WHAT TO DO IN LONDON AT CHRISTMAS TIME

WHAT TO DO IN LONDON DURING CHRISTMAS

 

The Christmas season can be magical no matter where you are in the world. Scents of pine + peppermint, twinkling lights at every turn and carols sung full of hope + joy  have a way of making everything around you seem more lovely than usual. Yet even still, there are certain destinations around the globe that really turn things up a notch and make the most wonderful time of the year even more wonderful. My favorite example? No surprise here... my beloved London. 

Whether living there or just popping in for a quick visit, I've been in London for the past two Christmas seasons. Through that time, I've been able to not only experience a lot of festive activities, but also learn a lot about holiday traditions on this side of the pond. 

So whether you're a London local, visiting for the first time, or simply making a wishlist in your head for a trip someday in the future, here are my favorite bits you can't miss in London during the Christmas season.

christmas in london
christmas in london

Dining in igloos seems to be a trend popping up in major cities across the globe. I've seen these in New York and Chicago, but my favorite have been the ones at Coppa Club in London. The concept of cozying up in a heated space that's romantically lit is already enough to entice you, but these have beautiful views of Tower Bridge. You can order food, or simply sip on some mulled wine (my favorite warm beverage of the holiday season: which is red wine simmered with cinnamon, cloves, orange and sometimes brandy). 

 

SEE THE CHRISTMAS DISPLAYS AT LONDON DEPARTMENT STORES LIKE SELFRIDGE'S, FORTNUM & MASON, HARROD'S AND LIBERTY LONDON

liberty london christmas display
selfridges christmas display

Paying a visit to these London-specific department stores is something you should do on any trip (for a variety of reasons), but especially at Christmas. From the spread of Christmas treats in each respective food hall to the gorgeous, intricately detailed window displays to the seasonal shopping available inside- Christmas is taken to a new level at London department stores. 

 

GO ICE SKATING AT THE NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM OR SOMERSET HOUSE

natural history museum ice skating christmas london
somerset house ice skating london christmas

Outdoor ice skating rinks are always so fun no matter where you are this time of year, and London has loads of them! From Tower of London to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park (more about that in a minute) to the rooftop Skylight rink in Tobacco Dock and countless others, I’d argue the two very best rinks are at Somerset House and the Natural History Museum. Both are set against an idyllic backdrop and offer vendors that sell mulled wine, hot chocolate and other seasonal treats. Aim to go during the week if possible, as weekends will be much more crowded (and buy tickets in advance to avoid a long line/queue).

 

 

SEE THE CHRISTMAS TREE IN TRAFALGAR SQUARE

christmas in london trafalgar square christmas tree

In NYC, the Christmas tree to see is in Rockefeller Plaza. In London? Head to Trafalgar Square. Last year while living in London it was so fun to go to the ceremony for the lighting of the tree to sing carols and celebrate the Christmas season (you can check the Visit London site each year for details on when the ceremony is the year you're going). Even if you're not around for the illumination, it's still worth walking by at night to see the tree in person. 

 

 

STROLL THROUGH THE CITY + ENJOY THE COUNTLESS LIGHTS

OXFORD STREET

OXFORD STREET

CARNABY STREET

CARNABY STREET

COVENT GARDEN

COVENT GARDEN

BOND STREET

BOND STREET

SEVEN DIALS

SEVEN DIALS

Strolling is probably my favorite thing to in London anyway, but it's especially wonderful at Christmas. I've never seen people go all out decorating for the season as I have Londoners. Walk along Regent Street + Oxford Street for beautiful, twinkling lights hanging overhead every year without fail. Carnaby (one of my favorite areas) has a different theme every year (this year it’s been transformed with a carnival-themed display featuring funky lights, bold colors and tropical vibes). Covent Garden will always have a massive tree, along with plenty of other festive decorations. Bond Street, home to some of London's most posh retailers, always has equally glamorous holiday lights and decor that will seriously impress you (hence the massive bow on the Cartier storefront). And of course, there's Seven Dials- whose cobbled streets, surrounded by shops and restaurants, is especially charming when lit up at Christmas. Similar to the illumination for Trafalgar Square's Christmas tree, each of these respective areas has a ceremony when the lights come on (and if attending doesn't put you in the holiday spirit, you're truly a Grinch). 

 

 

WINTER WONDERLAND

WINTER WONDERLAND HYDE PARK LONDON

This massive Christmas festival (probably the largest in all of London) has been around for 11 years now and is packed with everything you can imagine: from rides to ice skating to food and Christmas vendors to shows and everything in between. Whether you're going with kids, on a date or with your friends, it offers plenty of entertainment in a variety of forms. Haley and I went for Thanksgiving last year, but it was a Thursday night and more on the crowded side, so we just walked around and sipped mulled wine (then we went back on a Tuesday during the day and had all the rides to ourselves!) While food, drinks and rides will obviously cost, admission into the park area is free so it's definitley worth walking aroudn at the very least to see what it's all about. 

