Last Updated on 23rd December 2018 by Sophie Nadeau
Twinkling lights and all the warm wine, Christmas in London is pretty in sparkling decor with plenty of good food and a winter vibe to match. So whether you’re looking to go ice skating, wander around a Christmas market, or simply want to admire the festive lights, here are all of the very best Christmas things to do in London!
#1 Visit the Christmas market at the Tate Modern
Of all the Christmas things to do in London, wandering along the Thames and looking up at the Tate Modern building above must be my favourite. Below the towering building, you’ll find one of the sweetest Christmas Markets the capital city has to offer. Wander through the market to purchase Christmas keepsakes, quirky gifts, or simply to enjoy some festive treats!
#2 Seeing the Christmas lights along Oxford Street
Stroll along the most famous shopping street in the UK, soak up the Christmas atmosphere and (quite literally) enjoy the bright lights of the city! Plus, a stroll along Oxford Street can easily be combined with visits to nearby locations such as Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park and a wander along Regent’s Street.
#3 Go Ice Skating at the Natural History Museum
If you fancy a twirl on the ice, then you need to look no further than the fabulous ice skating rink just outside the Natural History Museum. Skate alongside centuries worth of history in one of the chicest districts the city has to offer.
#4 Visit the Christmas markets at Hyde Park (which is also home to Winter Wonderland)
On the corner of London’s prettiest park, you’ll find Winter Wonderland. This annual festival is held from around November time, throughout the entire festive period. Head here to enjoy Christmas rides, mulled wine and play silly fairground games.
#5 Snap photos of the Christmas Lights along Regent’s Street
And if you didn’t get your fill of Christmas lights along Oxford Street, then head just a little along the road to find the dazzling display along Regent’s Street. In total, over 300,000 lights are put up and sparkle right through the month of December. Other Christmas lights in London worth visiting include those at the Seven Dials and in Covent Garden.
#6 Attend Church on Christmas Day at St Pauls’ Cathedral
On Christmas Day, an annual special service is held in St Pauls’ Cathedral. The service is held in the very heart of London, if not the UK’s, most famous cathedral and is sure to be one of the most memorable Christmas things you could possibly partake in during your stay in London. For more things to do in the City of London, check out my full City Guide here.
#7 Enjoy a pint in a (warm) pub
London is well known for its pubs, taverns and bars. These drinking establishments also happen to make the perfect setting for enjoying a festive drink among friends. Aside from wine and beer, many serve festive cocktails, as well as warm beverages such as tea, coffee and hot chocolate!
#8 Admire Hogwarts in the Snow
Each and every year, the Warner Brother’s Studios is all decked out in time for Christmas. Experience ‘Hogwarts in the Snow’ complete with Christmas decorations and all the magic we have come to expect from the world of Harry Potter…
If you’re not up for making the journey out of central London, why not take yourself on a self-guided Harry Potter Tour of London? After all, the Victorian market of Leadenhall and the train station of King’s Cross all get pretty decorated with greenery just in time for Christmas!
#9 Stroll along the covered arcades near Piccadilly Circus
On the streets around Piccadilly Circus, you’ll find a few chic covered markets. These pristine walkways are filled with little boutiques and independent stores. They’re each decorated in a unique style just in time for the festive period, and are all well worth a wander along! That being said, one of my favourites has got to be that of Burlington Arcade.
#10 Go to Portobello Winter Festival
Located in the ever so chic Notting Hill, you’ll find a winter festival at Portobello Road. During the rest of the year, Portobello Road operates as one of the most extensive and quirkiest antique markets in the world. During the festive period, you’ll find the quirky atmosphere that’s so synonymous with the area, combined with a whole load of festive cheer.
#11 Step back in time at Kensington Palace
During the Christmas period, you can experience what life must have been like during a Victorian Christmas if you visit Kensington Palace. Among other things, if you visit, you’ll find an 8m tall Christmas tree, and plenty of fun for all the family (or friends!)
#12 Enjoy the decorations at Liberty of London
Of all the Christmas things to do, one of my all-time favourite activities is simply to stroll around the big city and see where my feet take me. If you decide to wander around as well, chances are you’ll stumble on the pretty decorations of a department store or two.
The Tudor style building of the Liberty of London department store was actually built in the 1920s but is still well worth a look, if only to admire the quirky architecture. Each year throughout the Christmas season, the store is decorated with a whole array of festive pieces. Many of them can be purchased as well!
#13 Admire the St Pancras International Christmas Tree
In the very middle of St Pancras International (Ie one of the biggest train stations in the UK), a giant Christmas tree is erected each and every year in the central courtyard. It provides a festive backdrop for a whole multitude of Christmas events that are held in the station throughout the festive period.
#14 Ice skate at Somerset House
Featured in the film ‘Love Actually’, Somerset House is home to one of the city’s most iconic ice skating rinks. The skating rink is open throughout much of the day and night, meaning that you can either enjoy the cool December sun on your face during the daytime, or the twinkling bright lights of the big city reflected on the ice at night…
#15 Attend concerts and Christmas Carol renditions at St Martin-in-the-Fields-Church
The ancient church of St Martin in the Fields sits at the corner of Trafalgar Square, just as it has done for the past three hundred years. This iconic church is built in the Neoclassical style, though there has been a church on site since Medieval times. Head to the church during the entire Christmas period for various concerts and Christmas carol renditions.
