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Christmas day in London


ScoopKW
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Could anyone from London please give me an idea what to expect on Dec. 25? That's my last day in town, and I fly home on Boxing Day. Is pretty much everything closed?

Are there any "you absolutely must go here and try this" restaurants that do special menus for Christmas Day? I won't even hold out hope for a table at the Fat Duck. I've never been able to get one in the past. Why should this year be any different? Probably closed that day anyway. (EDIT -- Closed, seeing as Dec. 25 is a Sunday, and they're closed Sundays. Maybe I'll try for Saturday. Yeah, right, a Christmas Eve table. Fat chance for the Fat Duck.)

Also, if it isn't too much of a bother -- is there anything "touristy" open that day? It's basically a free day for us, and we'll be bringing my mother in law (who has never been to England). We've seen it all, but mom hasn't. If, for instance, the Eye, the Tower or the Globe theater is open, that would be an efficient use of our time. Worst-case scenario, I assume they change the guard at the palace every day, rain or shine.

As a last resort, I'm sure there are Chinese/Indian takeouts that are open? They're all open here in America on Dec. 25.

EDIT -- All I'm really looking for is some general direction. I'll gladly do the online legwork.

Edited by ScoopKW (log)

Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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Scoop - your best bet is going to be hotel dining rooms, most of which have to remain open for obvious reasons. So, skip the Fat Duck but do check Heston's more recent Dinner at the Mandarin Oriental. Other notable hotels with gastronomic venues would be Koffmanns and Marcus Wareing, both at The Berkeley; Helen Darroze at The Connaught; Galvin at Windows (Hilton Park Lane); Roux at The Langham; Apsleys at The Lanesborough or The Capital.

Alternatively, how about a more traditional, British experience somewhere like Hix at The Albermarle (in Browns Hotel); The Goring, The Ritz or The Grill Room in The Dorchester?

One word of warning, none of these will be cheap on Christmas Day, all generally add on a whopping premium to cover increased staff costs. Expect set lunches to be in the region of £100 a head upwards, and that's probably being slightly conservative at that.

Finally, to repeat, I don't know if all of these will be open, but I assume a majority may be - happy hunting!

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As to what to do, I suspect most things will be shut - you could try churches (!). There should be a minimal public transport system running. It is probably worth just walking round, perhaps in the City (some bits), Spitalfields, Smithfield and/or the Inns of Court. Those are historic areas, with lovely old buildings and lots of atmosphere, especially when the streets are empty. See if you can download any walking tours or get a book of walking tours. Check opening/running times carefully - most of Britain shuts down on Xmas Day (I think - I've never been out to check.)

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A huge part of London closes down on Christmas day - i used to manage a restaurant in a 5* hotel that was open and we would have to arrange accomodation nearby for staff as transportation is so hard. Basically there is very little to do apart form walk around and take in the view - churches are about the only thing i can imagine being open. Hotel restaurants definitely the way to go, although remember they will have a reduced (and more expensive) menu from what they offer usually - i would imagine most iof them have sample menus available for you to see but do look in advance....

"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

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Having done Christmas in London several times, it's definitely way, way more dead on Christmas than most towns. Until about 10am the city is a ghost town (and for me, that's part of the attraction, it's really cool to wander around a London with no people in it, see my flickr set from last Christmas), but after that it starts waking up. People get out of church and stuff, and start to walk around, and a surprisingly large amount of stuff is open. (And a major change this year is that a *lot* of people did the same as I did: check out a Boris Bike and ride around town with only a fraction of the normal traffic, so by mid-afternoon Hyde Park was a hopping place to be)

Most of the Middle-eastern places on Edgeware were open. In most areas, at least one larger pub was open, usually serving some sort of holiday set menu (I was in Pimlico, and the Queen's Arms was open at noon, we went there later for pints). As mentioned above, most of the major hotel restaurants are open as well, but reservations will be critical.

Pretty much nothing touristy is open (the one exception I can think of is that I saw at least one of those open-top tourist buses driving about), and the lack of public transportation keeps most people close to home (taxis are available, but there aren't a lot of black cabs roaming about, and some of the hired cab services get cranky if you don't reserve Christmas Day transport ahead of time).

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People get out of church and stuff, and start to walk around, and a surprisingly large amount of stuff is open.

Care to elaborate what kind of "stuff?"

Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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Pretty much nothing touristy is open (the one exception I can think of is that I saw at least one of those open-top tourist buses driving about), and the lack of public transportation keeps most people close to home (taxis are available, but there aren't a lot of black cabs roaming about, and some of the hired cab services get cranky if you don't reserve Christmas Day transport ahead of time).

If you've got an itinerary anyway and know when you'll need the cars, just use addison lee minicabs, who will definitely have a large contingent on the road - 0207 387 8888

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People get out of church and stuff, and start to walk around, and a surprisingly large amount of stuff is open.

Care to elaborate what kind of "stuff?"

Sure. A lot of the chain food places are open with reduced hours (most of the Pret A Manger and EAT locations, for example). As I mentioned above, a huge fraction of the foreign businesses on Edgeware Road were open. Brick Lane was mostly open after noon. Much of Chinatown was open. Enough pubs that those really wanting a pint or a meal could find such.

