Christmas in London 2023| The Best Festive Things to Do

Christmas is a magical time of year no matter where you are in the world. But London tends to have a little more up its sleeve during the festive season.

If you’re going to London for Christmas, you’re in for a treat (and this is not because it’s my home city). The twinkling Christmas lights, adorable decorations, and festive events make it one of the best places to be during this time of year.

what to do in london UK this christmas

Your festive season is bound to be magical if you’re one for meandering traditional Christmas markets, sipping on mulled wine, and heading to Winter Wonderland to glide along the ice.

Christmas Lights in London

And let’s not forget the many London landmarks that should be visited while you’re there.

Grab your finest winter coat and a steaming hot cup of cocoa, these are the activities you should get up to for a very merry Christmas season and are the top things to do during Christmas in London.

What to Expect From London Christmas Time

When you picture Christmas in London, England, you’re more than likely picturing snow falling lightly on the ground as you step into a winter wonderland-like atmosphere.

christmas things to do in london

But that isn’t always the case, as London only has a white Christmas roughly every six years. If you’d like to see a snowy London, staying until January or February will likely afford you this opportunity.

Around this time of year, you can expect temperatures of about 6 – 7 °C (mid-40s °F) during the day, and at night temperatures dip to between 1 – 2 °C (30 °F).

These are the standard weather conditions that you can more than likely expect, however that doesn’t mean there won’t be the odd sunny days in between.

The coldest temperatures ever recorded in London over Christmas time was -12 °C (10 °F), if this were to happen, you’d be in for a snowy time in this beautiful city.

christmas things to do london

Whether or not you get a white Christmas, it’s a whimsical time of year in The Old Smoke. There are numerous events that take place on the days leading up to Christmas, and traditional markets running all December long.

You’ll even find wonderful festive things to do in London in December, so if you’re travelling with kids, they’ll stay well entertained.

If you’re looking for a Christmas you won’t soon forget, London is the perfect place to spend the festive season.


Best Things to Do in London at Christmas Time

Things to do in London at Christmas come in all shapes and sizes, fit for all kinds of tastes. Whether you’re looking to do some Christmas shopping in London, do a fun activity like ice skating in London, seeing the Christmas light displays, visiting some Christmas markets or a leisurely sightseeing tour.

There’s something on this list of things to do at Christmas in London, that will tickle your fancy and entice you into booking your flights to London for the joyous period.

When To See the Lights in London

1. Admire Beautiful London Christmas Lights & Decorations

During the Christmas in London, it would be a crime to miss out on venturing to some of the best places to see Christmas lights in London.

Piccadilly Christmas Lights

Absorb the Christmas atmosphere while lights twinkle around you. If you’re wondering where to go, the most famous streets in the city are a good place to start.

Here are some of the top Christmas lights displays to see at Christmas in London:

  • Oxford Street
  • Regent Street
  • Carnaby Street
  • Bond Street
  • Covent Garden
  • Fortnum & Mason

But if you’d prefer to have someone show you around, then taking a black cab Christmas lights tour affords you the opportunity of taking in the sights of the city from the passenger’s seat.

Cartier Christmas Lights

The tour guide will know all the best places to go to see wonderful Christmas illuminations, and your tour will end at the magical Winter Wonderland for a little extra festive cheer.


2. Ice Skating at Somerset House

Skating at Somerset House is a 20-year-old tradition for the locals of London. It’s by far one of the most beautiful of the ice skating rinks and experiences you can have in the city.

With the ice rink backed by intricate Georgian architecture and atmospheric lighting, you’ll feel like you’re gliding across the ice in Christmas heaven.

Somerset House is one of the more popular skating locations in London, so be sure to book your slot on the ice in advance. This is particularly important as Christmas Day draws near, and the city becomes abuzz with festive activities.

If you’re travelling with kids, there is a newbies rink where pint-sized skaters can go ice skating and can learn to gracefully glide across the ice. There are coaches on hand if your little one is having trouble finding their polar feet.

When you come off the ice you can indulge in comforting treats, fitting for the time of year. Head to Fortnum & Mason’s skate lodge for a decadent hot chocolate. Or cross the Waterloo with views of the River Thames to visit Southbank Centre Christmas market.

Or for something a little more jolly, try Bailey’s chocolate reindeer cocktails at Baileys Treat Bar. If you’d like to treat yourself with a little shopping while you’re there, Fortnums sets up a wonderful on-site festive shopping experience.

