After booking a last minute trip to the capital to take in the sights just before the madness of Christmas, Chris and I found ourselves enjoying a fairly whirlwind tour of London during our two night mini-holiday. As C had never been before, we acted like tourists a lot of the time, taking in the sights as well as indulging my need to see every pastry and taste every cocktail in the city. But thinking it over, it would be possible to have the perfect festive day in London in just 24 hours, and I’ve picked out some of my favourite activities and food stops from our trip into one handy little guide in case you plan a last minute trip this December.
7.30am – Lazily wake up at The Hoxton
Waking up in a cloud of white pillows and a big fluffy duvet in The Hoxton, Shoreditch, I’d stumble over to the kettle to brew two cups of coffee before sneaking my head around the door to grab our breakfast bag. The night before, you simple score off how many people are eating breakfast and what time you want it delivered. It’s hung up outside your door in the morning ready and waiting, so I’d bring it into bed so I can nibble on a little granola pot and sip orange juice as we catch up on the news and social media on our phones with our coffees.
9.30am – Brunch at Dishoom
For a day of festive fun, a good feed is essential and one of my favourite breakfast spots in Shoreditch has to be Dishoom. Strong coffees in tobacco-hued mugs, I’d fuel up on a feast of puffy naan bread smeared with cream cheese, smoky tomato jam and sugar coated bacon and chilli cheese eggs on toast. Maybe if I’m feeling fancy I’d have a sneaky Dhoble cocktail of orange, gin and maraschino – but it may be a little early for that when navigating the tube from the Northern to the Victoria line.
10am – Pick up two cronuts
While crepes and candy canes are infinitely more Christmassy than Cronuts, there’s still something magical about a beautiful pastry – especially one that is as hard to come by as fairy dust. But it is possible to wander into Dominique Ansel’s newest bakery on Elizabeth Street mid-morning and still leave with a beautiful package of pastries without elbows or pushing. Simply pick the day and number of cronuts you want to buy two weeks in advance using their preorder system then you can saunter along any time which suits so you can pick up a much-revered cronut. We sampled the November special of Sour Cherry and White Almond, but the December flavour of Gianduja and English Rose Jam sounds equally appealing. Find the little square near Victoria station to sample with a takeaway coffee but remember to take plenty napkins – the layers of fried sugary croissant dough burst with creme patisserie so it can be a little messy.
10.45am – Play tourists and see the sights
If one only has 24 hours to spare in London, then a classic wander around the Westminster area is perfect for taking in the most popular sights. I’d start with Buckingham Palace then down to see Westminster Cathedral and Abbey. The Houses of Parliament peek ever so slightly behind the Abbey, glinting gold in the wintery sunlight so it’s perfect for taking photographs. Wander past the statues of of Nelson Mandela and Winston Churchill before taking in Big Ben in all its glory. A short walk over the bridge will reveal Parliament as the Thames floats beneath you, then wander by Whitehall to see the Cenotaph and then up to Nelson’s Column. A history of London in less than two hours and easily traversed by foot.
1pm – A pitstop for wine and nibbles
Stopping to look through photographs, plan which shops we want to pop into on Regent Street for a little Christmas shopping and of course enjoy a glass of red wine, I’d wander right up into the heart of busy London to Piccolino. If the weather’s pleasant I’d sit outside under a heater, hands around a warming glass of red and dipping into a bread board with plenty of pesto.
1:40pm – Christmas shopping
Taking in the beautiful festive strings of lights on Regent Street and the almost deafening glow of the Piccadilly advert boards, I’d wander into Hamley’s to see the displays, coo over the Paddington Bear merchandise and seriously consider buying a tiny teddy in a gift bag for £10. There’s a gorgeous Anthropologie, a Moss Bros. and a Kiehls on every corner but even if you come away empty handed from a short shopping trip, it’s still fun to say you’ve browsed in all the stores you can only ever shop at online.
3pm – Winter Wonderland
After a little tipsy shopping, it’s time to jump on the Central line from Oxford Circus down to Lancaster Gate for a wander around Hyde Park’s famed Winter Wonderland. With just a couple of hours to spare before a dinner reservation, we’d skip the Bavarian hot dogs and go straight for mulled wine and cosy up near one of the open flame fires as shrieks ring out across the park from the rollercoasters. I’d probably choose a ride on the Waltzers despite the hefty admission price and laugh the entire time, spinning and swirling in happiness. If we had 30 minutes to spare, a skate around the ice rink would fill my heart with festive cheer and I’d probably keep my mulled wine mug and forgo the deposit for a silly souvenir.
5.30pm – A feast at Hawksmoor
Time for dinner so a wander up from Oxford Street station leads to Hawkmoor on Air Street for a pre-theatre feast of steak, triple cooked chips and a big glass of red wine. I’d opt for extra bone marrow gravy, since it makes everything taste that much more heavenly, and possibly a sneaky side of mac and cheese to share since we missed out on lunch. Dessert is definitely on the menu though, a big plate of sticky toffee pudding accompanied by a reviving cappuccino before ambling past Piccadilly Circus to The Prince of Wales Theatre.
7pm – Book of Mormon
Tickets picked up, we would head to the bar for a drink then take our seats at Book of Mormon, the funniest show I have ever seen in my life. At the interval though, you must be a woman on a mission and so rush to the toilets then politely make my way through to the front of the bar for a second round – people can be quite pushy and you want to be back in your seat comfortably before the curtain rises. Hello…
10pm – One for the road
Faces aching from laughter, we’d brave the stuffiness of the tube and ride the Victoria and Northern lines back to our hotel in Shoreditch. Tired from a full day of eating, drinking and laughter, we’d forgo any nightclubs or bars and instead sink into green velvet armchairs and sip on cocktails in the hotel lounge by a roaring fire. Upstairs a cosy bed awaits to sink into, feet aching a little, many miles traversed but bellies full and hearts happy. In the morning, a lie in and room service may be required.
If you could travel to any city for just 24 hours, where would you go and what would you do? Share your perfect day with Accor Hotel’s ‘24 Hours In…’ Challenge!