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Things you can only do in the West End this Christmas - from Hamleys to a Peter Rabbit afternoon tea


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From meeting Santa at the world's oldest toy store, to indulging in a Peter Rabbit-themed afternoon tea, there really are some things you can only do in the West End this Christmas.

There are dozens more unique experiences you can add to the list - not least having a fry-up 15 storeys high while enjoying panoramic views across London's rooftops.

Enjoying the view before breakfast, 15 floors up at the Treehouse Hotel London
Enjoying the view before breakfast, 15 floors up at the Treehouse Hotel London
Peter Rabbit afternoon tea at The Dilly
Peter Rabbit afternoon tea at The Dilly
Giving Santa a high five at Hamleys
Giving Santa a high five at Hamleys

In fact, there are more than 50 exclusive activities to enjoy this festive season in the heart of the capital.

Of course, we couldn't cram them all in on our family-focussed weekend trip - but we did our best to sample as many treats as possible.

Before we set off, there was a slight feeling of trepidation. Heading to central London with a three-year-old, as Christmas shopping hits full-flow - what could go wrong?

And it was as busy as we expected. Oxford Street in particular was buzzing - the Covid lockdowns a distant memory as hundreds of thousands of people flocked to the shops.

But despite having to wheel a pushchair through dense crowds of tourists and shoppers at times, it was fantastic to see London thriving again.

Central London was as busy as you'd expect on a Saturday as Chirstmas shopping hits full flow
Central London was as busy as you'd expect on a Saturday as Chirstmas shopping hits full flow
Cartier in New Bond Street was wrapped up like a giant Christmas present
Cartier in New Bond Street was wrapped up like a giant Christmas present

And once we'd nipped across Oxford Circus, the path became clearer. Strolling down the likes of Regent Street and New Bond Street - with the Cartier store wrapped up like a giant Christmas present - was a true delight.

The day had started at Folkestone Central where we jumped on the high-speed service and an hour later were lugging our pushchair, suitcase and daughter off the train at St Pancras.

Once outside we joined the queue for a taxi and took a black cab to the Treehouse Hotel in Langham Place.

The Treehouse Hotel London in Langham Place looks completely different on the inside
The Treehouse Hotel London in Langham Place looks completely different on the inside
The amazing views from reception at The Treehouse London on the 15th floor
The amazing views from reception at The Treehouse London on the 15th floor

Here was our first unique experience, taking a lift - encased in bark to give the sensation you are travelling up a tree trunk - to the 15th floor to check in.

Stepping out into reception really was spectacular, seeing the cityscape stretching out for miles.

Our room wouldn't be ready till the afternoon so we left our suitcase and headed back out on foot for lunch at The Beau Brummell in Norris Street at St James' Market, just around the corner from Piccadilly Circus.

The Beau Brummell gastropub in Norris Street
The Beau Brummell gastropub in Norris Street
Delicious beef burger at The Beau Brummell
Delicious beef burger at The Beau Brummell
Enjoying a pint of Beavertown Neck Oil at The Beau Brummell
Enjoying a pint of Beavertown Neck Oil at The Beau Brummell

Named after a 17th century dandy, the gastropub is indeed a stylish establishment with a very relaxed atmosphere inside.

But it's not all show - the food was high-quality too. We were a bit concerned our temperamental toddler might spoil the ambience with a sudden outburst, but she was very happy with her warm bread and butter - and stealing our chips.

My wife and I both went for the grass-fed beef burger with house-cured bacon, Applewood cheese, beetroot and smoked aioli. It was a delicious combination.

The terrace outside would certainly be tempting in the summer months but it was too chilly on our visit and we were very comfy and warm inside.

I would have happily stayed there for hours and lazily enjoyed a few more pints but, alas, there was lots more on our agenda.

Our next stop was Lush in Oxford Street. As soon as you step in you are met with the unmistakeable scent of the popular store's bath bombs, perfumes and more.

