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London in January: a handy guide to discovering the city

London is a city worth seeing at any time of the year. But if you want to see it during its most wintry season and enjoy the attractions it offers without so many tourists, January is the ideal month to come to the British capital.

Ana Caballero

Ana Caballero

10 min read

London in January: a handy guide to discovering the city

Tower Bridge, London | ©Robert Bye

London starts the year in style and there are many activities that we can find during the month of January to get to know the city. Parades to celebrate the new year, winter lights, ice skating rinks and many more things to see and do in London awaits you during your next winter visit.

Either because you want to take advantage of the sales in this avant-garde city or because you want to see the Harry Potter sets completely snowed in. Here is a list of all the things to do in London in January.

1. New Year's Day Parade

New Year's Parade| ©Garry Knight
New Year's Parade| ©Garry Knight

Every January 1st, central London celebrates the arrival of the new year with an all-out parade that is free to attend and enjoy the spectacle. Entertainers, bands, clowns and performers from all over the country come together to put on a festive parade.

With a route of approximately two and a half kilometers, the parade begins each year in the center of the city, Piccadilly Street, and ends at the banks of the Thames near Big Ben. This important parade of Londoners takes place every New Year's Eve and is a great event for both adults and children so, if you are traveling with more people, I recommend arriving early to have a good place to see it all.

Book a private tour of London

2. Ice skating

Ice skating in the Tower of London| ©Sento
Ice skating in the Tower of London| ©Sento

During the month of January, temperatures get very low in London but, if you have wanted to visit the city at this time and you enjoy the cold and winter, there is no better plan for these days than to wrap up warm and go to enjoy a good time on skates in some of the many ice rinks that are around the city.

Some of the most important ones that are put every year are:

All of them usually start to be operational a few weeks before Christmas in London, but I recommend you to go during your stay in January because, by this time, there will not be so many people and you can be much quieter and enjoy a practically empty ice rink.

To gain access, you can buy your ticket as soon as you arrive, but you risk not finding a place for that day, so I recommend you to book in advance online at the official pages of each rink.

Book a bike tour of the best parks in London

3. Winter lights at Canary Wharf

Lights at Canary Wharf| ©Matt Buck
Lights at Canary Wharf| ©Matt Buck

In winter, especially at the end of January, the days are very short and it usually gets dark very early in London. That's why for years, an incredible light show has been organized in one of the most futuristic areas of the city; Canary Wharf.

What was once an office area away from the city, has now become one of the most modern districts of London and during the first days of the year is organized a light show worth seeing.

With more than 20 installations, this event aims not only to decorate the neighborhood and give it a winter look, but also to expose real works of art made with light that play with your senses. The event has a completely free admission and is usually active for a whole week that is agreed every year, so be attentive and do not miss this wonder.

Book a tea bus in London

4. Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year Parade| ©Kel, eh?
Chinese New Year Parade| ©Kel, eh?

January is not only the month that welcomes the Western New Year, but it also welcomes the Chinese New Year and in London there is a whole week of events during the last days of the month that are full of music, tradition, food and shows. The city's Chinatown, during these days, offers you official dishes and, almost at the end of the week, a parade is held and attended by thousands of curious people.

Just strolling through Chinatown and observing the festive atmosphere is something interesting to witness, but the highlight is undoubtedly the Chinese New Year Parade, a parade that starts at Charing Cross Road and in which all those present are invited to welcome the Chinese New Year with a show that includes dragon dancing, traditional costumes, colorful floats and, at the end, music and taekwondo shows.

Biggest Chinese New Year outside Asia

Don't be surprised if, when you arrive in Chinatown out of curiosity, you find the streets crowded with people. London has one of the largest Chinese communities in Europe and during these days of January up to 700,000 people gather in the city to welcome the Chinese New Year, making it one of the largest festivities outside Asia.

5. LSFF January Short Film Festival

At the London Short Film Festival| ©whatson
At the London Short Film Festival| ©whatson

London is one of the most cultural cities in Europe and, if you are a film enthusiast, January can undoubtedly be one of your favorite months in the capital as the annual English short film festival takes place. For 19 years now, for 10 days in January, the English film festival has been held to reward the best short films that have been made.

The LSFF (London Short Film Festival) platform organizes several authorized cinemas throughout London that, during these days, screen short films of all kinds of genres. If you are interested in living this alternative experience, you just have to book online on the official website the films in each category and let yourself be carried away by the newest cinema in the city.

6. Experience Burns Night in London

At Burns Night| ©Jessica Norah
At Burns Night| ©Jessica Norah

England and Scotland have always had a very close and close culture and that is why both countries live every January 25th a night full of celebration and celebration to remember the important writer Robert Burns. So much is the fanaticism that has developed over the years, that in London this day has become one of the most anticipated of the month of January.

The most famous and traditional pubs and restaurants in the center, offer special menus and whiskey tastings during that day to celebrate the work of the writer becoming a bohemian festival full of the essence of the United Kingdom. If you are interested in knowing more about this experience, I recommend that you take a look at the most famous pubs in London and that night you go to the one you liked the most to toast, taste and celebrate in style, Cheers!

Book your tour of the best pubs in London

7. London Art Fair

At the Business Design Centre| ©ownart
At the Business Design Centre| ©ownart

Although London is full of great museums that are a must-see at any time of the year, there is one fair that takes place during the month of January and attracts thousands of contemporary art enthusiasts; the London Art Fair. If you like to keep abreast of new artistic trends and rub shoulders with the avant-garde, this fair is ideal for you.

