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What to do in London at Christmas

Christmas is what lights up the world in winter, brings places to life with twinkling lights, and London is no exception to this Christmas magic!

Ana Caballero

Ana Caballero

8 min read

What to do in London at Christmas

London at Christmas | ©Jamie Davies

With a variety of festivals, ice rinks and traditional markets, you'll see that everything is in place for the Christmas spirit to shine and be appreciated from every corner of the city.

Want to know the best things to do in London at Christmas, look no further!

1. Ice skating at the Natural History Museum next to its imposing Christmas tree

Enjoying Ice Skating| ©Ungry Young Man
Enjoying Ice Skating| ©Ungry Young Man

There's no shortage of ice skating rinks in London, but the most beautiful place to pirouette at Christmas is at the Natural History Museum's ice rink.

Not to be outdone by the beautiful views of the historic building, you'll find a huge 30-foot-tall Christmas tree in the middle, with cafes serving hot chocolate and multiple Christmas cakes.

Plus, if you're not a fan of sliding back and forth on the ice, there's an observation deck that provides a view of everything going on around you. It's open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily through January.

  • Address: Cromwell Rd, South Kensington, London SW7 5BD

Book a guided tour of the Natural History Museum

2. Celebrate in Hyde Park at the Winter Wonderland Christmas Party

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland| ©TimeOut
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland| ©TimeOut

Since 2007, this classic Christmas event receives more than two million visitors a year. Not only is it one of the best parks in London, but it also offers one of the best Christmas activities. Don't know what to do in London at this time of year? Head to Hyde Park.

From mid-November to early January the park hosts festive markets, over 100 rides, a giant Ferris wheel, live shows including figure skating, a circus, live music, as well as numerous bars and restaurants. This means you can tailor your experience to suit your Christmas budget.

If you want a fun place to drink, try the Winter Wonderland bar, where everything is made of ice, including the chairs, tables and cocktail glasses.

And at Bavarian Hall, you can dance live until your heart' s content to the beats of DJs all day and night! Admission to the park is free.

  • Address: W2 2UH

Book a bike tour through the parks of London

3. Go for a coffee at Elan Café while you enjoy their Christmas design

Decoration of Elan Cafe in London| ©EL&N London UK
Decoration of Elan Cafe in London| ©EL&N London UK

The Elan Cafe in London is one of the most Christmas themed cafes in London. It has a very peculiar Christmas design, lights in every corner of the space and a very relaxing and pleasant music to listen to. Its wreaths of pink balls, its bright fern branches and its walls of pink flowers definitely make it one of the best places for Christmas atmosphere in London!

And if that wasn't enough, all the cafes overlook the stunning pink Christmas tree at St Pancras International Station.
This special "tree of hope" casts a magical pink glow over St Pancras. This is decorated with 1,200 meters of festive ribbon printed with quotes of love and hope from team members to celebrate the commitment, compassion and selflessness shown by its workers.

You can visit the station and enjoy Elan's menu options; mind you, their coffees are some of the most sought after in London, so don't forget to order your cup of coffee.

  • Address: St Pancras International, Unit 32-33, Euston Road St. Pancras Station, London N1C 4QP

Book a gastronomic tour of London

4. Stroll through kew gardens and say hello to Santa Claus and his elves

Strolling through Kew Garden in London| ©Jim Linwood
Strolling through Kew Garden in London| ©Jim Linwood

The Kew Gardens in London is one of the most impressive green spaces in the city. Located just 30 minutes from the center by public transport, this beautiful botanical garden contains among other things the Kew Palace and one of the most extensive botanical collections in the world, an unforgettable adventure for the whole family!

Best for the occasion, Kew Gardens offers an impressive array of light and sound displays to admire as you walk along the Christmas trail. Along this two-kilometer trail, you'll find about a million lights twinkling on tree branches and a glittering tunnel of bells.
There are mini donuts and marshmallows to munch on along the way, as well as pies, roasted chestnuts and hot chocolate.

Aside from the lights, there are also vintage fairground rides and, of course, Santa and his elves! Visit the website for prices and to book admission.

  • Address: Richmond TW9 3AF

Book tickets for Kew Gardens

5. Eat at 34 Mayfair

Dining at 34 Mayfair| ©Beaky
Dining at 34 Mayfair| ©Beaky

Home to one of the most spectacular Christmas installations ever seen, 34 Mayfair is one of the quirkiest places to eat in LondonSeriously, this is no exaggeration.

In the run up to Christmas, the restaurant has 14,000 decorations, including 8,400 glittering baubles covering every inch of the walls and ceilings!

The Christmas menu at this steak and grill restaurant includes Japanese Wagyu steak, white truffle, Italian pizzas and Peking duck with pancakes. They also do weekend brunches and private dinners. Also, if the art of food is something you appreciate, I recommend booking a food tour of the city of London.