#16 Enjoy the lights around Carnaby Street
Tucked away in a little district between Regent’s Street and Oxford Circus, you’ll find the charming area of Carnaby Street and its surrounds. Here, there’s a whole array of quirky eateries and independent boutiques, and of course, plenty of dazzling Christmas lights! While in the area, be sure to pop into Neal’s Yard, what may well be the prettiest courtyard in the UK’s capital city!
#17 Step back in time at the Museum of London
Of all the Christmas things to do in London, stepping back in time at the Museum of London is easily one of my favourite festive activities. Visit the Museum and discover what the big city was like at Christmas during the Victorian era- it will definitely surprise you!
#18 Explore the Love Actually Filming Locations in London
If there’s one film my family and I make it our mission to watch each and every festive period, it’s Love Actually. Take yourself on a self-guided tour of all the filming locations for this movie to get in the festive mood (and perhaps to take a good ‘Instagrammable‘ photo or two!). Some of the best places to spot filming locations can be found around Notting Hill, a picture perfect neighbourhood filled with candy coloured houses and vintage cars.
#19 Go Ice Skating at Hampton Court
The magnificent former Royal Residence of Hampton Court is all decked out for Christmas on the interior. To the outside of the stunning building, you’ll find a wonderful ice skating rink, on which you can twirl, dance (and fall over) to your heart’s content!
#20 Escape the city and wander around Richmond-upon-Thames
Just outside of central London, you’ll find the charming town of Richmond-upon-Thames. Lying along the Thames river, this lovely little town is filled with cute pubs, small eateries and quirky historical architecture- perfect for a quick festive escape from the capital! While around Richmond Upon Thames, discover the rich history of the area, including learning all about the lost Palace of Richmond.
#21 Be amazed by the Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree
The tree in Trafalgar Square is of such great proportions, that it is famous the world over. Each year, the tree outside the National Gallery is donated to London by the people of Oslo in Norway. This has been the tradition since 1947 as a token of gratitude for what the British did for Norway during WWII. While you’re in Trafalgar Square, make sure to look out for the smallest police station in England!
#22 Enjoy some culture with a rendition of the Nutcracker at the Royal Opera House
Live music and festive cheer, enjoy Tchaikovsky’s magnificent score in a ballet that’s sure to take your breath away. After all, what could be more festive than following the story of a girl receiving an enchanted Christmas gift?
#23 Learn about Christmas at the Geffrye Museum
Learn all about festive traditions over the past 400 years in the British Home at the Geffrye Museum in Shoreditch. This free museum is well worth a visit and you may well learn something you didn’t know about before! While you’re in the area, be sure to check out AIDA coffee shop for some of the prettiest rose lattés in all of London!
#24 Go Christmas Shopping in London’s Prettiest Bookshop
London is filled with pretty bookstores and specialised bookshops. But perhaps the prettiest of them all is that of Daunt Books Flagship store in Marylebone. Head here to pick up some Christmas reading for all the family. Plus, the store specialises in travel books- bonus if you’ve got a globetrotting loving family! Other bookstores in the city worth visiting include Persphone Books (dedicated to interwar out-of-print books by women) and Word on the Water (London’s only floating ‘bookbarge’).
#25 Enjoy an Elizabethan Christmas at Hampton Court Palace
The former Royal Residence of Henry VIII is all decked out for Christmas– Edwardian style- throughout the festive season. Head to Hampton Court to enjoy drama, minstrels and all of the decorations that would have been used over four hundred years ago. Plus, you’ll learn all about the kind of trimmings that were used in a time before the Christmas tree…
#26 Go shopping and admire the festive decor at Covent Garden
‘Covent Garden’ is so named because of a spelling mistake to the word ‘convent’ a few centuries ago. Head here to see some of the best Christmas decorations the city has to offer, as well as to pick up some quirky Christmas shopping in some of the city’s prettiest boutiques.
#27 Enjoy Christmas produce at Borough Market
If you’re a foodie, then one of the best Christmas things to do in London is to head to Borough Market. Here, you’ll find festive goodies such as gingerbread men, Christmas puddings and all of the mulled wine. Plus, there are plenty of opportunities to please your photographic eye with thousands of Christmas lights donning the market ceilings and walls.
#28 Ice skate around the Tower of London
For those who wish to go ice skating in the heart of it all (close to the River Thames) and overlooking one of London’s most historic buildings, during the Christmas period it’s possible to go ice skating around the Tower of London. For six weeks, the magical outdoor arena is erected, making for a great afternoon out with friends.
#29 Sing some traditional carols at Royal Albert Hall
If singing is more your thing, then there’s no better place to head to than the Royal Albert Hall. Situated steps away from Hyde Park and not far from the Natural History Museum, this musical venue offers carol services throughout the winter period.
#30 Enjoy the Christmas Market at the Chelsea Physic Garden
Set against the backdrop of the world-famous Chelsea Physic Garden, one of the best Christmas activities in London is to head to the hundred plus chalet Christmas fair held there on an annual basis. Housing all manner of handcrafted goods, many things come complete with a unique botanical twist!
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