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Are you planning a trip to London for Christmas? We are here to help!

December is one of the best times of the year to visit the British capital. Of course, it can be quite cold but don’t let that discourage you as it truly is magical.

There are many things to do in London for Christmas. From the beautiful lights to the window displays and the numerous Christmas markets, we tell you everything you need to know about spending Christmas in London.

In this article, you will find a selection of amazing Christmas activities in London but also recommendations of things to pack, where to stay and how to make the best of your London Christmas trip.

Weather in London for Christmas

London Covent garden at christmas

Temperatures in London in December are actually quite mild. On average, they are between 5° and 9° (41F to 49F).

You should be prepared for some rain. Although December is not as wet as October, it’s still very common.

Snow is not common in December in London but it’s not unheard of either. As a general thing, don’t bet on it but if you are very lucky, you may get a few snowflakes!

What to pack for visiting London at Christmas

It’s important to pack well for a trip to London at Christmas.

It will be pretty cold and rainy and if you’re not dressed accordingly, it will make your stay quite unpleasant.

There is nothing worse than being cold or wet.

That having been said, there is no need to panic about it. There are shops absolutely everywhere in London so if you forget something, you can easily buy it.

Here are items you need to pack for London at Christmas:

  • Leather boots. You need to make sure you are packing comfortable, waterproof and warm shoes. For this reason, opting for flat leather boots (or ankle boots) will be perfect. Unlike other cities in Europe, like Paris or Rome, London doesn’t have many cobblestones, however, you will be walking a lot so keep it flat and comfortable.
  • A warm winter coat (with hood). Your most important piece of clothing will be your winter coat. You need to make sure it’s windproof and even waterproof if you can. It’s highly recommended to have one with a hood. As previously mentioned, it rains very often in London so a hood always comes in handy.
  • Layers and jumpers. Layers are important in the UK. Not only will they keep you warm but they also come in handy when the weather changes a lot. To stay warm, wear several layers and take them off as the weather evolves. Jumpers are particularly important. It will be cold and a good jumper will keep you warm. If you want to match the theme, you can also opt for a Christmas jumper. That having been said, Christmas jumpers are a big thing here in the UK so you may want to buy it in London.
  • Umbrella. Always carry an umbrella in London. Whether you are visiting in December or any other time, you can never get it wrong with an umbrella. Get one of these foldable umbrellas that you can keep in your bag for more praticity. This is also something you can buy in London as you’ll find them in every shop.

Where to stay in London at Christmas

Tower Bridge in London

Ultimately, the best areas in London stay the best areas all year round so there aren’t any major differences when it comes to where to stay in London.

That having been said, if you want to make the best of your stay, you should opt for accommodation near the Christmas lights or markets.

Accommodation in central London is more expensive and that’s why a lot of people choose to stay further from the centre, however, they often don’t realise how big London is and how much time they will have to spend on public transport.

To give you an idea, London is about 15 times bigger than Paris. This means you can easily spend up to 3 hours per day in the tube or buses if you don’t pick your location wisely.

If you opt for accommodation in zone 1, you may pay a tiny bit more but you won’t spend as much time on public transport and won’t have to pay as much for it either!

Here are some recommendations of places to stay in London for Christmas:

Best Things to do in London at Christmas

Now that you know everything you need to know about planning to London for Christmas, let’s talk about all the wonderful things you can do there!

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

Winter Wonderland in London

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland is the largest Christmas Market in London.

As the name may suggest, it’s located in Hyde Park which is one of the most famous parks in London. 

You can easily get there with the tube (station Hyde Park corner).

Over 2.5 million people visit Winter Wonderland each year so needless to say that it’s a popular one!

Winter Wonderland is open from mid-November to the beginning of January so it gives you plenty of time to explore.

The entrance is free but it’s always good to get there early to avoid the wait and crowds.

Inside, you will find literally everything Christmas. This includes food stands, a huge German village with bars and food, local crafts, rides…

Basically, it’s a Christmas paradise!

You can easily spend hours there!