The fair is usually organized in the Business Design Centre and each year has more than 100 galleries with the most cutting-edge artists from up to 14 international countries. Just walking around and seeing art in its purest form is an experience you will enjoy if you like to visit museums but, in addition, in this fair, and if your pockets allow it, you can even buy a work that you have especially liked.

8. Visit the snowy Harry Potter sets

Decorations from Harry Potter Studios| ©The Wizarding World Team
Decorations from Harry Potter Studios| ©The Wizarding World Team

Since its premiere back in 2001, Harry Potter has become a phenomenon for millions of fans who have wanted to come to London in large part to be able to walk around and see the sets of their favorite saga up close. Harry Potter Studios is a place where you will have a great time like a little boy, as you can walk through the sets of the School of Magic as if you were a student and discover all its curiosities.

However, visiting this place in January has an extra incentive, since, during the winter months, Warner Bros. studios completely change the sets and even dye the whole set white with the same artificial snow they used for the movies.

Although this winter show usually starts to be seen at the end of November, I recommend you to go during the first weeks of January since there will not be so many tourists and you will be able to enjoy Hogwarts in a much more personal way.

Book your ticket to see the Harry Potter Park

9. Have fun with Pants Off Day

People on London's No Pants Day| ©Herry Lawford
People on London's No Pants Day| ©Herry Lawford

You may find it the most surreal thing in the world, but in London there is a day in January when you can find many people on the subway without pants. Don't worry, it's not a joke, it's Pants Off Day, a celebration that has been held since 2002 on the second or third Sunday of January and consists of taking the subway in your underwear.

The origin of this strange tradition arose in New York and was intended to put a sympathetic face to the annoying "January slope". Today, it is an organized event.

If you are in London in January and want to participate, you just have to meet at the door of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square with the group that organizes the event and take the train together without pants and with a serious and normal attitude. After a few stops, you will arrive in the Soho area where you can continue the party in one of the locals.

10. January sales

Taking advantage of the sales| ©Anastasia Shuraeva
Taking advantage of the sales| ©Anastasia Shuraeva

London has been for years one of the European capitals where fashion has been more modern and avant-garde. Big brands have wanted to start their collections in the British capital with daring and innovative clothes. If you are in the city during the month of January and you are passionate about fashion, you have a great advantage for your pocket with the arrival of the sales.

Throughout the month, the big stores in the city center have incredible discounts of up to 75%. And you can not only get clothes and shoes, you also have discounts on technology products, household items, books and all kinds of products. If you have been thinking about renewing your closet for some time and you have time in January, I recommend you take a trip to the capital to take advantage of these bargains.

London temperatures in January

London Frio| ©Celine Ylmz
London Frio| ©Celine Ylmz

January is one of the coldest months of the year in London. With maximum temperatures that do not usually rise above 9 degrees, the city lives weeks characterized by very short days and very low temperatures. In addition, as usual throughout the country, the rains are usually the order of the day, so it is always advisable to carry an umbrella.

However, if you are well wrapped up and prepared for the low temperatures, January is a perfect month to visit the city because you can enjoy London in low season without so many tourists and with less crowded activities.

Alternative plans to protect yourself from the cold in London

Shark at the Sea Life Aquarium| ©Domenico Convertini
Shark at the Sea Life Aquarium| ©Domenico Convertini

London in winter has many activities to do to enjoy the winter and the cold weather such as ice skating, seeing the winter lights or enjoying outdoor festivities. However, if you are uncomfortable with the cold temperatures when you arrive and want to have plans that can keep you warm and covered, here are some of the most popular activities:

Enjoy the musicals

London is one of the best known cities in the world for its important West-End musicals. Each year it offers an extensive line-up of the city's most dazzling shows.

If you want to have a great time and live the full experience of the most showbiz London, I recommend you to book your ticket for some of the most famous plays such as Mamma Mia or Mary Poppins.

Buy tickets for London musicals

Visit the London Aquarium

If you want to live an experience surrounded by nature and marine wildlife and be well sheltered from the rain or cold, one of the most popular plans is to visit the famous Sea Life London, the London Aquarium. With a price around 30 pounds, this plan is great to do with children.

You can walk through the underwater tunnels and see all kinds of species of fish and sharks in the heart of the city while you take shelter from the cold.

Book tickets for the London Aquarium

Visit the main museums

One of the mandatory plans to do in London, whatever the date is, is to visit its many museums. But, if you also want to escape from the cold, it will become one of your favorite panoramas. In London you will find all kinds of museums adapted to your tastes.

On the one hand, you can find the British Museum, one of the most important museums in the world that covers all kinds of relics and history of civilization. On the other hand, you can visit the Natural History Museum, with a huge collection of fossils and specimens of nature.

However, if you want to visit a more dynamic and modern museum, I recommend that you spend an afternoon visiting the famous Madame Tussauds wax museum, considered one of the best wax museums in the world, where you can find the doubles of all international celebrities.

Buy your ticket to Madame Tussauds museum

London is a city that never leaves you indifferent. Whatever the time of the year, it is full of sights and activities to do. However, if you have chosen January as the month to visit the British capital, you will be able to enjoy both the basic and interesting activities of the whole year, as well as specific panoramas of the month that brings together tradition, festivity, winter landscapes and a lot of culture.

Do not hesitate and soak up the British culture without so much tourism and with the city all to yourself.