20+ Best Things to Do in London in Winter 2023 | Christmas Markets & Activities
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London has a little bit of everything – a palpable sense of history, a fast-paced modern vibe, and endless attractions.
You might think that the energy of the city cools off when the cold months hit, but just the opposite happens. It seems to grow bigger and brighter.
With so many cosy activities to enjoy, these months might be the best time to visit. This is why I’ve created the ultimate list of fun things to do in London during winter. It’s packed with all of the highlights this magical city has to offer.
Visiting London in Winter
Let’s start by touching on some answers to common questions you may be asking yourself and useful tips for winter travel.
Whether you’re wondering, where should I go in London in winter? Or, when do London Christmas markets start? I’ve got you covered.
Is December a Good Time to Visit London?
December is one of the most magical months to visit London. The whole city lights up with twinkling fairy lights, Christmas decorations and a tangible sense of holiday cheer fills the air.
There are so many Christmassy things to do in London in December that you could visit for the whole month and find something new to do every day!
Top Things to Do in London During Winter
It’s time to get into the top winter activities London has to offer including romantic things to do in London in December. The city is fantastic for exploring, even when the temperatures dip low. You’ll warm up straight away from the high energy that London radiates.
1. Experience the Buzz of Borough Market
The Borough Market is one of London’s largest food markets. You’ll find an amazing assortment of local options, from meat to seafood to vegan. A lot of the places even let you sample before you buy.
Warm up with a delicious hot meal or mulled wine as you people-watch. When you’re ready to leave, make sure to pick up a fresh loaf of bread or something for dessert.
During December, this place is one of the more alternative Christmas markets in London. Although it’s open year-round, it gets a festive feel for Christmas. You’ll find plenty of seasonal produce, mince pies, hot cocoa, and other festive fares.
2. See The Christmas Lights On Oxford Street
Oxford Street is London’s ultimate shopping destination in Central London. It’s lined with high-end retailers, iconic UK department stores, candy shops, and more.
Go between taking in the sights of the street to heading inside shops for some retail therapy.
At Christmas time, lights and festive displays are strung high above the street. Jolly music fills the air as holiday shoppers fill the street; it’s one of the top places to do some Christmas shopping. Seeing the Christmas lights is one of the best things to do in London in the winter. No matter what month you visit, Oxford Street is a must for any London itinerary.
Other Places To See The Christmas Lights in London
- Regent Street
- Carnaby Street
- Fortnum and Mason
- Covent Garden
- Bond Street
3. Sightseeing From the Shard
Standing 95 storeys in the sky, the Shard is London’s iconic skyscraper. You’ll see famous London landmarks like the Tower of London, Tower Bridge and more. You won’t get breathtaking views like this from anywhere else in the city.
The Shard offers some of the best views in London in winter. Warm up on the rooftop with a cocktail, dine at a restaurant with a view, or simply take in the ambience of the building.
But the Shard is outside your budget. You can visit the Sky Garden and still get epic views over London. It’s free admission to the Sky Garden, making it one of the many free things to do in London in winter.
4. Go Ice Skating At Natural History Museum
The ice rink in front of the Natural History Museum in South Kensington is one of the most magical London winter attractions.
During the holiday season, the rink is surrounded by shimmering fairy lights and overlooked by a large glittering Christmas tree.
Glide along the ice hand-in-hand with your loved one. If you need a break, head to the museum’s cafe and enjoy a cup of hot cocoa or mulled wine with a view of the skaters. It’s one of the best ice skating rinks to visit in London in the winter.
Other Places To Go Ice Skating At Winter in London
- Somerset House
- Canary Wharf Ice Rink
- Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
- Hampton Court Palace Ice Rink
Romantic Things to Do in London in Winter
London in the wintertime is very romantic. There’s a chill in the air that will make you want to cuddle up extra close to your loved one. Here are some fun winter activities in London that are perfect for couples.
5. Ride the London Eye
The London Eye is one of the city’s top attractions to visit and one of the best things to do in London in winter. From the comfort of your enclosed capsule, you’ll take a slow 30-minute rotation high above the city.
See the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and other landmarks from a bird’s eye view.
The best time to go on the London Eye during winter in London is after the sun sets. You’ll be able to witness the city lit up in a festive display of holiday sparkle.
This is easily one of the most romantic things to do in London at Christmas time
6. Have Date Night on the West End
The West End is London’s lively entertainment district. Pubs, restaurants, and theatres pack this space and provide all the ideal elements for date night.