PRO TIP: If you are visiting in the afternoon, leave before it gets dark so you can enjoy a beautiful sunset stroll in Hyde Park. 

There is a lake near the exit and the sunset is absolutely beautiful here.

Discovering the other Christmas markets in central London

Christmas markets in London

Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park may be the most famous Christmas market in London but it doesn’t mean it’s the only one!

You will find many other Christmas markets all around London and they can be a better option if you just want to stop by quickly.

Going to Winter Wonderland means you need to buy a ticket and you will definitely spend a lot of time there.

If you want something a bit more low key where you can simply grab delicious food and a good mulled wine, these will be perfect for you:

  • Leicester Square. This market is very central and since Leicester Square is on every London itinerary, you will pass by at some point.
  • South Bank. This one is pretty small however, it’s the first one to open and it’s a good place to stop by before or after going to the London Eye.
  • London Bridge. This market is located between London Bridge and Tower Bridge. It’s one of the best in terms of views since you get to see the iconic Tower Bridge as well as the dome of St Paul’s!
  • Tate Modern. Located in front of the Tate, by the Millennium Bridge, this is another iconic location. Here you will find a traditional German market.

Christmas lights Tour in a Black Cab

When it comes to Christmas Lights, London goes crazy! 

You will find them all around the city so it’s not exactly like you have to look for them however, there are a few places where they are particularly beautiful.

These spots are Regent Street, Oxford Circus, Carnaby Street and Covent Garden.

If you want to discover them all and take one of these iconic black taxis at the same time, you can opt for the Christmas Lights tour in a black cab.

The driver will bring you to the best stops and give you many tips!

It is not exactly a cheap activity however, you will pay for a group of up to 5 people and once split into 5, it’s not that bad.

The driver will also stop so you can take photos and will drop you off at Hyde Park so you can go to Winter Wonderland.

Also, it’s worth mentioning that you will be picked up from your hotel (or preferred location) which is particularly handy.

Ideally, that’s something you should do in the evening (or late afternoon) so you get to see the lights on!

Click here to see the latest prices.

Going to the Covent Garden’s Apple Market

Christmas Tree in Covent Garden in London

Covent Garden is a must-see in London but it’s true that it gets even better at Christmastime.

Each year in November, the Christmas decorations are put up and they are STUNNING!

Covent Garden is actually the name of the square. It’s very elegant and known for all the luxury stores.

You will find in the centre of the square a covered market. This is known as the Apple Market.

Although the name may suggest that fruit and vegetables are being sold here, this actually hasn’t been the case since the 70s. 

Here you’ll fancy and cute shops such as Chanel, l’Occitane or even the Moomin shop!

There are a lot of Christmas events taking place in Covent Garden at Christmas and you’ll find a beautiful giant Christmas tree as well as stunning and huge Christmas decorations inside the market.

Don’t forget to look up at the ceiling since there are always amazing things there!

Hogwarts in the Snow

harry potter platform 9 3/4 London

Calling all Harry Potter fans for this one! As you may already know, London is home to the Harry Potter Studios.

They are located in Watford, in North London, and are home to the exact set the Harry Potter crew used to film the movies. 

Well, this is one of the best places to visit in London at Christmas! Why, you ask? Because you get to discover Hogwarts in the snow!

Each year from mid-November to mid-January, the studios get extra festive and you can see the sets with all the Christmas decorations (like in the movies!).

This includes the Great Hall but also the Forbidden forest!

It’s such a magical and amazing thing to see!

HOW TO VISIT: You can book tickets directly on the Warner Bros Studios website however, it’s important to note that they sell out weeks if not months in advance!

If you can’t find anything on the website, you can also book a tour from central London. These tours have access to more last-minute tickets and they include transportation which means they work out about the same financially. 

Click here to see the latest prices.

READ MORE: The Ultimate Guide for visiting the Harry Potter Studios in London: tips, tricks & Review

Love Actually Film Locations Walking Tour

Love actually walking tour in London

While a lot of movies were filmed in London (Harry Potter, Bridget Jones, James Bond…), Love Actually is definitely the most famous Christmas movie about London out there.

