During the festive season, London lights up with a vibrancy rivalled only by Las Vegas. This year, there are over 200,000 lights on Oxford Street alone, with another 100,000+ at Covent Garden and many millions more across the city.
The momentary silence as you first catch a glimpse of the breathtaking displays is testament to their beauty.
Shop windows, full of glamour and glitz, aim to capture the imagination with subtle hints of what loved ones may desire and food stalls evoke childhood memories with fragrances of vanilla, cinnamon and mixed spice.
Across the city people search to find the perfect present and in popular destinations, such as Trafalgar Square, Christmas markets in gingerbread style cabins, have sprung up to offer crafts and personalised presents for discerning gift givers to buy.
Covent Garden is a delight, with street entertainers at every turn. There are conjurors, performance artists and classical musicians. Each step provides a different stimulation for your senses, it is a magical, enchanting experience.
The London Underground, once much maligned for cancelled trains and lack of capacity, now runs like clockwork and what’s more, it’s clean as well.
Visiting London at Christmas is now an adventure to be savoured and enjoyed.
We travelled on a Sunday, arriving in London just after midday. The traders of the capital have realised that many people visiting the city do not arrive early, and most shops open from 12-6 to comply with Sunday trading laws.
Our hotel, the Assembly London, occupies an enviable position which makes the most of the very best the city has to offer. It’s a five minute walk to Leicester Square and in the very heart of London’s West End.
The shopping delights of Regent Street are less than 10 minutes away on foot and the tube is just a stone’s throw from the front door.
China Town is literally just around the corner and offers a wealth of good value eating options for those who like Oriental cuisine.
The 121-bedroom hotel describes itself as having “stripped back rooms that remove unnecessary amenities such as overpriced mini bars, intrusive bed-side telephones and oversized TVs, redundant in an age of streaming.” There is, instead, super strong free wifi, power showers and comfy beds.
The decor is inspired by high-profile fashion names Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney and Gareth Pugh. It is modern and certainly causes you to pause for a moment as you enter the room.
“Is that a giant plastic pink rabbit wearing a studded leather collar?” my partner asked, unable to conceal the amused smile on his face. It was. A quick glance also confirmed that yes, there were leather belts strapped to the headboard of the bed.
These quirky touches are no doubt inspired by the hotels proximity to Soho, and all that the area is associated with, but in truth, they are little more than nods to to the youthful and vibrant culture which surrounds Leicester Square.
Our room was one of the hotels larger offerings on the eighth floor, a pad room, which comes complete with a comfortable sofa. There were also spectacular views across the city, especially in the evening when the London Eye dominates the skyline.
The tenth floor is home to Bourne and Hollingworth’s rooftop eatery, The Garden Room. The restaurant, which offers a small but varied menu, offers an incredible vista across the city providing the perfect opportunity for selfies.
The continental breakfast (also served in the rooftop restaurant) was sufficient to set you up for the day, although heartier appetites also have the opportunity to order from the breakfast menu.
But what of the important things? The room was quiet, probably the quietest I’ve stayed in when visiting London, the bed was comfortable and we both had a restful nights sleep.
If you’re looking for reasonably priced accommodation in the centre of Theatreland, the Assembly London Hotel is certainly an option you should consider.
You can visit the hotel website at: https://www.assemblyhotels.com/