Christmas in the capital

Christmas in London is truly enchanting. Ice skating in the shadow of a medieval tower, sipping mulled wine and cheese-tasting in Borough Market, gazing at the dazzling Oxford Street lights while browsing for that special gift – there are literally hundreds of magical experiences waiting to be discovered in the UK’s capital.  For healthcare organisations looking to plan a fantastic festive celebration, the choices are as diverse as they are plentiful.

A watery wonderland
Instead of huddling by a fire – why not get active and outdoors and wrap up warm for a high speed adventure with London RIB Voyages’ Jingle Bell Blast. Take your team to sing along to Classic Christmas carols during this festive mixture of fast speed, fun style and fabulous storytelling. Thames RIB Experience is offering free Santa hats, mulled wine and Christmas carols for bookings on the ‘Canary Wharf Experience’ throughout December.

Treat your group to an outing with Festive City Cruises. Their special Christmas Showboat will welcome guests on-board with a drink and four course meal with wine along with live entertainment and plenty of dancing. Or get into practice before the big day with the annual Santa Cruise down the River Lee. Complete with mulled wine and mince pies, it’s the perfect opportunity to ditch the diet and start the festivities early. 

For a quieter affair, step aboard the Restaurant Ship Hispaniola, permanently moored opposite the EDF Energy London Eye, or treat your taste buds with a delicious Christmas voyage with Woods’ Silver Fleet aboard the luxurious Silver Sturgeon, catered by Jamie Oliver’s new event food team.

Skating on thin ice
There’s no better (and healthier) Christmas incentive than to get your teams out on the ice over the festive period. And there’s no better place than London to take them for a magical turn around one of the many famous rinks on offer. Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park will feature a spectacular rink this year alongside the rides and market stalls, under a canopy of over 100,000 festive lights. ‘Eyeskate’ at the EDF Energy London Eye will invite guests to glide across the ice under the silhouette of London’s most iconic landmark. Combine with a London Eye experience complete with mulled wine and mince pies for the perfect festive treat.

Skate in the shadow of some of London’s stunning historical buildings. The ice rinks at Hampton Court Palace, the Natural History Museum, and the Tower of London will all return for a season of splendid skating. For something extra special, head to Somerset House Ice Rink, presented by Tiffany & Co. for a turn around the ice followed by a Tiffany teatime treat with a hot chocolate or tea, and a glass of champagne for adults. Or work up an appetite and head to Tom’s Skate Lounge brought to you by Michelin starred chef Tom Aikens.

Quirky ideas
Looking for something a little different? Head to Kempton Park Racecourse and see live reindeer racing at the all-weather racing, business and entertainment venue. Or for an Oktoberfest-style Christmas Party Package, Bavarian Beerhouse offers mouth-watering Bavarian specialties such as sausages, Schnitzel and Munich pork roast, at their Old Street and Tower Hill locations.

The National Army Museum will play host to a ‘Blitz Christmas’ where visitors can finish off a 40s day of fun by dusting off their dancing shoes for an evening’s entertainment at Jingle Bell Jive.

Step back further in time for a Tudor Christmas at Hampton Court Palace where Henry VIII and his new young wife, Catherine Howard, will celebrate her first Christmas as queen with stories, songs and a splendid feast. Or for something a little more medieval, head inside the Tower of London where King Edward I and his court will celebrate Christmas like its 1284.

Festivities for Foodies
If it’s a yuletide lunch you’re in the market for, London has hundreds of options to whet your appetite. Home to some of the best restaurants in the world, and cuisines from all over the globe, you won’t be short for choice when looking for that perfect Christmas lunch venue.

For something a little special, head to the Mandarin Oriental, home to the acclaimed Bar Boulud, which will be serving up French festive fare, as well as the famed Dinner by Heston Blumenthal – sure to give your team a real treat. If healthy eating is a must on the menu, head to one of the many Giraffe locations for some great value, healthy dining options. Bigger groups can book out a whole restaurant for a night of global mini appetizers, wines & cocktails.

Enjoy a whole host of festive goodies at Kew Gardens this Christmas, including a free, guided Winter Evergreen walk with Kew’s expert guides and hands-on festive cookery sessions. Roasted chestnuts and mulled wine will be available outside the south end of the Princess of Wales conservatory, or you could choose from the special festive menu, at one of four onsite restaurants.

