Let’s start with the little gems I explored when I spent Christmas in London. To be honest, it wasn’t such a smart choice to come back for only 5 days, considering that on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day (26th of December) the means of transport, as well as some parts of the city are dormant.
I landed on the morning of the 22nd and in the afternoon and I immediately reached Leadenhall Market, a covered market in the Bank/Monument area, very Harry Potter style, with stores selling fine wines and cheeses. A large tree attracted all the attention along with the great rumble of voices of workers who came out on their lunch break for a quick meal or a few beers. I decided to eat in a very nice and easy place: Korean, the Bibimbap. You can create your own soups or rice, vegetarian or meat dishes, in short, super recommended!
Then, while I was trying to reach The Royal Exchange I got lost. Obviously going around in circles a bit, turning here and there I managed to find this wonderful building. In its history, as you can see, it has played all kinds of roles, from bank to warehouse, to now being a luxurious shopping center and dining area for those who work in the area. After that, I ran across Albert Bridge to The Shard. I’ve been wanting to go up there to see London from above for a long time. The view was breathtaking. The light radiating from the sun, which was slowly giving way to night, blended with the skyline of the buildings and the light of the streets, the tireless offices of the workers.
The 23rd of December I decided to go visit the famous Kew Gardens. However, I had chosen a completely wrong day to visit this corner of green paradise. That day the gardens were closed in the early afternoon for a wedding, and the main greenhouse was closed for restoration, what I was doing there I didn’t even know – the advice is therefore not to do like me, always check the site before visiting. Yet these gardens manage to amaze even in winter, making the visit another unmissable stop for those who want to discover the city at 360 °. Visiting the gardens in winter is like taking a break from the world, there is only you, the trees, and the wind. Try climbing the Treetop Walkway, an elevated platform that allows you to see the whole park from above.
So reluctantly leaving the tranquility of the entire village I resumed my way to the center and I went to South Kensington, the Natural History Museum and its temporary Ice Rink created by Swarovski to celebrate a sparkling Christmas. I knew that nearby was the famous Peggy Porschen Cakes bakery, all pink with marble tables, with the most beautiful decorations, in the quietest streets. A quick stop-by: there was no room, si I took my cookies – remember that the real specialties to try are cupcakes – and I left satisfied, towards the new goal that would end my day, the famous Tate Britain. Before taking the subway back to Pimlico, I decided to take a walk around Sloane Square, discovering only now and bitterly new fantastic neighborhoods: The Duke of York Square, near the Saatchi Gallery. A small neighborhood of stores and bars carved into the characteristic red brick houses.
It was the first time I went to the Tate Britain, mainly because contemporary art does not convince me. I went for the famous Christmas tree with golden roots hanging from the ceiling, made by the Iranian artist Shirazeh Houshiary, who was flooding my Instagram at that time.
Christmas Eve was a quiet day, the sun was shining and it didn’t seem like one of the typical London days at the end of December, anything but gloomy and grey. That morning I decided to leave the house late and walk at a slow pace, enjoying every minute. I took the subway and got off at High Street Kensington to visit the new Design Museum. There were three exhibitions available, I chose only one – given my low ability to interpret modern art.
From there, strolling through the elegant streets of the village, I came to my beloved Notting Hill antiques market, the stalls of silver jewellery and those of porcelain stacked on top of each other, make me dream of a Victorian London. In reaching the market I passed by the famous pub The Churchill Arms, built in 1750 is one of the oldest and its name is due to the assiduous attendance of the grandparents of the famous minister Winston Churchill. I recommend you to see it in the evening, when the sun begins to set to make way for the night and its magical lights.
Entering more and more in the Portobello area, I decided to drop by Biscuiteers Boutiques & Icing Cafés in Kensington Road, a cookie shop, yes that’s right, because their specialty is cookies, in any format: Christmas, personalized, for babies, for a wedding or a birthday, even for your four-legged friend and all packed in tender tin boxes decorated for the occasion.
The decision had been made to spend Christmas Eve in an alternative way, no dinners, just a glass of wine to relax from the day at a pub near Selfridge’s and then a Thai dinner at Busaba Ethai, which is located in a small and narrow side street of the department store. One thing I love is the atmosphere and mentality with which they have built the environment. There are no small tables, no tables of two, “no one can feel alone or be alone” in a place where the square tables are huge and you eat together with different families. If you stop here I recommend you try the Classic pad thai and Thai calamari, you will not regret it.
Once you have finished your dinner, if you like to walk, get out and stroll through the streets decorated with lights. In a few steps you will end up on Bond Street, at that point, having walked all of New Bond Street, you will find yourself in Piccadilly, and just a few minutes before midnight there is nothing more exciting than visiting St. James’s Church, just a few steps from Fortnum & Mason, a sign of humility with the few candle lights that adorn it and a giant Christmas tree in the entrance square.
Of course on Christmas and the 26th of December there was nothing much to do. So on the morning of the 27th I walked around Tower Bridge, every time its colors leave me speechless, the majesty of the towers. Around lunchtime I ate at the best and most beautiful pub ever: The Anchor, a red blob on the bank of the Thames with a terrace. I absolutely recommend it but try to call because it is often full of people, despite being very large.
Then, I looked for a place I had casually scouted out on Instagram, a little piece of heaven, a hidden terrace in the middle of the Mayfair district, between the rich residences and the confusing Oxford Street: The Brown Hart Gardens in addition to plants and benches also host a bar/restaurant suitable for workers and their breaks.
After a short break, through the narrow streets inside, I moved to the Soho district that I had never seen in detail. Passing through Carnaby Street, decorated and crowded for the crazy discounts of the period, I stopped at the famous Liberty, the department store with a large white chandelier and wood, with the latest fashion and small corners of the building used only for vintage. In Soho I managed to see the famous Algerian Coffee Store, any coffee or tea you are looking for there you will find it.
In the afternoon I found myself back in Piccadilly Street and after stopping at my beloved Ladureé’s with its delicious macaroons I discovered a new store, after St. James’s church, I hope you can see it before it closes – Wonderland – and a few meters after a historic bookstore that can take you back in time, a portal, a passage between present and past, between old and new – Waterstones – which is currently the largest in Europe, in short, for lovers of the scent of paper is a real paradise.
In the evening, after a bit of shopping at Harrods, and a quick visit before closing at its neighbor: Harvey Nichols, I then stayed on the top floor of this department store, where among the many restaurants there is Yo Sushi! Nice, but not the best in my opinion for those who love Japanese cuisine.