 

 

 

SOUTHBANK CHRISTMAS MARKET

SOUTHBANK CHRISTMAS MARKET LONDON

I adore walking along the Southbank anytime of year (you may remember me recommending this from my weekend in London post). It offers some of the best views of The Globe theatre, St. Paul's Cathedral, Millennium Bridge, Tate Modern Art, and of course, The London Eye and Big Ben. And this time of year? It's occupied by a quintessential European Christmas market- complete with waffle vendors, mulled wine, festive lights and countless of other seasonal attractions you'll love to browse through. It's typically open from 10am to 10pm so you can pop by anytime of the day, really- no excuse to not go!

 

 

TRY MINCED PIES, CHRISTMAS PUDDING + OPEN CHRISTMAS CRACKERS

MINCED PIES

MINCED PIES

CHRISTMAS CRACKERS

CHRISTMAS CRACKERS

christmas crackers

I loved learning about British Christmas traditions while living in London! It's fun to not only enjoy them while you're there, but I loved bringing them home with me to incorporate into my own family Christmas. Some of my favorites include: 

MINCED PIES:  Early mince pies were made of meat, fruit and spice and inspired by Middle Eastern cuisine (although you rarely see actual meat in them today- more just fruit and spices). They commonly had 13 ingredients representing Christ and the Apostles, and were formed in a large oval shape to represent the manger. They are simply delicious, and sold all over the city (my favorite place to buy them is from the London department stores I mentioned above. 

CHRISTMAS CRACKERS:  London sweet-maker Tom Smith invented Christmas crackers in the late 1840s. A cracker consists of a segmented cardboard tube wrapped in a brightly decorated twist of paper with a prize in the central chamber, making it resemble an oversized piece of candy. The cracker is pulled apart by two people, each holding an outer chamber, causing the cracker to split unevenly and leaving one person holding the central chamber and prize. The "prize" usually contains a paper crown (like my friends and I are wearing above from the crackers I brought back from London to our Christmas party), a joke or any variety of fun trinkets. If you're dining at a restaurant in London around Christmas, don't be surprised if you see a table full of people wearing these! 

CHRISTMAS PUDDING: To explain this, you must first know that "pudding" is a term in the UK that basically means dessert. So a Christmas pudding, therefore is a style of Christmas dessert- typically consisting of dried fruits held together by egg and suet, sometimes moistened by molasses and flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and other spices. The pudding is usually aged for a month or more, or even a year, and contains a high alcohol content to prevent it from spoiling during this time. Not sold on the idea? Head to Borough Market where you can sample them from various vendors (I tried my first one here and loved it so much, I bought one to bring back to my family). 

MULLED WINE: Mulled wine dates back to the 2nd century in Europe and can be found using a variety of recipes (and called a variety of names like Glögi or Glühwein) depending where you are. In the UK, it's referred to as mulled wine and is essentially just red wine along with various mulling spices (obviously, served warm). It's the perfect thing to drink while bundled up out in the cold and browsing through Christmas markets (but really, it's great to drink for any occasion this time of year!)

 

 

There's probably much more I'm forgetting, but by now you likely don't need any more convincing why London is such a wonderful place to be during the Christmas season! What other things do you love to see + do in the city this time of year? Or what other destinations have you found to be magical at Christmas? Tell me in the comments below!

 

Thanks as always for stopping by!

xx

Whitney

 

christmas in london
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What you ACTUALLY need this Holiday Season

This morning I turned on the TV to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade like I've done almost every year.  I won't explain my frustration for all the Black Friday adverts or holiday hysteria that seems to drown out what should be the sentiment of today... because sadly it's not anything we're not used to at this point.  Consumerism has been creeping up on Thanksgiving for years now, and we’ve all kind of become numb to it.

But what really has been bumming me out isn't just that Thanksgiving is being robbed, it's the obsession with materialism as a whole. At the risk of sounding self-righteous, I’ve experienced somewhat of a personal transformation in the last couple of years. Perhaps living out of a suitcase made me pause to reconsider how very little we actually need to survive, but I just can’t help but think that it’s not really worth the time or money or stress we put ourselves through every single year to buy things like candles or lipstick.

