Christmas in London all the best things to see and do

Thinking of spending Christmas in London? Are you wondering what there is to do in London at Christmas? We simply had to check out London decorated for Christmas when we were housesitting in Berkshire. So we jumped on the train and headed into the City.

Christmas in London all the best things to see and do

Because British weather is so changeable at this time of year we double-checked the weather forecast so as to know what to wear in London during our visit. We were smart enough to bring a small umbrella with us as yes it did rain lol.

Christmas in London

  • Christmas Lights from Oxford St. to Hackney
  • Great Christmas Trees
  • Christmas Shopping in London
  • Hyde Parks Winter Wonderland
  • Carols and Christmas services
  • Christmas Markets
  • 12 Days of Xmas pub crawl
  • Christmas skates
  • Christmas Dip

The lights in most great cities like London and Dublin are something to behold. Indeed the lighting of the lights is a huge celebration that involves a lot of fireworks and soap opera or boyband celebrities actually throwing the switch.

Christmas in London all the best things to see and do
©C. Wheeler of Live Love Run Travel

If you are flying into London to celebrate the season getting from Heathrow to London is not complicated, but you may want some inside London information before you get here.

Spending Christmas in London shopping at Harrods

Get a bird’s eye view of London and its Christmas lights on the London Eye

What to see in London over Christmas

London Christmas Lights

Oxford Street

The Oxford Street Christmas lights are traditionally switched on by a lineup of popular celebrities who come out to meet the crowds at the start of Christmas. The Oxford Street lights are usually the first ones turned on in London.  To top of the lights, virtually every shop has a gorgeous Christmas window and many of the stores hang thousands of lights themselves to deck out the area.

christmas in London the lights on Oxford Street

Regent Street

The spirit of Christmas sparkles and glows on Regent Street; this amazing shopping road is the home of luxury and designer shopping at its best. From Liberty’s of London to H&M Regent Street has it all. The Christmas display includes over 300,000 lights and switches on early November. The street closes to traffic and a celebrity switches on the lights as bands, choirs and Santa all perform for the crowds.

Christmas in London all the best things to see and do
©Anisa Alhilali of Two Travelling Texans

Duke of York Square

In the Chelsea, area go and check out the Duke of York Square with its magnificent tree and all the lights glowing over Chelsea. The lights here go on around the middle of November with a full day of family activities planned before the lights go on at 5 pm.

Christmas lights in London decorate the front of the John Lewis Store on Oxford Street

Carnaby Street

Get in the festive mood on Carnaby Street and surrounding areas as the Carnaby Christmas lights brighten up the fashionable shopping district. Unique decorations featuring some of the most unusual Christmas decorations and lights in London, the Carnaby Christmas lights always have a distinctive theme to celebrate Carnaby. 

Christmas in London all the best things to see and do

You can’t miss heading to Fortnum & Masons or some of the simply fabulous Food Halls in London to have some Christmas cheer.

Christmas in London all the best things to see and do

Spending Christmas in London

London’s Great Christmas tree

The biggest, grandest tree in London in Trafalgar Square is a giant Norwegian spruce, which has been an annual gift to the people of Britain since 1947. In recognition of Britain’s support to Norway during the Second World War. The true is traditionally decorated in Norwegian style and the lighting of the tree takes place on December 1st.

Christmas in London all the best things to see and do

The tree is 25 metres tall (around 80 feet) and has around 900 light bulbs set around the branches. It is a magical night with lots of Christmas activities and usually, a Prince or princess turns on the lights.

Christmas in London singing carols in Trafalgar Square

Christmas Shopping in London

The throngs of traffic and shoppers at this time of the year have been newsworthy for well over a century. In December 1882 

The New York Times commented on the streets in the West End being more than usually crowded, the shops and stores full of ‘wonders of nature and art, sweetmeats and fruits from every clime, toys and magic surprises of all imaginable shapes and inventions.

Christmas in London all the best things to see and do
©Roshni Patel at The Wanderlustwithin

Oxford Street is not just one of London’s best shopping areas; it is one of the world’s. If you can’t find the perfect gift here, you’ve probably got no chance at all.

