Yes, there might be Christmas films on Netflix and plenty of presents still to buy (guilty!), but the city is doing its best to tempt you outdoors. There are so many incredible things to do in London at Christmas, so we’ve put together a little guide of things see, do, or eat through this festive season. Will you be enchanted by a festive light display? Drink your body weight in mulled wine? Fall head over heels for an ice rink (literally)? Whatever you choose to do, go forth and spread that Yuletide joy!
Start with wooden huts, full of lovely arts and crafts. Add a sprinkling of hearty street food. Top it off with a mug of mulled wine or boozy hot chocolate, and you’ve got a perfectly charming evening planned! Here are our five favourite options, but you can see even more in our roundup of London Christmas markets.
❄️ Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park’s massive celebration of all things Christmas
⛄️ Christmas by the River, cute riverside market with street food, crafts and pop-up bars
🌇 Leicester Square Christmas Market, thriving market in the heart of town
🎅 South Bank Christmas Markets, complete with cosy riverside igloos
🍽️ King’s Cross Christmas Markets, six weeks and eight different themed markets
Amongst all the things to do in London at Christmas, this is a definite classic. Torvill & Dean you may not be, but ice rinks are undeniably fun whether you’re weaving in and out of crowds or inching your way along, clutching at the barriers. Get your skates on at London’s best ice rinks, and don’t forget to reward yourself with a hot chocolate after!
🧊 Glide at Battersea Power Station, with fairground rides for anyone too scared to step on to the ice
⛸ SKATE at Somerset House, complete with rink-side bar to warm your bones
🌆 Canary Wharf, an enchanting rink among the skyscrapers
👑 Queen’s House, skate around the ice rink at Greenwich’s UNESCO World Heritage site
🛍️ Westfield Winter Village, a 1000 square metre rink with Europe’s tallest Christmas tree (on an ice rink)
Some time around early November, London starting lighting up for the season. And while the city’s electricity bill may be trending upwards, the illuminations have certainly brought the sparkle to town. Here’s just a handful of the festive light displays you can find all over the city.
✨ Oxford Street, some of the earliest to turn on this year (back on November 2!)
😍 Carnaby Street, where a walk through the history of Carnaby-Street-Christmas-lights-past awaits
😇 Regent Street, where the spirits of Christmas shine down upon the city
💙 Mayfair, whose blue arches turn London blue with envy every year
Every year, a whole host of magnificent winter pop-ups take over rooftops, riversides, and terraces, steadily feeding Londoners a diet of glorious food, warming winter cocktails, and toasty vibes. Lovely stuff – especially when you get to cosy up in an igloo all the while!
❄️ Willows On The Roof, rooftop igloos perched above John Lewis Oxford Street looking out across central London
⛸️ Glide at Battersea Power Station, rink-side igloos to escape the cold and watch others glide on by
🍕 Vinegar Yard, views of the Shard from luxe igloos with plenty of street food to nosh on
🌳The Secret Garden, private domes in Kensington
🔥 Thor’s Tipi at Winter Wonderland, not technicallyyyy an igloo (at all), but similar vibes with added warmth and joviality
5. Hit the shops for some last-minute Christmas presents
Unless you’re the hyper-organised type who’s got their gifts bought, wrapped, and under an immaculately-decorated tree already, I’ve got a feeling you’ll be needing this one. Stores all over London are dressed up for Christmas, and here’s a few with sure-fire festive appeal.
😍 Liberty’s, always London’s earliest to open Christmas shop
🎁 Harrods, the famous department store is full of festive cheer, inside and outside
⭐️ Selfridges, who have gone joyously OTT once more
🗓 Fortnum & Mason, a fabulously bougie shopping mainstay
💛 John Lewis Oxford Street, with a beautifully organised Christmas store and a festive rooftop to boot
Syon Park’s stunning Enchanted Woodland may have finished, but there are still light festivals aplenty to marvel at. Everywhere from the boughs of Kew Gardens to the railways on the outskirts of London are lighting up this winter, and here’s where we reckon you should be heading.
