Hyde Park Winter Wonderland in London (flatworldsedge)
In the run up to Christmas there are sample sales, holiday markets and pop-up shopping events all around town. London is literally glowing at the moment. It seems as if there are twice as many Christmas lights as usual; so a walk around Mayfair to Hyde Park or the Southbank and Somerset House can’t fail to put you in the Christmas spirit. It helps that, at most events, people will want to ply you with mulled wine and roasted chestnuts. To round out your winter itinerary, make a trip to a restored landmark grand café, admire a curated selection of haute couture by Valentino, and don’t forget to pack your dancing shoes.
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland: Through January 6, 2013
At this time of year, Hyde Park is transformed into a winter wonderland and festooned with Christmas lights. The giant observation wheel could be mistaken for the London Eye, and the ice skating rink is the largest in the UK. There are two circuses, as well as a Magical Ice Kingdom where you can be pulled through an ice forest by a unicorn. Specific events are ticketed (unicorns don’t come cheap), but if you just want to wander the grounds and browse the Christmas market, entry is free.
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland (HerryLawford)
House of Voltaire: Through December 15
This temporary shop in Mayfair supports the artists based at Studio Voltaire. It features works, limited editions and one-offs by many emerging and established artists and designers, some of whom will be manning the stalls on various days. (Unfortunately, James Franco’s stint has already come and gone).
Secret Emporium christmas market (www.secretemporium.com)
For those who prefer to do their Christmas shopping far from the high street, the Secret Emporium event in Shoreditch features young, independent designers and their wares. It promises an “immersive event which will greet shoppers with interactive performers embodying a Dr. Zhivago vibe with a Secret Emporium David Bowie twist!” Whatever that means, shoppers will be welcomed into a winter wonderland with mulled cider, roasted chestnuts and food from Exmouth Market’s excellent Moro restaurant.
La Perla lingerie (afagen)
La Perla Sample Sale: 13 December 3, 2012
December is winter sample sale month, but now that they’re so heavily advertised it can be hard to find a bargain and/or leave one with your dignity intact after battling over that Christopher Kane dress. Top notch Italian lingerie brand La Perla hosts one of the lesser-known sales, where you’ll find nightwear and swimwear as well as lingerie at up to 70% off – and hopefully won’t find a communal changing room situation.
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland & The Valentino Exhibition (Ben Christian Photos & mahalie)
Valentino: Master of Couture – Somerset House: Through March 3, 2013
This just-opened, fantastically curated exhibition includes over 130 of Valentino’s haute couture designs, many of which have been worn by icons like Grace Kelly and Jackie Kennedy Onassis. In part of the exhibition, the fashion roles are reversed: visitors walk down a catwalk while an audience of mannequins observe you. This serves to highlight Mr. Valentino’s talent for creating classics – a dress from 1959 looks perfectly modern next to one from 1984 and so on. There is also a fascinating display of films showing the hands of the atelier “ragazze” (as the seamstresses there are known) demonstrating intricate couture techniques.
Cafe Royal London (www.hotelcaferoyal.com)
The legendary Café Royal in Regent Street has finally re-opened as a luxury hotel after a radical refurbishment by David Chipperfield architects. The hotel is modern but the public spaces dating from the 1860s and 1920s have been thoughtfully restored to their original splendour. The Grill and Domino Rooms are formal fine dining spaces, the Ten Room is an all-day brasserie, the café is for tea and cake and the bar is the place to go if you’re in search of an absinthe fountain (which we’re sure you are).
Swing dancing in London (Swing Patrol)
Strictly Winter Swing – The Clore Ballroom, Southbank Centre: January 1, 2013
Start the New Year off right with this free dance event at the Southbank Centre – always buzzing with things to do – even on what’s traditionally the quietest (and possibly bleakest) day of the year. It starts off with swing dance lessons from 2 – 3pm; then DJ’s Lady Kamikaze and El Nino will spin vintage tracks from the ‘20s to the ‘50s to keep the party going.