Most retail is closed, as are most of the major retail areas (Covent Garden is mostly closed, for exaple).. Transit is closed. Train stations, and things in train stations, were closed.. And most every non-religious tourist site is closed (on the other hand, if you want to actually go to a service in Westminster Abbey, it's pretty much a matter of showing up in time to get a seat).

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Thanks, kaszeta. That's exactly what I'm looking for.

When you say transit is closed, does that include the Underground? That would REALLY throw a wrench in my plans. It's the only way I've ever gotten around town. I won't have a phone, so ringing Addison Lee might be impossible, without relying on the kindness of strangers.

Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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Thanks, kaszeta. That's exactly what I'm looking for.

When you say transit is closed, does that include the Underground? That would REALLY throw a wrench in my plans. It's the only way I've ever gotten around town. I won't have a phone, so ringing Addison Lee might be impossible, without relying on the kindness of strangers.

Google is your friend - it really is easy.

look here we are closed on xmas day

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When you say transit is closed, does that include the Underground? That would REALLY throw a wrench in my plans. It's the only way I've ever gotten around town. I won't have a phone, so ringing Addison Lee might be impossible, without relying on the kindness of strangers.

Indeed there is no public transport at all on Christmas Day - Underground and buses will shut down remarkably early on Christmas Eve too (8pm or so). Same goes for overland trains, trams and DLR - there are none. You will be relying on cabs or foot. Other than Addison Lee, you might see the odd black cab about that you could hail but I would imagine there are far less of them than usual and those that do choose to operate will be both booked up and you'll also pay a Christmas Day rate (used to be £4 tacked on to your fare no matter where you went but may have increased).

London & the UK really do "close up the shop" on Christmas... it's pretty impressive considering how bustling it is the rest of the year. Touristy stuff will be shut, in most cases. Going sightseeing and just wandering around taking photos of open spaces might be your best best to kill time, it might be quieter than normal...

One solution is to book a minicab in advance of your travel once you know your plans.

Also, if you can afford a bang-up lunch you can probably afford a pay-as-you-go mobile phone (they're available for under £5 plus a £10 mandatory 'top up') - then you WILL have a phone... just buy one as soon as you get to the UK.

Edited by whitecat (log)
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Thanks, kaszeta. That's exactly what I'm looking for.

When you say transit is closed, does that include the Underground? That would REALLY throw a wrench in my plans. It's the only way I've ever gotten around town. I won't have a phone, so ringing Addison Lee might be impossible, without relying on the kindness of strangers.

Google is your friend - it really is easy.

look here we are closed on xmas day

I wouldn't have THOUGHT to check Google for something as basic and essential as public transportation had I not asked here. Google is excellent for specific questions that you know to ask. For general advice where you don't know AND you don't know WHAT you don't know, it's a lot easier to ask a local. I answer similar questions about Las Vegas often. These questions could easily be Googled. But I don't mind taking a couple seconds out of my day to answer visitor's question about my town.

You know what else really is easy? Courtesy.

Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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Mini cabs normally work out more expensive on Christmas day than a Black Cab, if you do have a mobile phone use it to phone one of the black cab services rather than Addison Lee who have a high minimum fair or a mini cab who will typically be charging triple fair on Christmas day.

"Why would we want Children? What do they know about food?"

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Thanks, kaszeta. That's exactly what I'm looking for.

When you say transit is closed, does that include the Underground? That would REALLY throw a wrench in my plans. It's the only way I've ever gotten around town. I won't have a phone, so ringing Addison Lee might be impossible, without relying on the kindness of strangers.

Indeed, as the others have mentioned, transit is closed, including the Underground (and the buses, the trains, etc.). If you have to get someplace on Christmas Day, you need to plan for it ahead of time.

Consider getting a cheap PAYG phone. I have a crappy but functional Nokia that I picked up a few trips ago for 10 quid.

Oh, and while the Underground is great, I highly recommend learning the bus system as well, at least downtown. During peak times it's often faster, cheaper, and more scenic. And knowing the night bus routes is crucial if you're going to be out late at night.

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  • 3 months later...

OP needs to be aware that there is a tube strike on 26 December. Some sort of service might be run but the usual cheap route to Heathrow via the Piccadilly line is going to be difficult or non-existent. Heathrow Express off Paddington is a more expensive alternative. A cab would be ruinous.

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OP needs to be aware that there is a tube strike on 26 December. Some sort of service might be run but the usual cheap route to Heathrow via the Piccadilly line is going to be difficult or non-existent. Heathrow Express off Paddington is a more expensive alternative. A cab would be ruinous.

Compared to a regular cab, it's probably cheaper to pre-book an airport car service, although they increase their prices by 50% on x-mas and boxing day, the bastards. I've just spent the cost of a meal for one at a London Michelin starred restaurant on a car from Gatwick to E1 for Boxing day!

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Remembering that Black cabs don't increase their fares, they just add a £4 surcharge on Christmas day and Boxing day so the price evens out quite a bit. According to the site below between £40 & £70, traffic should be relatively light so you might be at the lower end of the scale.

ComCabs

"Why would we want Children? What do they know about food?"

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