I’ve never known or registered the struggles of being a December birthday until this year. As a child I used to think, sweet! More presents for me. The most seasonal my birthday got was pin the nose on the reindeer and the Christmas tree lurking in the corner. However, after this year I became all-too-aware of the struggles we Sagittariuses face.
This post will look into what exactly we did on my birthday weekend and the challenges we faced, this way you can learn from our mistakes and successes if you plan on travelling to London near Christmas.
After three years of university, I felt like I missed my twenty-first birthday because my family and bestest friends weren’t there to celebrate with me. I’d be celebrating with my friends with a meal on my birthday, but I wanted to do something bigger. So I text Laura an an idea one evening in the summer.
Firstly, we looked into affordable accommodation in London around Christmas. This was the hardest and most expensive task. Honestly, I think I left Laura to this one because of her experience travelling the world and ensuring we went to legit company.
We then extensively discussed what we wanted to do that weekend. I’ve always wanted to do a city ghost tour, so that was one of the plans. And it was going to be near Christmas, so we planned on going to Winter Wonderland, too! Many of our other plans were switched out due to either forgetting them or being unable to afford them.
As it turns out, tea and cakes near Christmas cost about £85 per person. Waaay too much for our tastes.
Once we had everything planned out, we booked and paid for everything we could.
- Bookings.com apartment for two days
- Ghost Bus Tour
- Wheel at Winter Wonderland
- Entry to the Tower of London
Laura and I woke up a little later on the Friday, buying an all-day travel card after peak time to keep our costs down.
When we arrived it was a little too early to check into our accommodation, yet we decided to see if they had a cloakroom to lock our bags away. This is a big pro to checking if your host is a bigger company and whether you are in a big city. Places like Gate House Apartments – where we stayed – and Premier Inn give tickets and lock your bags away if you arrive early. This left us free to wander London taking pictures.
One of the biggest things we were doing in London was wandering around Southbank Christmas Market and drinking gingerbread lattes. We didn’t do much Friday but it was enjoyable to absorb the Christmassy ambience.
I indulged in some mulled plum cider before we headed off to board the Ghost Bus Tour.
The Ghost Bus Tour was cheaper than expected for a one hour tour. We paid £24.00 for two adults, and it was definitely worth it! I didn’t expect it to be as entertaining as it was. The bus drove us around London while the ‘Conductor’ comedically taught us little facts about the areas.
Once it was over, we headed to bed because DARN we were tired!
DAY 2: SATURDAY, 3/12/2016
If you are planning on having breakfast in London on the weekend, either leave it really late or wake up really early. ‘The Breakfast Club’ had a long line all the way down the road. But the food and service were totally worth it, though!
The Tower of London was amazing and we feel it was probably one of the most worthwhile expense of the whole weekend. If you want to go to London at Christmas, it’s not too busy and lets you take your own time to enjoy and absorb the history.
However, if you fear crowds, try to avoid the Crown Jewel tour. But if you just have to, try to breathe slowly and take it slow. You’ll get to see the Jewels eventually.
The Tower of London did make me reflect on all of those historical figures who were once people. It really struck me that we never learned about them as humans but as just names and dates which is a great reason why everyone should go there at least once – especially writers looking for inspiration.
Laura suggested we visit Leadenhall Market. Walking the whole way, we actually discovered that it was a ghost town. The only place open was a bar! And this was in the middle of one of the busiest days of the year. It creeped us out slightly and when we tried to find out why it was closed along the whole street our phones malfunctioned. Spooky stuff. Turns out Laura’s phone just needed an updated and mine ran out of batteries.
There was free entrance into Somerset House where we took a few pictures in front of the giant Christmas tree. If you have a little bit of money left, you can always use the ice skating rink! We, however, could not.
For dinner we enjoyed a Mexican meal at Las Iguanas. It was yummy and well priced! However, it was extremely busy but we were slipped into a reserved place as long as we left in the hour.
Two young women walking in the dark for two hours in London is not a clever idea. Sadly, this is the world we live in. So, instead of walking to Hyde Park we used the underground to get to Winter Wonderland. A cheap alternative to buying a travel card is to use a contactless debit or Oyster card. Make sure you tap on your way out or you’ll be charged extra.
While some people can handle crowds well, Laura struggle and I with it. Luckily we booked the wheel beforehand. This gave us a fast track into Winter Wonderland, however, it does nothing to cut out the hour long queue to get onto the wheel.
If you are like me and you have a fear of crowds, please don’t be put off! Just ensure you book everything beforehand and try to make it on a weekday. Due to the entry being free, it is extremely popular with families which means weekends are the worst time to go.
DAY 3: SUNDAY, 4/12/2016
The last day! While I was devastated to have to leave, it was inevitable. Not to mention that my legs were in terrible pain because of all of the walking.
As it was a Sunday, the trains were awkward. If you are planning a weekend in London, plan ahead to ensure there are no strikes and the changes in Sunday timelines. Heck, if you have the money or time, try to stay until Monday or a day after the strikes. This isn’t often a realistic option for most people, though. So just prepare for the worst case scenarios.
- So, if you can take a few days off in London near Christmas – not just for a Birthday – you should try to pick weekdays to help avoid the crowds. As me and Laura had no choice, we’d hold each other’s hands or elbows as we weave through crowds. Breathe in and out and remember you’ll get where you’re going in the end.
- While money is important, there is still lots of free stuff to do. Many museums, Christmas markets and Winter Wonderland are all free. However, there is still some cheap stuff you can do. All it needs is a little research.
- The longer you wait to go, the longer the queues are!
- Even cheap food can be yummy, but the queues might be longer.
- Research and planning is your best friend. Even if you’re not the most organised of people, it will go a long way to making your time better spent.
Have you enjoyed a few days in London near Christmas time? What are your tips for first-timers? Or are you currently planning your Christmas trip there?