Christmas in London all the best things to see and do

London’s Winter Wonderland

An annual event in Hyde Park Winter Wonderland is only a must-do if you have never been to a fair. The Angels market area has loads of tat for you to buy, but really don’t waste your money. Created from over 500 tonnes of ice and snow, The Magical Ice Kingdom is filled to the brim with awe-inspiring snow and ice sculptures, but it’s expensive.

Christmas markets in London at Southbank

There’s a giant Ferris wheel to see London’s skyline, which looks pretty at night, The Nutcracker on Ice, the Ice Bar, speciality shows and entertainment galore.  The truth is it is a little over-rated and much of the crowd in the evening is young folks getting drunk and trying to pick each other up.

the giant ferris wheel at Winter wonderland in Hyde Park set up for Christmas in London

London Christmas Carols & Church Services

If you are spending Christmas in London and you may want to celebrate the festive season with Advent and Christmas in the historic St Paul’s Cathedral. Sir Christopher Wren’s famous church plays host to a series of musical events and traditional services over the Christmas period. Hear celebrity readings at A Celebration of Christmas, sing along to Christmas favourites with Family Carols, enjoy a traditional Christmas Carol Service, and attend the Midnight or Christmas Day Eucharist. (Most events are free)

Christmas Carol Singers in London

Trafalgar Square Carols: Listen to traditional carols underneath the giant Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square this festive season.

Christmas is a religious holiday for many so if you feel like attending some lovely services like Midnight Mass there are plenty of options to choose from, including the traditional service at St Martin’s In The Field just off Trafalgar Square. There’s an afternoon service on  Christmas Eve followed by carols at 6.30 pm and the service at 11.30 pm. Or you could head for Westminster Abbey, with carols at 4 pm and service at 11.30 pm.

Christmas in London all the best things to see and do
©C. Wheeler of Live Love Run Travel

Christmas at the Royal Albert Hall

The Royal Albert Hall has been the home of Christmas in London for over 150 years.

Christmas in London all the best things to see and do

This year’s programme is full of heart-warming live events to be enjoyed with your loved ones. There’s something for everyone, from Christmas carols to traditional concerts, drag, jazz, gospel and so much more. You can take in a Home Alone Concert, Elf in Concert, A Christmas Gaiety, concerts, choirs, Big Bank and traditional Christmas carols.

London Christmas Markets

The thing I love about being in the UK is the opportunity to visit all the Christmas markets in Europe. Most Christmas Markets are free entry although some do have specialty rides and entertainment that are ticketed. Most London Markets like Leather Lane or Borough Market will also be decorated for Christmas and you will find many a fine gift to choose from or better yet some amazing food. There is a lot to choose from when spending Christmas in London here are a few of the best. 

one of the many Christmas markets in London

The Crafty Fox Christmas Market is known for its very ‘arty’ take on gifts for those difficult to shop for on your list. Full of unique handcrafted arts and unusual gifts this is the place to shop for that artistic friend.

One of the most well-known Christmas markets is the Southbank Centre Winter Market. Wooden chalets line the riverside outside the Southbank Centre with festive food, handmade crafts and lots of gift ideas. The Southbank is always busy and there is something for everyone from the antique carousel to the beautifully lit trees and Thames River view there is something to put everyone in the Christmas spirit.

a view over the Thames River in London of the London Eye decorated for Christmas

Christmas Market at Tate Modern is just down the way from Southbank. There are more wooden chalets, there are handmade decorations, jewellery, wooden toys and much more. Apparently a great place for hot fresh churros to munch whilst you shop.

Christmas in London all the best things to see and do

Near Tower Bridge, you will find a Tudor Market, covering most of the riverside walk between London Bridge and Tower Bridge with over 100 German-style log cabins. Loads of unique vendors, lots of twinkly lights and plenty of hot cider are guaranteed to warm your soul.

A decorated Sloane Square at Christmas time in London

East London has a similar event in Hackney with Winterville where there’s an ice rink, circus, pantomime, comedy and even crazy golf. The Christmas market has more of the wooden chalets selling cool stocking fillers. Plus there’s the Pop Shop too with independent designers selling their wares. And The Bizarre Bazaar is described as a “Vaudeville-Victorian marketplace and veritable emporium” if you love Steampunk this is the place to shop.

Greenwich Market is good all year round but it turns festive after the Christmas lights are switched on by late November. There are over 100 stalls in the covered market selling crafts, jewellery, fashion, antiques and more, as well as festive street food and drinks too.

