London

20+ Things To Do In London During This Holiday Season

As we finally reach the festive month that is December, here’s a bunch of things to see and do in the merriest month of winter in London. From traditional Christmas activities, to mouthwatering menus, as well as Christmas markets and workshops, I’ve got you sorted.

TRADITIONAL CHRISTMAS THINGS TO DO IN LONDON

Natural History Museum Ice Rink
Set against the backdrop of the Waterhouse building, the Ice Rink at the Natural History Museum is one of the most magical places to be this winter. Experience the thrill of skating surrounded by fairy lights nestled in frost-covered trees, with the smell of mulled wine and toasted marshmallows in the air.

Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park
Returning for its 12th year, head down to this annual, family-friendly event in Hyde Park. With a huge Christmas market, a stunning ice kingdom, big-top shows, an ice rink and a host of Christmas-themed activities and fun, you’re sure to feel festive in no time.

Christmas in Leicester Square
See one of London’s most famous squares transformed for the festive season as part of Christmas in Leicester Square. The festival features a traditional Christmas market, a Santa’s grotto for families and a Belgian spiegeltent.

Winter Festival @ Southbank Centre
The Southbank Centre will be transformed into a magical Christmas landscape this winter, with a bustling market, twinkling lights and a host of seasonal events. The festival offers a packed programme of free and ticketed events for all ages – from world-class theatrical performances and festive concerts, to social dances, community choirs and activities.

The Great Christmas Pudding Race @ Covent Garden, 7 December
One of the most exciting events of the Christmas season, this charity fun-run takes place in London’s iconic Covent Garden, helping to raise vital funds for the charity Cancer Research UK. Teams in fantastic fancy-dress costumes race to compete the festive course, navigating obstacles such as a giant inflatable slide and a crazy foam slalom all whilst balancing a Christmas Pudding on a tray!

Skate at Somerset House
Make the most of the wintry weather as one of London’s most beautiful outdoor ice rinks returns for Skate at Somerset House. In partnership with Fortnum & Mason, this icy experience is open all day and well into the evening, when the rink comes alive with special club nights featuring top DJs.

Skate in the City, Broadgate Ice Rink
Embrace the magic of Christmas in the heart of the City. Broadgate Ice Rink is just a two-minute walk from Liverpool Street Station, in the midst of an impressive array of Christmas decorations, shops, bars and restaurants.

Tower of London Ice Rink
Skate in the grounds of one of London’s most dramatic landmarks, and soak up the centuries-old historic atmosphere at this exclusive outdoor ice-rink.

ALTERNATIVE CHRISTMAS THINGS TO DO IN LONDON

CHRISTMAS MARKETS AND POP-UPS IN LONDON

Frost Fair festival @ Museum of London Docklands, 21 – 22 December
When the River Thames would freeze over, many years ago, huge celebrations called Frost Fairs were held on the ice. Join the Museum of London Docklands for a weekend of festivities recreating the magic of these special festivals, with interactive games and workshops, enchanting performances and arts and crafts.

The Peter Pan Cup @ Hyde Park, 25 December
Watch one of the more unusual London events in December, as brave outdoor swimmers compete in the icy waters of the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park for the annual Christmas Day race. Don’t miss this event, which has been taking place on Christmas mornings since 1864.

Enchanted Eltham Palace @ Eltham Palace, 12 – 15 December
Once a favoured medieval palace and then the childhood home of Henry VII, Eltham Palace was transformed into a striking Art Deco mansion by eccentric millionaires Stephen and Virginia Courtauld in the 1900s. Explore the stunning historic landscape lit up after dark with the return of their popular enchanting evening, with an illuminated trail, interactive colour displays and fairground rides.

Maltby Street Christmas Night Market, 6-20 December
As nights draw in and the festive season approaches, Maltby Street Market warmly invites everyone to join them on their beloved Ropewalk for the first run of their seasonal after dark markets. We’re talking carolling, hot mulled wine and mince pies, as well as responsibly sourced Christmas trees you can buy.

Plastic Freedom Pop-Up 6 – 8 December
If you’re looking for gifts that are plastic free to spread that eco-love to your family and friends, then this pop-up is your go-to destination. The Sea Containers London X Plastic Freedom pop-up will sell a wide variety of items, from limited-edition Self Care Company X Plastic Freedom candles and specially curated grooming gift sets to Christmas sock sets and brass and wood Christmas tree decorations.

A sustainable gift-wrapping station will be setup within the space, where guests can either bring in their own items to be wrapped or have items purchased on the day wrapped for them using recycled, hand-printed paper, boxes and hessian bows.

