by Janis / 0 comments - Orginally published:13th December 2019

A festive stroll by the River Thames & a spot of shopping

London is such a unique city to visit any time of year; however, at Christmas time, it is like no other.

Folks young and old embracing the festive spirit, wrapped up warm with a sparkle in their eyes.

After heading to the bustling west end of London and experiencing The Twinkling London Streets at Christmas. We decided to fire up the sleigh and navigate our way to the River Thames.

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A view of the River Thames towards London Bridge with City Hall and the ‘Christmas by the River’ Market on the south bank.
Christmas by the River Thames
I just adore being by the Thames in winter or summer, and to see the iconic landmarks standing so proud in our capital city is stunning.
A view from London bridge towards Tower Bridge at night.
Tower Bridge at Christmas

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Christmas on the Southbank

Riverside joy
How can you resist soaking up the atmosphere as the evening descends on the festivities at ‘Christmas by the River’. Strolling by the twinkling wooden cabins, watching people choosing that special gift for a loved one.
Stalls of Christmas by the River Market with the Shard in the background
Christmas cabins along the River Thames
Then there are the children trying to tackle the delights of a Bratwurst. And one we’ve come to love the ‘Chocolate Kisses’, which is a delicate dome of chocolate filled with marshmallow.
A view from London bridge across the River Thames to HMS Belfast, a large battleship and Tower Bridge and the Southside of the River which houses another Christmas market
London’s riverside Christmas market
The moment then catches you when the deliciously sweet aroma wafts by of chocolate-covered nuts. London at Christmas will make big kids out of all of us.
Copper lamps over a wide selections of sweets on a confectionary stall at the ‘Christmas by the River’, Market next to the Thames.
A sweet tooth is required here
There are plenty of food stalls all along here, serving cuisine from many parts of the world.
A group of ladies buying mulled wine from a wooden stall in Hay’s Galleria
A cup of vin chaud or mulled wine
On this occasion, we didn’t indulge in a gluhwein, although we personally thought a couple of little beverage stalls dotted through the market wouldn’t have gone amiss.

If you've yet to discover London and its ancient history, then let's start planning. I find these DK Eyewitness Travel Guides invaluable. They're extremely informative, easy to follow, and the pictures and maps tempt you into discovering more of those fascinating sites.

You can now grab a recently revised copy of this guidebook, so you won't miss a thing.

A little magic at Christmas

Walking in the air
If you’re a Raymond Briggs fan, then you must pick up the ‘Walking with The Snowman’ trail. You’ll discover giant Snowman sculptures, each with a different design depicting ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’.
A life-size statue of Raymond Briggs ‘The Snowman’ decorated to depict the first. day of Christmas on the banks of the River Thames with London Bridge in the background.
The Snowman on the 1st day of Christmas
The 4th day of Christmas painted on another of ‘The Snowman’ statues in Hay’s Galleria.
The Snowman on the 4th day of Christmas

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Discover London at Christmas

Hay’s Galleria
Along the south of the River Thames by London Bridge, you’ll find Hay’s Galleria. This Grade II listed building is beautiful. Once used as a wharf for storage when London was a bustling working port. Now the eye-catching glassed roofed arcade is alive with shops and restaurants.
The view of Hay’s Galleria at Christmas with its giant iron pillars decorated with fairy lights.
Inside Hay’s Galleria at Christmas
A couple of tourists in front of the huge Christmas tree in Hay’s Galleria.
Christmas tree in Hay’s Galleria
More importantly, it embraces Christmas with gusto. Lovely little stalls throughout and a Christmas tree dressed to impress. I love it through here and how it’s a pleasant place to visit all year round.
A close-up of the art installation ‘The Navigators’, a surrealist ship with a large face, in Hay’s Galleria at Christmas.
The Navigators in Hay’s Galleria

How to get here

If you are not a London dweller, then one of the easiest ways to get to the capital is by train.

Check the best prices with RailEasy.

Christmas by the Thames

City Hall
You’ll be forgiven on a crisp day enjoying a gluhwein in the ‘Riverside Lodge’; however, Tower Bridge is calling. Just beyond the festive cabins, head up to the striking Christmas tree and the dancing fountains by City Hall.
London’s City Hall Christmas Tree in front of Tower Bridge in the background.
The City Hall Christmas Tree and Tower Bridge at Christmas

You may struggle to catch a snap of the tree without fellow revellers in it, as it’s quite a popular spot for a selfie.