Christmas in London at one of the new Xmas markets

Rotherhithe hosts a Scandinavian Christmas Market outside the Finnish and Norwegian churches. You can attend a Finnish Church Christmas Fair where you can meet Moomin Troll (a huge cuddly white character the kids’ love). You can buy a bottle of glögg to take home and the Finnish food at the Church is a real treat. You can buy traditional Norwegian knitwear, handmade Christmas decorations and Scandinavian food specialities.

Christmas by the River market held in what is now called the London Bridge City, sandwiched between the iconic London Bridge and Tower Bridge. It’s small, but mighty, and has everything you need: chocolate-covered strawberries, an Alpine-themed bar, hand-knitted mittens and cute London-themed baubles. It’s pure magic and a very traditional Christmas market. 

Southbank Christmas market and view of the London Eye

For another chance to buy direct from the makers, head to the Royal College of Art Christmas Fete. This indoor market is in the RCA’s students’ union and has handmade gift ideas from current and former students. It’s family-friendly on Sunday and prices start from just £1.

Christmas in Leicester Square transforms the centre of bustling London into a wonderland including traditional Christmas markets with hand-crafted goods and delicious food and drinks, a Santa’s Grotto where children will be able to meet the man himself. To be honest this market was really disappointing with not much to see and basic cheap souvenirs for sale.

Christmas in London all the best things to see and do

Covent Garden Market

The Christmas season officially starts in Covent Garden around the 12th of November when the Switch On Event takes place. 

Christmas in London all the best things to see and do

On display is the Covent Garden’s iconic 55-foot British-grown handpicked Christmas tree, decorated with over 30,000 lights, and the neighbourhood is transformed into a winter wonderland glittering with 115,000 lights across the historic piazza and its adjoining streets. 

Christmas in London all the best things to see and do

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without mulled wine and mince pies! Lucky for us there is a  Covent Garden Christmas Cart loaded with festive treats such as mulled wine, mince pies, hot chestnuts and sweets. 

Christmas in London all the best things to see and do

Christmas Pub Crawls

Pub Crawls are back and you can find Christmas pub crawls virtually everywhere in London but here is a Suggested pub crawl from The Londonist which they call an “epic challenge”.

  1. Start at The Drum. It’s a Wetherspoon, so opens at 8 am, allowing you to set off early.
    Catch the Overground from Leyton Midland Road to Gospel Oak and change for the Highbury train.
    2. Hen and Chickens
    Victoria Line to King’s Cross, Piccadilly Line to Covent Garden.
    3. Crusting Pipe
    Walk to next venue (2 mins)
    4. Royal Opera House bar
    Central Line from Holborn to Bank
    5. Old Tom’s Bar
    Bus over London Bridge and down Borough High Street
    6. Blue Eyed Maid
    Walk to next venue (5 mins)
    7. Lord Clyde
    Walk to next venue (5 mins)
    8. The Ring
    Jubilee Line to Westminster, change for District Line to Earls Court
    9. The Blackbird
    Piccadilly Line to Barons Court
    10. The Pear Tree
    Walk to next venue (10 mins)
    11. The Swan
    Walk to next venue (10 mins)
    12. The Dove
    And relax.

Celebrate Christmas

Visiting London and while wandering around at Christmas time we noticed many venues had clear dome igloos set for dinner and drinks and some fabulous Christmassy locations to sip a cocktail, ice skate, have an afternoon tea or shop. These are some of the best in London to celebrate Christmas.

Willows On The Roof: Located on the rooftop of John Lewis on Oxford Street, Willows on The Roof provides the ultimate sanctuary from the mayhem of shopping. Fingers crossed they are back with the dome igloos for winter dining and cocktails in 2023.

Nice transparent igloo on the banks of the Thames River where a festive dinner can be served.

Glide at Battersea Power Station: Glide at Battersea Power Station offers unrivalled views of the Thames as you skate around three interconnecting rinks surrounded by twinkling lights and a spectacular 30ft Christmas tree. After your skate session, hit the The Glass House where you can warm up with a hot chocolate or something a bit stronger.