It features 8 London couples and takes place at Christmas time. The actors starring in this movie are incredibly famous and that’s also one of the reasons why it’s so well known.

You get to see Liam Neeson, Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, Keira Knightley and even Alan Rickman.

If you love this movie, then you will be excited at the idea of discovering all the filming locations used.

You can easily do so by joining the Love Actually walking tour. You will meet your guide at Charing Cross station and go all around London to see the film locations.

Christmas is the best time of the year to do this tour since the Christmas decorations and lights are up so it really looks like the movie!

Please note that you will also discover other filming locations along the way including some from Last Christmas, the Netflix Christmas movie with Emilia Clarke.

Click here to see the latest prices.

Admiring the beautiful Christmas tree on ​​Trafalgar Square 

Trafalgar square christmas tree in London

Located between Charing Cross Station and Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square is one of the most famous spots in the city.

If you love seeing beautiful Christmas trees, this is where you should go!

Each year, at the beginning of December, the Christmas tree on Trafalgar Square is installed.

This tree is a gift from Norway and is about 20-feet tall. It’s basically the London version of the one at the Rockefeller Center in NYC.

If you are here at the beginning of December, you may also be able to see the lighting ceremony.

The tree is up until the beginning of January so that gives plenty of time to go check it out and take beautiful photos!

READ MORE: The Ultimate 1 Day in London Itinerary: exactly how to spend one day in London

Christmas walking tour of London

Christmas in London

If you want to discover the best Christmas sights in London with a local, you should consider booking a walking tour.

Here you will be with a local who will customise the tour to fit your wishes.

The guide will take you to the best Christmas spots so you can see the trees, lights and markets while learning more about the local culture.

You can also include some specific sights in the tour if you want to.

As the guide knows London like the back of his hand, s/he will show you loads of secret spots and hidden gems as well!

Click here to see the latest prices.

Outdoor Ice Skating

Ice Rink at the Natural History Museum in London

Ice skating is one of the best things to do in London in winter. 

When November comes around, loads of ice skating rinks start popping up around the city.

Not only are they a cool winter activity for kids (and adults) but they are also pretty festive.

You can find these ice rinks in various locations but the most famous (and prettiest) one is the Natural History Museum Ice Rink.

It’s located in South Kensington, right in front of the Natural History Museum.

It truly is beautiful and is open from October to January. This gives you plenty of time to go! You can book your slot here.

For the perfect day, head to the museum in the morning (you may need to book), then go ice skating and walk around the beautiful neighbourhood of Kensington.

Besides this one, you will also find ice rinks at Winter Wonderland, Canary Wharf, Somerset House, Hampton Court Palace, Queen’s House and Alexandra Palace.

Harrods Christmas Window Displays

Harrods at Christmas in London

Harrods is the most famous department store in London and it puts up absolutely stunning Christmas Window Displays each year.

It’s a bit like the Galleries Lafayette in Paris so I promise, it’s worth seeing!

Nothing is too much for Harrods so you can expect giant lights, trees and unique displays here!

Also, it’s worth walking around Harrods. Even if you don’t buy anything, it’s quite an experience to walk around the store.

London Christmas Lights Bike Tour

Christmas lights in London

Another way you can discover all the Christmas spots is by joining a Christmas Lights Bike tour.

Unlike the other ones mentioned, this one is done with a bicycle which is very good fun!

You will be cycling around London with your guide and discover spots such as Carnaby Street, Oxford Circus and of course, Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park.

This is definitely a super fun thing to do in London at Christmas. 

London is such a big city that a lot of people don’t dare to take a bike. If you don’t know where you are going, it can be a bit overwhelming.

Yet, it’s a great way to explore London since you can cover so much more ground!

By booking a tour, you can simply follow the guide and don’t have to worry about a thing!

Also, it’s a great way to discover little alleyways with illuminations only locals know about!

Click here to see the latest prices.

