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.

6 comments on “The Finest Christmas Views”

  1. Christine says:

    Can you consider Heidelberg, too? Thank you.

  2. Jan says:

    I don’t know that you are right about the views at /from Blenheim place being the only legally protected views in the UK Chris.

    In Richmond Park London there’s a structure now called King Henry’s mound which is probably a prehistoric (Bronze Age) burial mound adapted as a view point for hunting in the Royal Park.

    Legend has it that Henry 8 stood there on the morning of Ann Bolyns execution to hear the signal which would indicate the execution had taken place and he was free to marry again. Kathryn Parr I think but can’t remember 100%.. Anyroad Henry was elsewhere at the time and it’s a bit of an invented history.

    Well the views from the mound toward St Paul’s cathedral in the N. E. are protected it being illegal to erect any building which would hamper the line of sight and obstruct this view. Actually “keyholes” are carved into a hedge on the mound so the views are unobstructed from there.
    Now St Paul’s is nestled between skyscrapers and is somewhat diminished. There is actually a telescope on the mound aligned with St Pauls.

    It’s interesting isn’t it that St Paul’s is widely believed to have been the site of a stone circle or menhir a pre Christian sacred place( E.O. Gordon certainly believes this to be true )and there’s a view of this site , a sight line from a prehistoric burial mound ten miles to the S.W. The views West over the Thames valley are pretty startling as well.

  3. Jan says:

    I like the Xmas decorations in Store Street off of Tottenham Court road -site of the entrance to Eisenhowers WW2 bunker. The lights there are lovely and it’s just off the beaten track and never that overcrowded.

  4. Wayne Mook says:

    In Manchester we have a new Santa, the old Zippy Santa was rumoured to be going back to Marseille, but it’s now at the south End of Trafford Park just nesr Kellogg’s big cock sign.


  5. Ed DesCamp says:

    Chris – thanks for another great year of posts on all things Bryant & May, London, the writers’ art, your travels, and life in general. This is, hands down, the most interactive and best of all blogs that I follow. Perhaps an early Christmas present for you, but you got a very nice review of The Lonely Hour in the Seattle Times this past Sunday, and I hope it leads to many more readers for you.
    All the best for the rest of the year!

  6. Ian Luck says:

    My favourite Christmas view is it disappearing into the past. I never get tired of that.

Comments are closed.