I know, I know – Santa always tells you to be nice… But what if you made an exception this year and stopped playing by his rules? After all, what’s the use trying to please someone who only visits you once a year!
Gluttony, greed, sloth, pride, lust, wrath and envy. In theory you should avoid these seven deadly sins at all costs… But let me play devil’s advocate and illustrate why you should commit every single one of them in my naughty guide to winter in London!
Ah, gluttony! With silly phrases like “cheat day” and “thinspiration” permeating contemporary lingo, this sin is deeply engrained in Western culture. I shouldn’t be eating this cheesy sourdough pizza… but how could it be wrong when it feels so right?
England has a bad reputation when it comes to food, but I beg to differ. Not only is the food here not bad – it’s great! If you are after a truly English affair, afternoon tea is your best bet. The Ritz is a time-tested institution, but bookings have to be made so far in advance that it might already be too late for your Christmas getaway. Luckily for us all, there are countless alternatives – Palm Court glamorous and traditional, The Tea Rooms is quaint and homely, and Drink Shop Do sweet and quirky.
Your gluttonous extravaganza would be incomplete without a little tipple to help you topple into bed at the end of the day. Yes, eggnog is one of the most beautiful gifts ever to be bestowed upon humanity… but it’s hardly novel. You know what is? Indulgent candy cane or toffee infused vodka! The Montague hotel has recently opened its Ski Lodge for the fourth consecutive year and their sweet vodkas, butterscotch-flavoured schnapps and bubbly Camembert are some of the many treats their £25 ski pass will give you access to.
Harrods is the biggest department store in Europe and one of the most famous in the world. It is also a fantastic place to max out all your credit cards and set out on a path of consumerist self-destruction. Although this sparkling gargantuan with gold-frosted ceilings will eventually leave you sobbing over your bank statements, it is well worth a visit.
Under one roof you will find opulent food courts, fanny pack donning tourists, luscious Laduree macaroons, posh locals, piles of Louboutins and watches with a starting price of one soul and a half. Basically, Harrods is the place where you would want to hide during a zombie apocalypse – and isn’t Christmas season fairly similar to one?
If you would rather endure the mayhem in an open space, Oxford Street and its neighbouring Regent Street are just as beautiful, albeit just as crowded. Whatever you do, you must peek inside Hamleys – the oldest and largest toy shop in the world. Its five floors crammed with teddy bears, tiny remote-controlled helicopters and candy will awaken the child in you… So much so that you may find yourself fighting actual children for that remote. I know I have and I ask you to reserve your judgment until after your visit.
Let’s face it – as cheerful and relaxing as it tries to appear, Christmas is one of the most exhausting times of the year. Santa may get all the credit, but at the end of the day we are the ones setting the table and hastily googling “what to get auntie Berta” on December 23.
Amidst all the craziness, you deserve a little down time. How should you spend it? By putting your feet up and enjoying a festive film or a lovely book! Now, you could definitely just snuggle up in bed and watch “The Grinch” on your laptop. But what if I told you you can do just that, plus have some champagne, a three-course dinner and a huge silver screen? One Aldwych hotel is currently running a Festive Film & Fizz offer which will let you do just that!
Vanity is a special kind of pride and although it is something my life is riddled with all year round, it manifests itself most strongly around Christmas. All those dresses you can no longer zip up – because hello, delightful desserts! – can make you feel like ’tis the season to be counting calories, not merrily eating yourself into oblivion. Our physical appearance directly reflects our mental state – but this does not have to be a negative thing. All those Christmas balls are the perfect excuse for a little professional preening.
Even something as inexpensive as getting your eyebrows threaded (£3 and up) can lift your spirits high and make you feel fabulous. How about a festive manicure complete with cheery snowmen and glittering trees? And, if all that shopping has left your back tense, might I suggest a relaxing massage and spa experience? TRULY offers some truly incredible spa packages around London – the only hard part is choosing the one you like most… and funding your habit once you get addicted.
When Santa asks whether you’ve been naughty or nice, just shrug and call him out on his pervy prying – long winters nights were made for cuddles and everyone knows that spooning leads to… yes, forking.
London can seem a little uptight by day, but the Arctic Monkeys were right – it certainly changes when the sun goes down ’round here! From renowned burlesque performances to the kinky sex shops of Soho, the city boasts an abundance of places that will leave your stocking full of coal. I solemnly promise that is not a metaphor!
So where should you go? Madame Jojo’s, one of the most renowned burlesque venues in the world, would have been my first tip but it unexpectedly closed down after losing its licence… literally yesterday! Luckily, there are other options like Cafe de Paris or Proud Cabaret which certainly merit a visit.
If you are feeling particularly adventurous, you could also hit up the Torture Garden Xmas Ball which only admits guests in “full fetish costume”. Not sure what that means, but I do own a latex raincoat which would probably go down a treat – if you decide to go, I might consider lending it out!
There are few better ways to channel your inner anger than strapping two lethal weapons to your feet and joining dozens of people in similar gear on an icy battlefield. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you’ve clearly never been ice skating – one of the most terrifying winter sports known to man. Because our lives consist of omnipresent traffic jams and feigned politeness, we Londoners have a lot of repressed anger to deal with… Which is why ice skating rings are an integral part of winter festivities in the British capital!
My top three picks would be the picture perfect rink in front of the Natural History Museum, the icy paradise at Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park and the festive space in front of Somerset House. Prices hover around £8-15 and include unlimited face plants and bruises. Bargain!
Envy is not a very Christmassy emotion, but some parts of London are so beautiful in winter that you will be unable to keep yourself from envying those who live there. Honestly – with a light dusting of snow and fairy lights, Hyde Park and all of its surrounding areas become magical.
You would do well by choosing a hotel in South Kensington like the Holiday Inn London Kensington Forum. This will give you the perfect base for shopping at Harrods, visiting the incredible – not to mention free – Science Museum, V&A and Natural History museum. Don’t forget to schedule in some ice-skating at the last stop, as I advised earlier! Oh, and have I mentioned that Harrods is within walking distance from the hotel, waiting to fulfil your sinful greedy ways?
If you would prefer to satisfy your cultural cravings, Mayfair is the best place to stay if you want to attend West End shows and hang out with the Queen at Buckingham Palace. The Holiday Inn London Mayfair is right in the midst of it all – and just around the corner from Fortnum & Mason, whose window displays are the most beautiful I have ever seen!
Would you spend Christmas in London this year? Are you or have you? Which sin are you most excited to commit? I’m all about gluttony this season, but I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Disclaimer: This post was brought to you in collaboration with Holiday Inn. As always, everything has been written by me and all opinions are fully my own (as well as all those
subpar delightful puns!).