The lead up to Christmas in London is a charmed time. The streets fill with festive markets, twinkling lights are strung overhead, especially in Oxford and Regent streets, and the sound of carols spills out of church doors – most notably, St Paul’s Cathedral, which hosts annual concerts to welcome All Ye Faithful. Get into the swing of the season with our pick of ho-ho-hotels, each one full of festive cheer.
You’ll feel like you’ve stepped into Narnia at the Dalloway Winter Terrace – every December, the heated outdoor space at the Bloomsbury hotel is transformed into an enchanted garden, with bowers of frosted blooms, snuggly woollen blankets and hot-water bottles. Spend the afternoon cosying up with hot chocolate or afternoon tea, then head inside to their glamorous cocktail bar, the Coral Room, for something a little stronger.
The Mitre Hotel is a revamped historic spot on the Thames that’s busy turning heads thanks to interiors by Nicola Harding (of Beaverbrook and The Rose in Deal fame). Go ice skating at the open-air rink within the grounds of next-door neighbour Hampton Court Palace and, once you’ve built up a Tudor-sized appetite, tuck into a hearty lunch at restaurant 1665, the hotel’s river-facing brasserie, where figgy pudding and festive treats await.
A mishmash of antiques, knick-knacks and curios makes the zany Zetter Townhouse in Clerkenwell feel more like the home of an eccentric and well-travelled aunt than a hotel. And, come December, the sumptuous cocktail lounge serves a selection of seasonal tipples, such as mandarin eggnog and figgy pudding kir. You can host a private party or roast lunch around the Regency-style table in the red-hued Dining Room – crammed with candles, Christmas garlands and, naturally, a boxing kangaroo (festive).
Don your Sunday best and have a family gathering at The Goring. It doesn’t get more classic, or more impeccably English, than this family-owned Belgravia bolthole. It’s royally approved, after all (the Queen pays an annual visit) and always abuzz in December. Host an intimate lunch or dinner in one of their private rooms, or book in for a lavish Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or Boxing Day feast in the decked-to-the-nines Dining Room.
After a day strolling around the Royal Academy, ticking off your Christmas list at Fortnum & Mason or admiring the lights over Regent Street, bowl into Brown’s Hotel – with its wood panelling, grand piano and roaring fires, it’s a haven of winter warmth. Here, December spells a whole calendar of cheer: wreath-making workshops, six-course feasts in Charlie’s restaurant, or afternoon tea accompanied by carols.
Every year, London waits for the great unveiling of the Claridge’s Christmas tree – legendary fashion designers such as Christopher Bailey, Diane von Furstenberg, Christian Louboutin and Karl Lagerfeld have all taken turns trussing up the hotel’s princely pine. After a Mayfair shopping spree, march directly into the shimmering foyer and order caviar blinis with lashings of Laurent Perrier champagne. ‘Tis the season.
What other hotel could have inspired a whole new word to be added to the Oxford English Dictionary? To absolutely ensure a ritzy, glitzy, good time this winter, run along to this gilded hotel on Piccadilly where an extravagant overnight stay awaits in the charmingly chintzy rooms, Michelin-star Ritz Restaurant and opulent Palm Court, serving spot for pinkies-up cream teas.
Just say no to soggy vol au vents and beleaguered brussel sprouts – life is too short for depressing party food. Instead, make dim sum at The Dorchester your new December tradition and do lunch at China Tang. If you’re craving clotted cream and Veuve Clicquot, they also do a fabulous festive tea accompanied by carollers at The Promenade.