🎇 Christmas at Kenwood, a magnificent light trail amongst the flora and fauna of Hampstead Heath
🌈 Enchanted Eltham, the historic palace is dappled with colours
🎄 Kew Gardens, where breathtaking lights adorn the trees and bushes
🌠 Lightopia, lights, lanterns, and dragons, oh my
🚂Epping Ongar Light Fantastic, a magical railway with stunning lights
We have a pretty staggering dining scene all year round, but when Christmas comes a-calling, everyone from neighbourhood restaurants to Michelin star spots busts out the decorations. This lot have had quite the glow-up!
🎠 sketch, London’s prettiest collection of restaurants has had a Georgian-themed festive makeover
😅 The Little Scarlet Door, check out the ‘Miracle on Greek Street’ festive celebration at their Soho venue
🎄 Churchill Arms, London’s most Christmassy pub is festooned with over 80 Christmas trees
🥢 Tattu London, luxurious modern-Chinese sharing menus and limited-edition Aurora Borealis-themed cocktails fit the bill for their ‘The Great Snow’ theme
🎿 Coq D’Argent, escape to the snow-capped peaks of the French Alps
Red, green, and gold is traditional, sure, but when you’ve got the budget and the creative vision of the world’s top designers behind you, you can afford to dream a little bigger, darling. Don’t let London’s tree-mendous Christmas trees make you too envious though…
🌲 Covent Garden, because what isn’t amazing over at Covent Garden during Christmas
🌆 St Pancras, a city-scape inspired Christmas ‘tree’
💎 Claridge’s, step inside a diamond at this striking example
🎅 Leadenhall Market, illuminating the entire market with its dazzling lights and striking decorations
⛷️ Coal Drops Yard, a neon-ified après-ski theme that truly stands out
🎁 Trafalgar Square, love it or hate it – this gift from Norway is at least a dependable constant in the lives of Londoners
9. Settle down for a festive film
Everyone’s got a favourite, whether it’s something traditional like Miracle on 34th Street, or something explosive like Die Hard (it’s a Christmas film, don’t @ me). Luckily for you, the finest flick-lovers in town have been cooking up enchanting new ways to watch the classics…
🌙 Backyard Cinema, delivering all the classics
📽 Luna Cinema, festive films – at a palace, no less!
👑 Prince Charles Cinema, where you’ll be watching festive films all through December
🛶 Floating Film Festival, a week of Christmas classics on a floating screen at St Katharine Docks (December 5-11)
🎻 Candlelight Christmas: Love Actually, Home Alone & More, instead of watching the films, have your favourite festive film tunes brought to life in candle-lit environs
10. Sip on a bevy of Christmassy drinks
Let’s face it, you’ll be drinking enough mulled wine this holiday season – so why not mix things up? With London boasting some of the best cocktail bars around, you can be sure of creative concoctions that’ll bewitch the tastebuds and keep you feeling merry (within your limits, of course).
🎄 Miracle at Henrietta, the insanely festive cocktail bar absolutely full of Christmas décor
🍹 The Lucky Club Camden, Pigs in Blankets Tacos and festive margaritas
🧊 Festive Cocktail Masterclass at Bullards, taste some gin, shake some drinks, taste some more gin
🐟 Sexy Fish, a host of Christmas cocktails in collaboration with The House of Suntory await alongside an eye-catching ‘Christmas Coral Forest’ installation
🍻 London Christmas Beer Festival, what goes together better than Christmas cheer and beer? (that’s a rhetorical question)
Arguably one of the best bits of the season (or worst, depending on who you ask) is the proliferation of festive sandwiches. Everyone has strong opinions about which supermarket does the best ones (it’s M&S by the way…), but in typical London form you can get them from all over the city – not just in the supermarkets. Wrap your mouth around these for an immediate jolt of Christmas cheer.
🍗 ‘The Natale‘ at Mondo Sando, inspired by a traditional Italian Christmas dinner, features Tuscan herbed turkey with all the trimmings
🎁 ‘Boxing Day Leftovers Sandwich‘ at The Little Scarlet Door, the name says it all…
🐔 ‘The F*ckin Turducken‘ at Dom’s Subs, turkey, duck, and chicken with a little Mexican flavour
🍞 ‘Smoked Turkey Sandwich‘ at Gail’s, simple on the surface but bursting with flavour
🍕’Ding Dong Merrily on Pie‘ from Yard Sale Pizza x Willy’s Pies, you know what’s better than a Christmas sandwich? A Christmas pizza pie!
