What to see in London this Christmas

London is one of the prettiest cities at any time of year. At Christmas it is especially gorgeous.

We asked library staff for their favourite bits of this world class city and got some interesting results. From Handsome Hampstead to finding spiritual solace in the big shops up west, this city’s got something for everything.


Lights in Central London

Central London

“Very lively, lots of lights that cheers me up”

The lighting of the Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square

“Christmas is not a big deal in my family and never has been, but I attended this a few years ago with someone new to London, and it was such a nice festive feeling of community. You can bring your own flask of mulled wine too!”



Festive markets


“I love to go to some of the interesting Christmas events and markets and soak up the atmosphere, discover something new and find unusual Christmas presents”.

German Christmas Markets!

“Wherever they are! I love all the tat. I don’t buy much but I love all the random stuff that comes out at this time of year, and drinking a bit of gluwein and a hot dog whilst looking at all the stuff is great fun”.

Craft markets and going to musicals

“Love ’em”

The Southbank, London

“The lights, the Christmas market and events. It’s always magical at night”.



“Not a clue, I have never spent Christmas in London! I do want to try the iceskating this year though!”

“Canada water ice rink. Best in London”



The big department stores

“I just like it – but not when they are too busy”

“Visit the large department stores – Selfridges, Fortnum and Mason, Liberty to buy a tree decoration”

Fortnum & Mason

“Every year I treat myself to a select few items from the food hall, like preserves or biscuits or chutney”

Oxford Street

“Love the Steel drum band on Oxford Street, Christmas sales”



Out and about in nature

Churches and cathedrals

“I find going into religious buildings at Christmastime, and listening to the music that is made in them, very uplifting”.

The Heath
“A good walk on Hampstead Heath on boxing day is a great way to make room for some more mince pies”.

“I also like to walk in Epping Forest”.


Home comforts


“East London – where I live – and  the Strand. I like to see how East London changes over Christmas, it gives you an idea of how different and multicultural that part of town is. The Strand is always beautiful and they are all light up with musicals signs and xmas lights”


“Stay in for a nice rest”


“Sharing a warm Christmas pudding and brandy creme with Colin”



This year (2017) the Northampton Square Library will be open 27th – 29th December 10 am – 6 PM for self-service and reference only use. Check Library Services website for more information on library opening times.

What’s you favourite place in London at Christmas? Tell us below in the comments or tag us in your instagram posts or use the hashtag #CityLibraryXmas

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15 books you really need to read this Christmas

Christmas is the perfect time to snuggle up beneath the blankets or next to an environmentally friendly peat fire burner and enjoy a good read. Reading is also a good way to relax and escape the hustle and bustle of a busy home during the festive period.

We asked staff at CityLibrary for their favourite Christmas books and got some great recommendations.


‘Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death,
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.’

Spot on'”

The Twelve Days of Christmas

“This book is basically the song with pictures, I always have trouble remembering all of the rhyme but my kids love shouting FIVE GOLD RINGS !!!!!”

Box of Delights by John Masefield*

“The wolves are running and the evil Abner Brown and his gang are on the prowl. They’re after a magical box, but Kay has it, and he’ll fight to keep it”.


“I don’t read during Christmas, busy enjoying relaxing/socialising with friends and families”


Hercule Poirot’s Christmas 

“A festive murder mystery full of family intrigue.  A bit like my own dysfunctional family, except more lethal”.

Father Christmas by Raymond Briggs

“Shows Father Christmas in an interesting and humorous light and has elements for both kids and adults.”

Hogfather by Sir Terry Pratchett*

“It’s an entertaining look at Christmas and winter traditions through the distorted lens of Discworld, and features Death (tall chap, hood and scythe) being forced to take on the role of Father Christmas/The Hogfather while his granddaughter sorts out the world”.

‘Twas the night before Christmas

“It was a gift for my daughter and is beautifully illustrated” says one member of staff; “because it rhymes” says another.


“The short story The Dead IDK if it takes place at Christmas but there is a party and it has a very evocative scene where a character watches snow falling from the the window.”

A Christmas Carol

“Reminds me of Christmas”

“Just because”

“The Christmas spirits reminding us all of Christmases past, why we should  enjoy the present and to help people in need.  The amazing change in Scrooge and how it made life better for everyone around him”.

Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

“These short stories are quick reads in between meals that never fail to leave me in stitches”.

MR James*

“A most spooky collection. Spine chillingly good, like a cool slushie”.

Gawain and Greene Knight

“Love the lines about Christmas ‘On þe morne, as vch mon myneȜ þat tyme, joy reigns in every dwelling in the world“.

The Gospels

“I have heard the Christmas story as told in the Gospels every year for many years in church, and I like the familiarity of it”.

