Let’s face it, Christmas Eve can sometimes be a bit of a strange sort of day. Everyone has mentally clocked off for Christmas, when in reality there’s still a day to go and it’ll fly by a lot quicker if you keep yourself good and busy.
London in particular can be pretty quiet on Christmas Eve because people have decided to stay at home to wait for the big day to arrive…. You’ve been to countless Christmas parties, worn all your festive knits, eaten your bodyweight in mince pies, finished your advent calendar...but then what? If you don’t have a turkey to stuff, a stocking to fill or any last minute Christmas shopping to do (no judgement), then Christmas Eve can actually be – dare we say it – a bit of an anti-climax.
This doesn’t need to be the case, however. It’s a bit of a myth that everything has already started to close up for Christmas by the 24th, when, in fact, there are still plenty of things to do, especially in London. So, if you search around a little bit for things to keep you entertained and don’t resign yourself to the day disappearing in anticipation of what’s to come, Christmas Eve can be a day to look forward to in itself.
With so much going on in London on Christmas Eve why not decide that 2020 is going to be the year you’re going to change things up a bit – save the Christmas films for another day, get out of the house and continue festive frolicking across the capital. Below we’ve put together a guide to all of the great things you can do to keep yourself busy this year including where to eat, where to drink and most importantly where to be merry on the 24th December.
Where to eat on Christmas Eve
Ok so a big meal the day before Christmas might not seem like an obvious plan….but we like to think of it as good practice. Why limit festive food to the day itself – stretch your stomach and make way for the feast to come.
The InterContinental London Park Lane
What: Sit back and relax in the warmth of the Wellington Lounge. Enjoy a soothing selection of Christmas carols from the Grand Piano as you tuck into an exquisite Afternoon Tea inspired by the Twelve Days of Christmas accompanied by Perrier-Jouet Champagne. The culinary spread starts with some seasonal savouries including a partridge and pear pithivier and a selection of festive sandwiches, before moving on to some sensational sweet delights. Expect a ‘maids a milking’ chocolate tart, ‘pear tree’ matcha joconde and ‘geese a laying’ macaron along with some winter spiced scones and traditional mince pies.
Where: The InterContinental London Park Lane, W1J 7QY
How much: Prices start at £65 per person
Indian Accent, Mayfair
What: If you’re a believer that turkey and Brussel sprouts should be reserved for the 25th alone, then the Christmas Eve menu at Mayfair’s Indian Accent is a safe bet to avoid any Christmas dinner “spoilers”. Choose between the vegetarian and non-vegetarian set menus with dishes on last year's menu including tawa scallops with roast pumpkin & curry leaf moilee; tofu masala with shisshito peppers, asparagus & quinoa puffs; and a carrot halwa tart with ginger candy ice cream.
Where: 16 Albemarle Street, W1S 4HW
How much: £85 per person
The Dining Room at The Goring, Belgravia
What: On Christmas Eve Michelin-starred restaurant The Dining Room at The Goring last year offered an exquisite tasting menu for hotel guests and external visitors alike and we look forward to seeing it has up its sleev for 2020. It's the perfect spot to take refuge from the winter weather and indulge in a feast with last year's dishes including hand-dived scallops, Jerusalem artichokes and black truffle; and Hereford beef fillet, short rib and roasted cauliflower.
Where: 190 Queen's Gate, SW7 5EX
How much: £195 per person
Frenchie, Covent Garden
What: Pantomime-goers this one’s for you. Located conveniently in Covent Garden – just a stone’s throw from the West End, Frenchie is one of few restaurants that still serves its pre-theatre, a la carte and popular tasting menus on Christmas Eve. Modelled on modern French brasserie fare, seasonal dishes to look out for include Woolley Park Farm duck breast with turnip, mushrooms, umeboshi and shiso cress; and wild boar ragu pappardelle with cacao, red current and dried orange. If you’re not heading to a show, make an evening of it and indulge in a five-course tasting menu of wintery classics.
Where: 16 Henrietta Street, WC2E 8QH
How much: 2 courses £29, 3 courses £32 / Tasting menu £65
Bokan, Canary Wharf
What: Enjoy a six-course menu of culinary delights with a twinkly view over the London skyline. Highlights from last year's Christmas Eve set menu at Bokan include a hand-picked crab meat & lemongrass tartlette with peanut butter foam and gingerbread crumble; and steamed turbot with Granny Smith apple, salt-baked celeriac purée and bone broth.
Where: Floor 37-39, 40 Marsh Wall, E14 9TP
How much: £79 per person
The Ritz, Mayfair
What: Tea at the Ritz is on many a Londoner's bucket list, and what better time to tick that box than on Christmas Eve. Soak up the festive atmosphere with lavish decorations aplenty and even an in-house choir to serenade you with some Christmas carols. The Afternoon Tea itself is a traditional affair complete with freshly-baked scones, dainty finger sandwiches and Champagne. Children are welcomed and will even receive a Ritz teddy bear as a memento of the occasion.
Where: 150 Picadilly, W1J 9BR
How much: £80 per person and £50 per child (up to 15 years old)
Les 110 de Taillevent, Marylebone
What: Indulge in a luxurious 7-course tasting menu from Les 110 de Taillevent. The past Christmas Eve menus at this London hot spot have celebrated seasonal British produce with dishes including Jersey oysters, Scottish lobster risotto, Cornish sea bass and Yorkshire partridge. Wine pairing is optional but highly recommended with a choice of two labels per course carefully selected by the restaurant’s esteemed sommelier.
Where: 16 Cavendish Square, W1G 9DD
How much: £85 per person + £75 with wine pairing
What to do on Christmas Eve
Be the proactive friend for once and make a plan that will make this less a day of limbo and more a day of revelry. These activities are sure to turn even the most cynical of scrooges into celebratory Santas with mulled wine and mince pies aplenty.