Afternoon Tea at the Ritz: Celebrate Christmas in London and indulge in the Ritz’s afternoon tea experience, available from Saturday, November 19th, through Sunday, January 1st, 2023. With five daily sittings to choose from, and the Ritz Choir caroling as you savor a delectable spread that includes six distinct sandwiches, enjoy Christmas-inspired British pastries and freshly baked mince pies, accompanied by a selection of 18 teas, including a custom Ritz Christmas spiced tea blend. This extraordinary tea affair also includes a flute of champagne and, for young guests, a charming Ritz teddy bear.

Christmas Museums

Christmas Past at Geffrye Museum celebrates the festive season with a special exhibition that tells the story of Christmas Past at Geffrye Museum. Looking back over the last 400 years of different seasonal traditions in the English home, Christmas Past sees all the different periods from 1600 upwards. Traditional Christmas In this fascinating exhibition you can find out where many of our current traditions come from.

Christmas in London all the best things to see and do

Christmas at Museum of London there is plenty for kids and families to get involved with over Christmas at the Museum of London. From storytelling sessions to interactive music groups and craft workshops, there is something to entertain everyone.

Luckily London has so many hidden secret places that many Londoners don’t even know about. One such place was used in the Last Christmas Movie filmed in Covent Garden and the lovely hidden Phoenix Gardens.

Christmas in London all the best things to see and do
©Universal Studios

Christmas Toy Parade

Hamleys Christmas toy parade on Regent Street. Hamleys the finest toy shop in the world, is bringing the magic of Christmas to the festive shopping season in late November. London’s Regent Street will be transformed into a traffic-free, all-day extravaganza for the biggest toy parade London has ever seen. Some of your favourite characters from TV and Film, marching bands, festive floating blimps, street theatre, dancers and toy vehicles accompanied with music from Magic FM – Hamleys is literally bursting out onto Regent Street.

Hamleys toy store in London

Christmas Gardens

Chelsea Physic Garden Christmas Fair Experience the delights of the Chelsea Physic Garden Christmas Fair, this fair gives you a rare chance to see the gardens in the midst of winter. The fair hosts over 100 exhibitors and they will be showcasing a range of handcrafted and designed products from Jewellery to contemporary crafts and foods.  This fair does have an entry fee which goes to support the garden.

The Great Xmas Pudding Race

Great Xmas pudding Race cheer on the festively dressed teams as they race around an obstacle course without dropping the puddings, at London’s 38th annual Great Christmas Pudding Race in Covent Garden.

Watch teams of six battle it out for the highly sought-after Christmas Pudding Trophy, darting through the tricky course on a crisp December day to win prizes and raise money for Cancer Research UK.

Christmas in London all the best things to see and do

 Christmas Skating rinks

Take in the dramatic surroundings as you glide around the 1,000-year-old Tower of London dry moat. The Tower of London ice offers ice skating in the setting of the historic London landmark.  The Tower itself is sparkled with hundreds of tiny starry lights and the atmosphere is very reminiscent of days gone by. When you need to warm up after skating you can visit the Eis Haus pop up bar, made entirely of ice of course. Or check out the Dip-Dunk lodge for fondue.

Christmas in London all the best things to see and do

Skate in a magical winter haven in the heart of the city at the Natural History Museum’s open-air ice rink. The spectacular 950-square-metre (10,225-square-feet) rink is nestled in front of the iconic South Kensington museum and surrounded by 76,000 glittering fairy lights. Visit the museum’s Café Bar for winter warmers, and watch the skaters glide on the ice from the cafe’s balcony.

Alexandra Palace Ice Rink is an ideal place for a festive skate – not least because it’s indoors so you don’t have to rely on the weather to ensure a skating session. The biggest (it has a total capacity of 1,250) and the best permanent ice rink in London, the grand indoor rink is open all year round and offers a range of other activities, such as ice hockey and figure skating classes.

The Tower of London is bringing the 12 Days of Christmas to life in a unique style. As you wander around London’s iconic castle at this special time of year, see if you can spot 9 rowdy ravens, seek out a sparkling Christmas tree for each of Henry VIII’s wives, or snap a photo with 3 lordly life-size lions in support of England’s World Cup campaign. Pick up a special trail map and find all the song’s famous verses around the site.

