Rick Steves On Why This Popular UK City Is A Great Spot For A Winter Getaway

If you think Americans go all-out during the holidays, a glimpse of London's festive Christmas scene will quickly change your mind. As the first bits of frost blanket the ground, this European city transforms into a sparkling winter wonderland. Best-selling travel author and TV personality Rick Steves is an expert when it comes to navigating Europe's cityscape, and London is no exception. According to Steves' website, a trip to London during the holiday season means travelers can experience a plethora of merry Christmas markets, seasonal events, and holiday performances. It's easy to see why this city draws in tourists from around the world to experience its seasonal scene. 

As pretty as London is in all its Christmasy glitz and glam, there's no sugar-coating the bitter flurries and reduced daylight hours. But don't let this be a barrier. "Make a point of getting your day started early so you have a full stretch of daylight to have your fun," Steves shared with USA Today. Accompanying the city's fashionable display of lights and holiday markets is an all-out New Year's fest. Whether you're looking for a picture-perfect Christmas town or a last-minute getaway to start the New Year strong, London is one city that won't disappoint.

Get your jingle on at these Christmas winterfests

Can we talk about Covent Garden's 60-foot Christmas tree? It's the center of attention in this North Pole replica, adorned with 30,000 twinkling lights. London's iconic Piazza and Market Building are brought to life in a dashing display of oversized golden bells, spinning mirror balls, and snow showers. Of course, no Christmas venue is complete without the local's beverage of choice. Several wine bars and eateries conveniently located throughout the gardens, including Frenchie and The Christmas Cart, are stocked with bottles of mulled cider. That's not to say that London's cuisine isn't at its prime all year long, but the Christmas season definitely brings out some crave-able festive additions. 

Borough Market is the place to be during the month of December, and London's premier food bazaar just got a little more jolly now that the Christmas season is in full swing. We're talking coconut cashew cardamom butter, sugared almonds, and chai latte fudge. It is the season of baking, and Borough Market has you covered with artisan kitchenware essentials and pantry staples. For all the cheese lovers out there, mark your calendars on December 13 for "An Evening of Cheese" at Borough Market. According to Steves, ice skating is one of London's premier holiday happenings. Several ice rinks are displayed throughout the city, including at Somerset House and Hampton Court Palace. No matter which merry Christmas event you find yourself at, make sure to bundle up before hitting the town.

Ring in the New Year, London style

Even after the last Christmas present is unwrapped and the last bits of cider drained from mugs, London is still a city that's worth a visit. According to Steves' website, "January brings out the best shopping deals, with many big sales kicking off immediately after Christmas."

The London Eye is where you'll want to be at midnight on December 31. The city's annual New Year's firework display is launched from Westminster on the South Bank River, with some of the best viewing spots along Cannon Street, Primrose Hill, and Battersea Park. Mulled cider in hand, head over to Southbank Centre for London's New Year's Eve Spectacular. Several local restaurants host New Year's Eve parties, while food vendors line the cobblestone streets. If the weather is just too cold to bear, duck inside one of the city's cozy theaters to watch live holiday performances, including "The Nutcracker." 

Spend New Year's Day recharging with some retail therapy, scooping up all the best deals of the New Year. Oxford and Regent Street are two of London's premier shopping destinations. Oxford Street features a blend of over 300 designer boutiques and casual department stores, while Regent Street takes things a step further as one of the city's upscale shopping districts. Between London's budget-friendly winter season and all-out festive displays, this city will undoubtedly be your new holiday hot spot.