  • Address: 34 Grosvenor Square, S Audley St, London W1K 2HD

Book a food tour in London

6. Explore the winter market at the Southbank Centre

At the Southbank Centre winter market| ©Pete Woodhead
At the Southbank Centre winter market| ©Pete Woodhead

As the days grow shorter and the outdoors turns frosty, the Southbank Centre Winter Market transforms into a seasonal wonderland of sorts, bringing some warmth to cold, wintry nights.

It's the place to go to find mulled wine, cinnamon treats and handmade gifts. Take a stroll through the market and check out the pretty view illuminated by fairy lights. Most of the stalls are open until 10 p.m., so there's plenty of time to grab a hot drink and a bite to eat after a long day.

  • Address: Belvedere Rd, London SE1 8XX

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7. Watch a Christmas movie at the Luna Drive-in Winter Cinema

At the Luna Drive-in Winter Cinema| ©The Luna Cinema
At the Luna Drive-in Winter Cinema| ©The Luna Cinema

There's nothing better for a winter night than watching a Christmas classic! So why not do it from your car?
This fair offers open-air cinema in various areas of England. The best thing is that the Christmas cinema related plans vary in location and features, so I recommend you visit the Luna Drivein website for more information. All the films shown at this time of year have a Christmas feel to them such as Home Alone, Love Actually, and other classics that are not to be missed.

8. Listen to Christmas carols in Trafalgar Square

Carols of Trafalgar Square| ©Kathleen Tyler Conklin
Carols of Trafalgar Square| ©Kathleen Tyler Conklin

Listen to Christmas songs across London with caroling in Trafalgar Square. Over forty carol groups sing for an hour during the run-up to Christmas to raise funds for charities, especially in December in London.

Be sure to bundle up and head to the impressive Christmas tree in the middle of the square for a look - it's the perfect place to hear the beautiful sound of Christmas! Each year a giant Christmas tree is gifted from the city of Oslo to London, a tradition in place since 1947 as a way to recognize England's courageous role during World War II.

The tree is usually around 25 meters (82 feet) tall and is dressed with hundreds of illuminated light bulbs. Don't miss it!
So why not grab a hot chocolate and snuggle like penguins around the tree while the carols play? There are often food and drink stalls dotted around the square.

  • Address: Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN

9. See a Christmas show

Inside the London Coliseum| ©Tom Page
Inside the London Coliseum| ©Tom Page

London in winter is known for its creative scene. Therefore, I believe that London's West End will not disappoint! Some common and annual favorite programs held at the London Coliseum include:

  • A Christmas Carol: The story of Ebenezer Scrooge 's life from the past, present and future.
  • The Nutcracker: Tells the story of a little girl who received an enchanted nutcracker as a gift).
  • The Snowman: A story of a snowman come to life.

Regardless of whether you go to London in one day or visit London for seven days, if you pass through the West End, you are very likely to see a Christmas show among the musicals you can see in London.

West End pantomimes

That said, you can't miss a Christmas panto in London either! Pantomimes have a long theatrical history in Western culture dating back to the Comedy of the 16th century. It is said to have been developed by John Rich, known as the "father of pantomime", because he was the first to realize the potential of the characters of the Comedy.

Today pantomimes are based on popular fairy tales or folk legends such as Cinderella, Aladdin and Snow White.

Buy tickets for London musicals

10. Take a stroll through London's most Christmas-themed streets

Strolling along Oxford Street| ©Cristiano Betta
Strolling along Oxford Street| ©Cristiano Betta

With an impressive array of light displays, London arguably has some of the best installations Britain has to offer this festive season. From London' s finest landmarks to London's most secret spots, everything looks Christmas style.

One of the best things to do in London at Christmas is to simply gawk at the Christmas lights that permeate the high streets!

Oxford Street

One of the best streets to find stunning bursts of glitter. For many Londoners, these are the most famous lights in London. This long street showcases over 1700 installations to view, not to mention it's a great place to do some Christmas shopping.

Regent Street

Another street to visit is Regent Street. It hosts a star-studded lighting event every Christmas. The street is traffic-free at night and nearby stores also hold interesting events, so it's worth keeping an eye out for details on this famous street.

Bond Street

Bond Street, London's upscale shopping district, is also known for its legendary peacock-inspired Christmas lights. You may be wondering why they chose a peacock theme?

Well, these twinkling lights are inspired by Bond Street's vibrant past. In the late 18th century young men would visit the area in overly flamboyant attire. They soon became the first models or "peacocks" of their time, and to then end up inspiring the beautiful peacock lights we see on Christmas days Interesting, isn't it?

The extravagant designer store windows are also worth a look! It is estimated that there are more than 250,000 individual lights connected to each other.

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