My daughter tried to get her hands on every bath bomb in the Oxford Street Lush store
My daughter tried to get her hands on every bath bomb in the Oxford Street Lush store
The very patient and understanding Sabrina helping us pick out some items in Lush
The very patient and understanding Sabrina helping us pick out some items in Lush
Some of the exclusive perfumes available at the Lush Oxford Street branch
Some of the exclusive perfumes available at the Lush Oxford Street branch

My daughter absolutely loves a bath bomb and she seemed determined to get her hands on every single one there. Shop assistant Sabrina was extremely helpful - and understanding - as she showed us all the exclusive products you can only pick up in the Oxford Street branch, such as Lush's full range of perfumes.

She also showed us how to make a smart knot wrap, a sustainable form of packaging. You certainly won't be finding any single-use plastics in here.

Put simply, if you or your children are fans of Lush, then the Oxford Street outlet is well worth a visit for the experience alone. It's very family-friendly (they even hold kids' parties when it's quieter) and a great place to grab a unique present which isn't available in other branches.

Next we dashed to Hamley's to have a tour of the world's oldest toy store, founded in 1760. Our personal shopper was the incredibly knowledgable Aaron, who had several facts at hand for each of the shop's five floors - including that 28 Lego sets are sold every second during the Christmas period.

Scooping up some sweets in Hamleys
Scooping up some sweets in Hamleys
The Lego floor at Hamleys was packed full of punters
The Lego floor at Hamleys was packed full of punters
The life-sized Lego model of the Queen in Hamleys
The life-sized Lego model of the Queen in Hamleys

The top floor was packed full of the famous plastic bricks - including a magnificent life-sized model of HM the Queen.

The next floor was a festive extravaganza centred around a huge sleigh. We were ushered into a side room where we met an elf called Tinsel Dave who asked my daughter what she would like for Christmas. Suddenly a bell rang and we walked through a door to meet Santa himself!

Giving Santa a fist-bump in Hamleys
Giving Santa a fist-bump in Hamleys
As the early evening set in, Hamleys lit up Regent Street
As the early evening set in, Hamleys lit up Regent Street

He gave my daughter a high-five and a fist bump before handing over a bag of gifts, including a cuddly toy and some crayons.

As you'd expect, the store was really busy so it's definitely worth thinking about getting a personal shopper, like the very helpful and patient Aaron, to navigate the crowds.

By this time the sun had set and the stunning Christmas lights were on show outside in Regent Street.

Earlier this month, more than 1 million LED bulbs across the West End were lit at the same time - from Mayfair to Leicester Square - making history as the world's largest switch-on of festive illuminations.

Seeing the incredible Christmas lights in Regent Street was a magical experience
Seeing the incredible Christmas lights in Regent Street was a magical experience
Some of the spectacular festive illuminations at the Christmas Lights switch-on in the West End on Friday, November 12. Picture: PA
Some of the spectacular festive illuminations at the Christmas Lights switch-on in the West End on Friday, November 12. Picture: PA

The spectacular lights made walking through the city on a chilly evening a magical experience.

Our room at the Treehouse was now ready so we went back up to the 15th floor to collect our keys and then zipped down to the 9th where we would be staying.

We noted the nature-inspired interior, such as cuckoo clocks and birch tree trunks in the bathrooms, which are common through the hotel's 95 rooms (including 15 suites).

Taking in the view from the cushioned window seats in our room at The Treehouse
Taking in the view from the cushioned window seats in our room at The Treehouse
Cookies and milk left out for us in our room
Cookies and milk left out for us in our room

We jumped onto the cushioned window seats to take in the view, looking north east, with the iconic BT Tower the dominating feature.

Our daughter was pretty tired from a busy day of activities so she settled on the comfortable King bed and watched a film on the huge in-built TV - while we sneakily tried to scoff some of the cookies and milk that had been laid out for us.

After a couple of failed attempts to work the Nespresso machine, I watched a YouTube tutorial, had my coffee and then went back out alone to the Mercato Mayfair, promising to bring back some dinner.

Oxford Street was still rammed, with queues of families waiting to get in the Disney shop.

After a 15-minute walk I was at the Mercato in North Audley Street, based at the regenerated St Mark's Church.

