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10 things to do in London in January

If you want to enjoy London during its most wintry season and its attractions without so many tourists, January is the ideal month.

Ana Caballero

Ana Caballero

10 min read

10 things to do in London in January

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 await you during your next winter visit.

Whether 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 everything you can do in January in London.

1. New Year's Day Parade

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

Every January 1st, central London celebrates the arrival of the new year with an all-out parade that you can attend for free and enjoy the spectacle. Entertainers, bands, clowns and artists from all over the country come together to offer a cavalcade full of festivity.

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 up on the banks of the Thames near Big Ben. This important parade of Londoners takes place every New Year's Eve evening 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. Winter Lights at Canary Wharf

Lights in Canary Wharf| ©Matt Buck
Lights in 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 is 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 a secluded office area of the city, has now become one of the most modern districts of London and during the first days of the year a light show worth seeing is organized.

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 which is agreed every year, so keep an eye out and don't miss out on seeing this wonder.

Book a tea bus in London

3. Experience Burns Night in London

On Burns Night| ©Jessica Norah
On 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 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 and 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 a pub crawl in London

4. Visit the snowy Harry Potter sets

Harry Potter Studio Decorations| ©The Wizarding World Team
Harry Potter Studio Decorations| ©The Wizarding World Team

Since its release back in 2001, Harry Potter has become a phenomenon for millions of fans who have come to London in droves to walk around and see the sets of their favorite saga up close. The Harry Potter Studios is a place where you will have a great time like a little kid, as you can walk around 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, because 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 that you go the first weeks of January as there will not be so many tourists and you can enjoy Hogwarts in a much more personal way.

Book your ticket to Harry Potter Park

5. 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 London hosts a whole week of events during the last days of the month that are full of music, tradition, food and shows. The Chinese quarter of the city, during these days, offers you official dishes and, almost at the end of the week, a parade is held which is attended by thousands of curious onlookers.

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, upon arriving 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.

6. Ice skating

Ice skating at the Tower of London| ©Sento
Ice skating at 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 best ice rinks in the city:

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 websites of each rink.

7. 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 certainly 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 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.

8. 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 lovers: 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 at 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, at this fair, and if your pockets allow it, you can even buy a work that you have particularly liked.

9. Have fun with Pantless Day

People at the Pantless Day in London| ©Herry Lawford
People at the Pantless Day in London| ©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 a lot of people on the subway without pants. Don't worry, it's not a joke, it's Pants Off Day, a celebration that has been going on 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, just meet at the door of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square with the group organizing 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 that reach up to 75%. And not only will you be able to buy clothes and footwear, you will also find discounts on technology products, household items, books and all kinds of products. If you've been thinking about renewing your closet 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 Cold| ©Celine Ylmz
London Cold| ©Celine Ylmz

January is one of the coldest months of the year in London. With highs that do not usually rise above 9 degrees Celsius, the city experiences 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 with you.

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 multiple activities to do to enjoy the winter and the cold 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 some plans that can keep you warm and sheltered, 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 offers a wide range of the most dazzling shows in the city.

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 :::link|text=Sea Life London=pa-2238:::, 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 fish and shark species right in the heart of the city while you are sheltered 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 activities.

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

However, if you want to visit a more dynamic and modern museum, I recommend you to 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 the international celebrities.

Buy your ticket to the Madame Tussauds Museum

London is a city that never leaves you indifferent. Whatever the time of 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.