What to do in London, alone, on Christmas Day?
December 20, 2010 10:43 AM   Subscribe

A friend, a student, is stuck in London over Christmas: no family or close friends to hang out with over the day itself etc. What could he do, by himself, to make it all warm and fuzzy. Anything from travel (if that becomes possible in the next few days) to stuff to do around London that he wouldn't otherwise get around to.
posted by HopStopDon'tShop to Human Relations (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
it might be worth looking up couch surfers- not necessarily to stay with, but just to hang out with.
posted by raccoon409 at 10:54 AM on December 20, 2010

In my experience London completely shut down at Christmas. There was a pub or two open, which would be fun, but I'd find out ahead of time which ones were open and what they had on at Christmas.
posted by sweetkid at 10:56 AM on December 20, 2010

My Dad had on overseas job and when we would fly back home for vacation, London was our connection point and we always extended the layover to a couple of days and made it a point to see a play and go to a museum. If he's from NY or somewhere similar this is probably nothing exciting, but when you're from rural WA/ Saudi Arabia it's one of your favorite memories.
posted by LarrenD at 11:00 AM on December 20, 2010

There will be no public transport of any kind on Christmas Day, nor will anything be open except some pubs (my local opens something like 11am - 2pm on Christmas day) and possibly Chinese restaurants. There will be no plays or museums.

The weather is likely to be cold and snowing.

Taxis need to be booked in advance and will be expensive.

The best thing to do will probably involve staying in with cocoa, fluffy blankets, port, stilton, Skype and Christmas TV.
posted by emilyw at 11:05 AM on December 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

Well... in the spirit of giving and all that... perhaps he could volunteer his time at a local shelter or soup kitchen?
posted by Rewind at 11:06 AM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Volunteering is a great way to reach out and to meet people. Here's Londonist's roundup of volunteer opportunities.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:08 AM on December 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

On Christmas Day itself, almost everything will be shut, including most transport.

You may find open things that are run by and for various non-Christian communities. So depending on where you are, you may be able to eat Chinese, visit a Hindu temple or shop in some ethnic store.

Also as your friend is a student, check out what student unions and societies are organizing for the day. There will be other people in the same boat, so maybe they can find someone to hang out with.

Of the normal places that will be open for business, just about the only ones will be hotels. So hotel bars and restaurants might be worth a visit if feeling lonesome.
posted by philipy at 11:15 AM on December 20, 2010

Best answer: Tomorrow is the winter solstice - one of only two days per year that Stonehenge permits visitors to walk amongst the stones. If he can he get to Salisbury, he absolutely should - it's an amazing, and very rare, experience.
posted by piato at 11:22 AM on December 20, 2010 [4 favorites]

Go eat Chinese food with the Jews?
posted by Jacqueline at 12:22 PM on December 20, 2010

"it might be worth looking up couch surfers- not necessarily to stay with, but just to hang out with."

In a similar vein, youth hostels would be another great place to meet other young people who are also away from home on Christmas.
posted by Jacqueline at 12:25 PM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Find a pub.
posted by Webbster at 1:42 PM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

As someone in London on Christmas myself.... Find a pub with a decent Christmas Dinner, and hang out there.

London is dead, dead, dead on Christmas. So much so that I love going out just after sunrise and take photos of Westminster, St James Park, Trafalgar Square, Picadilly Circus, and Oxford Street all bereft of life.
posted by kaszeta at 3:01 PM on December 20, 2010

I second the CouchSurfing suggestion - either to hang out with people or stay with them. That's the first thing I would do in that situation.
posted by msk1985 at 7:10 PM on December 20, 2010

Also, isn't there a meet-up? Sorry I'm stranded in Gatwick & very few internet resources so maybe some other member might do the link.
So many people stranded here that you might find the CS option already booked up :( Youth Hostel will probably have vacancies as lots of peeps from Brussels & Paris didn't get in...
If We don't make it out I'll memail you my mobile and we can help out.
posted by Wilder at 3:08 AM on December 21, 2010

My mother and I spent Christmas in London a few years back. What we did in the morning was to go on one of the Christmas Day walks from London Walks (we had to take a taxi to the location and back - we did one that met near Trafalgar Square), and then spent the afternoon in our B&B room watching TV and reading.

There weren't any open restaurants near the B&B, but we had a small fridge in the room so we stocked up on edibles like hummus and sandwiches the day before and had that for lunch and dinner. (The B&B supplied breakfast.)
posted by telophase at 8:55 AM on December 21, 2010

This museum will apparently be open.
posted by amestoy at 2:52 PM on December 21, 2010

Best answer: Folks are right. Transport does shut down for the day (actually starting the evening of Xmas eve, and this year there may be a Tube strike on Boxing Day), so he will need to plan to either do something on foot or take a taxi. Depending on where he is staying, this can mean various things. If he's close to the centre, he won't have a problem. But if staying further out, he may find it difficult to do much.

And while most businesses are closed, there are still a fair number of restaurants and pubs open—the city is full of tourists afterall. He won't be the only one looking for something to do. Leicester Square (chinatown) will be hopping, and if I recall, the touristy stretch along SouthBank, from Westminster to London Bridge was fairly lively. Brick Lane in East London is full of Bangladeshi eateries that will likely be open for business, and Edgeware Road near Marble Arch for Middle Eastern.

Your friend may want to make sure he does some food shopping on the 23rd or 24th, just to be sure that he has something on hand to eat if he doesn't find anything open nearby. My husband and I took a really long walk around the city last xmas, and it was really fun. There is far less traffic than usual (esp. morning hours), and there were a fair number of other people (tourists, I gather) doing the same thing. Because we were warned that everything would be closed, we were actually surprised at how many places were open for lunch or dinner.

I'm not sure about museums being open, but attending a Christmas day service at one of the many cathedrals is a thrill and very special if you are not accustomed to amazing choirs and acoustics. Many have both morning and afternoon services. Also, TimeOut magazine may be a good source of information about things to do. He could turn the day into a challenge, and make a point scavenging out interesting things and visiting as many pubs as he could find.
posted by amusebuche at 3:49 PM on December 21, 2010

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