My husband and I traveled to London over the holidays this year - left on December 26th and returned (sadly) on January 7th. We were there long enough to do some wandering, visit some of his family, and, at least in my case, actively wish that we lived there full-time.
It's funny when you have to leave a place that you really love - even arriving there is bittersweet, because that's when you start the countdown for the day that you will, inevitably, return to your point of origin.
During this visit, we found the whole place to be extraordinarily full. Full of people, mostly, but also full of events and happenings and ideas, including our expectations. We hadn't realized that it would be as busy as it was, so we periodically found ourselves disappointed that we wouldn't be able to do whatever it was we had imagined doing, at least not without 10,000 other people who wanted to do the very same thing. The thing about London, though, is that we know our way around sufficiently well that we can change our mind and our plans in a minute, and wind up somewhere even better than we had planned to be originally.
Our goal in being there over New Years Eve was to see the fireworks in person - to see what we see every other year on TV in real life. That mission was accomplished, and I'm so happy that we were able to be there. A family member had to buy our tickets for the event, which said we had to be through the gates by 10:00. It was a freezing night, so the two hours between 10:00 and midnight were spent trying to stay warm. The fireworks were incredible though, and hearing 100,000 people singing "Auld Lang Syne" beside the Thames was very cool.
We stayed in an attic flat in Bloomsbury, which was perfect and made our lives very easy, even with the 85 steps up to the flat itself. If you're looking for London short term apartment rentals, try Acorn London, a letting agency. The view was gorgeous too, right beside an old, seldomly-used church.
Staying in Bloomsbury means that you don't have very far to walk to anything, but there's enough distance between you and the intensely touristy places that you can relax a bit more. Lots of buildings with English Heritage blue plaques on them, as well as good pubs and shops. You're very close to several Underground stations there, and also to the British Museum if that's something you're interested in exploring. You're also really close to ICCO, a great and inexpensive pizza place on Goodge Street.
We actually ate in the flat a fair bit, given that the busy-ness meant long waits or (understandable) snorts of derision when you said that you didn't have a reservation. We did however have a nice shared plates lunch at Elk in the Woods in Islington (Angel underground station) - in particular, the beet and horseradish hummus was very tasty. The restaurant is located on Camden Passage, which is a great little street filled with shops offering both vintage/antique items and modern fashion.
We were there in time to see the Christmas lights - the first photo in this post are those of Carnaby Street, and below is Piccadilly.
While London at Christmas and the New Year proved to be exceptionally busy, far busier than I had anticipated, I think we'll likely head back another year to see a bit more. The lights and the crush of people were incredible (and that's coming from someone who lives in the largest city in her country of origin), and I'm not sure that I'll be able to stay away over the holidays for too many years.