It’s the most wonderful timeeeee of the yeaaaaar. Please tell me you just sung that to yourself… I did.
I’ve genuinely just put my Christmas playlist on and I now have the Andy Williams classic blaring through the speakers. I love this time of year is the best and I aim to drag it out for as long as possible. If you are looking for the best things to do in London at Christmas. Welcome. You are in the right place.
The Christmas aisles have officially launched in the shops, the London underground adverts have a side of mistletoe appearing on them and I’ve begun planning festive dates with my girlfriends. It’s basically Christmas now, right?
Ahead of the festive season, I figured I’d put together a little London Christmas bucket list to inspire you to get out and perhaps come up to the big smoke to experience the insane amounts of magic that fill the city here in London. There are so many amazing things to do at Christmas in London but here are, in my opinion, the very best things to do in London at Christmas.
Think of it as an advent calendar. 24 different windows of fun to open this Christmas.
Though I’ve kind of opened all the doors at once for you in this blog post… (Does anyone else do this with their chocolate calendar or is it just me?!)
Honestly, I’ve done two sunny Christmases in Australia now and both made me fall so much deeper in love with the spirit we have here in England this time of year.
There is nowhere quite like it and it’s time to embrace it once again…
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Here are 24 of the best things to do in London at Christmas
1. Ice skating
A classic, but a good one at that and one of the best to do in London at Christmas, day or evening! There are so many different places in London that have ice rinks now!
… to name but a few places! I’ll be heading to the Tower of London to skate next week!
2. Christmas shopping
Looking for the perfect gift for your loved ones, or something for that office Secret Santa? Why not do it in the big city – it’ll be busy, but you have infinite choices.
Shop on Oxford Street under the Christmas lights, explore the Christmas sections in Harrods, Hamley’s and Selfridge’s, or head to Covent Garden, Camden or Westfields… the opportunities are endless. Turn it into a day out with your girlfriends and make it one to remember!
Spending a day Christmas shopping in London is like shopping in New York, it’s a bucket lister and even if you don’t have anything to buy – it’s an experience not to be missed and one of the best things to do in London at Christmas.
3. See a show
Whether it be a classic Christmas pantomime (Where’s Mollie? She’s behind you! Oh no she isn’t…), going to the West End, something more unusual like Disney on Ice, or more traditional like the ballet, London has so much to offer for every taste!
A show in the West End is one of the best things to do in London at any time of the year but also one of the best things to do in London at Christmas when combined with some mulled wine and a trip to one of London markets!
4. Admire the magical christmas lights
One of the best things to do in London at Christmas? Or the BEST thing to do in London at Christmas? London is so sparkly in December and it’s pure magic to experience.
Most of London’s iconic light displays have already been turned on, but you can still appreciate their beauty without all the big crowds on that first day! Oxford Street, Regent Street, Carnaby Street, Bond Street and Marylebone High Street are particularly well known for their wonderful displays!
There are also some other ways to see some amazing displays, however! Be sure to book all of these in advance because these experiences are known for selling out!
- You could take an open-top bus London by night tour to see all the lights in the dark…
- Syon Park has an Enchanted Woodland walk with a beautiful display…
- Chiswick Gardens will be shining light on history during their stunning after dark trail…
- ZSL London Zoo has a one-mile illuminated pathway winding its way through the zoo in a magical after-dark experience. Note that the animals will be tucked up in bed and unavailable to view, but to see the animals and explore the trail where fairytale meets fantasy and larger-than-life, illuminated wild animal sculptures rise high into the night sky, you can buy a combined day and evening ticket! Why not make it a once in a lifetime experience and sleepover at the zoo?!
- Kew Gardens will be lit up for an unforgettable after-dark trail of lights…
5. Get a selfie with a giant Christmas tree
Got to be done ey? The classic option is of course Trafalgar Square. The giant tree is an annual gift from Oslo, Norway, to thank Britain for their support during WWII. It’s lit on the first Thursday of December so be sure to arrive at the square early to get a good view!
There are also stunning trees in Covent Garden and St Pancras Station.
One of the best things to do in London at Christmas is to get a selfie with a giant tree!
6. Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park
#classic, on everyone’s bucket list… even if everyone knows about it, it’s so magical that I couldn’t not mention it!
Choose a weekday if you’re looking to avoid the crowds a little… or the weekend if you’re looking to maximise Christmas energy and spirits! It gets jam-packed in there because it’s one of the best things to do in London at Christmas but it’s also one of the busiest! Be warned!
See more on the official website here.
7. Winterland: an alternative Christmas festival
Based in Fulham but inspired by the Alps, this outdoor magical venue will satisfy all your après-ski cravings with some après-work dinner, drinks and fun! Entry starts at £5 and there are loads of areas within the complex, making it a more affordable option to have fun in London this Christmas.
Camden is one of my favourite areas in London anyway, and it’s even more magical at this time of year. From a show at the Roundhouse, to exploring Camden Market, to heading to Winterville* – another alternative Christmas fun day out, there’s something for everyone!
*2019 update: Winterville isn’t happening this year, but keep your eyes peeled on their website for next year!
9 (3/4). Harry Potter’s Hogwarts in the snow
Experience Christmas in the Wizarding World and discover how film-makers created fire, ice and snow that never melts as the Studio Tour undergoes a magical makeover. From the Yule Ball to the Triwizard Tournament, you’ll see how they transformed the whole set with with snow-covered Christmas trees, shimmering silver, dripping icicles and sparkling snow.