Last minute food shopping at Borough Market
What: Indulge your inner Bridget Jones and take a wander through the festive stalls of London’s favourite food market. Stock up on any last minute Christmas Day essentials, find the perfect stocking filler for a foodie or just soak up the buzzy atmosphere with a mug of mulled wine. Nowhere will leave you feeling more festive than Borough Market!
Where: 8 Southwark Street, SE1 1TL
Visit Father Christmas at Ealing Christmas Market
What: You’ll be any child’s favourite aunt, uncle, parent or grandparent with a trip to see Santa on Christmas Eve at Ealing Christmas Market. Even if you don’t manage to spot the jolly man himself, a stroll around the stalls amidst the hum of carol singers and school choirs is a great way to get the kids out of the house and indulge in some festive family fun with a hot chocolate in hand.
Where: Ealing Broadway Shopping Centre, W5 5JY
Ice Skating at Somerset House
What: Undoubtedly the prettiest and most iconic of London’s ice skating venues, the rink at Somerset House is large enough to spread your bambi limbs without knocking down a neighbour. Situated in the stunning 18th-century courtyard the venue also houses a Baileys Treat Bar and a pop-up lodge from Fortnum’s where you can recover from your exertions with a much-needed boozy hot choc.
Where: Somerset House, Strand, WC2R 1LA
Bowling at All Star Lanes, White City
What: On Christmas Eve, this popular party venue will be opening its doors from 11am-6pm to welcome in festive revellers for some friendly competition, food and drinks. With a range of feast and bar packages to choose from there’s something to suit all budgets and appetites at All Star Lanes. Look out for some signature Christmas cocktails which have gone down a treat in previous years.
Where: Westfield London shopping centre, W12 7FU
What to drink on Christmas Eve
For many people the Christmas Day hangover is just part and parcel (excuse the pun) of the big day. But even if you can’t face a sore head in the morning, a tipple at any of these pubs and bars could be just the ticket for getting you in the festive spirit before facing the onslaught of relatives.
Golden glamour at St Martins Lane Hotel
What: This Covent Garden hotel had a serious makeover for the festive period last year in partnership with Veuve Cliquot Yellow Label Champagne. Everywhere including the venue’s speakeasy bar, Blind Spot, were adorned in gold, with an equally extra drinks menu of golden cocktails on offer so guests could toast to the holidays in true Gatsby style. We're looking forward to see whether a new partnership is on the cards for 2019, or whether golden glamour could make a return.
Where: 45 St Martin's lane, WC2N 4HX
How much: Last year's Gold Rings cocktail, £14
A nod to Narnia at The Blind Pig
What: Situated in a secretive space above the Social Eating House, Jason Atherton’s speakeasy bar, The Blind Pig, is offering some fun and festive tipples from a menu of their ‘Greatest Hits’ from the last seven years of the bar’s existence. Don’t leave without trying Mr Tumnus’ Tumnus Tipple Delight; an icy mix of Bombay Sapphire gin, Lanique rose, white chocolate, citrus, egg white, vanilla and ice shard served alongside a box of marshmallows.
Where: 58 Poland Street, W1F 7NR
How much: Mr Tumnus cocktail, £10
A ‘walk in the woods’ at Jason Atherton’s Pine Bar
What: Situated in The Biltmore hotel, this swish new addition to the Mayfair bar scene, complete with red velvet furnishings and an open fire, makes for a cosy yet sophisticated stop for a Christmas Eve tipple on your way home. The Pine Bar’s signature Major Oak cocktail boasts the aromas of a Christmas walk in the woods with an earthy and unusual mix of Michter’s rye and Bourban blend with porcini, truffle, and wood.
Where: 44 Grosvenor Square, W1K 2 HP
How much: The Major Oak cocktail, £17
Ballet-themed cocktails at Bluebird Chelsea
What: Last year, in partnership with CÎROC Vodka, Bluebird Chelsea - the Kings Road landmark - transformed its terrace into a winter wonderland inspired by Swan Lake and complete with cute little wooden chalets. This included a fantastic cocktail list inspired by the famous ballet! Your guess is as good as ours as to what Bluebird has planned for 2020, but we're sure it'll be just as magical and booze-fueled.
Where: 350 King's Road, SW3 5UU
How much: Swan Dive cocktail, £14
Callooh Callay Chelsea & Little Bat’s Christmas cocktails
What: Callooh Callay is well known to London’s cocktail connoisseurs but the popular brand has now expanded to both Islington and The King's Road. At both sites the Christmas menus offer some seasonal delights that are sure to warm the cockles. Bright Inspiration, a combination of Merlet Brothers Blend cognac, crème se cacao, Prosecco syrup, absinthe, lemon, egg white and Franklin & Sons ginger ale sounds like the ideal Christmas Eve sip to set spirits high.
Where: Little Bat: 54 Islington Park Street, N1 1PX; Callooh Callay Chelsea: 316-318 Kings Road, SW3 5UH
How much: Cocktails start at £13
Christmas Special at The Dorchester’s Grill Bar
What: There’s been a lot of hype around the The Grill at The Dorchester since chef Tom Booton took the helm, but less recognition of the restaurant’s intimate bar space where award-winning bartender Lucia Montanelli has been busy creating some pretty elegant cocktails to match the sophisticated setting. Last year's festive special – The Nutcracker – a sophisticated blend of Tia Maria, Crème De Cacao, Stolichnaya vodka, single cream, Grappa Di Poli and Amorosa Di Settembre - was the perfect drink to see in Christmas with. We're looking forward to seeing what this year's concoction is.
Where: Park Lane, W1K 1QA
How much: £15
For more festive inspo check out our guide to the Best Christmas Dinners in London