It will soon be the Christmas season and the City is the perfect place to get the most out of the festive season, so here are our 6 City Christmas Crackers of things to do in the City.
1. St Paul’s Advent Carol Service
Let’s start big. What about a carol service in St. Paul’s Cathedral as our first Christmas cracker? On 26th November for instance at 5.30, there is the Advent Carol Service.
‘One of the year’s most dramatic services sung by the Choir of St Paul’s Cathedral. A candlelit procession moves from the darkness to light as words and music help focus on the Advent themes of light in the darkness’.
It’s almost as if they know what is needed at the moment isn’t it?
Also, next year is 300 years since the death of Sir Christopher Wren, the architect of this extraordinary building, (wren300.org has details of all the celebrations) so this is a very good place to start the commemorations. There are several other carol services, including on Christmas eve, and nearly all are free (stpauls.co.uk).
2. Christmas Shopping in Bow Lane
From the sublime… to the small scale – one of our favourite things to do for yuletide cheer is to wander at night along the historic car-free streets of the City and enjoy the twinkly Christmas lights in the tiny alley of Bow Lane. Bow Lane gets its name from St Mary le Bow, which has stood at the top of the lane from at least the twelfth century.
The night-time ringing of the large bell used to signify the close of business, which luckily does not apply nowadays to the two historic pubs on this lane, namely Ye Olde Watling and Williamson’s Tavern (tucked down the tiny Groveland Court).
This road is not only very pretty but also offers a cake shop on the corner, Konditor, whose mince pies have been voted the best tested by at least one newspaper (one reviewer said they were small enough so ‘you can eat two in 10 minutes without any justification’. What’s not to like?)
3. A Christmas Carol Walk
Of course, we do offer our very own Christmas cracker of a walk – ‘A Christmas Carol – the locations that inspired Charles Dickens’ . Much of this ever-popular ghost story is set in the streets and courtyards of the City, many of which have barely changed since the great novelist was here, observing all the characters in the heart of London. Come and hear more about the writer and his time and be swept along by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future!
4. Dickensian Carol Service at St Bartholomew the Great
Talking of all things Dickensian, (and what could be more Christmassy?) than the Dickensian Carol service at the spectacular medieval church of St Bartholomew the Great must be experienced. Held at 6.30 on 23 December, this will feature music and readings from the period with carols sung to music which Dickens very probably knew. St Bartholomew the Great has one of the finest Norman interiors in the capital, in glorious contrast to the other City churches.
2023 will see another important anniversary for the City, as this church, and indeed the hospital that shares its name next door, will celebrate 900 years, as both were founded in 1123. Mince pies and mulled wine will be available before and after the service.
5. Drinks at the Hoop and Grapes
A festive drink is always welcome, so why not visit one of the wonderful historic pubs in the City at this time of year? The Hoop and Grapes on Aldgate High Street was originally called the Hops and Grapes to show it sold both wine and beer, but now the choice is far wider.
The pub proudly proclaims that it survived the Great Fire of 1666 (by 50 yards!) and offers a warm welcome, combined with mulled wine or cider, and lots of festive grub (together with all the World Cup fixtures on the big screen, an unusual addition to Christmas this year!).
Apparently, part of the structure is from 1593, which would make it one of only a small number of Tudor buildings left in the City. The building is Grade II* listed, ‘a type of building once common in London but now very rare’. This pub has a great atmosphere and comes into its own at this time of year.
6. Leadenhall Market
Lastly, one of the prettiest places to see beautiful garlands and a giant Christmas tree must be Leadenhall Market. The tree dominates the centre of the market, under the highly decorated dome.
This was traditionally the place to buy poultry in the City, and thousands of turkeys and geese would be brought from Norfolk and other places, the birds having walked to market (before the coming of the railways). Look out for Christmas workshops, late night opening, and festive music on offer, as well as luxury Christmas crackers at Fortnum and Masons. All in all, the City has plenty to look forward to this Christmas.
Join Courtney for her Extraordinary Churches, Barbican-What’s not to Love and Sculpture in the City walks.