Don’t get me wrong— I think gifts can be a great way to show thoughtfulness to someone you love. And burning a great candle or getting a new lipstick are hardly sins- so by all means, enjoy them! But buying someone something they don’t really need (or sometimes, even really want) simply out of obligation I think is missing the point. And at the end of the day, I think we could all benefit from pausing before purchasing and asking “Do I actually need this?"

So as we're all tempted by the sales happening this weekend (there are some really great ones) I'd just encourage you to be a bit more mindful about what you and the people you love actually need this year rather than buying stuff just because it's a good price. Need some inspiration for smarter shopping? These are some items I genuinely believe are wise purchases that everyone needs (even when you're living out of a suitcase and can only carry the absolute essentials). 

 

A WARM COAT

Okay, maybe not if you live in a sub-tropic climate… but for most of us at some point every year we need a proper coat to keep us warm in frigid temperatures. You can’t go wrong with a classic black down coat- and it doesn’t have to be expensive either. I’ve had my Michael Kors one like this (which is currently on sale) for over 4 years now and I still wear it almost every day in the winter- whether I’m dressed up or in gym clothes. 

These picks are from NORDSTROM, which currently has an extra 20% OFF selected sale items, FREE shipping + FREE returns from 11/24 – 11/2. 

 

 

These are some other good, classic coat options from J CREW that are 40% OFF now until 11/26.

 

 

GOOD TRAINERS

Whether you work out often or not, we all need a good pair of trainers for days that we're on the go or walking a long distance (or if you just want to go easy on your feet). I lived in these Nike Lunar Apparent Women's Running Shoes (which are currently on sale) this year- whether running on the treadmill or walking around London or anywhere else in the world. I suggest the black + white because they give a neutral look you can wear not just with athleisure, but any casual outfit really. 

TRAINERS RUNNING SHOES

Now at NIKE: Take an extra 25% off sales from 11/21 – 11/28

 

A JOURNAL

This may seem like it falls in the category of “fluff” or something we don’t really need… but I’d argue a journal is one of the best ways we can practice mindfulness. I never travel anywhere without mine- and I actually carry a few of them. One for prayer + practicing gratitude. One for recording memories and the names of places I visit when I travel so I don’t ever forget those precious details. And a third for jotting down work notes, to-do lists and general organization. Gifting someone a journal when they’re about to go on a big trip or if they’re going through a difficult season may be the sweetest thing you can give them. Write a note on the front cover that shares your intention or what your hope for them to get out of it is. 

I could keep going, but there are lots of other needs that are really just going to vary according to each individual person. For me, I genuinely need really great luggage and travel accessories for how often I'm on the go (see below). For someone who hosts lots of dinner parties, they'd need quality dishes and kitchen gear. My point is just that we don't all need everything.  

 

If you have some other specific items you may need, here are some sales to be aware of while you search:

J CREW | 40% OFF EVERYTHING

DATE: 11/21 – 11/26

 

MADEWELL | 25% OFF EVERYTHING

DATE: 11/21 – 11/26

 

NORDSTROM // Cyber Monday at NORDSTROM! Extra 20% OFF selected sale items. FREE shipping. FREE returns.

DATE: 11/24 – 11/2

 

ANN TAYLOR // 50% Off Everything with code: THANKFUL.

DATE: 11/22 – 11/24

 

 

ASOS // Black Friday Weekend- 30% off Everything

DATE: 11/22 – 11/28

CODE: EPIC30

 

NIKE //Take an extra 25% off sales

DATE: 11/21 – 11/28

 

REVOLVE //Take up to 50% off sale styles

DATE: starting 11/23

 

SHOPBOP // Get 20% off orders of $200 + .25% off orders of $500+ and 30% off orders of $800 or more with code MORE17 at Shopbop

DATE: 11/21 – 11/26

 

TOPSHOP //Save up to 50% off + Free Worldwide Shipping

DATE: 11/22 – 11/27

 

OTHER RETAILERS YOU MAY SHOP FROM:

WALMART

TARGET

MACY'S

SEPHORA

ANTHROPOLOGIE 

 

 

While I've shared some material things you may need and some places you can shop for great deals right now, what I really want to encourage is that you get creative and find ways to share more experiences with the people you love this holiday season. I personally have found experiences with my people to be the most valuable things in my life. They beat out the nicest material things I've ever owned and can never be taken away from me. 

eiffel tower paris
madeira portugal
joshua tree national park

 

I won't tell you what you should value because I certainly don't expect everyone to love travel the way that I do. But maybe just focus in on your "thing" instead of trying to do all the other things too. If you and our friends love music, prioritize gifting concert tickets. If it's being at home, consider hosting a holiday dinner party for the people you love. Do the people you love go crazy for a good meal? Take them to an epic restaurant or sign up for cooking classes together. 

