Things to do in London when you’re snowed in.
By Florin R. Ferrs
A blanket of snow covers the European continent. We might be in for a rare white Christmas in London this year (bookies are taking bets). The last time the UK has seen weather like this was back in the 1960’s, when the Beatles were still a Beat group with silly haircuts. Chicagoans may laugh at Londoners for shutting down because of “only” 4 inches of snow and mothers in Siberia must be positively giddy – they let their children play out in the snow until the temperature reaches -40.
If you are stranded in London because of the snow, it’s no use thinking about Siberian mothers or Obama’s hometown’s arctic winters. If Heathrow’s lack of snow ploughing abilities has cancelled your flight (and the next one, and the one after that), I beg you not to sleep at the airport unless you have a good sleeping bag (Heathrow was one of the few airports in Europe that did not distribute cots to stranded passengers).
Instead take your airline’s offer of a full refund or a free change of date (check your airline’s website for their change and refund policy due to the snow) , and take a “if you can’t beat them, join them” attitude and enjoy London in the winter.
Did you know that winter is still one of the best times to visit London ?
Snow is relatively common in Scotland around Christmas time, but extremely rare in London town. Every year the bookies take bets on the chances of a White Christmas in the city and most years are a disappointment. Soggy winter showers are almost guaranteed, but hardly ever snow. So rejoice, London’s parks are absolutely beautiful when covered in a snow blanket, with the Pink Flamingos of St James Park contrasting pinkly against all that white powder. It almost makes you want to make snow angels right across from Buckingham palace (but the Queen is probably wintering in Scotland).
Top 10 Things to do in London in the winter:
1-Take a boat ride to Greenwich:
The Thames River did not freeze in this cold snap, it hasn’t frozen in over 100 years (but it did freeze over 24 times from 1400 up until the 19th century). Virginia Woolf set the opening chapters of her time travelling and gender bending novel “Orlando” on top of a frozen Thames River, circa 1708, with the Russian ambassadors and entire English court on skates. You won’t need skates to view London from the river this winter, simply board one of the Greenwich bound boats from the Embankment and enjoy centuries of history from deck. From the Globe Theater (rebuilt on the very same spot where Shakespeare premiered his plays), to the riverfront pub where the captain of the Mayflower had his last pint before setting off to the colonies with his passage of Pilgrims. Passing the Tower of London, home of the Crown’s Jewels and scene of many a beheading, the higlight of the trip is when your boat glides under iconic Tower Bridge (a marvel of Victorian era engineering) on its way to Greenwich, home of the Royal Maritime Museum and Observatory, with its green laser marking the 0 parallel and the best views of London from atop its hilly park.
2-Catch a West End show: The lines for the half price show booth on Leicester square virtually disappear when it gets very cold, so get 2 front seats for Les Mis. The show is indoors and you will stay warm while Victor Hugo’s timeless drama unfolds.
3-Visit the National Gallery: One of the best ways to keep out of the cold is to explore the National Gallery. Its collection of French impressionist paintings is legendary, with wonderful paintings by Van Goth and his contemporaries. Best of all, it’s free.
4-Visit the British Museum: This popular museum can be chaotic in the summer, with hundreds of tourists and schoolchildren from all over the world admiring its collection of Egyptian mummies. In the winter you can read the carved letters of the Rosetta stone in relative peace in a relatively un-congested museum. Also free.
5-Have an Espresso in Bar Italia: This Soho institution was immortalised in a song by Pulp (Bar Italia). This narrow Italian coffee shop hails from a time before a Starbucks appeared on every corner. Order a double espresso and sit back to admire the beautiful people of London as they get their caffeine fix in a bar that never ever closes.
6-Have a Balti Curry: London today is a foodie town, but Indian food still remains the staple “British” after drinking food (and thank god for that). Balti is Urdu for bucket. This quintessential British curry is served in a metal wok or “bucket”. You can order various meats (chicken or lamb), cooked at various degrees of spiciness, and although this dish is said to have originated in Birmingham, it’s a perfect London winter warming dish.
7-Have a pint: London has the best pubs in the world, visit the Sherlock Holmes Pub in the City or just drop in to any friendly local Pub around the corner. George Orwell waxed lyrically about his favorite local watering hole: The Moon Under Water in North London. You will finally appreciate warm beer with all that cold outside.
8-Cross Abbey Road: The snow might cover the world’s most famous zebra crossing, but this iconic spot has just been preserved by the national trust as a listed site, so snap away your cheesy pictures for posterity.
Send us pictures of your favorite London winter spots. We will post the top 10.