Winter walking can be one of the most exciting and worthwhile pastimes in London. So how about some gentle exercise over the Christmas period? Before you say no, check out our recommended wintery walks as an alternative to yet another Home Alone movie on Netflix (or an alternative to that last mince pie that you really shouldn’t eat). We’re even rewarding you by making it not just about the walk, but about the beer at the pub you can have afterwards (and because you’ve just walked off those calories because you ate the last mince pie anyway).
If you’re into the ghosts of Christmas past, The Flask is the perfect option after a winter walk through Highgate Cemetery. Oddly, one of the most peaceful and idyllic walks you can go on this winter, the cemetery has some of the most beautiful funerary architecture in the world.
The Flask in Highgate dates back to when Highgate was just a small village on the outskirts of London. The stable-block, which is the oldest part of the pub, dates back to 1663 whilst the main body of the pub dates from around the 1720s. The Flask still boasts the original shutter window bar with the bullseye glass panels and still has two horse boxes 17th century horse boxes in place. The room housing the main bar was originally a separate outhouse dating back to around the 1800s.
The pub’s name – The Flask – comes from the tradition of selling flasks from the pub, which were later used to collect water from the springs around Highgate and the surrounding areas such as Hampstead Heath. An original spring situated at the back of the pub may have been used for this same purpose.
Remember those ghosts mentioned earlier? Well, what’s a historic pub without a good old Christmas haunting story to tell? Sightings of the Spanish barmaid that hanged herself over an unrequited love in the pub’s cellar (now a seating area) and a guy in a cavalier uniform have both been seen to have made an appearance in the pub. After your walk through the cemetery, grab a beer and thaw your toes next to the open fireplace and who knows you might make friends with the resident ghosts!
Visit The Warwick Castle pub after a winter stroll through Little Venice, considered one of the loveliest places in London. Wander along the canal and take in the beautiful scenery and impressive houseboats. The views are wonderful all year round but Little Venice is particularly stunning once the snow has fallen. The river freezes over, the snow settles and the canal becomes covered with an untouched sheet of brilliant pure white snow – lovely!
Other places of interest in the area include Abbey Road, made famous by The Beatles and Regents Canal.
Once you’ve taken in all of that winter scenery, head over to The Warwick Castle pub for a full on roast dinner and a Christmas cocktail. Set in the heart of Little Venice, this cosy and traditional pub is a lovely local haunt, welcoming customers since 1867. Although The Warwick Castle has undergone some refurbishment, the changes have been faithful to the original décor and charm that was first captured in a painting by artist Eduardo Arizzone in 1927.
The pub prides itself on its genuine friendliness and warmth, so it is definitely a top choice for you to pop into for a pint or a bite to eat by its open log marble fireplace this winter.
The Garden Gate is a 19th century gem that can be found at the end of our next glorious winter walk through Hampstead Heath. This large, grassy public park is one of the highest points of London and comes with a remarkable view of the London skyline. The park has an abundance of nature and wildlife for you to fully immerse yourself in and if you’re lucky you might even spot Santa’s reindeer grazing in the park (you probably won’t but let’s just pretend and enjoy the magic of Christmas).
Once you have finished reindeer spotting, The Garden Gate offers the warmest of welcomes, home-grown hospitality and a lovely village atmosphere. Boasting one of the finest beer gardens in the city, this iconic London pub is ahead of the game in providing the perfect eating and dining experience.
Whether you are looking for a relaxed brunch, Sunday roast, family dinner or lunch date, The Garden Gate offers fresh and flavoursome home-cooked food and a diverse drinks menu. True to its name and allegedly offering the best al-fresco dining in North London, The Garden Gate conceals a wonderful beer garden, so you can choose to dine outside in the cool winter breeze or inside enjoying the splendid period yet contemporary features.
The Blue Anchor is the perfect pit stop after a nice riverside walk along the Thames. Start your journey at Barnes Bridge and follow the bend in the Thames until you reach the Hammersmith Bridge. During your walk, you can check out the London Corinthians Sailing Club with its lookout and small pier for launching boats into the Thames.
In prime position on the Thames, The Blue Anchor is always warm and welcoming so grab a pint and pretend you’re sailing off on one of those boats this Christmas. It’s a home away from home and you can cosy up with a glass of Malbec by the open fire.
This pub was first licenced in 1722 and is still a favourite amongst locals and visitors to the area some 300 years later. Set across two levels, the downstairs remains traditional to an original wood-panelled 17th Century pub, whilst upstairs you’ll find the newly refurbished and beautifully decorated ‘River Room’ with incredible views over the river.
This Christmassy walk starts with a pint in a pub (mental preparation before you brave the cold air).
Begin with the cosy glow of the fire at this Marylebone pub – The Angel in the Fields. This untouched London pub serves great food and great beer at great prices. All of their brewing has been done in-house since 1785, so you’re in for a right treat before you set out on your walk.
Set across two floors, customers have the choice of visiting the downstairs bar for a different selection of pure and organic products, ranging from their apricot infused beer to their very own stout; or heading upstairs for some freshly cooked food. Options include a 10 ounce Barnsley lamb chop, a meat sharing platter, or even hand battered fish and chips.
Now you’re ready for your walk. Wander through the back streets of the West End, through Mayfair and into Soho. Find the hidden passageways, marvellously decorated posh shops and lots of historical snippets along the way. Fill yourself up with Christmas spirit because this walk is all about the Christmas lights, decorations and London Christmas traditions.
The Counting House pub is the grand finale to the most Christmassy of Christmas walks (unless you are a Scrooge) – The Charles Dickens Christmas Carol Walk.
This spacious bank conversion retains the original Victorian décor boasting chandeliers, a glass dome, mosaics and rich polished mahogany. Showcasing a range of Fuller’s cask ales and delicious pies made using locally sourced ingredients; The Counting House offers a look into the past with its stunning and magnificent setting.
Thinking of the past, this pub is the perfect end to The Charles Dickens Christmas Carol walk that begins on an old Alleyway believed to be the location of Scrooge’s counting house. This is a guided tour where you can merry your way down back streets and alleyways that have changed little, if at all since Dickens himself walked the streets in search of inspiration. I hear the tour guide is costumed and that you even pass an ancient hostelry, which may well have been the one that Scrooge stopped off at on his way home to enjoy his usual melancholy dinner.