From musicals, like Mamma Mia, to classic Broadway shows and even Harry Potter, you’ll find plenty of options for nighttime entertainment.
If you’re visiting around Christmas time, The Nutcracker, The Snowman, Lion King and A Christmas Carol have all become staples during the festive season and is one of the best things to do in London in December.
Unusual Things to Do in London at Christmas
London does not disappoint when it comes to traditional Christmas festivities. But you may want to try something a little more out of the ordinary this holiday season.
Here are some fun and unusual things to do in London at Christmas.
7. Experience Kew at Christmas – Kew Gardens
The Kew Royal Botanic Garden houses a magnificent collection of native and exotic plant species. Spanning 132 hectares, this massive space features a treetop walkway, outside gardens, and gardens under glass.
If you visit London in December, Christmas at Kew sees the gardens lit up with lights and laser beams.
They’re skillfully and imaginatively arranged around the trees, plants, lakes, and buildings. It’s quite a spectacle. Seasonal food and drink are also offered.
8. Have a Harry Potter Christmas
Warner Brothers Studio London is just under one hour from the city. Take a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the making of the Harry Potter films. Spend a magical day exploring the props, sets, and costumes from the series.
During Christmas, the iconic Harry Potter film sets are transformed for the winter season. Glittering Christmas trees line the Great Hall while snow, icicles and golden baubles hang overhead.
9. Chow Down in Chinatown
London’s Chinatown is a lively quarter that brilliantly showcases the city’s Asian heritage. It’s also where you can go to celebrate the Chinese New Year’s in January.
The streets are lined with restaurants and bakeries. Whatever dining mood you fancy – high-end, casual, or buffet, you’ll find it here.
Plenty of places are open for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Switch out your mince pies for sweet red bean fritters and trade your turkey for Peking duck.
Cosy Things to Do in London
If you’re looking for cosy and comfortable things to do in London in winter, these activities are the perfect antidote to a winter’s day. Swap exploring the city streets for tucking up inside one of these indoor spots.
10. Window Shop at Harrods
Harrod’s is one of London’s most iconic department stores. This massive seven-floor building offers everything from luxury to everyday items.
The acclaimed food hall is a sight to behold and will satisfy all of your cravings. Feast your eyes on delectable desserts, fresh-baked bread, endless displays of meat and cheese, and so much more.
Harrod’s is famous for going all out during the holidays. The window displays will allow you to experience the ultimate Christmas nostalgia. Make sure to stop by Santa’s Grotto to see Father Christmas.
I worked in Harrod’s all through University, and Christmas is one of the best times to visit the window displays as they are the best in the UK, and there is always a queue for Santa’s Grotto. Visiting the Harrods and its Christmas display is one of many fun things to do in London in winter.
11. Curl up in a Cosy Cafe
Cafes in London are found in high abundance. They’re the perfect place to enjoy a reprieve from the chilly winter weather. Get snug with a warm drink and fresh pastry while enjoying a bit of downtime.
Each section of London has its own cafe vibe. The coffee shops in Brixton are known for being super quirky. Many are independently run, giving them a friendly local feel.
12. Visit one of London’s Free Museums
Beat the winter chill of London by wandering around one of the city’s many free museums.
The British Museum, Natural History Museum, National Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum are among the most popular in the city.
For something a little different, check out The Geffrye Museum, also called the Museum of the Home.
Set inside an 18th-century house, visitors can take a peek at London living from 1600 to the present day. The rooms are fashioned with period furniture and displays.
Best Christmas Markets in London
Christmas markets in London are a magical blend of festive decorations, sumptuous sweets, and holiday jingles. They provide a warm sense of nostalgia that all ages enjoy. Here are the best London Christmas markets, and is one of the best things to do in London in winter to brighten your holiday spirit.
13. Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
Hyde Park hosts one of Europe’s biggest Christmas markets – Winter Wonderland. This market is high-energy and fun for all ages.
You can ride roller coasters, listen to live music, ice skating ring, peruse Christmas stalls, and drink mulled wine – all in one place.
So, when does the Hyde Park Christmas market open? London Winter Wonderland and most London Christmas Markets typically run from mid/late November to early January.
14. Southbank Christmas Market
This Southbank Centre Christmas market is situated along the River Thames and is sometimes referred to as the London Eye Christmas market.
The Southbank Centre Winter market stalls mostly feature handmade gifts and sustainable products. Make sure you come hungry. You’ll find plenty of international food and drink options.