But hey, don’t worry the views from here of Tower Bridge and the Tower of London are incredible.

The Christmas Tree at London’s City hall is a giant framework cone with a walkway through the centre illuminated with hundreds of white fairy lights, and a spiral of white & gold baubles from the top.
City Hall’s Christmas tree
A close-up of the Christmas Tree at London’s City Hall.
Festive fun around City Hall
As we stroll across what is probably one of the most beautiful bridges in the world, the skyline across the financial district is breath-taking. I worked in the city of London for over twenty years and this view integrating the historical and the contemporary, I will never tire of.

Exploring London at Christmas

To the Tower
With the crisp London evening breeze cutting through as we cross the river, the ancient Tower of London is the next stop.
The Tower of London from Tower Bridge and the modern city skyline in the background.
Tower of London at Christmas
Ice-skating is not quite Gary, and I’s forte, so we leave that to others and watch from above. It’s probably best for all concerned that we don’t take to the ice.
The Tower of London ice rink in front of the boundary walls with the historic buildings in the background.
Tower of London ice rink
However, the atmosphere as children are laughing, Christmas tunes echoing around and snowflakes dancing across the Tower of London it is a heart-warming sight.

Don’t forget to book in advance

Ensure you don’t miss out, reserve your slot at the Natural History Museum ice rink, the Tower of London ice rink, Somerset House and Hampton Court Palace.

Christmas in the City of London

Leadenhall Market
Or Diagon Alley as Harry Potter fans would know it as. During the week when the City of London is bustling with office workers, Leadenhall Market is full of life and energy. On a Sunday it has a certain sleepy mood about it.
Inside Leadenhall Market at Christmas, looking towards the ceiling of this historic covered market within the City of London. Hanging from the ceiling is an red neon light art installation of 3 hands reaching out, and at the Centre of the market is the Christmas tree.
Sparkling Leadenhall Market
The Christmas tree at the centre of the ornate Leadenhall Market in the City of London
The wonders of Leadenhall Market
Admittedly the Christmas tree here could be a little more decorative; however, the architecture and captivating character are why you’re visiting. It is stunning here, and you feel like you’ve stepped onto a movie set.
Inside the centre of Leadenhall Market at dusk, underneath the historic iron roof of this fabulous space. The Christmas tree take centre stage under 3 bright Victorian lamps.
Leadenhall Market at its finest

A little tip

If you are heading into London by car on a Sunday, then you’ll find there are plenty of free parking spots in the financial district. From here you can either walk or jump on the London Underground to your festive locations.

Spitalfields at Christmas

A little more festive sparkle
Just up from Leadenhall, is a market in full swing, and that is Spitalfields. Spitalfields market is open all year round and is stylish, quirky and has such a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
The giant festive wreath laced with pink neon fairy lights string adorns the entrance to Spitalfields market.
One entrance to Spitalfields Market
A gift stall at Spitalfields market selling variety of unique lamp fittings from repurposed oil cans to antique car headlamps and other knick-knacks for a unique Christmas gift.
Unique gifts in Spitalfields Market
It is a fantastic place to grab that little something special for Christmas as the stalls here are so unique.
Stalls in Spitalfields market selling unique Christmas gifts. The 2 stalls in shot are focusing on lamps and hats.
A little different in Spitalfields market
Meet up with friends and enjoy sampling the cuisine on the eclectic food stalls, and then after indulge in a little retail therapy in the trendy surrounding boutiques.
The American Vintage store at Spitalfields market at dusk. The store has some decorative festive lights complementing the golden tones of the image.
Stylish boutiques around Spitalfields
A view of Brushfield St which edges Spitalfields market towards Christ Church Spitalfields at dusk.
Shopping along Brushfield Street

Be equipped

Bring a brolly, a warm coat and comfy shoes, it is London after all.

Hidden Christmas in London

Just a short hop from Spitalfields in the East End, is the cosy Broadgate Circle, by Liverpool Street Station.
Giant walkthrough Christmas bauble constructed purely out of fairy lights in the Broadgate Centre in London
Giant glistening bauble at Broadgate
At the weekends it’s peace and tranquillity when the evening twilight descends, this a location you’ll undoubtedly want to snuggle up in and enjoy a festive Gin and Tonic.
A portrait view of a secluded log cabin the Fever Tree stall at Broadgate's Winter Forest. The scene is edged with a Christmas trees and decorative fairy lights.
The Winter Forest at Broadgate Circle

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