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Christmas in London—Dickens be damned—carries with it some of the most romantic of holiday happenings. There are vaudevillian pantomimes, both bawdy and beautiful, entertaining children and adults alike; Christmas markets overflowing with handmade objets traditional and contemporary; and pop-up ice-skating rinks in the courtyards of landmarks like Somerset House, the Natural History Museum and Hampton Court Palace. And then there is the ever-present hope of snow falling on the city’s endless green necklace of parks and along the Thames.
Lesser-known delights of an English holiday, however, are the festive high teas hosted by hotels across the city, the very best of which combine Christmas cheer and elegant decor with crumpets and scones, finger sandwiches and biscuits and decadent festive fare found only this time of year.
The offerings include everything from the customarily British (watercress-and-cream-cheese finger sandwiches) to the ingeniously inventive (candy cane macarons at the Langham London Hotel, eggnog mousse at One Aldwych). The food is the highlight, but in many places you’ll be hard-pressed to give it your full attention. Distractions abound, like those at the Dorchester—toy soldiers as tall as grown men, to-scale gingerbread replicas of London landmarks, caroling children’s choirs—and the delicious seasonal cocktails at St. Pancras Renaissance. (Mulled-wine Bellinis, anyone?)
There is something for everyone—so much, in fact, that you and your Christmas crew may well find yourselves wanting to book more than one sitting. Wherever you go, keep in mind that the teas on our list fill up fast. And though they continue through the first week of January, the festive season lasts only so long.