Top 3 ways to explore London with friends at Christmas

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December 13, 2013

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Guest blog post by Melanie Astbury at Girl v. London – part of the Festive Tube Map series

I knew the season had changed when a Jon Snow lookalike delivery man turned up at my office door and told me: winter is coming. And whilst the desire to stay tucked up in your flat in your onesie may be overwhelming, it is actually a perfect time to get out and about renewing your friendship vows with your bestie. Mine has come over from Spain for a year and what better time! From festive freebies to rediscovering London’s gems, there are more Christmas events than you can shake a stick at. So put on those earmuffs and get out there!

1. Escape the High Street

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If you want to escape from the tinsel and tackiness of the high street, I highly recommend you go to Fortnum & Mason. This department store gives Harrods a run for its money on a traditional, indulgent Christmas and evokes ideas of a truly Dickensian Christmas. Also if you really want to indulge, try out their afternoon tea, a treat that will epitomize all that is quintessentially British. You’ll practically feel like royalty. Whilst you are there, I highly recommend making your way up to the Christmas shop if you want to feel like a kid in a candy store. Christmas heaven.

After all those scones, you probably need to work them off, so let’s head out for some ice-skating. This year, I recommend you head out to Hampton Court for your ice-skating. It’s not as central as Somerset House but when you see the picturesque surroundings and start reenacting history lessons about Henry VIII you’ll thank me. It is open from the 30th November – 12th January 2014.

2. More than a day’s excitement

Good morning sleepyheads, rub the sleep from your eyes, we’re going to the London Aquarium! It is a very popular attraction, but if you book ahead you can avoid the crowds and the queues and make sure you get right to the front of Nemo’s tank. I cannot recommend enough to go in the morning.

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Hungry again? Good, so am I. Free tasters from food markets never fail to please – try Borough market by London Bridge station and the Real Food Market behind South Bank and the National Theatre. Get a cup of mulled wine to get you in the mood and go around tasting all the scrummy chocolate and cheese found in these delightful markets. Guaranteed to fill you up for free. If you make it to the Real Food Market, be sure to check out the Christmas Market along South Bank for stocking filler ideas and plenty of sausages.

One thing I discovered recently was the plethora of free talks and events that are held at museums and universities all around London. Whilst a lot of those on at the Natural History Museum and Science Museum are aimed at kids, when did that ever stop us doing anything? Ditch another rerun of Friends or New Girl and head over to a museum.

3. For the Scrap Book

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The view from the Shard is the newest attraction in London. The 87-storey, 306m tall building that overlooks our majestic city. Have I been? Not YET. I’m still getting over my trip up the Sky Tree in Tokyo… I never realized I was scared of heights until I was 634m up in the sky. I’m determined to head up there while the evenings are still crisp and clear. Also Aqua, one of my favourite Soho bars has a spot at the top.

There is only one way to end my friendship line and that is with my favourite walk. This is the reason I fell in love with London and the main reason why I stay here. It’s easy to be distracted by the big lights and bright city but this is London at its more basic and most beautiful. After taking in Westminster and the Houses of Parliament, walk across Westminster Bridge and all the way down South Bank passing the London Eye and through the German Christmas market. Grab a plastic cup of mulled wine and a giant sausage if you’re feeling brave! Then continue on down to the Tate Modern and the Millennium Bridge. Walk across the river to St. Paul’s and then finish off at that hidden gem, Postman’s Park. Accompany this with a warm drink and a huge scarf and reminiscence about your favourite times with your best friend. We reminisced about university and other fond memories.

So, are you full of culture, mince pies and mulled wine? Good, my work is done. Have a merry Christmas!

About the author

Melanie Astbury

Melanie Astbury works in management and fashion and blog about life in London: the good, the bad and the burgers @ girl v. london