London Hop-on Hop-off Sightseeing Tour

If you are visiting London for the first time and want to discover all the famous landmarks, the hop-on hop-off bus is a great way to do so.

I know a lot of people would call it a tourist bus and say it’s pretty unadventurous.

Well, this is true but hear me out!

London is a big city and it’s very easy to waste a lot of time trying to make your way somewhere and on public transport. 

The hop on hop off bus is a great way to discover the city if you have a short amount of time. You will get to see all the main sights, listen to the tour guide who will give you loads of information and you can choose to get off the bus or not.

This is quite good during the winter months since you don’t have to go outside if you don’t want to and you get to warm up in the bus.

Also, it is one of the best things to do in London on Christmas day!

A lot of places are closed on the 25th and Londoners are with their loved ones. This means that the city is as empty as it gets and you can admire all the famous sights without having too many people.

If you are interested in taking the hop on hop off bus, you can simply book your ticket online.

It’s valid for 24 hours and you can take any bus. When you get off the bus to go visit, simply go back to the stop after and you can take the next bus.

Click here to see the latest prices.

Christmas Meal Cruise

If you want to do something a bit different and try a unique Christmas activity in London, you could opt for a Christmas meal cruise.

As you may know, there are quite a few cruises that go on the Thames in London. Some of them offer afternoon teas or dinners and when Christmas comes around, you can also get a Christmas lunch or dinner!

This is pretty cool especially if you are a couple looking for a romantic Christmas activity in London!

You can easily book your lunch or dinner here.

The cruise lasts about 4 hours and includes a 3-course menu.

It’s pretty magical to get to eat delicious and festive food while admiring all the London landmarks and listening to Christmas songs!

Click here to see the latest prices.

Christmas Shopping on Oxford Street

Oxford Street in London at Christmas

There are a lot of places where you can go for Christmas shopping in London but Oxford Street is definitely the famous one.

Firstly, the entire street is covered in beautiful Christmas lights so it will definitely put you in a festive mood.

Secondly, Oxford Street is home to all the main flagship stores which means that it’s the best place to get the bulk of your Christmas gifts.

Primark, H&M, Apple, The Body Shop… they are all here!

Also, you will find a few huge department stores such as Selfridges or John Lewis. They usually put on wonderful window displays for Christmas!

If you are looking for some local shops, Oxford Street won’t be the best place though. You will be better off going to Spitalfields Market or Portobello Road in Notting Hill.

Watching Christmas movie in one of the Winter Cinemas

This is a pretty unique thing to do in London for Christmas!

You will find a few winter cinemas in the city. They are basically super cosy outdoor cinemas with bean bags, cocktails and plenty more!

The best one is Backyard Cinema. It’s located in Wandsworth, near Clapham Junction.

Their winter night and snow gardens are fabulous! It’s so cosy and you can watch some of the latest movies or classic Christmas movies!

You can book your tickets online (and will get £5 off! here).

Afternoon Tea Bus Tour

Afternoon Teas are one of the most quintessential British ‘meals’ you can get.

If you are looking for a fun activity, this could just be it!

You will be having afternoon tea on board a vintage bus that will drive all around London. 

This is a very cool thing to do in London in winter.

Firstly, you’ll be inside so you’ll stay warm.

Secondly, you’ll eat delicious finger sandwiches, scones, cakes, pastries and a good cuppa.

Lastly, you’ll get to see the most famous sites in London and many Christmas lights!

The bus will take you to Big Ben, The Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, St James’s Park, Hyde Park, The Royal Albert Hall, Marble Arch, Trafalgar Square, Downing Street and more!

Click here to see the latest prices.

Alternatively, you can opt for this bus afternoon tea with a cream tea at Harrolds.

This one goes to the Tower of London and St Paul’s which means you’ll see fewer Christmas lights but you will end up at Harrods which is one of the best places to see in London at Christmas so it’s a great option as well.

Click here to see the prices.

Seeing a pantomime in London West End

Wondering what to do at Christmas in London in the evening? What about a traditional show?