Christmas in London all the best things to see and do

Don your skates and glide around the glittering ice rink that is set within Hyde Park Winter Wonderland around the Victorian bandstand and illuminated with over 100,000 lights. It claims to be the UK’s largest outdoor rink and at 1,600 metres squared it might well be. Live music plays as skaters take to the ice for a spin and those in the giant Observation Wheel next to it get a bird’s eye view of the skaters below.

Christmas in London all the best things to see and do

Both are part of the annual Hyde Park event which takes place throughout late November and December bringing fairground rides, a giant wheel, Zippos Circus, a Christmas market, food and drink stalls, Santa’s grotto and, of course, the ice rink to this corner of Hyde Park for the holidays.

booth at Hyde Parks Winter Wonderland market

The Natural History Museum’s annual icing-over of its gardens kicks off its 1,000 square metre rink outside Alfred Waterhouse’s imposing building is surrounded by 80,000 glowing pea-lights dangling from the overhanging trees. Additional attractions include a smaller 100-square-metre rink for youngsters, a stylish balcony cafe/bar where you can warm your hands and insides on vin chaud or hot chocolate and a classic fairground carousel.

outside the Natural History Museum

The Ice Rink and Cafe Bar are available for private hire too for a minimum of 150 guests. Big-foots amongst you will be pleased to know that skates go up to adult size 15, while penguin skate aids are available on a first-come-first-served basis.

Christmas in London all the best things to see and do

The grand 18th-century courtyard of Somerset House makes for a spectacular backdrop for one of the most popular ice rinks in town. Skating around under the 40-foot Christmas tree with a hot toddy to keep out seasonal chills is one of London’s most appealing winter rituals – and a superb way to ease yourself into the festive spirit.

Christmas in London all the best things to see and do
©Luke Dyson – Somerset House

Skate at Somerset House with Moët & Chandon returns, promising a spectacular season of celebration in the heart of London. The magnificent ice rink, now with a bigger skate space, transforms the neoclassical courtyard into the essential winter destination, complete with a glorious 40ft Christmas tree, with specially curated decorations from Moët & Chandon, providing perfect picture moments.

Gourmet dining also returns at Chalet Suisse by Jimmy Garcia, providing the perfect post-skate treat at the pop-up alpine restaurant. For the ultimate rink-side seat, enjoy champagne and cocktails in the Skate Lounge by Moët & Chandon.

Christmas in London all the best things to see and do

The striking Tudor facade of Hampton Court Palace provides a majestic backdrop to this popular open-air ice rink. Located on the west front of Henry VIII’s historic home, the ice rink – measuring more than 1,000 metres square – affords sweeping views of its breathtaking architecture. The palace itself is adorned with festive decorations at this time of year and it’s worth leaving extra time to take a look inside or explore the maze.

Christmas in London all the best things to see and do
©Time Out

Go for a dip

Temperatures may be sub-zero on Christmas Day, but a bracing dip in the Serpentine in Hyde Park has been a festive tradition since 1864 for members of the Serpentine Swimming Club – and with other swimming events happening around the country there’s no reason why you shouldn’t join in too.

Christmas in London all the best things to see and do

Spending Christmas in London is a truly magical experience. The city comes alive with festive cheer, with famous landmarks like Big Ben and Buckingham Palace are adorned with twinkling lights. Strolling through the enchanting Christmas markets in Hyde Park or along the Southbank of the River Thames.

The city’s world-class theatres offer spectacular holiday-themed shows, and ice skating any London Rink is a joy. With the chance of snow dusting the city, London at Christmas is a picture-perfect winter wonderland that captures the essence of the holiday season in a truly British way.

You might also like to read –

Christmas in Ireland – the best things to do in Dublin for an Irish Christmas

Women’s Christmas Ireland – Nollaig na mBan

19 of the best Irish Christmas Traditions

Christmas in Belfast how to spend a fabulous holiday here

22 Winter holidays around the world

The London Postal Museum a fascinating history

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Christmas in London all the best things to see and do


  • Faith was born in Ireland raised in Canada and has lived in over 10 countries in Europe including England, Ireland, Scotland, France, Spain, Northern Ireland, Wales, along with Mexico, Antigua, the US and has slow travelled to over 40 countries around the world. Graduating with a degree in Anthropology and Women's Studies Faith is a student of history, culture, community and food and has written about these topics for over 40 years.

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