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Wednesday 13 December 2017

Yule just love London

It's time to get all festive with the lowdown on where to go for Christmas in London

IT’S AN image straight out of a heartwarming Victorian Christmas card scene. Snow on the ground and, inside the historic building, the ultimate in luxury and Yuletide cheer. The only thing I can’t guarantee you is a white Christmas in London, but you can be sure of all the festive trimmings served in luxurious surroundings.

As the lights get set to go on in the West End over the next few weeks, the Stafford Hotel is bang in the middle of all the action.

It's set in beautiful St James's, just around the corner from the premier address of Pall Mall and a few minutes' walk away from Green Park Tube station on the Heathrow-serving Piccadilly line. Oh, and England's monarch happens to be a local with Buckingham Palace in these parts, too.

For such a big city, Christmas in London is magical, kicking off with the turning on of its lights from the first week of November.

From the moment you step over the hotel's threshold this winter you'll be accosted by the smell of mulled wine, which you can enjoy by the open fire and you can sample a classic roast, all surrounded by Christmas trees.

Even your room boasts a decorated tree that looks good enough to eat -- but you can devour the gifts of in-room citrus fruits, nuts, and mince pies. If you're lucky enough to be staying on Christmas Day, Santa will deliver a present straight to your room ready to open in the morning.

If you're tired of preparing the turkey and pudding for the family, treat yourself to a five-course Christmas Eve feast of Assiette of Welsh Lamb, including hot-pot potatoes, peppered leeks, and rosemary jus. If you haven't over-indulged, there's also a five-course lunch party.

The Stafford is part of the global Kempinski chain, a brand synonymous with luxury, from palaces in Arabia to quite stunning hotels with views over China's Great Wall.

And the difference is in the small things. It's a family-centred brand, not a faceless international chain. So much so that at the Stafford, its own general manager and his family lead the carol-singing in the hotel, along with a choir from a local church, in the 380-year-old wine cellars.

And if singing's not your thing, you can indulge in roasted chestnuts and sample its famous mulled wine with the compliments of the hotel between numbers.

There's even a candle-lit walk with the staff to midnight Mass at the nearby Guard's Chapel and there's nothing better than strolling around some of the city's most elegant, safest and most historic streets and avenues.

A timeless place, the American Bar is world famous, and gets its name from the early (pre-jet flight) days of American tourism, when travellers from the ocean-going liners discovered the historic city. The bar has played host to countless celebrities over the years and hundreds of signed photos of the stars, dating back to the '60s, cover the walls.

During the Blitz, the bar was a favourite watering hole of Free French, Canadian, Polish and British RAF pilots and models of Spitfires still hang from the ceiling. And it's the only hotel I've ever heard of that has the DNA of Britain's Royal Family in its bar. The story has it that any glasses used by the royals were preserved in Clingfilm after they were used, so unwittingly keepnig their genetic database on tap.

Even from the standard (though they're anything but) rooms up, there's free Wi-Fi and luxuriuos surroundings. Despite its history, the Stafford has kept up with the times and boasts its own gym.

If you're a serious fitness nut, there's a tie-in with the highly rated The Third Space health club nearby, where you've got access to treatments and, unusually for central London, a heated indoor swimming pool.

The perfect way to work up a festive appetite.

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