One of my favorite churches in London is St Martin in the Fields. It sits on the edge of Trafalgar Square opposite the National Gallery and it’s so pretty and, to me, just so London. Probably because of its location, which makes it symbolize the city for me. The 1726 church is very pretty from the outside and surprisingly plain inside, but there’s been a church on this site since at least 1222.
One of the things the church is most famous for is music. They have an ongoing concert program from Baroque singers to Patti Smith! And in December they have a wonderful program of carols and other music. Nearly everyday through the month there is something on, from carols by candlelight to Handel’s Messiah, to chamber orchestras and organ recitals. Some of them you need to buy tickets for, others are by donation. Some are lunchtime, some afternoon, others in the evening.
As well as music, St Martins is known for its work with the community and its open welcome and charitable work. They sell Christmas cards and have a shop and café down in the 18th century crypt. You can even get one of London’s cheapest afternoon teas and sample that great British tradition of tea and scones. Wednesday nights in the Crypt are jazz nights. And for the kids (and adults) there is the London Brass Rubbing Centre. With your own hands you can create an artwork depicting a figure of English history: Shakespeare, St George and the dragon, or a medieval knight. Now, that’s a more unusual gift than an ‘I love London’ mug.