Spending Christmas in London: Festive things to do in London

Covent Garden Christmas lights

Wondering where to spend Christmas in the UK? Well, Christmas in London is like no other place. There’s always something to do in London of course, whatever the season (check out my London bucket list to find some cool ideas!). But in winter, and especially at Christmas time, the British capital gets filled with lights, chestnut stands, Christmas decorations and a jolly atmosphere all over.

If you’re looking for a unique way to celebrate the festive season, there’re a few Christmas events in London you don’t want to miss. Here’s our magical guide with the best things to do in London at Christmas!

Burlington Arcade at Christmas

1. See London’s Christmas lights

The magical Christmas lights in London are out of this world. With elaborate sparkly displays and intricate designs including peacock feathers and angels, they’re guaranteed to brighten up even the gloomiest and darkest winter nights. London’s Christmas lights are best enjoyed on foot, so stroll down the streets and check out the twinkling lights above your head. Enjoying the lights is a great free thing to do in London at Christmas.

Some of the best Christmas lights in London are:

  • Regent’s Street
  • Oxford Circus
  • Carnaby Street
  • New Bond Street
  • Mayfair (Mount Street, South Molton Street)
  • Marylebone High Street
  • Seven Dials (and Neals Yard)
  • Saville Row

Carnaby Street Christmas lights

2. Visit Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park

Looking for a unique way to celebrate the festive season in London? Winter Wonderland is your place. From November to January, a portion of Hyde Park dresses up for Christmas and creates the ultimate ethereal winter scene – and it’s free to enter!

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland comes with more than 100 different rides and attractions for everyone. You can spot recreation areas, a giant Ferris Wheel, an ice rink, Santa’s Grotto and an endless list of events. This is also where you’ll find London’s biggest Christmas market. Get ready for over 100 Bavarian-style stalls selling everything from Bradwurst, German beer and Christmas food aplenty (did I mention there’re mince pies, Bavarian music and steaming hot chocolate too?).

3. Check out London’s Christmas decorations

You can spot seasonal decorations all over London, but there are a few covered markets you shouldn’t miss (especially if you’re looking to do some luxury Christmas shopping at the same time!). With red and golden baubles, sparkly tinsels and festive bows, here are some of the most instagrammable Christmas scenes in London.

Some of the best Christmas decorations in London are:

  • Burlington Arcade
  • Royal Arcade
  • Piccadilly Arcade
  • Leadenhall Market

Sat on swing in Burlington Arcade

4. Go ice-skating in London

Christmas Day in London isn’t complete without outdoor ice-skating. If you’re not sure where to go ice-skating in London, just know you’re spoilt for choice here. There are several ice-rinks dotted around some of the most iconic London locations. They offer skate rental and some of them even allow customers to bring their own.

Make sure you book your ticket in advance to avoid queuing (prices will vary depending on the rink). And remember to bring a good coat, gloves and a hat!

Some of the best ice-rinks in London are:

  • Somerset House ice-rink
  • Natural History Museum ice-rink
  • Tower of London ice-rink
  • Hampton Court Palace ice-rink
  • Canary Wharf ice-rink

5. See London’s Christmas trees

Looking for the best Christmas tree displays in London? We’ve got you covered:

  • Trafalgar Square Christmas tree: an annual gift from Oslo! The Norwegians have been gifting the iconic London Christmas tree since 1947 as a thank you for Britain’s support in WWII. Usually over 20m high, it features 500 vertical lights arranged in a traditional Norwegian style.
  • Covent Garden Christmas tree: one of the prettiest Christmas trees in London! It’s wrapped up in its own bow and tag and comes with over 30,000 lights and a daily dose of fake snow.
  • St. Pancras International Christmas tree
  • Leadenhall Christmas tree
  • Coal Drops Yard Christmas tree: 2020 brought a 28ft Terrarium Tree featuring 70 terrariums and 168 mirrored baubles.

6. Enjoy London’s Christmas window displays

For a festive shopping experience, check out the Christmas window displays in London’s most famous luxury department stores and retailers. Start with Selfridges in Marylebone and make your way down to Mayfair to see the magic of New Bond Street at Christmas. The luxury store fronts of Tiffany & Co, Louis Vuitton, Bvlgari and Cartier, to name a few, will transport you into an ethereal winter scene. Don’t forget to check out the Christmas tree outside Ralph Lauren too. And to finish it off, why not check out Harrods‘ light display at night? It’s lit up by over 12,000 light bulbs every night!

Maddox Gallery Christmas display

Other festive and colourful window displays in Mayfair include Maddox Gallery, Annabel’s and Christmas Miracle at 34 Mayfair. In Chelsea, the exterior Christmas decorations of the Ivy Chelsea Garden are a must.

7. Explore London’s Christmas markets

Visiting some London Christmas markets is one of the best things to do at Christmas in London. Some pop-up markets are only open until Christmas Eve while others can be visited all year round (transforming into a magical wonderland in December). Filled with street food vendors, independent shops selling Christmas trees, decorations and local goods, they’re also great for those looking for an original Christmas present or London souvenir.

Some of the best London Christmas markets are:

  • Selfridge’s Christmas market (which also comes with fair rides)
  • Gabriel’s Wharf Magical Christmas
  • Christmas under the Canopy
  • Christmas by the River (with German style wooden cabins)
  • Greenwich Market

Reflection in bauble

8. Go to a Christmas pop-up in London

There’s no better place to shelter from the freezing cold than a cosy winter pop-up. And since they come with festive drinks, nibbles and all the snuggly blankets you could possibly want, they’re guaranteed to lift up your holiday spirits. Expect everything from hot spiced cider, pigs in blankets, fairy lights and snow-covered pine trees for the ultimate quirky festive experience.

Some of the best winter pop-up venues in London are:

  • Miracle at Henrietta (where you can buy your own Christmas mug too!)
  • Jimmy’s Lodge (with private igloos on the Southbank)
  • Montague on the Gardens Ski Lodge
  • Miracle on Kingdom Street at Pergola in Paddington
  • Savage Schloss (bringing an Austrian Après Ski Bar to Savage Garden)
  • Winterland London (an Alpine Club in Neverland)

Miracle popup at Da Henrietta hotel, London

9. Other things to do at Christmas in London

  • Visit the most Christmassy pub in London: the Churchill Arms in Kensington switches its flowery façade for 80 Christmas trees and over 22,000 Christmas lights for the festive season.
  • Celebrate Christmas at Kew Gardens: with an after-dark Christmas lights trail and laser projections.
  • Watch the Nutcracker Ballet at the Royal Opera House
  • Visit the Winter Lights festival in Canary Wharf
  • Watch a Christmas musical or a pantomime
  • Attend the Christmas service at Westminster Abbey: and listen to Christmas carols and readings by the Choir of Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day and Christmas Eve.
  • Meet Santa at Hamleys
  • Go for Christmas afternoon tea at Fortnum & Mason and The Ritz
  • Watch the New Year Eve’s fireworks over the London Eye: and listen out for Big Ben’s famous bongs.

Cartier Christmas display and Christmas tree

Have you been to London during Christmas? What were your favourite things to do? I’d love to know! As always, if you loved our guide to the best things to do at Christmas in London, make sure to pin some photos and show us some love on social media using the buttons below.


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