Twinkly trees and carol singers, striking window displays and ice rinks, mulled wine and roasted chestnuts… Is there a more magical time in to be in London than the run up to Christmas?

Words: Trish Lesslie
Lead image: Duke of York Square, Chelsea

As the season of goodwill kicks in, London becomes an urban wonderland, thronging with shoppers and sightseers and filling this Londoner’s heart with festive joy. The days may be dark, but the gloom is banished by the sparkling festive lights that bathe the bustling city streets.

Peace on earth may be more distant than ever, but we can expect a certain level of tranquillity in the capital – at least for a few days – as the year draws to a close. With the vast majority of city dwellers either heading off on hols or holing up at home, much of town is likely to be delightfully deserted from Christmas right up to New Year’s Eve.

Peace on earth may be more distant than ever, but there’s a level of tranquility in London

While it’s tempting to escape to sunnier climes, for me leaving London at this time of year if you don’t have to is just plain wrong. There are too many people here I want to spend time with – having not spent enough time with them throughout the rest of 2016 – and too many exhibitions I won’t otherwise have a chance to see.

Not that I haven’t decamped in the past. I once spent Christmas in Verbier, in all its winter wonderland beauty. All well and good, except I discovered I hate skiing more than I ever imagined possible. Not an experience to be repeated.

Being on a ‘Bounty ad’ beach in the Caribbean didn’t seem quite right, either. Christmas for me has to be, well, Christmas-y.

Far more successful was a stay at Champney’s Tring. Now that really was a hoot. The place had the look and feel of a Victorian Christmas card and the guests were a fabulously eclectic and sociable bunch. Singletons, couples, groups of friends and family… all ages, all nationalities, all interesting.

But I was back to the bright lights of the city by Boxing Day evening – long enough to enjoy some R&R, but not so long I felt I was missing out on the festivities back home.

With Christmas Day falling on a Sunday this year, I’m looking forward to ten whole days with barely a work email landing in my inbox. What joy! So I’ll be playing cultural catch up in our world-class galleries, museums and theatres – no doubt alongside hordes of overseas tourists making the most of the favourable exchange rate – and I can’t wait.

The beach is on hold until January. The only place to be in December is London.