With that many theatres in the city, it would be impossible not to mention all the Christmas shows that you can see in London.

Ultimately, going to see a musical, play or ballet is something that should be on your London Bucket List but it gets even better at Christmas.

Firstly, it’s a great way to escape the cold of winter since it’s indoors.

Secondly, the Christmas pantomimes in London are purely magical!

You’ll have loads of choices when it comes to Christmas shows in London. You can find all the shows available here. 

But if you are looking for some recommendations, here there are: 

Coppa Club’s Christmas igloo

Coppa Club is a small chain of restaurants here in London. You can find them in various places around the city but their most famous location is the one by Tower Bridge.

They are a European-style restaurant serving delicious food from breakfast to dinner.

The reason why they are mentioned in this article is that they put up super cute igloos on their terrace and you can eat in them while enjoying the views of Tower Bridge.

The Coppa Club’s Igloos are super cute and such an Instagrammable location!

Best of all? You don’t have to pay extra for them! You will pay the standard prices on the menu. The only thing you have to do is to book in advance.

That sounds easy enough but you really need to do it as early as possible since they can be booked out weeks in advance.

Please note that although Coppa Club looks like a very fancy place, prices are actually not bad at all for London!

Christmas Services at St Paul’s cathedral

St Pauls in London

Christmas is a Christian Holiday so obviously, all churches have many events on their advent calendar.

St Paul’s is the largest cathedral in London and there are a lot of services that take place at Christmas time.

Amongst the ones that are particularly worth checking out, there are:

  • Christmas Carol services on the 23rd and 24th of December
  • Midnight Eucharist on Christmas Eve
  • Christmas Day service on the 25th

Christmas at London Zoo

London zoo

Each year, London Zoo organises some amazing Christmas attractions and that’s definitely something you should check out.

London Zoo is located in Regent’s Park. You can easily get there on foot after taking a stroll in the park or along the Regent canal from Camden.

You will need to buy a Christmas ticket for the zoo. You can do so on the official website.

It will include various activities such as Meet with Santa, a Christmas family trail with loads of beautiful lights and a Sensory Sweet Shop.

If you were looking for things to do in London with kids at Christmas, this will be the perfect activity!

Christmas Lights Tour by Vintage Bus

London at christmas bus

We mentioned quite a few London Christmas tours in this article already but there is one last one that really needs to be on here.

It’s the Christmas Lights Tour by vintage bus.

Nothing screams London like a good old red double-decker! That’s exactly what you will get here except that instead of having the newer versions, you will be aboard a vintage bus.

Not only does it look amazing in photos but it’s also super cool to sit in and it has an open-top. It will make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time!

The tour is 1h15 long and you will go around the city to discover the most impressive lights. This includes Oxford Street and the window displays of Harrods.

Click here to see the latest prices.

Shopping on Boxing Day

Carnaby Street in London

Alright, we’ve been talking a lot about Christmas celebrations here but there is another important day on the calendar in December. It’s the 26th!

If you love shopping then Boxing Day is the best day of the year to bag yourself a bargain!

Most shops in the UK run huge sales on Boxing Day so they can get rid of as much stock as possible.

So if you were interested in getting some awesome items, head to Oxford Street, Regent Street, Carnaby Street, Westfield, Harrods and Camden.

You’ll find loads of shops in these areas and amazing discounts.

Christmas at Kew

Kew Gardens in London

The Kew Royal Botanical Gardens are one of the best places to visit in London (all year round) but they get even better at the end of the year.

Christmas at Kew is a festive event that takes place between mid-November and mid-January.

You will find a magical Christmas trail that includes a 12 Days of Christmas tree, the Christmas Cathedral and an illuminated night sky.

It truly is magical and a must-see for all Christmas lovers out there!

HOW TO VISIT: You will need to book your ticket well in advance. Christmas at Kew is a popular event and a lot of Londoners go there. Tickets can be bought here.

Now that you know the best Christmas activities in London, you are all set to start exploring and have fun in the British Capital!

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