You might think this is a no brainer post. But spending Christmas in another country is less fun than you think.
Christmas isn't like New Year's eve where everyone is out having fun. The impression one gets from movies where everyone shops and have fun and going out with friends and family, planning holidays heading back to parents place, basically the joy of preparing for that one great day, and the joy will only last till Christmas Eve.
Christmas holiday is just like Chinese New Year, Thanksgiving and Hari Raya, it's all about families and spending quality times with your love ones... AT HOME.
Yes. If you plan to spend Christmas in Paris, be prepared to be faced with exorbitant price in hotels and have most of the tourist spots and restaurants closed for the holidays, all your favorite wineries in the wine country will stop operating for winter. In the end you'll end up spending most of your time in your hotel or with some strangers and random travelers in your hostel over some cheap wines and boring Christmas games.
Here are a few pointers to spend a good Christmas holiday in London.
1. Don't Go Alone
Well, another no brainer-ish point but seriously, do not visit London on an impulse during the holidays. It is still about family and friends and love ones. So if a London trip is inevitable, plan it with your family, gfs / guy friends, or even bf / gf / spouse. You can fall back with your travel companions when all else fails.
Oven-heated pizza for two.
Bought a frozen meat pizza from a nearby min-market, added a whole ball of mozzarella (sliced) and baked it in the oven till it's crispy and melted, then dropped a whole packet of prosciutto on it for extra measure. ;)
2. Visit Tourist Hotspots prior to Christmas
Most of the public transportation will still be opened till Christmas Eve day itself, so you could still do your touristy thing before the big 25th December itself.
My visit to Westminster to look at the London Eye from across the river
and Big Ben from up close.
Rainy London. View from London Eye capsule.
In the slow moving capsule of London Eye.
Trotting in front of Buckingham Palace, London on a rainy day.
Crown ornament on a Christmas tree inside the palace visitor centre. Nice touch.
3. Spend Xmas Eve in Winter Wonderland
It's not just a fun fair. This year the traditional German Christmas Market is making a come back to Hyde Park, opening hours from 10am-10pm from 23rd December 2012 onwards. If you're just visiting the market, entrance is free.
Entering the fun fair itself will cost you. But fun fair has always been fun in England, so wrap a scarf and ready for some winter night fun and some old school caramelized apples.
4. Friends and Family Day!
Comes Christmas Day itself.
Now if you have friends, relatives in London, or you came with your family, GREAT! Wake up early, in the spirit of the local holiday, greet your love ones or friends and starts exchanging presents (which I hope you prepare some already by now)! If it snows, go out and tramp on some new fresh snow and start a snowball fight.
If you don't have anyone in London, well then... by all means, it's a holiday. Sleep in!
just showing you the apartment I stayed in London
Then end the rest of your day with pre-bought snacks and food (from the day before) in the hotel/apartment, here's some ideas. Go out for strolls in quiet london town.
5. Boxing Day (link to blog post from 5 years ago)
If this is your first visit to London, this day will change YOUR LIFE.
Note down 26th December, a.k.a. Boxing Day a.k.a. most significant day of a woman's life. Location: Oxford Street (link to site).
Busiest shopping street in Europe and 300 shops and counting.
It's the most impressive, most extensive, more elaborative, most time consuming and mind blowing sales in the whole wide world (no offense to NYC). All 2.4km of it.
You call that sales in Malaysia? Pfft! You ain't seen sales yet kiddo.
Think 90% off on last season's item. I once bought a pair of gorgeous platform boots in a fashion store for only 5 pounds. Nuff said.
Give yourself three days here. It's not going to be enough, but it'll do.
While you're at it, why not visit the apple store here. Buy an iPhone 5 if you're feeling rich, besides you 20% VAT refund when you leave the country.
So wear your walking boots and remember to bring a bottle of water. And yes, be mindful of stabbers just in case.