Harry Potter saga*

“I used to do it in school, taking advantage of the two weeks off. Now I don’t always do it, but I always feel Christmas as Harry’s time”

shooting star

*All books with asterisks are held by our friends in Islington Libraries. Anyone from City can join with a valid City card.


This year (2017) the Northampton Square Library will be open 27th – 29th December 10 am – 6 PM for self-service and reference only use. Check Library Services website for more information on library opening times.

What’s your favourite holiday reads? Tell us in the comments below.

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Fairytale of #CityLibraryXmas

Christmas is a time of joy and good tunes. Whether you are having fun with family or friends, or spending a little bit of time revising, music can lift the spirits, energise or relax and help you bond with other people.

We asked members of staff from across City Library what their favourite festive tracks were. We got a lot of responses. Fairytale of New York and Last Christmas were both popular, but some very interesting tracks were added.

Listen to our Spotify playlist below.


Bianco Natal and Scende la Neve

“They are all Italian songs, we used to sing them in primary school (our teacher used to play guitar – very homey!)

The Pogues’ Fairytale of New York

“I love the lyrics!” says one. “Great to sing-a-long to” says another.

Last Christmas

“George Michael, school disco memories !!”

Silent Night and Slade’s Merry Christmas Everybody

“Remind me of people I miss”

Anything from Muppet Christmas Carol

“The best sing-along songs for Christmas” says Chloe.

Oh Holy Night

Lynn chose this. She said “At the line “Fall on your knees, O hear the angels’ voices” it gives me goose pimples and makes me cry – every time, no matter who is singing – King’s College choir or Mariah Carey.”

Tim Minchin’s White Wine In The Sun

Samantha says “I’m not religious but like a lot of non-religious people I enjoy Christmas for the chance to spend time with family and friends and this song is all about an Australian family waiting for their children to travel home for Christmas and meet them, where they’re all outside, drinking white wine in the sun and I’m not Australian either so I really like the different image from the usual snowy winter festivals we think of in Europe”.


This year (2017) the Northampton Square Library will be open 27th – 29th December 10 am – 6 PM for self-service and reference only use. Check Library Services website for more information on library opening times.

Have we missed one of your favourite songs? Tell us in the comments below or add it to our Spotify playlist.

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Christmas food and drink

Christmas is a time for families, friends and communities to get together and share food and drink and each other’s company.

The City community is no different. As an international University in the heart of London where the world’s best come to learn and educate, so many traditions come together. Whether you start Christmas morning with a prosecco or M&Ms, we hope you have the chance this holiday to meet friends and family to enjoy a meal or party. Maybe some of these dishes will inspire your own culinary experiments. Each link takes you through to a recipe from our collections on CityLibrary Search.

The big meal

Read more about the history of “traditional Christmas Dinners” through CityLibrary Search 


  • Home made rich spicy Christmas cake “Very special, can’t get it at any other time”
  • Mince pies, mulled wine, tin of well known confectionery, alcohol, cheese” says one member of staff “I also like to pull a Christmas cracker”. We’re not going there.

Explore the sweet meats of yesteryear through CityLibrary Search


Sweeties and snacks

  •  A family tub of Cheetoes “it’s low maintainence” says one member of staff.
  • Catie says she has Prosecco first thing in the morning on Christmas Day (UK) OR M&Ms all day long (US) . Why not both this year?

Find out more about how Christmas parties were organised in the past through CityLibrary Search




  • Cherry Brandy Samantha says “It’s a lovely treat I only have once every two years with my mother-in-law at Christmas when we visit them and we will always say to each other from about 9am onwards, “Is it a bit early for a cherry brandy?” before finally succumbing at about 3pm after our meal.”
  • Hot toddy “After a busy few months from Oct – Dec I inevitably get ill over the Christmas vacation and a hot toddy with the medicinal whiskey, lemon, and honey with the warming spices of cinnamon and cloves is like a hug from one of Santa’s cuter and more approachable reindeer in a mug” says Rachel.
  • Mulled wine “Just love that cinnamon and orange slices” says one member of staff. “A proper winter warmer in a cup. Cracking” says another.
  • A whisky mac, nothing else will do. Late in the evening, settled in my chair with the Christmas tree lights on and sipping a warming whisky mac, despite the cold, the wind, the rain or snow.

Find out more about what makes a Christmas drink with CityLibrary Search.


If all else fails

Cheese! “Every year, Christmas Day evening,” Chloe says, “we will have a cheese board and play fun board games”.


This year (2017) the Northampton Square Library will be open 27th – 29th December 10 am – 6 PM for self-service and reference only use. Check Library Services website for more information on library opening times.

What’s your favourite festive food? Tell us below.

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