Whatever it is, think about the ways you can experience the sweetness life has to offer, not just the stuff. Sure, it sounds cliché, but life really is about the memories you make with the people you love. So pause and consider what memories you want to make and with who-- then focus on that this season. 

 

What experiences are you thankful for and how do you plan to incorporate them into your holiday season?

 

I hope everyone has an amazing Thanksgiving filled with good food, time with family and countless reasons to be thankful!

xx

Whitney

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How to maintain self-care while traveling

self care while traveling

Whether you travel often for business, sneak away for a holiday as often as possible or are a full-blown nomad who is just always on the go-- we can all agree it feels nearly impossible to maintain self-care while traveling. Routines go out the window, options become more limited and we're often tempted with experiences or choices that are a lot more sexy than "the right thing to do" (I'm sorry, but I will never order fruit for breakfast in Paris when I could have a buttery croissant instead). 

But as my travel increased to over 300 days the past year, I quickly realized I couldn't live in a perpetual state of #vacationmode. And even when I did want to let myself cheat a little, I knew there were still things I could do to take better care of myself- even when I do order that croissant (or 2). 

So regardless of what traveling looks like for you, here are a few easy ways I've managed to maintain self-care while on-the-go. 

 

1. FIND FITNESS STUDIOS WITH MULTIPLE LOCATIONS

There are a few studios I've grown particularly fond of because they have so many locations across the country (among other reasons). Whether I've been living in Nashville or Chicago- or just visiting another other major city, it's been so nice to have a package of classes I can use anywhere. Something about already knowing "the drill" makes it feel less complicated to show up and sweat - even if you're in an entirely new city. A couple of my favorites studio chains include: 

 

FLYWHEEL SPORTS

Flywheel is seriously such a great workout (I'm always absolutely disgusting after every class). While lots of spin studios have awesome playlists and feel like a dance party (which this absolutely does) what makes Flywheel so unique is the on-bike tech packs that let you view and adjust your effort in class. You can also choose to share your real-time performance with other riders on the in-stadium TorqBoards (which adds a fun competitive element). And after class, your personal stats are stored on their website so you can see how many calories you burned, your distance or any other information (here's a screen grab from my class yesterday to give you an idea). 

flywheel stats

Flywheel has studios in roughly 20 cities, your shoes are always included, and select studios also offer barre classes if you like to mix up your style of work out. 

 

If you're new to Flywheel, you can get your first class free on me! Just use the code FLYBLONDEATLAS at checkout. 

 

 

 

 

COREPOWER YOGA

corepower yoga

Yoga is definitely my workout of choice, and I've been a long time fan of CorePower. I started going when I was working in Boulder and it quickly became my daily workout. With studios in over 35 cities (and multiple locations in many of each), I've now been to countless CorePower classes all over the country. No matter if I've been in Boulder, Denver, LA, Nashville, Chicago, Scottsdale-- wherever, I know I can count on a solid yoga class. In addition to traditional hot or flow classes, they also offer a yoga sculpt class (my absolute favorite) which is unique in that you use weights during your flow to add a sculpting and toning element Consider yourself warned: it will burn so good. I can feel a noticeable difference when I go to CorePower consistently - no matter which studio it is. 

 

I can almost guarantee that if you travel frequently, there's bound to be a CorePower somewhere near you. If you've never been before, you can get your first week for free HERE! 

corepower yoga chicago
COREPOWERYOGA

 

 

 

2. BRING THE RIGHT SUPPLEMENTS ALONG

With travel schedules already throwing off so much of our routines, I'd argue it's not the time to stop taking your supplements. In fact, if you aren't taking any already, I'd argue it's the perfect time to start taking them.  A strategic supplement routine can give your body some normalcy even if nothing about your day to day life follows a routine. I've recently discovered 2 different supplements that I won't ever travel without now: Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides and my Care/Of Vitamins

 

VITAL PROTEINS COLLAGEN PEPTIDES

Collagen Peptides are known for all kinds of benefits: improving skin + hair, reducing joint pain, healing leaky gut, boosting metabolism + muscle mass, strengthening nails, hair and teeth, improving liver health... the list goes on.  It's basically like a tasteless protein powder in terms of consistency that you can take several different ways (although I recommend putting a scoop in your coffee every morning). 

