snow Queen as well. The performances run from the middle of December until the middle of January, and special family-friendly performances are available.
5. Great Christmas Pudding Race
If you're in the mood for something distinctly different, visit the Great Christmas Pudding Race, held each year on a mid-December Saturday morning. The 2010 race is being held on December 4th at 11:30am, and it marks the event's 30th anniversary. The race, which originated in 1980, consists of 150 contestants wearing outrageous costumes and attempting to balance a plate full of Christmas pudding, all while racing about Covent Garden. There are plenty of obstacles, such as flour-filled balloons, for the contestants to hilariously run into along the way. Best of all, the proceeds from the event are donated to cancer research.