London is a city that takes Christmas seriously: from the twinkling light displays which garland the shopping streets of the West End and the ice rinks that pop up across town, to the jolly Christmas markets and the cozy pubs serving cauldrons of mulled wine, this is a city that knows how to welcome the festive season.
It helps that history undergirds many of these traditions. The Christmas tree, after all, was popularized in London in the 1840s, after Queen Victoria’s German-born husband, Prince Albert, imported the candle-festooned tannenbaum from his homeland. (In a contemporary twist on the tradition, Norway has, since 1947, given the city an enormous Christmas tree every year, which is displayed in Trafalgar Square.)
Londoners have also tucked into Christmassy, spice-laden mince pies since the medieval era, while the carols that ring out in iconic venues including Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral have a timeless quality. “As we pass by the main institutions of Westminster [on our Christmas bike tour], we realize how old London is, and how far traditions hark back,” says Briz. “[Even] the coronation of William the Conqueror was held precisely on Christmas Day in 1066.”