Christmas at Brixton Village
London’s most diverse and vibrant market, Brixton Village, has a really exciting line-up of events, and has been kitted out with full Christmas sparkle, pop-up street food in partnership with Street Food Union, and even a specially designed Instagram Mural for visitors to capture their perfect Christmas moment. As well as all of this, there is a really great line-up of festive music performances (detailed below), both this weekend and during upcoming weekends in December. There are also some great Christmas deals such as Salon’s Christmas Banquet, raclette and champagne at Champagne & Fromage, and Lost in Brixton’s festive drinks packages.

CHRISTMAS FOOD MENUS IN LONDON

This festive season, Perrier-Jouët and the Intercontinental Park Lane will launch an exclusive Afternoon Tea experience, inspired by the classic English carol “The Twelve Days Of Christmas”. Featuring an array of delicious sweet and savoury favourites including partridge and pear pithivier and sandwiches such as smoked salmon, roast beef, chicken and beetroot. There is also winter spiced scones, chocolate tart, and traditional Christmas mince pies – all enjoyed alongside a glass of perfectly chilled Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut or Belle Epoque. It’s available daily (from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm) until the 5th of January, 2020.

There is no better way to kick-start your celebrations than at Champagne and Fromage, a shop and bistro in Brixton Village, which will be offering customers a special offer on raclette, the perfect accompaniment to a well-deserved glass of fizz. Champagne and Fromage offers an Authentic French menu with a vast selection of award-winning grower Champagne and over 50 soft and hard artisan cheeses.

Harry’s Bar, James Street is launching a limited edition ‘Golden toadstool,’ a festive take on its most popular dessert. The decadent funghi encompasses a dark chocolate dome encasing iced vanilla parfait with blackberries, salted caramel, and toasted hazelnuts.

A Christmas cuddle in a bun. Blacklock have created the ultimate ‘Christmas burger,’ featuring Philip Warren Turkey thighs rubbed in a mix of Christmas spices, served in a brioche bun with Blacklock sausage and onion patty, middlewhite bacon, cranberry ketchup, and greens.

Big Mamma have gone all out with the ‘Christmas Tree’ pizza. Layered with Mozzarella di bufala, broccoli-parmigiano cream, topped with crunchy potatoes, stracciatella and ‘burned’ tomatoes. This one-off special will be available at both Circolo and Gloria.

Looking for the spot for your festive get-together? Whether you’re planning a meal with friends, a family celebration, or you want to take over the whole space for a blowout lunch or dinner, Salon in Brixton will be providing festive cheer with a set Christmas Banquet Menu for groups of 6 or more. Dishes will include indulgent options such as Aylesbury duck with celeriac and pickled walnut, and Caramelised pear with chestnut and sour cream.

Wahaca’s unique ‘Mince Pie Empanada’ has made a comeback and this year it’s infused with Mezcal and served with Brandy Butter ice cream. This, alongside the ‘Turkey & Stuffing Taquito special with Grilled Hispi Cabbage,’ means Wahaca’s festive menu will be an unmissable treat this Christmas.

CHRISTMAS WORKSHOPS IN LONDON

Gift Wrap Printmaking Workshop with Laurie Avon (free), Thursday and Saturdays, December 2019
Illustrator Laurie Avon is leading one-hour rubber stamp printmaking workshops at Islington Square this festive season where participants can create their own personalised gift wrapping paper to take home. Using simple tools and a take-home approach, Laurie’s workshops celebrate the evolution of stamps – from a historic symbol of authority, to a playful means of expression.

Christmas Leftovers and Fermentation – 11 & 12 December @
Cub
Hoxton bar and restaurant Cub has released this month’s Fermentation Masterclasses with a festive twist.  Taking place in ‘The Cub Cave’ a subterranean bar beneath Cub, the events are hosted by Dr Johnny Drain, one of the world’s leading experts in fermentation. Guests will learn how to make their own ferments from leftovers whilst enjoying tasty drinks and snacks from the Cub team. Tickets can be purchased here

Wreath-making workshops @ Christmas at The Yards, 28 November, 5  & 14 December
Christmas wreath-making workshops with the Covent Garden Academy of Flowers, priced at £5 and with proceeds going to the charity Action for Children – 5.30pm

Festive craft workshops @ Christmas at The Yards @ Christmas at The Yards // 28 November, 5  & 14 December
Make Kirigami cards, learn how to write beautiful hand lettered gift tags or create pop-up cards and paper baubles as part of a series of creative Christmas craft sessions – 5-7pm & 12-1:30pm

So that’s it for the top treats and attractions you should definitely indulge in this season, but it’ll be over so quickly, I better get started researching next year’s list soon!

travel

Is there need for paper travel guides in the next decade?

