Living abroad is amazing no matter what country you’ve chosen as your new home. Guaranteed, most days you don’t even feel like an expat, but are happy with the location you’ve chosen to live in, have learned the language or are in the process of doing so and you feel you fit in – until December looms. Nine times out of ten, the youngsters in the family are even more adapted than you are, they may be attending local schools, have friends in the local community and are just about as native as the natives which is great and as much as you could hope for. But there’s one thing they’re missing out on even if they don’t know it, but you do, and that’s a true British Christmas.
Ghosts of Christmas Past
No matter where you are in the world or what you do to try to emulate it, it’s almost impossible to recreate that magical Christmas atmosphere you remember from when you were living in the UK. If you’re residing in Spanish or Italian territories, it can be even harder when the main celebration is the Three Kings and you’ve already had enough of Christmas and New Year before the main festivities have even started. Even though the kids might embrace the multi-cultural celebrations and be more than happy to receive gifts on Christmas day and the sixth of January, it really just isn’t the same – for you at least. While you can’t uproot the family and go back to the UK just for the festivities, what you can do is take them all for a long weekend in London and let them experience the fantastic seasonal cheer for themselves.
Things To Do In London At Christmas
One bonus about taking the family on a long weekend in London to get a dose of that special British Christmas atmosphere is – you don’t need to wait right until the actual Christmas week to do it. London is decked out in all her festive glory from around mid-November when different parts of the city switch on their Christmas lights. Head down Regents Street or Oxford Street and the kids will be open-mouthed at the stunning displays. In Knightsbridge they’ll be left speechless by the store front of Harrods. Download the Harrods Xmas app onto their phone then take them inside to follow the Kingdom of Christmas Trail and they’ll think they’ve entered into a Christmas fantasy world as they explore the store following the augmented-reality trail.
If you want to show them the Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square illuminated, you’ll have to wait to take your family on their long weekend in London until after the first Thursday in December as it doesn’t get switched on until then. To see more of London’s Christmas lights, weather-permitting, wrap the youngsters up with scarves, mittens and earmuffs and take them for a ride on the last Hop-on-Hop-off bus off the day. Jump off near London Bridge and you’ll find a huge Christmas Market with hog roasts, candy floss, mulled wine and stall after stall of handicrafts and unusual gifts that make great stocking fillers. You’ll be in the right location to take them for an after-dark spin on the London Eye too though make sure you book your places in advance as seeing the London Christmas lights from the ferris wheel is a popular thing.
Two things that will really put a touch of magic into your Christmas visit to London are the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park and Hogwarts in the Snow at the Warner Brothers Studio. The wonderland in Hyde Park is open twelve hours a day from the last week of November and although it’s great fun in the daytime, it’s twice as magical at night. There you and the young ones will be able to walk through a world created from ice sculptures, visit Santa, go ice-skating, browse market stalls or ride on endless roller coasters and fairground amusements. The fun doesn’t stop there.
There are also several different shows happening in the Winter Wonderland which the kids will love. Take them to Paddington on Ice, either or both of the two amazing circuses or a Mr Men musical. They’ll love it so much they’ll probably want to spend every day of your long weekend in London in Hyde Park unless you tempt them away with a trip to the Warner Brothers Studio.
While the Warner Brothers Studio isn’t in central London, it’s totally worth the twenty-five mile journey to see the smiles on the youngsters faces as they tour Hogwarts in the Snow. They’ll be transported to the world of Harry Potter as they step into the film sets complete with snow, festive feasts and Christmas trees decorated with witches on broomsticks.
Does Christmas get any more enchanting than that? Oh yes, it does. If you found yourself about to reply – oh no, it doesn’t – to that question, you’ll be right on form for taking the kids to a pantomime while you’re in London. There really isn’t anything more traditionally British at Christmas than a pantomime and the older the story, the better. Whichever panto you choose to see in any of the many London theatres that present them annually, whether it’s Mother Goose, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Dick Whittington or Snow White, it’ll be a fun family night out full of slapstick laughs you’ll all remember for years.
Best Family Hotels In London
Travelling with kids is never easy or economical, but there are some great family accommodation options for a long weekend in London that won’t break the bank. Rather than forking out for two rooms or more, try somewhere like the Citadines-Holborn Covent Garden. The centrally located, apart-hotel has ultra-modern, one bedroomed apartments that can sleep up to four people. The apartments have fully-equipped kitchenettes with a dishwasher, bathroom with full-size bath and satellite TV in the living room.
If you’re travelling with teenagers who are okay in their own room, check out the London Archway Hotel by Premier Inns where the prices mean you won’t cringe too much when it comes to paying for their stay. The hotel also has family rooms that can cater for two adults and two children up to the age of fifteen. The no fuss and no frills décor style means you won’t be worrying too much if the kids jump up and down on the bed or leave their clothes thrown on the floor.
For a well-situated budget accommodation option, the London Docklands Travelodge has low-priced family rooms for either three adults sharing or two adults and two children. Yes, the rooms are basic, but the bonus with this hotel is it’s less than five minutes walk from Canary Wharf where there’s a fantastic market held every year so you’ll only be a few steps away from that British Christmas atmosphere.
Whatever you do on your long weekend in London with the family, make sure you leave enough time to hit the supermarket and stock up on all those traditional Christmas goodies – even if it means flying home wearing four layers of winter woollies so your luggage isn’t over the weight allowance.