If you’d like to enjoy the more traditional side of Christmas and explore London’s take on the Christian narrative at the centre of our celebrations, your tour of the city’s numerous and historic churches begins here. Many of them offer beautiful architecture, fantastic choirs, sung Eucharist and, if you’re lucky, mince pies and mulled wine.
St George’s, Hanover Square
Grade 1 listed and positioned opposite Vogue House in the glamorous central London Hanover Square, St George’s provided a regular place of worship for Baroque composer George Frederic Handel. Come December, the church is decorated with elegant green and white garlands, a beautifully arranged Nativity set and bunches of festive flowers. On Christmas Day the choir performs Haydn’s St Nicholas mass, and the organist will play you out with a jubilant motet. The interior is beautifully maintained, and chocolates are gifted (to everyone – not just children!) at the end of services on high days and holidays.
St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden
St Paul’s in Covent Garden provides a tranquil bolt hole in London’s busy West End. Designed in 1633 by Inigo Jones, the peaceful garden is frost-dusted and silent at Christmastime, and a wonderful place to escape for a moment’s quiet during a busy season. There’ll be plenty of theatrical and musical events scheduled, too: St Paul’s is known as the Actor’s Church, due to its longstanding relationship with theatre and local acting groups. Take a look at the busy calendar of events programmed for December, including regular masses, Christmas Carols and other musical events.
Notre Dame De France, Leicester Square
If you’d like to visit a more modern place of worship, try stepping in to Notre Dame De France in Leicester Square. 150 years old and run by the Marist community, the church provides a vibrant insight into the francophone community in London. Francophiles might like to attend mass in French, and hang back afterwards to enjoy the impressive art collection and architecture.
Southwark Cathedral, South Bank
Deviate from the beaten track when it comes to substantial Christian places of worship, and explore some interesting alternatives. Everybody knows about St Paul’s and Westminster Abbey, but we suggest you wander down to the river and admire the imposing grandeur of Southwark Cathedral. It’s a stunning edifice on the banks of the Thames and, if you might find yourself peckish post-church, is conveniently located next to bustling Borough market, where you’ll find stalls selling world-class salami, delicious sandwiches and plenty of mulled wine at Christmas. The Cathedral’s churchyard on the south side of the building provides contemplative space for busy Londoners, and Christmas carol services are available in abundance once advent starts.
Our Lady of the Assumption and St Gregory, Warwick Street
Our Lady of the Assumption and St Gregory is a beautiful Roman Catholic church built in the late 1700s and featuring ornate artwork typical of the period. Serving the local community with a range of support groups and community events, the church provides a range of festive excitements for its member and the public to enjoy.
Christchurch Spitalfields, Commercial Street
Towering over the bars and shop on Commercial Street, Christchurch Spitalfields plays host to a vibrant winter music festival with exceptional Christmas programming. Catch performances of the Messiah and Poulenc’s Christmas motets in the astonishing acoustics of Christchurch’s white stone arcs, and hurry over to the bar during the interval to sip prosecco and share Panettone. Wrap up warm for the concerts and then peel off your layers afterwards for an essentially English dinner at St John Bread and Wine next door.
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