London over Christmas is a brilliantly exciting place to be, with festive sights and sounds all around you. From the breathtaking lights of Regent Street, and the scent of chestnuts roasting over open braziers in one of the capital’s open markets, to the temptations offered by the window displays in the big stores, all is glitter and glamour. Sometimes though the crowds of Christmas shoppers and the pace of life in the metropolis can just get to be a bit overwhelming. If you are feeling that you might like to take a break for a day and explore the attractions offered by places close by, here are some pick-me-up suggestions:
Brighton; ‘London By The Sea’
Easily reached from the capital either by train or by driving you can hire a car from a from central London it’s only a 1 hour-a-half drive. Brighton offers all the attractions of London, but in a much more compact package! It has the added lure of being beside the sea. The famous Lanes in Brighton, the little winding streets that were once the heart of the old fishing town, are now home to a host of small boutiques and provide endless opportunities for Christmas shopping.
Christmas in Brighton
The Artists’ Christmas Open Houses Festival invites you to visit individual artists’ studios and places of work, where you can view and buy original art, often at a fraction of the price that you might pay for an artwork from a Bond Street gallery. And when you have explored all that the town has to offer, you and the family will love to go ice skating in the evening, the rink illuminated by an array of colourful Christmas lights, with the gorgeous sugar-plum backdrop of Brighton Pavilion, and a meal at the Jamie Oliver restaurant on site to tempt you further.
Basildon Park, Berkshire
To sample the Dickensian delights of a traditional English Christmas, explore the festive events offered by the National Trust at its historic houses close to London. Basildon Park in Berkshire will be providing visitors with a “night before Christmas” experience. The curtains are drawn, candles lit, and you can wander through the house enjoying the atmosphere, the sights, sounds and smells. Outside, the woodland path is illuminated by twinkling Christmas lights, and if you are in need of refreshment after your walk, you can warm up with a glass of festive punch. For a spookier experience, Ham House in Richmond – reputed to be one of the most haunted houses in Britain – is inviting visitors to join the after-dark ghost tours of the historic house, with drinks and canapés included in ticket price. They may be needed to steady your nerves!
A Royal treat in Windsor
For a truly magical experience, Windsor has lots to offer visitors at all times of the year, but especially at Christmas. The younger members of the family will love the Reindeer Parade, with real reindeers and Santa on his sleigh. They might like to take breakfast with Santa (you need to book early, as this is a very popular event!), and the adults can enjoy a tour-hour evening tour of Windsor Castle, dramatically illuminated against the horizon at night. Tickets include a glass of mulled wine, and a 20% discount on gifts in the Royal Collection shop.
Reindeer Parade in Windsor with the main man.
Thoroughly refreshed by your break from the streets of London, you can now plunge back into the festivities, and enjoy all that the capital has to offer at Christmas.