See more on the website and book your tickets here.
10. Enjoy a frosty London walk in your cosiest knitwear…
Another freebie for you. London has so many beautiful parks and with the cold in the air, a hot drink and some festive spirit, it’s even more lovely. I particularly love Primrose Hill, Battersea Park, Victoria Park, St James’ Park, and walking along the River Thames near Hammersmith. I’ve also planned a walk where you can see all of London’s landmarks in one afternoon…
11. Have a drink at London’s most decorated pub
The Churchill Arms in Kensington (W8 7LN) always looks lovely as it’s decorated in so many flowers, but for the festive season the landlord adds over 21,000 Christmas lights to the exterior!
12. Have dinner in a real gingerbread house
Not cheap, but WOW. What a festive experience! See more and enquire here.
13. Christmas services at Westminster Abbey or St Paul’s…
Even if you aren’t religious, church services at this time of year have quite a magical atmosphere that you can’t quite experience anywhere else.
14. Warm up with one of London’s best hot chocolates…
Awesome places for finding a good hot chocolate include…
- Apostrophe (Parisian style cafe chain) or PAUL for a French style Chocolat Chaud
- Saia dal 1923, W1F 9QL – for an Italian experience
- Jaz and Jul’s Chocolate House, N1 9EZ – good for vegetarians and vegans!
- The Parlour at Fortnum & Mason, W1A: a hot chocolate bar with oodles of combinations!
- Choccywoccydoodah, W1F: expensive but the hot chocolate of dreams!
- Hotel Chocolat cafes – a classic.
- And so many more! Pop your favourite hot choc spot in a comment below
One of the best things to do in London at Christmas for sure!
15. …or a mulled wine!
Or a mulled cider. Or a mulled gin. Or anything mulled! All of the Christmas markets and pop ups will be sure to have these!
Sipsmith’s are hosting a pop up hot gin bar this festive season (2019/20) at The Conductor (EC4M 7RA), which is giving me all the festive feels!
16. Head to one of many Christmas markets
Speaking of shopping, you could also ditch the department stores and explore London’s Christmas markets for a more unique and independent shopping experience! Christmas markets in London are everywhere and visiting one has to be one of the best things to do in London at Christmas.
And not only will you find all your presents here, but you’ll be inundated with street food, live music, entertainment and festive cheer. Southbank Centre, Kingston, Greenwich, Leicester Square and London Bridge are all good places to explore the cute little huts we all love at markets… and they are all free!
Borough Market and Camden Market are also great at this time of year, as well as all year round!
17. Head to your favourite London pub for a cosy festive dinner…
Christmas menus are out, and there’s nothing quite like a cosy evening in the pub! Let someone else do the cooking for you while you enjoy dinner and drinks with your family and friends, either in the lead up to Christmas or on the day itself.
18. Enjoy a rooftop Christmas drink…
The city is so pretty at this time of year, so why not see it from up high in its entirety!? Pergola have two rooftop bars (Olympia and Paddington), and Skylight offer tons of fun over at Tobacco Dock. Queen of Hoxton also hold rooftop events.
Duck and Waffle isn’t quite a rooftop restaurant, but regardless, it does offer spectacular views across the city.
Not sure where to go for drinks in London? Check out this list of places to have cocktails!
19. Covent Garden
One of my favourite areas in London, and it’s particularly special at Christmas. The lights, the displays, the boutiques, the mistletoe, the markets…. eeeeek I want to squeal with excitement!
20. Christmas carols
As well as Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s Christmas services, you could also head to the Royal Albert Hall, home to Christmas concerts since 1871, for another festive experience. There will also be carol singing around the Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree for a more authentic experience.
21. Have dinner in a Christmas Igloo
Jimmy’s Lodge on the river and the Coppa Club offer a unique, once-in-a-lifetime, private dining experience during the festive season.
Perhaps the most important on the list. We get so carried away with the commercial elements of Christmas, that we often forget that there are people who, as much as they want to, cannot celebrate Christmas in the same way as we all do because they are less fortunate than us. Crisis, Soup Kitchens, Night Shelters and more… so many people are worthy of our time and our help. Laura Reynolds at The Londonist has written a great list of places to volunteer in London this Christmas, and if you have any more suggestions please put them in a comment below!
23. Christmas Day in London!
Worried that nothing will be open? That is not the case! Chinatown, Soho will be open if you want some less traditional food and many pubs will open for the occasion. Enjoy a walk or a bike ride through a park and along the Thames, and enjoy the peace and quiet in the big city! There is even a special Christmas Lights Open Top Bus Tour on Christmas Day.
24. New Year’s Eve fireworks in London!
And when you don’t want the festivities to end… spend the day in London exploring, and end 2018 / start 2019 watching one of the world’s most spectacular fireworks displays. You can buy tickets for the official firework event here (a second wave of tickets is being released on 30th November), or here is a list of places slightly out of the centre to watch the fireworks for free.
However you decide to spend this Christmas season, make it a good one, spending time with the ones you love and enjoying new adventures! Cheers to that!
Have you been to London at Christmas?
What were your best things to do in London at Christmas? We’d love to know!
Love as always and happy adventuring,
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