Here are some of the top ice skating rinks to visit at Christmas in London:

  • Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
  • Canary Wharf Ice Ring
  • London Eye Eyeskate Ring
  • Hampton Court Palace Ice Ring
  • The Queen’s House in Greenwich

3. Ice Skate at the Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum is another beautiful place to lace up your skates and hit the ice. Skaters glide around the rink, with a huge and beautifully decorated tree in the middle.

Skate at the Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum itself makes a beautiful backdrop to the festive setting.

This is one of the best ice rinks if you’re going skating in this wonderful location, you might as well make a day of it and spend some time wandering through the Natural History Museum itself. This way, you can have a cheerful and educational experience all in one.

4. Visit Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

Hyde Park has been home to the best Winter Wonderland in the city for many years. The Hyde Park Lake freezes over during this time of year, creating the biggest natural ice rink in the city. The park is free to enter but you’ll have to pay for the various Christmas activities in London.

Winter Wonderland Christmas scaled

If you’re not ready to lace up your ice skates and glide across the frozen lake with the locals, then meander around the park as there’s plenty to see.

The entire area is decorated with festive lights, and a giant Christmas tree acts as a centerpiece to the ice rink.

There are different theatre productions and comedy shows taking place throughout Hyde Park at this time of year, so be sure to stop by and show the local thespians your support.

Winter Wonderland Christmas Lights

5. See the Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree

Some traditions are worth being a part of and seeing the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree is one of them. Every year, Norway gifts London with a Christmas tree to decorate their famed Trafalgar Square.

This tradition has been going on since 1947, and it’s showing no sign of stopping anytime soon.

The giant real Christmas tree punctuates the aesthetic square, and with minimalistic decorations, it’s a sight not to be missed.

If you don’t want to venture to Trafalgar Square all by yourself, it’s just one of the stops along a beautiful Christmas walking tour of London. If you choose this option, you’ll get your guides’ local knowledge of the area along with absorbing the magical Christmas atmosphere with your tour group.

Other Christmas trees to see in London are the Coven Garden Christmas tree and Kings Cross tree.


6. Explore a Christmas Markets in London

Christmas Light Decorators in London

Throughout the year, there are numerous food markets in London. But during the festive season, the markets are taken up a notch to increase the Christmassy atmosphere of the city.

London Bridge hosts a Christmas market called Christmas by the River. Here you can indulge in all the Christmas food like mulled wine, mince pie and beer.

Here are some of the best London Christmas Markets to visit:

  • Southbank Centre Winter Market
  • Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
  • Christmas by The River at London Bridge
  • Covent Garden Market
  • Leicester Square
  • Borough Market
  • Selfridge Christmas Market

The wonderful aromas that drift through this market will have your mouth watering for Christmas’ to come with the food and drink on offer.

If you want to be a little more environmentally conscious this year, then minimising your waste at the Zero Waste Christmas Market in Shoreditch will be right up your alley.

South Bank Christmas Lights

All the products sold at this market are environmentally conscious to make sure we can celebrate this wonderful time of year for many decades to come.

If you’re really looking to get into the festive spirit, then Christmas in Leicester Square is another great market to add to your list.

Enjoy a journey through ‘Santas’ Grotto’ to see father Christmas or watch one of the many puppets shows that take place within the market. This is a great option if you have kids as there’s no shortage of entertainment for the little ones.


7. Top Things to do at Christmas in London – Visit Christmas Displays in London

If there’s one thing that gets people in the mood for Christmas, it’s seeing beautiful Christmas displays set up in storefronts all over the city.

While in many places around the world, these displays are simply a nice-to-have, London takes their shop windows to a whole new level.

Spend a day waltzing around town, locating the best displays in the city. If you need a few pointers for where to start, these are a few of the shops that spend extravagant amounts on their Christmas displays every year.