Travel guides…once a must-have companion for globe-trotting now seem to have lost their way amid an endless sea of online content – whether just socials, videos, or even humble blogs like this here publication. Of course, these titles have also expanded online, but with patchy updates and content hidden for the paid-for editions, they don’t seem too dissimilar from any free content.

So, is there any need for paper travel guides in 2019/2020?

1. Authority and Trust.
The idea is that the person who’s been commissioned to do a travel guide is a respected, neutral and trustworthy source and so worth listening to. In theory that makes sense. However, when I read that a really big name publication wasn’t paying fair wages – which encouraged writers to not visit everywhere they wrote about and also try to get as many freebies to actually be able to afford to live – it got me wondering about how these people are any different from the millions of bloggers out there.

2. Maps and routes
One of the best things I used enjoyed about guide books was using their maps, they were well-designed and had all the places of interest cleverly pinned. Sadly with the introduction of online maps, complete with everything of interest labelled and transport and travel times, plus the ability to create your own maps has left these in the dust.

3. Itineraries 
I would argue, despite online maps being incredible useful, that one of the strong suits of travel guide books is their suggested itineraries. If you’re planning a big trip across lots of places, they are extremely useful in their suggested routes and timings that will not always be easy to judge from online research. For example, the fact the ferry leaves only on the last Tuesday of the month, that once a week bus route is something you don’t wanna miss!

4. Out of date
As mentioned earlier, these publications do have online presences, but sadly the fast changing nature, particularly of out of the way places, means hotels, restaurants, and other sites they write about in their main editions are prone to close, move or suddenly be not worth visiting. So you will always end up online to find what you need.

5. When you just read them for fun
If you really want to visit somewhere but life gets in the way, they do feel like a guilty pleasure to read in lieu of not actually going there ‘yet’. If you get a good, well written one it can inspire you to actually get off your ass and make that trip finally happen. Also they make your bookcase look much more interesting.

6. Inside knowledge
While trust can be an issue, if you get a good recommendation on a travel guide, I think it can still be worth snapping up for some proper inside knowledge. There are a few authors at certain guides who have lived, worked and travelled in their countries, meaning they offer real proper local tips and tricks that can actually save you quite a bit of money and time as well embarrassment.

Conclusion
So are travel guide publications still worth your time? I’d say increasingly not, unless you need a good cross-country itinerary or get a recommendation for a really well written one from someone who’s lived and travelled there extensively.

Do you use travel books?

Sustainable & Green

2020 Travel Eco-Announcements

I’ve already written about my successes and failures with trying to be more green, eco and sustainable during my travels. Look, I know I won’t save the world by bringing my reusable cup, but the more people do it the sooner it becomes the norm. Thank God sustainable tourism is now one of the fastest-growing travel industry trends, and with more and more companies starting to realise that here are some of their 2020 resolutions. Keeping in mind that some things can be considered greenwashing, or just marketing spin, here’s my honest take on what they are promising!

EasyJet have just announced that they are going to offset the carbon emissions for all the fuel used for all their flights. They claim that the cost of flights won’t be impacted by ‘their’ efforts to reduce carbon emissions, but this is marketing after all, so I’m pretty sure the costs will be included some way or another. Though they are the first major airline to do this, a lot of operators have already been offering to offset carbon emissions on behalf of tourists for some time, and in the grand scheme of things, it’s not going to the have impact some people might believe. What will have more impact and is way more meaningful, is their partnership with Airbus to develop hybrid/electric planes – how surreal is the idea of emission-free flying in our lifetime? I don’t know if I’m ready for it. Another thing I can get behind is their aim to reduce single use plastic with discounts for customers who bring their own reusable cup (here’s hoping alcohol’s included!). Considering they wouldn’t take my KeepCup on my last journey, this is VERY WELCOME!

Choosing to take the train is already a win in terms of direct emissions, but when you know that Eurostar is pledging to plant a tree for every journey from January 2020, and will run its first ever plastic-free service from London to Paris at the start of the year, it’s a no brainer. I also like the idea that they’re going to donate blankets from their sleeper ski trains to the Red Cross in France, and to animal sanctuaries in London and Kent in the UK. Teruffic!

On local level, the public transport system in Luxembourg is set to become free for all from March 2020! This great idea is aimed at encouraging car users onto public transport, and through greater investment they’re also improving the quality and level of service, which is great for the people who work there, but it also means it will be more convenient for visitors to consider as a new long weekend destination. On top of this, the free service will hopefully get people exploring the country in the best way for the environment. I know I will.