15. Kingston Christmas Market
Traditional wooden cabins and a rustic Nordic feel characterise the Kingston Christmas Market.
Over 50 stalls sell festive goodies, handmade gifts, arts, crafts, and decorations.
Have a mug of steaming mulled wine and German-style street food next to a crackling fire. If you’re travelling with kids, the Candy Cane Forest features kids rides and plenty of festive fun.
16. Tower of London Christmas Market – Christmas By the River
This Christmas Market by London Bridge, also called Christmas By the River, features stunning views of the Tower of London and Tower Bridge.
Roughly 60 independent stalls offer a wide variety of food and homemade gifts. Shop handcrafted decorations, personalised presents, and festive sweets.
Remember to stop by one of the bars to enjoy a Christmas cocktail, mulled wine, hot cider, or craft beer.
17. Leicester Square Winter Wonderland
Set in the heart of London, Leicester Square Winter Wonderland is right in the middle of all the action.
This market is on the small side, but you’ll still find an excellent range of festive treats and food.
At Santa’s Grotto, Father Christmas reads books to children and poses for pictures. The market has a nice, family-friendly atmosphere and is perfect for kids of all ages.
18. Clapham Common Winter Wonderland
Clapham Common is a winter wonderland alternative to the highly popular one put on at Hyde Park.
The common turns into a magical Christmas Town, complete with an ice rink, fairground, roller disco, golf course, and cinema. It may be one of London’s more unusual Christmas venues, but it features market staples like bars, food stalls, and rides.
Other Christmas Markets To Visit In Winter in London
- Trafalgar Square Christmas Market
- King’s Cross
- Christmas by The River at London Bridge
- Selfridge Christmas Market
The Best Tours of London in Winter
What better way to discover winter things to do in London than on a guided outing. Here are some tours that are perfect for the cold weather.
19. Buckingham Palace Tours in Winter
Take a tour of Buckingham Palace’s grand State Rooms this winter. Explore the stomping grounds of the royal family and learn more about the palace’s history.
These rooms were built as public domains to receive, reward, and entertain guests. To this day, they continue to be used to host guests for ceremonial and official occasions.
Some of the rooms you’ll be able to visit include the elegant White Drawing Room, Throne Room, and Ballroom.
20. Christmas Lights Afternoon Tea Bus Tour in London
Hop aboard a vintage bus and take a sightseeing journey through the busy street of London.
On this Christmas lights afternoon tea bus tour, you’ll admire the city all lit up from the comfort of your comfortable seat and pass all the best places around the city.
Cruise down Regent Street and see the famous Regent Street lights with their massive angel decorations and thousands of fairy lights.
Feast on festive-themed finger foods as well as classic scones with clotted cream and jam. Of course, you’ll also have an excellent selection of tea to accompany your treats.
21. Historical Pub Walking Tour
A historical pub walking tour is a great winter activity. Warm up inside some of London’s most well-known pubs and enjoy a few tasty brews.
You’ll get total cosy vibes from each of the historic taverns and alehouses you visit.
Discover London’s liquid history with a local guide who will entertain you with stories and facts about the city’s past.
What is the Weather Like in London in Winter?
The winter months are from December to February. During this time, cold temperatures sweep through the city.
The average high is around 9°C, and the average low is around 5°C. These are the coldest months in London; however, freezing temperatures do occur, and snowfall is not unheard of.
What to Pack For Winter in London
When visiting London in winter, dressing in layers is key. This way, you can travel from a heated indoor building to the city streets and stay comfortable.
Here are some items you’ll definitely appreciate having with you during your trip.
A snug beanie to keep your head warm and protect your ears from the wind is a must for those chilly winter days. It can also double as a cute accessory to your outfit.
Sleet, snow, and rain are common during winter, so pack a pair of waterproof boots. Since you may be wearing them all day, they should be lightweight and suited for everyday use.
A winter jacket will be your shield against London’s frigid cold. I recommend getting one that is fleece-lined and waterproof too. It will combat any type of weather you’re faced with during your trip.
Don’t underestimate the power of a good pair of gloves. Since you’ll probably be taking many pictures and using your phone, touchscreen texting gloves are your best bet.
What do Londoners do in winter?
When most people think of London, they imagine rainy days, bustling streets, and queues for the underground. What they don’t picture is the city in winter. As the weather gets colder, Londoners take advantage of the festive season to enjoy all the city offers.