Annabels Mayfair
  • Annabels – Annabels is a favourite amongst aristocrats, celebrities and even royalty. It’s not hard to fathom why they like to put on a beautiful display over the Christmas season. No expense is spared. One year they created a Nutcracker scene with three giant Nutcracker figurines complete with ballerinas in the windows. There’s never a year in which Annabels disappoints with its Christmas displays, so this would be a great place to start your tour of London’s best-decorated shopfronts.
  • The Ivy Chelsea Garden – If you are ready to see over-the-top glitzy Christmas decorations, then The Ivy Chelsea Garden is the place to go. Think ‘Whoville’ from How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The shop often goes for a gingerbread house-themed Christmas concept, which never fails to impress. Covered from chimney to doormat in Christmas baubles, this is a display you won’t soon forget.
  • Harrods – Harrods is another London store that goes all out with their Christmas displays. Their windows have been known to be adorned with moving puppets and some years even live performers. One year, they even lifted the floorboards and moved them up a few inches. This allowed passersby to witness puppet mice preparing for their Christmas festivities.
  • Selfridges – Selfridges not only dedicates its storefront window to Christmas but the entire shop itself is decked out to the nines with incredible decorations and displays. Since 1909, Selfridges has been the one place that continued to impress, year after year, with its seemingly endless festive displays. You’ll have to spend some time exploring the shop to find all of their hidden festive treasures. A simple peer in the window won’t afford you half of the fun to be had in store.
  • Fortnum and Mason – Fortnum and Mason is not only known for the beautiful Christmas decorations that they sell over the holidays, but for their whimsical festive displays too. Their displays seem to have an old-timey feel, making for a nostalgic sight. There’s not much more you could ask for in a Christmas display.
  • Burlington Arcade – Burlington Arcade is one of the prettiest arcades in London any time of year. But during the Christmas season, the halls are decked out with mistletoe and baubles as well as twinkling lights, making it even more beautiful to look at. Take a stroll through the arcade, popping your head into all of your favourite shops along the way.
  • Covent Gardens – Covent Garden is one of the areas you simply can’t miss during the festive season. Although the decorations don’t change much from year to year, they always ignite festive feelings. From the giant Christmas tree to the mistletoe hanging throughout the market. All the little cosy touches make Covent Gardens a great place to be in December. Pop into the many shops in the area, or sit back at a pub with a pint, watching the Christmas buzz on the streets.

8. Christmas Shopping at Some of the Best Locations in London

activities london christmas

Spending is second nature to most during Christmas time. It’s a time for giving, and shopping for gifts is a part of the wonderful experience.

Luckily, London has some of the best shopping locations in the world, so you’ll be absolutely spoilt for choice. Shopping is one of the top London Christmas activities to do.

Oxford Street Christmas Lights

You can take your pick from shopping at department stores to visiting the local pop-up Christmas markets.

Here are some of the best places for Christmas shopping in London:

  • Harrods
  • Fortnum & Mason
  • Selfridges
  • Harvey Nichols
  • Liberty London

With each store being decorated to the nines, this festive buzz is something you’ll experience in few other places outside of Europe.

Winter Wonderland Christmas

9. Watch a Christmas Movie at an Outdoor Cinema

While watching a Christmas film may sound like something you can easily do at home, doing it at an outdoor cinema creates the festive atmosphere that you’ll be craving at this time of year.

Backyard Cinema’s Secret Snow Kingdom is a great place to watch festive movies in the run-up to Christmas.

Every day they screen a different Christmas movie, so you can take your pick and watch an old classic or spice it up with something new. It’s a Wonderful Life, Elf, and Love Actually are some of the favourites that are almost guaranteed to be screened each and every year.

Watch The Regent Street Christmas Lights Switch On

Regent Street is often called “The Spirit of Christmas”, and it’s not hard to see why. The entire street becomes lit up by twinkling Christmas lights during the holiday season. And the street is overflowing with joyful cheer.

Regent Street Christmas Lights

The area is also one of the best Christmas shopping streets in the city. So, it’s well worth spending an evening meandering through stores picking out the perfect gifts for your loved ones.

The annual Regent Street Christmas Light Switch On has become one of the not-to-be-missed events of the season.

Regent Street gets cut off from traffic so that pedestrians can congregate in the street and watch the dazzling lights turn on for the first time that season.

This generally takes place in mid-November and is a great time to get some Christmas shopping done as the street is lined with nothing but foot traffic.

Regent Street Christmas Lights London

10. Visit the Warner Bros Studio

You might be wondering why this should be considered a Christmas activity. Well, that would be because the Warner Bros Studio puts on quite a display over the holiday season.

Their model of Hogwarts from the Harry Potter movies is made into a winter wonderland covered in snow.

Tours of the studio run all year round, but there’s a touch of added magic during the holiday season. If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you’re in for a treat as your knowledgeable guide will give you the back story about things that took place behind the scenes during the shooting of the movies.


London Regents Street Lights

 11. Explore the Charles Dickens Museum

At Christmas time, the Charles Dickens Museum always goes the extra mile to deck its halls and get visitors involved in the festive spirit.

Their Christmas-themed exhibition is not only wonderful for Dickens book lovers but Christmas enthusiasts of all kinds.

The exhibit showcases the authors’ impact on the commercialisation of Christmas, and in turn how this turned Dickens into somewhat of a Scrooge.

You’ll be able to look back into the history of Christmas and how traditions have changed over the years. As well as seeing the influential hand of Dickens in what Christmas has become in today’s age.

burlington arcade London

12. Visit the Postal Museum

It seems there isn’t a corner of the city that isn’t covered in festive cheer at this magical time of year. Even underground, there are festive celebrations taking place.

