I’ve probably mentioned this many times before, but London truly is my favorite place.
I know it’s expensive…super expensive. I know it’s crowded. I know housing is ridiculous. I know that living there probably isn’t as glamorous as it’s made out to be.
But still, there’s just something about it that I just love. The history, the beauty, the parks, the accent. It’s all just perfect. And that is my honest opinion, as a tourist wearing rose-colored glasses of course.
I’ve been to London 3 times previously, but always during the summer. So this was my first time visiting not only during the winter, but during the holidays. And it’s no surprise at all that it’s just as wonderful, and even more magical, during the holidays. There just isn’t anything quite like Christmas in London.
I arrived in London on Christmas Eve and felt like I was living out a scene from Love Actually when I arrived at Heathrow airport. There was a crowd of people waiting at the arrivals gate, some with signs or flowers, waiting for their loved ones coming home for the holidays. It was so great to see people being reunited with their families for the holidays, since I couldn’t be reunited with mine. But I would be spending Christmas exploring London with 3 friends flying over from home, so I couldn’t complain!
For being the massive global city that it is, London basically shuts down on Christmas day. No public transportation, hardly any restaurants open…but still, Christmas day was amazing.
It was the emptiest I had ever seen the city. We had pints at one of my favorite spots in London – The Churchill Arms in Notting Hill. Although this pub is pretty well-known with tourists, there’s still a local vibe to it, which I love. When I visited over the summer, the entire facade was covered in colorful flowers. But this time, it was covered with Christmas trees – yes, like 20 lit Christmas trees. The inside was decorated, they had the fire burning, and it was SO cozy.
The pub was only open from 12:00-2:00pm, which we thought was odd. Why go through the trouble of opening to only be open for 2 hours? But after being there for a bit, we figured out why – the locals who live in the area all come to enjoy some drinks before returning home to finish cooking their Christmas dinner. It’s almost like they were there drinking beer while their turkey was cooking. It was wonderful. We ended up making friends with some locals sitting beside us, and even met their dog Virgil, who was famous and well-known around the pub. (They even had a framed photo of him hanging up on the wall!)
We stayed at that pub the full 2 hours, then had to wander around searching for somewhere to have a decent meal. Like I said, nothing was open.
Then, the best part of the day…Wandering around some of London’s most famous attractions as the sun went down. Even though it was raining, it was great because there were only a few tourists around. We strolled through Kensington and Chelsea, Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace and St. James’s Garden, Westminster Abbey, and ended the night by Parliament and Big Ben. I have never seen the city so quiet, and it gave London a mystical, almost eerie feel. The Christmas lights were light up, there were only a few cars in the road, and very few people walking around. It was like the whole city was ours.
We ended our night with a huge Christmas feast at our hostel (since the only places open for Christmas dinner were super expensive hotels). Although I missed my family Christmas day, it was so mesmerizing to see London so quiet and empty. It was a great way to feel like I had my favorite city all to myself. I’m already dreaming about another Christmas in London.