Mercato Mayfair is based at the regenerated St Mark's Church in North Audley Street
Mercato Mayfair is based at the regenerated St Mark's Church in North Audley Street
It was busy inside the former church which has been turned into Mercato Mayfair
It was busy inside the former church which has been turned into Mercato Mayfair

Manager Omar showed me around the two levels of food stalls and bars, the rooftop terrace and the vaulted crypt basement - which boasts a wine cellar, charcuterie and micro-brewery.

He explained that all the ingredients on offer are fresh, artisanal and sustainably-sourced as far as possible.

The wine cellar at Mercato Mayfair
The wine cellar at Mercato Mayfair
There are food and drink stalls set out over two floors at Mercato Mayfair
There are food and drink stalls set out over two floors at Mercato Mayfair
Punters enjoying a drink on the terrace at Mercato Mayfair
Punters enjoying a drink on the terrace at Mercato Mayfair

By about 7pm, the hugely popular venue had already reached its capacity of about 500 people and queues were beginning to form outside.

It's a beautiful building, with many of the church's original features remaining. There was so much choice on offer that I would definitely like to come back and try it all - including the wine and beer!

I ordered two authentic Neopolitan pizzas from the Fresco stall, managed to find a large paper bag to put them in and headed back to the hotel.

The next day we woke to see the sun rising and the revolving message "Good Morning London" on the BT Tower. It was a spectacular sight.

The sunrise reflects off Euston Tower as the BT Tower said "Good Morning London" on Sunday - the view from our room at Treehouse London
The sunrise reflects off Euston Tower as the BT Tower said "Good Morning London" on Sunday - the view from our room at Treehouse London
We said goodbye to our room at the Treehouse London on Sunday morning after an unforgettable stay
We said goodbye to our room at the Treehouse London on Sunday morning after an unforgettable stay

I could have sat at the window seat for hours taking it all in. But it was time for breakfast at the Madera London restaurant on the 15th floor - and here the view was even better, with the London Eye on one side and the Shard on the other.

My perfectly-cooked fry-up consisted of two eggs, charra beans, grilled tomatoes, black angus sausage, turkey bacon, a mushroom and toasted sourdough.

My wife had the home-made waffles served with mixed berries, vanilla cream and maple syrup - also delicious.

The Madera restaurant on the 15th floor of the Treehouse London
The Madera restaurant on the 15th floor of the Treehouse London
The delicious fry-up at the Treehouse London
The delicious fry-up at the Treehouse London
The waffles and berries for breakfast at the Treehouse London
The waffles and berries for breakfast at the Treehouse London

Unfortunately, only staying one night, we didn't have a chance to get to the hotel's rooftop bar, called The Nest, which really does have 360-degree skyline views of central London.

Nor were we able to try Pizzeria Mozza on the ground floor, the first UK restaurant from acclaimed chef Nancy Silverton.

The hotel - which has a big focus on sustainability - is also one of London's most dog-friendly and is launching A Canine Christmas this year, promising "the ulti-mutt holiday staycation", if you think your pooch deserves pampering.

Our first stop on the Sunday was to watch the Stick Man live show at Leicester Square Theatre. It was a hugely impressive performance - not least because they managed to keep a room full of small children hooked for 50 minutes.

The hugely entertaining Stick Man live show at Leicester Square Theatre. Picture: Mark Senior
The hugely entertaining Stick Man live show at Leicester Square Theatre. Picture: Mark Senior
The Stick Man live show was at Leicester Square Theatre
The Stick Man live show was at Leicester Square Theatre

All the boys and girls were joining in with the panto-esque moments. And almost all seemed to know the tale off-by-heart already, showing just how wide Julia Donaldson's appeal is.

It's a great Christmassy story and a perfect festive family activity in the West End.

As we walked out into Leicester Square, London's home of film and entertainment, we had a go at an interactive statue trail called Scenes in the Square.