Mail Rail, located in the Clerkenwell underground, gets a festive makeover each year and showcases Christmas’ gone past. These images and videos are projected onto the tunnel walls.

Expect to see pictures of the elaborate decorations from years gone by, and even videos of historical events like the first King’s Speech on BBC. If you’d like to journey back in Christmas history, this is just the place to do it.

13. Warm Your Heart with Christmas Dessert

Christmas Dessert

Warm your heart and line your belly with some of the best desserts in London. After all, if you’re going to over-indulge, Christmas seems like the perfect time to do it.

Every Christmas market in the city is selling mouth-watering treats that will make you wish it was Christmas all year round.

But it’s not just the markets that sell delectable desserts at this time of year. Each bakery and cakery ups their game for the Christmas season, with every pastry and dessert brimming with festive flavours.

Pop into the nearest cafe or coffee shop to sample some of their delicious seasonal goods.


14. Watch a Pantomime or Theatre Show

December is the perfect time of year to watch a theatre show because there is more to offer this time of year than any other.

London at Christmas

It’s also prime time for local theatre productions to recreate good old Christmas classics. You’ll find productions of The Nutcracker, Scrooge, Sleeping Beauty and even shows like Paddington on Ice (perfect for the little ones).

Although the shows on offer are different every year, they all carry the same festive theme. You’ll need to keep your eyes peeled ahead of time and book your tickets in advance.

These are some of the best theatres in London to catch a show during the festive season:

  • Royal Opera House
  • Young Vic
  • Shakespeare’s Globe
  • Saddler’s Wells
  • Barbican
  • National Theatre
  • London Coliseum
  • The Old Vic
  • Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
  • Unicorn Theatre

Special Christmas Events in London

London Christmas events are a highlight on every local’s calendar, so if you’re travelling to the city over the holiday season, you’re in for a real treat. Here are some of the best Christmas celebrations in London events to attend.

things to do in london at christmas

15. Christmas at Kew

Christmas at Kew Gardens is a wonderful time of the year to discover the botanical world filled with magical winter trail lights. The annual after-dark festivities are not to be missed, as you’ll sparkle tunnels of light, dancing lakeside reflections, and trees drenched in jewel-like colour. Kew Gardens is a truly magical experience for all ages.

Christmas at Kew is the perfect opportunity to get into the holiday spirit and explore one of the most beautiful gardens in the world.

16. Covent Gardens’ Great Christmas Pudding Race

The Cancer Research Aid Committee (CRAC) organises the Great Christmas Pudding Race in Covent Garden each year to raise funds for cancer research in the UK.

Apart from being a wonderful cause to support, the race offers a good deal of entertainment and many laughs along the way.

Covent Gardens Great Christmas

Teams come together on the 7th of December every year to take part in the famed event. They dress up to the tee in festive gear and take part in the challenge of running their pudding around an obstacle course.

The winner is the participant that makes it to the end of the course first, with their pudding still fully intact.

If you’re looking for a healthy dose of fun, this is one of the must-attend events of the holiday season.

17. Sing-Along at a Christmas Carol Concert

There are many carolling events in the countdown to Christmas in the capital city. Many of these events are held to support a charity.

things to do in london christmas

So not only do you get to sing along to your favourite Christmas tunes, but you also get to feel good about it, knowing you’re supporting a great cause.

The carolling events are held throughout December at different venues, but some of the best take place at Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s Cathedral.

If you don’t enjoy singing along, then listen to the angelic voices of those in the choir to lift your spirits.

17. Explore Movies Sets at Friends Festive London

Calling all Friends fans! Friends Festive London is a celebration of all things to do with the famed sitcom Friends.

Christmas Displays in London

But of course, being Christmas time, it has to take on a festive theme. The event takes place in London every year between the end of November and mid-December and is a must-visit for all Friends fans.

So, what exactly can you do at Friends Festive London? You can watch re-runs of all the Christmas episodes of Friends.

Visit the Armadillo’s Grotto, see recreations of the original sets, and reenact some of the most famous scenes on set. You can also purchase show merch to feel like you’re a part of the original Friends gang.

18. Partake in a Historical Pub Crawl

Although this activity can be done any time of year, it’s by far the most festive during December. Everyone is in good spirits about Christmas drawing nearer as the holidays put a spring in the step of the locals in London.

pub crawl tour will take you to some of the most historical pubs and alehouses located in the city. You’ll hear about their long history and the interesting people that frequented each watering hole.

You’ll even get to follow in the steps of famed locals like Charles Dickens, among many others.