I’m curious to see what certain destinations, like Amsterdam, Barcelona, Milan, are going to do about the ever-growing threat of ‘over tourism’. Netherlands’ idea has been to ditch Holland as their main advertising focus abroad, with a new angle targetting the whole country. A good example of this is when NL won the Eurovision in 2019, Amsterdam didn’t even put itself forward to host the next event. All this will hopefully open up the promotion of destinations across the country and possibly encourage new eco developments to boot.

So keep your eyes peeled for more travel eco-announcements and let’s hope they’re not all just talking the talk.

London

Places To Eat Near Victoria Station

restaurant near victoria station

There’s more to Victoria than just people rushing for their train home, tourists trying to find the bus station or the odd musical theatre production. The neighbourhood is becoming more and more alive and a lot of restaurants are opening up in the area which can get a little overwhelming. So to help sift through it all, I’ve narrowed it down with some of my favourite restaurant picks in Victoria.

restaurant near victoria station

Victoria Food Hall

This place, which opened last summer, is a food hall paradise and the perfect spot if you’re looking for a place to eat near Victoria Station. I’ve seen people take their parents (perfect as you can immediately but them back on the train home afterwards) friends (the more friends the more food preferences) and dates (crucial test to see if they’re willing to share their food) there. So far I’ve tried three places:

Super Tacos Al Cartone

When the craving for Mexican food strikes (only every other day!) head to Super Tacos in Market Hall Victoria. So far their steak taco and tortillas are my favourite, but I haven’t yet made my way through the whole menu.

Soft Serve Society

My favourite soft serve place is now also in Victoria! The ice cream comes in flavours like matcha, coconut or good old vanilla that you can top off with strawberry crunch, pocky sticks or salted caramel sauce for the perfect treat.

restaurant near victoria station

Monti’s Deli

Another top pick at the Market Hall Victoria is Monti’s Deli, especially the egg and cheese bun, which is pure perfection and a 10/10 would-eat-again. They are apparently also the go-to place for a pastrami bagel, but I don’t think I could order anything else when I can just have another fluffy egg and cheese bun.

In and around the wider Victoria area you’ll also find:
restaurant near victoria station

Ole & Steen

Whether you’re after a rye sandwich, salmon salad or Scandinavian-style cakes, Ole & Steen got you covered. But the real reason you venture here is their delicious cinnamon swirl, seriously go in and try – you won’t regret it.
restaurant near victoria station

Bleecker Street

American burger lovers … this one is for you. Bleecker Street can do no wrong with their juicy meat, perfect buns, perfect melted cheese and no over the top toppings. The real king of burgers.

Aster for a Prosecco Saturday Brunch

When Aster just opened it had Nordic-French dishes like salmon hot dogs, celeriac and flower cocktails on the menu for a friendly price. Now its turned into your go-to Saturday brunch spot with saver picks like smoked salmon, cauliflower steak and quinoa salads.
restaurant near victoria station

Bone Daddies

This ever-expanding chain is the best place to get your ramen slurp on, or if that’s not your bowl, then their poke, bao buns (my fave) and katsu curry are well worthwhile alternatives to chow down on.

Black Sheep Coffee

Did someone say caffeine? From oat latte to coffee smoothies and a classic espresso … When it comes to coffee Black Sheef Coffee has your back.

restaurant near victoria station
If that wasn’t enough, you can also find major chains nearby such as the Ivy, Shake Shack, Crosstown Donuts and Wagamama in case you don’t feel like trying something new.

Iceland

Real World Death Stranding Locations: Iceland

I don’t write much about games here, but this particular new release really caught my eye, not only for the casting of the rather fine Norman Reedus, Mads Mikkelsen and Lea Seydoux, but for its rather stunning landscapes and visuals that I saw plastered around various bits of the Internet which got me thinking…

I’m not sure it’s exactly up my street, being more of a Sims girl myself, but unlike the rather bland neighbourhoods of my Sims, Death Stranding looks like a moody tourist board advert for Iceland! It’s got moss covered volcanic rock formations, spectacular waterfalls and so so so much rain – I don’t think I’ve ever been drenched as much as I was in that country.

So I did a bit of exploring and found some of my favourite bits of Iceland which seem to have a game equivalent in Hideo Kojima’s latest epic, whether or not they actually inspired the game is unclear, but there’s definitely some real world influence here. Not sure I’ll get beyond the first level of the actual game though, as my console skills aren’t the greatest, but wish me luck!

Heading to Iceland? Check out 6 Places To Eat And Drink in Reykjavik, some of the amazing street-art and the stops you’ll make on your Golden Circle tour.