I have always said that Christmas time, or the “festive season,” is a one of the best times to watch soccer in England. But there are some things to consider if you intend to be there, not the least of which are the weather and the travel hassles.
First, let’s consider why it’s such a great time to be over there.
Lots of games: Just in the Premier League around Greater London, from the weekend before Christmas through New Year’s Day, there are 15 games to choose from — more if you’re willing to ride a train an hour or so out of town to a place like Brighton or Southampton. In the Championship, there are 15 more to choose from. And that’s just if you’re staying in London!
FA Cup Third Round: This is the round of the annual competition, held the first full weekend of January, when all the clubs from the Premier League and Championship enter the fray. You wind up with great matchups of big club vs little club, which can in turn offer and affordable way to get into some of the bigger grounds.
London at Christmas: The great city is all lit up with lights, the shopping is fun, Winter Wonderland is in Hyde Park, the churches are packed, the streets are deserted, and the parks are open.
The Down Sides of England Over the Holidays: Weather, Tickets and Travel
These aren’t even really a “down side,” just things to consider.
For the weather, just assume it will be about 38 degrees at the most, and raining. Enough said there. At least virtually all the seats at games are covered.
Tickets will be harder to come by than usual, with all the kids out of school and the whole thing being a big tradition. (Think Thanksgiving weekend for American college football.)
Travel, transport, and closures are the big issues to consider. Here are the highlights:
- Christmas Day there are no buses or trains anywhere. This is the big one. You cannot get around, or out of, London or any other place via public transport on December 25. It’s all walking, renting one of those Santander bikes, going on a bus tour, or taking a taxi or Uber — and you can imagine how this affects their prices. If you’re arriving at Heathrow this day, use the National Express Coach to Victoria Station, if you don’t want to spend £75 on a cab.
- Boxing Day everything is on reduced schedule. If you’re planning to attend a game this day outside of London, you may need to be in that place for Christmas as well.
- New Year’s Day is the same as Boxing Day. Everything is running, but reduced.
- Throughout the period, this is when the rail networks in particular do their big planned “engineering works.” This means that even inter-city train routes often are not running, and/or are replaced by “Rail Replacement” buses. This can really mess up your travel, so keep an eye on the National Rail and Transport for London websites.
Going on a groundhopping English soccer trip always takes a lot of planning — that’s what I’m here for — and doing it over the holidays requires another level of such planing. But it is oh so worth it!