Christmas is a very special time of year in London. Adorned with lights, the city shimmers in the frost, creating a magical setting for a romantic break. As the temperatures fall, there are fewer visitors, making this the ideal time of year to experience London at its glittering best.
The following are some suggestions for a day out for two, from early in the morning to late at night:
FLOWERS FOR YOUR LOVED ONES AT COLUMBIA ROAD FLOWER MARKET
The Columbia Road Flower Market brings a whole palette of hues to even the darkest winter morning. Held every Sunday, it is widely regarded as the most colorful market in London – and not just on account of the flowers. You’ll also find a rich array of independent galleries, restaurants, and shops with everything from antiques and art to vintage clothing. The vendors are friendly and the many street performers provide a live musical backdrop to the visual display.
For breakfast, head to the Jones Dairy Café for a cream cheese and smoked salmon bagel. After freshly ground coffee, spend time wandering through the stalls, explore the many fascinating shops, and – don’t forget – find a bouquet of flowers for your loved one.
Columbia Road, E2 7RG
Open Sunday 8am-3pm
Overground: Hoxton/Shoreditch High Street; Tube: Old Street
LITTLE VENICE: CRUISING THROUGH THE HEART OF LONDON
A very English take on the City of Canals, Little Venice in Maida Vale is a delightful congregation of eateries and houseboats at the western end of the Regent’s Canal. As in its Italian namesake, there is only one way to travel: by boat. Jason’s Trip runs a narrowboat service between Little Venice and Camden lock, with commentary available on the Camden lock route only.
Taking around forty-five minutes, the boat glides quietly along past the regency streets of Maida Vale and the tree-lined fringes of Regent’s Park. Get cosy in the cabin, let the scenery slip by, and discover a whole new side to central London.
Jason’s Canal Boat Trip
75 West Yard, NW1 8AF
Open daily, 10:30am-3:30pm
Tube: Maida Vale (Little Venice); Camden Town/Chalk Farm (Camden Lock)
ENGLISH AFTERNOON TEA AT ASIA HOUSE
Afternoon tea is mandatory in London – or at least it will be when you’ve experienced the Mackwoods Tea Room in Marylebone’s Asia House. This Georgian era townhouse near All Souls Church offers understated luxury and the perfect haven from the hectic shopping on Oxford Street.
The Mackwoods Tea Room is relaxed and intimate, yet elegant and refined – the ideal blend for some classic English afternoon tea. The ornate interior combines traditional British features with a dash of Oriental style. Alongside the obligatory scones and cake, there’s a range of fine teas, some classic British snacks, and a choice of Asian main courses. Pick a quiet corner table for a romantic tête-à-tête and your own very English tea ceremony.
63 New Cavendish Street, W1G 7LP
Open Weekdays 9am-6pm
Tube: Oxford Circus/Regent Street
ROOFTOP COCKTAILS AT MADISON
One of London’s hidden gems (to those unfamiliar with the city), this rooftop bar has a stunning close-up view of the adjacent St Paul’s Cathedral. As you rise up from ground level in the glass-walled lift, you can study the east elevation of Wren’s architectural masterpiece in all its English Baroque splendor. The interior furnishings at Madison are comfortable and smart with more than a hint of New York chic.
When you turn to the menu, you’ll find an extensive range of cocktails and excellent food, but the house speciality is the view. Take a window seat on one of Europe’s largest public rooftop venues and savour the view of London.
One New Change, EC4M 9AF
Open Monday-Friday 8am-11am, 12pm-late; Saturday 12pm-2am; Sunday 10am-9pm
Tube: St. Paul’s
EAST MEETS WEST AT THE ROYAL OBSERVATORY GREENWICH
Where better to show your loved one they’re the centre of your world than on the Prime Meridian Line in Greenwich. Your tour begins at the 17th century Queen’s House, designed in a novel Classical style by Inigo Jones. The start of a new era in English architecture, it now houses some of the Museum’s finest artworks, including pieces by Gainsborough, Hogarth, and Reynolds. As you climb the hill to the Observatory, enjoy the panoramic view across the city – from the O2 Arena on your right, past Canary Wharf, to The Gherkin on your left.
The Royal Observatory is the site of the Prime Meridian Line where the eastern and western hemispheres meet. While it’s customary to place a foot in either hemisphere, those of a more romantic persuasion might hold hands across the divide.
Blackheath Avenue, SE10 8XJ
Open Daily 10am-5pm
DLR: Cutty Sark
SKATING AT SOMERSET HOUSE
The neoclassical backdrop of Somerset House provides a glorious setting for a magical experience on ice. Set within the courtyard amid glinting festive lights, the 900-sq.m. rink is the ideal place to perfect your pair skating skills. The best time of day is late afternoon when the sun goes down and the lights of the Christmas tree sparkle on the ice.
For some “après-skate”, try the Christmas Arcade with its pop-up version of the Fortnum & Mason Piccadilly store. As you’ve probably worked up an appetite, visit the Fortnum’s Lodge for some legendary Welsh Rarebit and a choice of sweet and savoury tarts. You can then warm yourself with a glass of steaming mulled wine before heading back onto the ice.
Strand, WC2R 1LA
Open Daily 10am-6pm
Tube: Charing Cross/Covent Garden
FEAST ON THE LONDON SKYLINE AT THE BOUNDARY
The London skyline is magnificent by day and even more spectacular at night. At the Boundary restaurant , the rooftop bar and grill has a weatherproof pergola with panoramic views of the glittering winter lights of London. The restaurant is renowned for classic French cuisine made with the finest seasonal produce. Savour your day from a starter of rock oysters to a perfect chocolate soufflé – all accompanied by the best French wines.
But it isn’t just the menu that’s special here – Shoreditch is East London’s trendiest district with lots of hip nightlife to explore.
2-4 Boundary Street, E2 7DD
Open Daily 10am-11pm
Overground: Shoreditch High Street; Tube: Old Street
WILTON’S MUSIC HALL
Incurable romantics have been searching out Wilton’s since 1859 – which makes it the oldest surviving music hall venue in the world. Elegantly appointed with period features, this multi-arts venue is famous for its faded grandeur. While others might affect the “shabby chic” look, here the peeling paintwork and charring in the rafters are genuine historical artefacts.
In the oldest part of Wilton’s – the Mahogany Bar – find a dimly-lit corner and drift back together in time. Add a musical backdrop from a bygone age, and this is the perfect place to spend an after-dinner evening for two. The beers, wines, and spirits at the bar are all carefully selected and locally sourced if possible.
1 Graces Alley, E1 8JB
Open Monday-Friday, 12pm-11pm; Saturday 5pm-11pm
Tube: Aldgate East/Tower Hill
The most romantic occasions are the ones you really share with that special person in your life. London offers a unique array of highlights you can see and experience together. Make London your destination for a romantic winter break and share the memory forever.
Fiona McCoss is Blog Editor and Content & Social Media Executive at The London Pass, a sightseeing city card that offers free entry to over 60 top London attractions, tours and experiences. In her spare time, Fiona loves exploring the city, visiting a wide range of events and exhibitions and venturing off the beaten track.