From ice skating at Somerset House to Christmas markets in Hyde Park and festive-themed afternoon tea, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the winter months. So if you’re visiting London during this time of year, be sure to wrap up warm and explore all that the city has to offer.
Is London worth visiting in the winter?
Is London worth visiting in the winter? The short answer is yes!
Though the weather may be colder and the days shorter, at this time of the year, there is still plenty to see and do in the city. For starters, winter is an off-peak travel time, so you can often find great deals on airfare and accommodation.
Secondly, the city comes to life during the holidays, with festive markets, ice skating rinks, afternoon tea, and Christmas lights transforming London into a true winter wonderland.
Finally, winter is a great time to experience some of London’s classic attractions, from pubs and museums to theatre performances and historic sites. So if you’re looking for a unique and memorable travel experience, consider spending a winter in London.
How to Get Around London in Winter
The London Underground, called the ‘Tube’, is the most popular way to travel around the city.
It’s fast, affordable, and reliable. It runs come rain, snow, or shine! Other than the Tube, the bus is the most convenient option.
Walking around London in winter can also be enjoyable, especially during Christmas when the city is decked out in festive lights.
How to Get to London in Winter
Getting to London in winter is super easy. If you’re flying, London Heathrow Airport is the city’s main airport, followed by Gatwick Airport. Once you land, you can take public transportation or a taxi into the city.
If you live in Europe, you can take the Eurostar train into London and then connect to the rest of the city via the tube and bus stations.
Some good news about visiting London in winter is that travel prices can be more affordable during the colder months.
The Best Day Trips From London in Winter | Winter Day Trips From London
If you have some extra time on your hands, a day trip from London is a great way to explore more of England. Here are someday time excursions that are perfect during winter.
The ancient city of Bath is just 90 minutes from London by train. It’s one of England’s most picturesque destinations, especially in winter.
Stroll the quaint alleyways and admire the Georgian architecture. Tour the Roman Baths and learn about the heritage of the city.
Step inside the grand Bath Abbey and marvel at all the exquisite elements of this stunning church.
This city is the perfect size to explore in a day. The main highlights are concentrated next to each other, so you won’t have to fuss with public transportation. You can easily walk from one place to the next.
Check here for the best day trips from London to Bath:
- London: Stonehenge, Bath & West Country Day Trip
- From London: Bath, Avebury and Lacock Village Day Trip
- London: Windsor Castle, Stonehenge & Bath Full-Day Tour
- Stonehenge, Stratford, Bath & Cotswolds Day Tour from London
Oxford, England, is just under an hour from London by train. This historic city is a great mix of ancient and modern times.
It’s filled with many century-old buildings, like Oxford University, the Oxford Radcliffe Camera, The Divinity School, and the University Church of St Mary the Virgin.
There are also quite a few interesting museums. The Story Museum explores storytelling with imaginative exhibits. The Pitt Rivers Museum celebrates and displays the cultures of the world.
Several locations in Oxford have also been famously featured in the early Harry Potter films.
If you’re a fan of the series, you don’t want to miss the chance to take a Harry Potter film locations tour.
Check here for the best day trips from London to Oxford:
- Oxford Full-Day Tour from London with Train Transfers
- From London: Cambridge and Oxford Full-Day Tour
- Harry Potter Studio Tour & Oxford Day Tour from London
- From London: Full-Day Windsor, Stonehenge & Oxford Tour
Canterbury is less than one hour from London by train. This charming medieval city is characterised by century-old architecture, cobbled streets, and quaint cafes and eateries.
Even though it can get quite busy at times, it has a small-town appeal. Everything is clustered together and easy to walk to.
Shop at local boutiques, sightsee the historical monuments, and enjoy a picturesque stroll next to the rivers that slice through the city.
The Canterbury Cathedral is a must-see. It’s one of England’s most treasured Christian monuments and has an impressive timeline going back to the year 1070.
You don’t have to be religious to appreciate its unique architecture and remarkable history.
Check here for the best day trips from London to Canterbury:
- White Cliffs of Dover and Canterbury: Day-Trip from London
- From London: Leeds Castle, Canterbury Cathedral & Dover
- Canterbury Cathedral, Dover Castle, and White Cliffs
You can read my best day trips from London guide here
Final Thoughts on Winter in London
Now you know the best things to do in London in winter, you can see that no matter the reason, or the season, London is a one-of-kind city that attracts visitors all year long.
Whether you’re visiting in the lead-up to Christmas or the months after, London is a whimsical winter destination.
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