From carolling to ice skating, ballerinas to Father Christmas, spend a ‘Nutcracking’ Christmas in London this year
Snowy it usually isn’t – and it can’t exactly claim many wild elf sightings – but while London bears little resemblance to the North Pole, Christmas in London is still a magical time to visit with the family.
What the city lacks in scenic blizzards and beautiful carpets of snow, it makes up for with culture: nowhere else can visitors warble Christmas carols in an ancient cathedral, see the world’s best ballerinas perform in the Nutcracker, yell along to rowdy pantomimes, and break with a high-end shopping spree where you can meet Father Christmas or even spend an afternoon ice skating at Somerset House. Christmas in London, with its mingling of festive traditions and modern events, is perfect for kids and grownups – even without the “White Christmas” part.
First, the facts: it simply isn’t Christmastime without a trip to the ballet to see the Nutcracker. Luckily, Tchaikovsky’s melodies never lose their appeal (even after a dozen-odd years in a row), and when international ballet stars take to the stage, it’s sure to be special. The English National Ballet will host their acclaimed version at the London Coliseum, with star principles Alina Cojocaru and Tamara Rojo taking turns to play Clara as she journeys through enchanted kingdoms with her Nutcracker.
There’s nothing quite like gliding across the ice on a snowy afternoon, so bundle the kids up in their mittens and bobble hats and head out to City Park Ice Rink. Not only is this the largest ice-skating rink in Europe but, found in front of Vajdahunyad Castle, it’s pretty picturesque, too. But if skating on a frozen lake doesn’t float your boat, there are plenty of other places to go ice-skating in Budapest, like the Ice Terrace at Jégterasz or the centrally located Eiffel Ice Rink.
From sugary delights like Hungarian Christmas candy, cinnamon pastries and honey cookies, to savoury fare such as freshly grilled sausages and hot potato dumplings, there are plenty of goodies to be found at the Vorosmarty Square Christmas Market. In fact, all kinds of seasonal treats can be found here, including the big man himself, good old St Nick. Head down with the kids on 6th December (during the Mikulás Day celebrations) for the chance to meet Santa and finalise that Christmas list.
Once you’ve eaten your way through the Vorosmarty Square Christmas Market, take to the streets with a special Christmas Tram ride. Lit up with tens of thousands of twinkling fairy lights, the trams look especially attractive at this time of year. Winding their way through the scenic streets of Buda and past the Danube River, the rides offer a magical way to enjoy Christmas in Budapest in full seasonal splendour.
If the weather obliges, don’t miss the opportunity to go sledding in the Buda Hills. Normafa Hill is one of the most popular spots for snow-loving locals, with sweeping city views and gentle slopes suitable for even the littlest sledders. To add even more family fun to this festive outing, take a trip on the Children’s Railway and hop out at the Normafa stop – keep an eye out for Santa, he’s known to ride on the train himself during December.