I've noticed a significance difference in my hair and nails ever since I started taking these so I've really made a point to stick with it every day. They're typically sold in a large container (again, like a protein powder) so I would always scoop a serving into a Ziploc bag for every day I was traveling-- until I found out they sell these perfect travel-sized packages! Now I don't ever carry a bag that doesn't have a few of these guys in there. 

vital proteins collagen peptides

 

 

CARE/OF VITAMINS

I always knew I should be taking vitamins, but I wasn't too fond of my purse resembling a full functioning pharmacy. I already take a daily thyroid medication that I'm prescribed, so forgive me if I don't want to carry around bottles of fish oil and turmeric and probiotics and everything else I'm supposed to be taking to be a healthy human. Sure, I know there are pill bottles you can pack with all your various supplements, but that look me in the eyes and tell me you actually remember to do that. I can barely remember to take the vitamins when they're already in my purse...

Enter Care/of: an easier, personalized solution to your supplement needs. You can either hand select your supplements, or you can take their quiz for a recommendations of your needs based on your lifestyle. Each month, they ship you a box with thirty daily packs personalized for you. Supplements range from vitamins to minerals to herbs to probiotics and even unique specialty options. No matter what health goals you want to target, Care/of has you covered. 

GET 25% OFF YOUR FIRST MONTH OF VITAMINS WITH CODE ATLAS25 AT CHECKOUT!

care of vitamins personalized supplements
snap kitchen meal prep

Not only is it hard to eat healthy while you're traveling, but a big struggle for me is also the lead up before and few days once you get home. Grocery shopping is such a strategy, and unless you're going to be home for a while- I'd argue it's hard to prepare really healthy meals without wasting money + ingredients. I stumbled upon Snap Kitchen here in Chicago (which they sell at Whole Foods, but they also have stand alone locations).

Founded in 2010 in Austin, TX, Snap Kitchen provides healthy, handmade meals for busy people. Snap was established on the principle that real food should be convenient and delicious, and they live for making healthy meals that people will be excited to eat. 

Snap Kitchen has dozens of locations across Austin, Dallas/ Ft. Worth, Houston, Chicago + Philadelphia (for now). You can purchase at select Whole Foods, or order via their app for delivery or in-store pick-up. If I'm being really honest, this is pretty much all I eat here in Chicago when I'm not eating out. It's so easy, healthy and reasonably priced- it just makes so much sense. 

Regardless of if Snap Kitchen is in a city near you, I'd argue there are tons of services available that offer pre-prepared healthy meals for when you're on the go (or about to be). So if you're headed on a road trip for Thanksgiving next week, think ahead about what your options will be (fast food) and consider bringing one of these along instead.  

snap kitchen chicken
snap kitchen chicago

 

 

4. OBSERVE SELF CARE DAYS

One of the biggest things I've had to learn to force myself to do while traveling so much is observe dedicated time for self-care. Travel means we're go-go-going all the time with early mornings and late nights trying to squeeze everything in. So whether you opt to do so during your trip or after once you're home- give yourself time to rest. Not just sleep- you need that even when you're not traveling. Use this time to unplug + listen to what you need. Shoulders killing you from carrying around bags? Get a massage. Feet have blisters from walking countless miles? Go for a pedicure. 

Recently, after back to back trips from Chicago to Santorini to Nashville to Jackson Hole and back all within a couple weeks (not to mention the changing of the seasons), my skin was dull and confused by the mix of humid + dry climates I had been in. So to treat it, I went for a self care day at Cowshed Spa at Soho House Chicago. 

COWSHED SPA

cowshed spa chicago il

Knowing a lot about this brand from my time in London, (they opened their first spa in the old cowshed at Babington House, Somerset England) I was so glad to learn they have a location here in Chicago too! Their spas and products are always honest, natural and true to their British heritage (which clearly the London-lover in me gushes over). 

I always get a massage and wanted to mix things up to do something for my skin since I know Cowshed is such a great spa and would have amazing, unique treatments. I opted for The Evening Primrose Body Mask, which is a beneficial and indulgent treatment, perfect for preparing your skin for a new season. 

The treatment starts with a dry brush and body scrub, followed by the hydrating and plumping evening primrose body mask. I was cocooned in the mask while it worked its magic, and meanwhile my therapist performed a mini facial.

The dry brush used in the treatment is also sold in the spa, and it’s been flying off the shelves. Dry brushing is great for circulation, removing dead skin cells, and for stimulating the lymphatic system, making it a popular accompaniment to a detox, which is also a common practice when entering a new season.

cowshed spa chicago il soho house
cowshed spa chicago il soho house

 

In addition to these practices, be sure to also follow the obvious ones we all know so well: Drink plenty of water. Wash your hands. Get plenty of sleep. Okay, you get it- I'm just starting to sound like your mother now...

What are some other ways you maintain self-care while on the go? Let me know in the comment below! 

Thanks for stopping by! Until next time...

xx

Whitney

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