While you stroll the city streets, you’ll get a chance to soak in the festive atmosphere and enjoy the elaborate decorations and lighting.

This is an aesthetic that can only be appreciated this time of year. If you’re ready to get a little jolly and have a few pints with both travellers and locals, this tour is a great option.


19. Watch a Pantomime or Theatre Show

December is the perfect time of year to watch a theatre show because there is more to offer this time of year than any other.

It’s also prime time for local theatre productions to recreate good old Christmas classics. You’ll find productions of The Nutcracker, Scrooge, Sleeping Beauty and even shows like Paddington on Ice (perfect for the little ones).

Although the shows on offer are different every year, they all carry the same festive theme. You’ll need to keep your eyes peeled ahead of time and book your tickets in advance.

These are some of the best theatres in London to catch a show during the festive season:

  • Royal Opera House
  • Young Vic
  • Shakespeare’s Globe
  • Saddler’s Wells
  • Barbican
  • National Theatre
  • London Coliseum
  • The Old Vic
  • Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
  • Unicorn Theatre

London at Christmas FAQs

If you’re visiting London during the Christmas season, then you’re sure to have a few questions. These are a few of the questions frequently asked by those travelling to The Old Smoke over the festive season.

Fortnum and Masons London

Is London Fun at Christmas?

Even if you’re travelling to London alone over the holiday season, the city is stacks of fun. London Christmas markets, ice skating at the top ice rinks, theatre productions and festive shopping are just a few of the activities that make the city abuzz with life during this time of year.

So, whether you’re planning a trip with your family, or heading on over to the UK capital on your own, London is guaranteed to be stacks of fun.

Especially if you plan well before your trip, to make sure you’re hitting up all the best Christmas things to do in London while you’re there.

Chelsea Christmas Lights UK

Is London Open During Christmas?

London is in full swing over the London Christmas season, but on Christmas day in London, many of the main attractions and activities shut down.

However, among the travel community, there are plenty of events taking place, as many travellers don’t have a family to spend Christmas with in London.

If you’re going to be alone on Christmas, researching some of the best events taking place on Christmas Day in London will be worth your while.

things to do in london around christmas

Where Can I see Christmas Lights in London?

Most storefronts and popular streets are adorned with lights during this time of year, but some places take their decorating to the next level.

These are some of the best places to see lights in London over the festive season:

  • Northbank
  • Bond Street
  • Oxford Street
  • Regent Street
  • Covent Garden
  • Marylebone Village
  • Carnaby Street
  • Coal Drops Yard


Does the Tube Run on Christmas Day?

On Christmas Day many of the services in London close down. This includes the tube, TfL rail, buses, London underground, trams, DLR, and The National Rail.

If you need to get around on Christmas day you can hail a cab, call an Uber, or use the readily available Santander Cycles. It’s recommended to travel Christmas Eve or before to avoid travel disruptions.

Does the tube run on boxing day?

If you’re planning on spending Boxing Day in London, you might be wondering does the tube run on boxing day. The answer is yes! The tube does run on Boxing Day, though with a reduced service. So if you’re looking to get around London on Boxing Day, the tube is a great option. Just be sure to check the schedule in advance so you know which lines are running and what the frequency of service will be.

Boxing Day is also a popular day for shopping in London, so you can expect the tube to be busy. If you’re planning on doing some serious shopping, it’s worth getting an Oyster card so you can avoid queues at the ticket machines.

How Many Days Do You Need in London?

This all depends on how much you would like to get done. To fully experience the entirety of the festive season in London, spending the whole of December is recommended.

But if you want to hit up the main Christmas attractions and head on home, then three to four days is all you really need. If you’re a true Christmas fanatic, then a week would give you enough time to get a true feel for the holiday season before leaving the city.

what to do in london at christmas

What Is There To Do in London on Boxing Day?

The countdown has come and gone and Christmas Day is over, but the fun doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of things to do in London on boxing day.

Many of the festive attractions like ice skating and theatre shows reopen their doors on the day after Christmas. So, the holiday celebrations don’t have to end just because December 25th is over.

Final Thoughts on What to Do in London at Christmas

Christmas is such a magical time of year, but where you spend it can make or break your holiday season. Luckily, London is one of the best places to be when Santa comes to town.

The streets are adorned with Christmas lights, there’s eggnog being sold on the street corners, and frozen lakes provide the perfect spots for ice skating.

These activities add to the wonderful cheery atmosphere, making it one of the best places to spend December.

If you weren’t already convinced that Christmas in London is a magical time, this list of festive things to do surely convinced you.

Sharing is caring!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *