I don’t stay in London every festive break, but when I do – oh, it’s blissful! The city empties out, you can get a seat on the tube, wander down the South Bank with room to swing your arms and always get a table by the fire in your pub. Heaven, heaven, heaven. London becomes, well, gentle.
This is the special time, isn’t it? The lull between Christmas and New Year. So if you’re in town and want to explore, create or think, here are my top tips for inspiration and resources. And if you’re reading this from the other side of the world, maybe it will give you an insight into a great city destination for Christmas.
Tip One Whenever I visit a museum or gallery, I never want to spend more than an hour wandering around. I get bored! The Wallace Collection is small enough to suit me perfectly and it’s one of my favourite secret spots in the city.
The historic house is a mere stone’s throw from the hellish shopping experience that is Oxford Street. Escape here for coffee and cake in the cafe and an altogether different view of London. It’s free entry and here you can share the same 18th-century inspirations as Vivienne Westwood.
Tip Two Further south, the new Design Museum has set up shop in Kensington High Street (it used to be on the river). I haven’t visited myself yet, but it looks awesome – and it’s a stone’s throw (30-minute walk) from the Victoria and Albert Museum, which we all know is mecca for anyone who loves the art of making.
Tip Three If you haven’t already discovered God’s Own Junkyard here in Walthamstow, you should! (Check the website for festive opening hours.) This place is a year-round celebration of all things neon and it’s incredibly inspiring for the way it sticks two fingers to the world.
Tip Four I love the South Bank at any time of year, and even their trashy Christmas market can’t put me off! I was here last night to see the gorgeous production of Peter Pan at the National Theatre and ended up sobbing my applause – if you can still get tickets, do.
My top tip if you’re a regular visitor to the South Bank is to become a member of the Royal Festival Hall, largely in order to gain access to their members’ bar. This has been a life saver for me on countless occasions when every restaurant is rammed and I want somewhere with striking views over the river to sit and have a drink with a friend.
I’ve also done a lot of writing in the members’ bar (it’s a bit of an unofficial creative hub for writers). So if you need a space in central London for writing your next opus, you know where to come.
Tip Five Finally, get out and enjoy those parks! The creative brain always benefits from exercise. I swear I come up with my best ideas on a walk. I like to hit Victoria Park in East London, Hyde Park in Central London, Hampstead Heath or Highgate Cemetery. After all, you need to work up an appetite for turkey curry.
So, that’s you set up for the next few days! As for me? I think I’ll sew…