In 2017, for the first time ever, I visited London at Christmastime.
That’s right – despite visiting London approximately 39482972 times in my life, I’d never actually been there during the festive season. That is, not until I spent an amazing weekend indulging in plenty of gastronomic goodness, free flowing bubbly and tonnes of festive frivolities, all courtesy of ibis hotels.
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1. The Hotel
Positioned perfectly for exploring some of London’s most captivating attractions, the ibis London City – Shoreditch was just a short stumble away from the Aldgate East station, making it very easy to head into whichever parts of London we liked.
After being pleasantly greeted by one of the members of staff waiting in the reception, we were soon checked in (all done on an iPad, may I add… no queuing at a desk required!), dumped our bags, and got ready to explore the hotel.
The reception boasted modern and stylish decor with a quirky spin, all inspired by the surrounding areas. The rooms are currently undergoing renovation floor by floor to match the contemporary reception area, and each room is the proud owner of an ibis Sweet Bed™… And yes. I slept very sweetly.
I was even lucky enough to be shown the panoramic views from the rooftop, where the staff grow vegetables, fruit and herbs for the restaurant. A special touch which I adored!
2. Fogg’s Bistro
Thank God for Fogg’s Bistro, the hotel’s restaurant.
Sat against full length windows perfect for watching the world go by, Fogg’s Bistro was a bright, colourful and stylish area just past the reception. We settled down and sipped on a couple of cocktails as we pondered over the yummy menu.
I opted for a four cheese pizza and chips whilst my friend Sarah decided on a good ol’ fish and chips. We threw in a side of crispy chicken wings for good measure, too. Y’know, just in case…
The food arrived promptly and was utterly delicious. Unfortunately, I couldn’t squeeze it all in, and the thought of the leftover chicken wings and that last slice of pizza fills me with sadness because it was so scrumptious… I’d kill for them right now. 🍕
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the cocktails were nice and strong. 😏
3. Christmas Markets
There’s always something so magical about the combination of all of your senses at a Christmas market – the cosy fairy lights overhead, the enticing smells wafting up your nose, the cheery hustle and bustle of the crowds, and the merry atmosphere in the air.
And the Southbank Winter Markets were no exception.
With endless festive stalls and stunning views of the river, it was the perfect place to amble along as darkness started to fall upon London.
A Rekorderlig Cider Lodge soon caught our eye (obviously!), and with classic or mulled choices of all the flavours imaginable, my friend and I were spoilt for choice. And, of course, we were happy to get stuck into sampling them over pretty fire pits as we watched the world go by around us for a little while.
Before we knew it, it was time to take scenic walk back to the station ready for a big night!
4. Christmess at the Imaginarium
We stepped into the Imaginarium and were greeted with quaint, vintage decor and quirky, colourful stalls, all looked after by equally quaint and colourful staff. A handsome elf soon headed our in our direction and whisked us away upstairs for the main event – a Christmas feast like no other. He promised us he’d get us dancing on tables by the end of the night. We weren’t 100% convinced, but how wrong we were…
I could spout a million words and showcase a million pictures, and I still wouldn’t be able to do this magnificent, immersive event an ounce of justice.
We were seated at long communal tables, and after meeting the eccentric cast and having St. Nick make his entrance across our tables, we were soon throwing back fireball whiskey shots in unison to kick off the first part of the night, before being presented with a delectable twelve dish meal, with cajun roasted turkey as the main star.
After filling our tummies with a little bit of everything on offer, our plates were swiftly cleared and then the party well and truly started. Inhibitions were out of the window, and both guests and hosts were soon twerking, slut dropping and catwalking along the tables, all with a backing of live jazz music.
With every single person full of energy and excitement, the night took one final turn as we were led into a small dark room (under a limbo stick and with a smack on the bum!) to finish the night with nothing but dancing, music and drinks galore.
It was an incredible night that I would love to experience all over again.
5. Hangover Cure, AKA Breakfast
And what cures a hangover better than a good old brekkie in the morning? Luckily, ibis had us covered!
It was a self service system and they had everything from the classic bowls of cereal, to an Instagrammer’s favourite of avocado on toast, to the good ol’ hearty full English… complete with chorizo! Naturally, the full English called my name that morning, and I washed it down nicely with a strong coffee and some fresh orange juice.
And there’s a 99.9% chance I went back to the counter for round two…
After sitting and letting our tasty breakfast settle, it was time for us to head back up to our room, freshen up, shove the last of our belongings in our suitcases and check out. Which we really didn’t want to do, by the way!
Checking out was super quick and easy peasy, and the staff were more than happy to stow our luggage somewhere safe whilst we used the last of our time for one final London adventure.
6. The View from the Shard
A four minute tube ride from Aldgate East followed by a brisk five minute walk got us straight there, and having pre-booked our tickets online, we were shown straight through to the lifts by the extremely friendly staff. Seriously, everyone was beyond lovely in there!
A couple of lift rides and corridors later, and we found ourselves overlooking London like we’d never seen it before. Stepping out on to the viewing platform was quite the thrill – panoramic views of London made even more magical by the Christmas decor throughout the area.
Walking around the perimeter of the viewing platform allowed for even more magnificent views, and we were able to spot a number of the famous landmarks, along with an almost bird’s eye view of an adorable ice rink, with tiny ice skaters floating over the smooth white ice.
Unfortunately, we didn’t make our ascent on the clearest of days, but the view impressed nonetheless… it just means I’ll have to make my return on a bright summer’s day, right? 😉
After that, it was time to make our way back to the station and head home, complete with new memories and big smiles in tow. It was a magical weekend full of festive frivolities and I cannot wait to keep an eye out for Christmess at the Imaginarium again next year!