Mary Poppins was one of the 'Scenes on the Square'
Mary Poppins was one of the 'Scenes on the Square'
The Harry Potter statue is also part of the trail
The Harry Potter statue is also part of the trail

Celebrating icons from a century of cinema, you have to scan the code next to the statues - such as Mary Poppins or Bugs Bunny - then you can listen on your phone to information about each of them. There's also an audio walking tour you can tune-in to.

Our next stop was the Selfridges Christmas Market on the Mews, located directly behind the world-famous store (which was busy as ever).

The giant Christmas tree and helter skelter at the Selfridges Christmas Market on the Mews
The giant Christmas tree and helter skelter at the Selfridges Christmas Market on the Mews
The team at Venezualan stall Pabellon
The team at Venezualan stall Pabellon
The Calamari Canteen stall
The Calamari Canteen stall

There was a giant helter skelter and gifts available - such as make-up from Mac - but the most impressive thing on offer was the array of street food.

I'd never had Venezualan food before so tried the Arepa - a handmade grilled corn bread filled with slow-cooked shredded chicken, avacado, cheese, plantains and pico de gallo - with a side of battered sweet potato fries, from the Pabellon stall.

We also nipped to the Calamari Canteen stall and had a buttermilk fried halloumi burger with American scotch bonnet slaw, American cheese, pickles, hot sauce and lime mayo.

The delicious chicken arepa and tempura sweet potato fries
The delicious chicken arepa and tempura sweet potato fries
The mouthwatering halloumi burger from Calamari Canteen
The mouthwatering halloumi burger from Calamari Canteen

Both were amazing and we would have loved to have eaten more but our next stop was the official Peter Rabbit afternoon tea at five-star hotel The Dilly.

The food was served in the stunning terrace at Piccadilly venue, with so much greenery it really did feel like you were in Mr McGregor's garden.

Our daughter was in her element when presented with the children's Peter Rabbit afternoon tea
Our daughter was in her element when presented with the children's Peter Rabbit afternoon tea
The terrace at The Dilly was a great location for afternoon tea
The terrace at The Dilly was a great location for afternoon tea
The Dilly hotel in Picadilly
The Dilly hotel in Picadilly

It's fair to say that our daughter was in her element and it took all our Mr Tod-like cunning to ensure she didn't over-indulge in the delicious treats on offer.

A plant pot which tasted like a Tunnock's tea cake when you tucked in was particularly impressive - as was the little carrot cake.

Sadly, this was our final activity and it was time to catch the train home.

It's such a fast journey that when you're stepping out at Folkestone it's hard to believe you were amid the city lights barely over an hour ago.

The stunning Christmas lights in the West End. Picture: PA
The stunning Christmas lights in the West End. Picture: PA
There really are some things you can only do in the West End this Christmas. Picture: PA
There really are some things you can only do in the West End this Christmas. Picture: PA

And while towns across Kent are on the up - with more and more city-dwellers looking to move to the county - our trip confirmed that London still has that something special.

The West End is still utterly unique and well worth a visit this Christmas, even with a toddler in tow.

Here's the full list of the 50 things you can only do in the West End this Christmas:

1. Find the perfect present at the oldest toy store in the world, Hamleys

2. Snap a selfie at Bond Street’s iconic Christmas Tree

3. Experience the world’s first Bollinger 007 Champagne Bar, in Burlington Arcade

4. Experience Afternoon Tea at The Ritz London: An iconic, quintessentially English experience

5. Celebrate icons from a century of cinema and entertainment with an interactive statue trail at Scenes in the Square in London’s home of film and entertainment, Leicester Square

6. Visit Selfridges Christmas Market on the Mews, expect everything from sustainably grown Christmas trees, the perfect festive gifts, an impressive Helter Skelter, performances from Santa and his friends and the capital’s greatest street food. Visitors can also visit their pre-loved toy pop-up, selling everything from antique teddies to board games, all part of the store’s Project Earth commitment

7. Book yourself in for a personal shopping experience like no other at Matches Fashion in Carlos Place

8. Shop at the iconic heritage listed department store, Liberty London

9. Enjoy a matinee or evening theatre performance on London’s West End

10. Visit Hatchards, the oldest book store in the world

11. Enjoy a magical Christmas tradition for the whole family at the English

National Ballet’s The Nutcracker at The London Coliseum

12. Visit the Princes Arcade to find a beautiful collection of boutiques under one roof, connecting Piccadilly with the iconic Jermyn Street

