You might think winter is not a good time to explore this capital city as it’s cold and gets dark early. But there is always something to do in London. I’ve been living in this city for a good few years and can recommend you a few places to visit despite winter and sometimes, because of winter.
You’ll want to avoid attractions where you need to walk outdoors for a long time, such as the London Zoo and Kew Gardens. The cold will get to you and you’ll just want to end your visit quickly, missing out on many good things. Having said that, here are my recommendations.
Winter is the only time you can ice-skate outdoors in the capital. Try the moat of Tower Hill or Somerset House, 2 places well-known for their ice-skating rink.
There are pubs up and down the country but you’ll find the oldest and most historic ones in London. The city used to be a trading centre for centuries due to its location along the river and as a result, many pubs sprung up. Try the area of Soho for a start. There has never been a better reason for a pub crawl!
Want to explore London but don’t feel like venturing outside? You don’t need to. Just hop on one of the London tour buses and it will take you across some of the most famous landmarks while you sit inside in the warmth and listen to the guide in your own language.
Famous for its wax statues that sometimes look better than real life! The statues are usually replaced with the latest celebrity ones so by now Madame Tussaud will probably be full of Big Brother celebrities. There’s an overpriced coffee shop to conclude your visit at the end.
Just as Paris is famous for its cabarets and Hollywood for Sunset Boulevard, London is synonymous with theatres. Pick the show or musical that you want to watch or alternatively, choose your theatre first. A few famous ones: London Palladium, Shaftesbury Theatre, Theatre Royal, Royal Opera House and the Apollo Theatre.
Leicester Square in the heart of the West End very often plays host to world premiers with the movie stars themselves in attendance to promote their latest movies. Fans will queue up for hours come rain or snow just to see them. Maybe not the best time of the year to queue outside but if you find yourself around, why not hop over for a look? Alternatively, you can go to the IMAX on the south bank of the river to view a movie in 3D.
There are so many in London that a single stay will not suffice to see them all, especially when they are mostly free. Decide what kind of person you are – culture vulture, science nerd – and pick the museum that tickles your fancy. The British Museum is the biggest and will take more than on visit to explore completely.
Greenwich is a nice little corner of London that can keep you busy for half a day or more. It has its own hill, observatory, museum (the National Maritime Museum), ship (the Cutty Sark which will reopen in time for the Olympics 2012), shops and market.
Fairs and Christmas markets
Several fairs and Christmas markets spring up over the capital in the runner-up to Christmas. Do a spot of shopping, go out with friends for some warm mulled wine or have fun on one of the thrilling rides. Go to Hyde Park for the Winter Wonderland 2011.
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland might have a Ferris Wheel – the giant observation wheel but the London Eye is much bigger – 135m high. Get in one of the small cabins and view the capital leisurely. You can also go for the VIP experience with a cabin of your own and champagne.
Are you a fan of Chelsea FC? Why not take a guided tour of its home stadium? You can even get it free with a London Pass.
The River Thames
It’s hard to avoid the UK’s biggest river when London is built on it. But what can you do on the river in winter? Well, there are always a few floating restaurants and some nightclubs for after-parties.
Did you ever ride in a driverless train? The Docklands Light Railway (DLR) has no driver, just a ticket inspector who also opens and closes the doors. But at no time does he drive the train. Take a ride in the DLR into the Canary Wharf area – the tracks are laid high up in the air and you’ll have a good look at roads below.
Changing of the guards
Another big feature of London, many tourists come to the UK for its Royal Family. While they don’t get to meet the queen, there are plenty of other attractions such as the Buckingham Palace which opens its doors in spring or summer and of course the changing of the guards every two days approximately in front of the palace.
Once the centre of the world when the British Empire ruled land and sea, Westminster Parliament is the seat of the government where laws are passed and history is made. And you can see it happening right in front of you by visiting in when it is in session: http://www.parliament.uk/visiting/.
Shop till you drop
Forget Oxford Street; there are plenty of venues to shop in the warmth: Harrods and Selfridges department stores but also Westfield Stratford shopping centre in East London, newly opened and also Westfield London Shopping Centre on the other side of London in the west. Further outside London, you also have Lakeside and Blue Waters in Kent, one on Europe’s biggest, so no need to go to Milan for the latest top-end fashion.
Do you have any recommendations or suggestions about things to do in London? Share with us.