With three atmospheric bars set around the stage and dance floor, great French/Mediterranean cuisine together with live music and DJs, the award winning Dover Street Restaurant & Bar has it all. During the Christmas period, Dover Street offers an excellent seasonal menu together with two sets from one of the top bands followed by the resident DJ who will keep the dance floor full until 3.00am with a great selection of dance tracks to suit all tastes. For a quieter affair, enjoy a delicious seasonal dinner at the elegant restaurant, Langtry’s, situated in the heart of Knightsbridge. There are three British festive menus with a modern twist to choose from, including the Oscar menu, Lillie’s menu and the Christmas Day Lunch menu.

The home of cricket Lord’s Cricket Ground is also offering a sumptuous afternoon tea in the Long Room to celebrate the festive period. Enjoy mince pies, carol singers and mulled wine as well as our delicious, traditional cricketing tea and a tour of the Pavilion and museum.

And if you want your pamper your palette with more festive goodies then head to ExCeL London between the 2-4 December 2011and treat yourself to an indulgent day out at Taste of Christmas, where some of the capital’s top restaurants and renowned foodies will be on hand to educate and inspire with an array of seasonal activity.

And what better place to celebrate the Spirit of Christmas than with a dinner inside a church. Enjoy a three course meal in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral – the largest Crypt in Europe, or head to St Martin’s in the Field for a Christmas-themed afternoon tea with mulled wine and mince pies, before heading out to see the stunning Trafalgar Square tree.

Vamp it up with a top London Venue

London’s venue options for private parties are as diverse as they are plentiful, and top spaces across the capital are pulling out all the stops to ensure your evening is a magical one.

Blue Fin Venue is London’s stunning new event space with a double storey glass Wintergarden and views over St Paul’s Cathedral and Tate Modern. The venue has put together a Wintergarden Wonder package which includes hire of the festively decorated Wintergarden, champagne cocktails on arrival, a five course bowl food feast and a festive four drinks per person. Organisers can also choose two great ‘stocking fillers’ including a DJ, magician, photo booth, saxophonists, caricaturist, silhouette artist, solo pianist, casino table and jazz duo.

Many of London’s top hotels are offering fantastic value Christmas party packages. Select from a range of Hilton Hotels, each offering a different bespoke package, all at great prices, or head to Dukes for some private dining and a specially created bespoke menu. Park Plaza Westminster Bridge will be hosting parties in the acclaimed Brasserie Joel, with live music and cocktails at Primo Bar, accompanied by perhaps one of the best views in London of the House of Parliament.

H10 London Waterloo has recently opened their elegant Circus Lounge, where party-goers can enjoy a drink before dinner in the stylish 302 restaurant. Their Spanish chef will be happy to create delicious dishes combining the most traditional English cuisine with the best Spanish signature dishes.

For an uninterrupted, 360° view of London, Altitude London is the place to be. The tallest Riverside building on the Thames is a fantastic option for something truly breathtaking this Christmas. Or for something completely off the wall, head to London’s famed Ministry of Sound for an evening of decadence and dancing – private hire of the space is available with fantastic Christmas party options.

Great shopping deals
The world’s largest traffic-free shopping event returns to London’s West End for a Christmas celebration and shopping extravaganza.  Oxford Street and Regent Street will be closed to traffic across the weekend to celebrate the American Express Shop West End VIP (Very Important Pedestrians) Weekend. This year will see more festivities than ever before, with an extra day of traffic free streets and entertainment for West End shoppers (10-11 December 2011).

Or maybe you’re dreaming of a Chic Christmas – which could be at the beautiful One New Change – the City of London’s newest mall. Similar to walking through a Dickensian novel, the historic City of London provides the perfect backdrop for a winter shopping spree. With over 60 stores open seven days a week, finding gifts under one roof has never been easier. The unique mall is home to many of the nation’s favourite fashion, beauty and gift stores including Superdry, Topshop and Banana Republic as well as top new restaurants from both Jamie Oliver (Barbecoa) and Gordon Ramsay (Bread Street Kitchen). The sixth floor boasts a spectacular public roof terrace from which the capital’s panoramic skyline sparkles. Successful shoppers can wind down with a visit to one of the famous carol services at St Paul’s or cross the river for a culture fix at Tate Modern.

The Blue Badge Tourist Guides offer a 2012 Games walk which starts at Bromley-by-Bow tube station and goes through to the new Olympic Park. The Daily Olympic Walk operates as ever, right through the Christmas holidays and every day until the Games. For more information contact www.toursof2012sites.com

Help is at hand
London & Partners is the official convention bureau for the UK capital, offering free and impartial support, guidance and advice to event organisers. London offers a huge range of venues, a diversity that’s matched by few others, value for money, accessibility and much more. From traditional to modern to luxury and unusual, there’s something to suit all tastes and budgets.

Get in touch with today at londonandpartners.com/convention-bureau for help to find the perfect venue for your festive celebration.

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