The Finest Christmas Views
Yesterday morning London was filled with dense violet fog. Only later in the day did the dome of St Paul’s loom out, followed by the spire of the Shard. There are always a few days in November when London feels correctly autumnal, just as Christmas in the capital tends to arrive in January.
Every year I visit a Christmas market in an effort to jump-start a yuletide mindset. Usually I head for Eastern Europe, Estonia, Latvia or another of the Baltics. This year I’m weekending in Nuremberg to visit friends and sample German gluhwein, but I’ll be spending Christmas in London because as the capital empties out an ancient spirit returns. Although the West End gets sparkly, the most festive sensations are conjured up in other spots; backstreet pubs in Shoreditch and Peckham, food markets like Chapel Street and Canopy, Marylebone and Brixton.
Outside of London, there are Christmas events in and around castles. At Hampton Court there’s a huge ice rink and a generally festive air against the astonishing backdrop of the palace.
I’ve never been to Blenheim Palace, absurd when you consider how close it is to London. To those who know it well, it’s a special spot with one of the only legally protected views in Britain, a scene that must strike many as being quintessentially timeless and British, yet one which is probably unfamiliar to the majority of the population, who now live in cities and large towns.
If you’re in central London looking for a winter scene that isn’t entirely overrun with tourists taking selfies, might I make a couple of suggestions? Head for The Bridge wine bar, which is in the theatre of the same name but open to the public, for one of the most relaxing views in the city.
Or if the weather is less than clement, go to the 14th century Leadenhall Market on Gracechurch Street (carefully stepping over gawking tykes who have seen it in Harry Potter films). Other choices would include Lincoln’ Inn Fields, Christmas at Dickens’ house on Doughty Street and the Christmas-decorated period rooms of the Geffrye Museum, now renamed the Museum of the Home because people have forgotten how to say the old name.