13. Get all of your Christmas cards and thank you notes from Mount Street Printers

14. Visit Flannels on Oxford Street this season as an incredible line up of artists transform the stores exterior

15. Visit an exhibition at The Royal Academy of Arts including Light Lines: The Architectural Photographs of Hélène Binet at The Royal Academy

16. Pamper yourself with one of the many spa treatments available at Dr Barbara Sturm on Mount Street

17. Find the perfect gift at Burberry’s flagship store on Regent Street

18. Discover seasonal and sustainable award winning food at Fallow, the latest opening in St James’s Market

19. Discover Bottletop on Regent Street, the world’s first zero waste store and find accessories from the finest sustainably sourced materials

20. Take a trip to the John Lewis Christmas Shop on Oxford Street

21. Celebrate your lost loved ones at the magical Ever After Garden in Grosvenor Square

22. Tech lovers can head to the Microsoft Experience Centre on Regent Street

23. Visit Paxton & Whitfield, Jermyn Street for their legendary tiered Christmas Cheese Cake featuring four classic Christmas artisan cheeses

24. Discover what Tatler called ‘London’s Best steak Restaurant’ at The Colony Grill Room at The Beaumont

25. Meet your favourite Disney characters at The Disney Store on Oxford Street

26. Discover Bond Street's best kept secret, Boodles Brasserie as it returns to their store this Christmas

27. Indulge in some sweet treats at The Connaught Patisserie

28. Enjoy a winter favourite at Whitcomb’s at The Londoner, the hotel’s French Mediterranean restaurant

29. Step onto Christmas on Oxford and Bond Street this year with the first-ever immersive AR festive trail, look out for QR codes dotted along the street to discover Festive Magic from this pocket concierge

30. Enjoy light, all day dining with snacks and high tea at the dazzling Palm Court, famed as the birthplace of the afternoon tea tradition at The Langham

31. The first of it’s kind in the UK, visit the new and unique restaurant, Avocado Show on Princes Street

32. Experience the first fully immersive DC-inspired gastronomic restaurant experience found anywhere in the world at Park Row

33. Epitomising the sophistication of Afternoon and High Tea in all its splendour, visit the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon at Fortnum & Mason

34. When Two Mayfair Legends Meet, Magic Happens, discover Brown’s Hotel’s festive collaboration with Asprey

35. Dine at The Wolseley on London’s iconic Piccadilly

36. Get ready for the festive season at The Dyson Beauty Lab

37. Take the family to the Peter Rabbit Afternoon Tea at The Dilly

38. Book a wreath making workshop at McQueens Flowers

39. Book in for a cocktail at No. 39, the new secret bar hidden inside Browns Brook Street

40. Visit Claridge’s famous Christmas tree and enjoy a Festive Afternoon Tea

41. Discover Mayfair’s latest restaurant and enjoy incredible Indian cuisine at BiBi

42. Visit the David Bowie experiential pop up on Heddon Street in honour of the musician’s 75th birthday

43. Enjoy an evening of Jazz, every night through December at Mercato Mayfair

44. Discover unique and luxurious coffee books & cocktails at Maison Assouline, a hidden bar on Piccadilly

45. Discover a hidden sanctuary housing a 18m pool, sauna, hammam, jacuzzi, gym, studios and lounge bar at Akasha

46. Immerse yourself in the Ralph Lauren lifestyle, with a coffee break at Ralph’s, the flagship's cafe at No1, New Bond Street

47. Visit an exhibition at The National Gallery

48. Book yourself in for a Christmas burlesque dance class at Danceworks

49. Enjoy Sonic Bloom, the latest art installation by Yuri Suzuki in Brown Hart Gardens

50. Visit Lush to experience their Personalisation Station and customise products from their most popular Snow Fairy range and choose from a selection of reusable knot wraps designs to complete the perfect gift

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