The winter wonderland
Launched tentatively five years ago the Christmas Fair at Hyde Park, near the boating in the Serpentine Lake is now a resounding success. A beacon of shining lights for miles, it attracts people to its giant Observation Wheel and ice skating rink that encircles the live Victorian Bandstand. Folks mill around the German food stalls and probe the atmospheric Christmas Market nibbling roasted chestnuts and chocolate fudge. Children are particularly drawn to the rides, funfair games and the Enchanted House.
While there are a handful of rinks such as the Winter Wonderland and the Natural History Museum, the most atmospheric one by far is at Somerset House. Here, the grand courtyard is set against the impressive Somerset House backdrop. A skate school helps beginners while the pros enjoy dance workouts on ice. The Tiffany's cake shop is the place to catch one's breath after.
Festive food and drink
The food halls of Harrods, Selfridges, Fortnum and Mason set forth a cornucopia of their seasonal spreads. Taste the mulled wine, apple cider, mince pie and the Milanese sweet bread, panettone. Traditional stuffed roast turkey and cranberry sauce can be ordered for the table, while gingerbread houses, candy canes, and egg nog make their yearly appearance.
Santa's grottos for children
Children enjoy shouting out loud, participating in pantomimes held in several locations around London each year, such as the Richmond Theatre near Richmond Green. Outrageous costumes and squawking actors make Jack and the beanstalk, Cinderella, and The Gruffalo come alive. The Nutcracker Ballet is a favourite at this time of year and Santa's Grottos can be found in the major department stores, markets and museums.
Christmas lights and carols
While Oxford Street, Regents Street, Carnaby Street, St Christopher's Place, Marylebone High Street and South Molten Street and several others are exquisitely lit up to mark the festive season, the beating heart of the city is Trafalgar Square. Here, a giant Christmas tree, presented by Norway each year, is the central feature. Nearby St Martins in the Fields church is the place to hear exquisite carolling. Cadogan Hall and St John Smith Square are also noteworthy venues for traditional Christmas singing.
Find special Christmas delights in the Food Halls of Fortnum and Mason, Harrods and Selfridges. VV Rouleaux in Mayfair and Sloane Square sell exquisite mistletoe sprigs, wreaths, pine needle, cone and berry garlands and decorative objects for Christmas.
Reindeer Lodge at Regents Park Zoo is the place to pet reindeer and feed them.
On Boxing Day, premier League Football Games are held in London featuring teams such as Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspurs and West Ham United. Somerset House showcases a special Designers Show until January 8, where unique pieces of jewellery, ceramics and glassware can be found.