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England between Christmas and New Year's

My husband and I are planning a trip to England from Dec. 23 to Jan. 4, and are trying to plan an exciting but relaxed itinerary. Mostly I worry about things being shut down from Dec. 24-26, and if it would be best to stay in London or in another town that we could reach quickly after we arrive. I like the idea of bookending our trip with London (I have been to London before and fell in love), but can change if that's not advisable. I like the three-week itinerary, but modified for only two weeks and wintertime. So I have two questions: 1. Where is the best place to be/stay during Dec. 24-26 in England? 2. What are the best cities/sites to see during that time (darkest winter)? Thanks!

Posted by
503 posts

It really depends upon what you are looking to do/see while in England - do you prefer the city or the country? From your post, it sounds like you'd prefer London. Having spent Christmas in London a few years ago, here are my thoughts for what they are worth! Yes, sights are closed December 25th - however, there is still plenty to do!
London Walks offers two walks on Christmas Day - times and locations you could probably find on their website. There are also several companies that offer bus tours either of London or outside of London - I believe there is a Christmas tour to the Cotswolds for lunch and one to Canterbury. Haven't personally been on either of these tours so can't vouch for them but they could be fun! A wander around the main shopping areas can be fun as well - nice to see the window displays without the massive crowds! Church services are always an option as well! On our trip, we rented a flat that worked out beautifully. I'd ordered pre prepped meals from Marks and Spencer so we ate in Christmas Eve and Christmas day. Christmas day, we slept in (which was a wonderful luxury) had a large breakfast and then went for a long walk - given there weren't any crowds, it was wonderful for really seeing the architecture - gives you a completely different view of London! . From what I saw, a number of restaurants were open - most were ethnic ones but were lively - the key of course is to book in advance and to make sure the restaurant is within walking distance of your accomodations.In fact, we stopped for coffee and pastries on our way back! Boxing day there is more public transport (Sunday service if I recall) and more things are open - some theatre, the London Eye, etc., etc. so you could easily fill both days at a relaxed pace!

Posted by
1829 posts

Wherever you go in Engand on Christmas Day it will be quiet with little to no transport (which tends to shut down early on Christmas Eve) so London is as good/better than anywhere else. It is one of the days in the year when shops over a certain size are required by law to close. Boxing Day is the traditional start of the winter sales so the West End will be packed with shoppers. Lots of activities in town over the period.

Posted by
837 posts

We spent last Christmas in London. It is wonderful. However, a number of the issues have been mentioned above. We considered a flat vs. the Rembrandt, our hotel of choice. Found little price difference, so opted for the holiday decor of a nice hotel. We never eat out at home, but prefer to eat out when traveling. So, we love to eat in pubs and restaurants in London. Very few open Christmas day so the options are those ethnic ones you can identify and very expensive, though festive, hotel Christmas lunches/dinners. No public transportation Christmas day. Nice day to walk in Hyde Park. Pretty much everything open Boxing Day. We also spent time in York, Paris, Strasbourg, and Salzburg. York nice, Salsburg very nice, Paris disappointing, and Strasbourg spectacular: ideas for other stops during your two weeks.

Posted by
206 posts

One our best Christmases was spent in England. We stayed outside London at Lainston House, near Winchester, and had the best ever time. Their Christmas package was all inclusive of accommodations, food, entertainment (abbey visit for Christmas music and visit, skeet shooting, if you want to, visit to small town nearby, Winchester Cathedral on Christmas Eve, and a visit by Father Christmas Christmas day). Spent the rest of our visit driving about, but staying in London for the remainder of the time is also a good idea. Hope you have as great a time as we did. Happy Travels.

Posted by
9 posts

We had a great Christmas in London two years ago. We went on walking tours on Christmas morning and had a fabulous, pre-planned splurge of a Christmas dinner at a local hotel. On Boxing day the Shakepeare's Globe Theatre was open, and after that we took a ride on the London Eye. We took a taxi when it was too far to walk and considered it part of the experience.

Posted by
26 posts

Thank you so much for all your advice and tales of great experiences. I feel much better and very excited about our trip now! From what I gather, it will be best to stick to the bigger cities and perhaps save the smaller rural visits for a spring/summer/fall visit sometime. I think we will spend a week (or nearly) renting a flat in London, and figure out where to take a train or drive for the other week. I love the city, but my husband prefers a more relaxing time out in the country, though I'm not sure how much of that will be that accessible during this time of the year. However, traveling at a slower pace because that's just how it is might just do the trick.