12. Immerse yourself in a whole other world
Step off the streets of London and into a whole other world with these festive experiences and immersive installations. You can see the holidays in a whole new light, head back in time to a Christmas experience of old, or simply get wrapped up in festive cheer.
🤠 Phantom Peak presents Wintermas, explore the mysterious steampunk town this holiday season
🖼️ Frameless, unique festive artworks will transport you into snowy bliss – without the bitter cold
🕯️ Great Christmas Feast, let Charles Dickens take you on a whirlwind ride through a ghostly Christmas story
🌎 Avora, it’s not specifically Christmas-related, but there’s enough lights to put Regent Street to shame and they probably don’t celebrate Christmas where this adventure takes you anyway…
13. Have a cuppa with a festive flair at these Christmassy afternoon teas
🩰 TreeHouse@51, a Baubles and Ballerinas Afternoon Tea finds ballerinas pirourreting themselves through the room while you dine
⭐ St. James’s Hotel & Club, a Michelin-starred chef has designed their traditional Christmassy afternoon tea with modern touches
🥂 The Savoy, ultra-luxe (ultra-obviously) collaboration with Champagne Laurent Perrier makes this the classiest of the yuletide afternoon teas
🫖 The Gallery at sketch, an unbeatable festive afternoon tea in eye-bogglingly beautiful surroundings
🏆 The Guardsman, an award-winning afternoon tea gets the festive treatment
14. Wander around some festive museum exhibitions
🦖Natural History Museum, see the T-Rex in their fearsome(ly cute) Christmas jumper and terrifying(ly adorable) Santa hat
📮The Postal Museum, see the first commercial Christmas card that dates back all the way to 1843
🏡 Museum of the Home, celebrate Diwali, Hanukkah, Christmas, Lunar New Year and learn how they are marked at home
🚂 London Transport Museum, a wintry trail awaits, as well as visits with Santa and the museum’s own winter wonderland
Sure, the turkey and all the trimmings may be traditional, but how often have you had a bite of dry turkey or unseasoned Brussel sprouts and wished you could have been eating anything else? Well, it’s up to you to convince your family to have Thai food for Christmas this year, if you want. But otherwise here are some other Christmas-themed meals you can eat in London – with no roasts in sight.
🤤 Hoppers, give Christmas the Sri Lankan treatment with rotis, dosas, and (obviously) hoppers
🍜 Tonkotsu, Christmas-spiced duck leg ramen? Yes please!
🍗 Korean Dinner Party, choose from a Korean Fried Christmas with plenty of fried chicken, or the K-Town Christmas meal with a 12-hour slow cooked pork shoulder centrepiece
😋 Daddy Bao, pigs in blankets in bao and five spice mince pie gyoza – be still my beating heart
🐖 Sarap, you’ll definitely want to take enough friends to order the whole roasted lechon suckling pig
16. Craft yourself some Christmas cheer
The spirit of DIY has always been instrinsically linked to Christmas. From handmade ornaments hanging from the tree to hours spent constructing new toys and gifts on Christmas day, there’s always something craft-y happening. Brush up on those skills, or learn a new one, at these workshops.
🧶 Black Girl Knit Club, take part in a wreath knitting workshop at the Hyatt Andaz London (December 12)
👞 Museum of London Docklands, wintry crafts inspired by the magical tale of the Elves and the Shoemaker from Bow (December 17)
🎅 London Transport Museum, decorate a festive fireplace to make a jolly pop-out Christmas card featuring Santa climbing down a chimney
💐 Leadenhall Market, make your own wreaths with Floral Merchant London
Look, half the point of the season is to annoy an old man in a white beard and red hat with requests for the LEGO set of the Death Star from Star Wars, right? At least, that’s what I did last year outside a Manchester United game… But if it’s Santa you want to meet, be sure to head on over to one of his grottos that have dotted themselves around the city.
😅 Christmas Shrektacular Experience at Shrek’s Adventure!, because Santa isn’t red and green enough
🎅 Alexandra Palace, Santa swaps the North Pole for North London
🍸 Sunday In Brooklyn, a decked-out festive grotto and a selection of whimsical Christmassy cocktails
🎄 Hackney Christmas Market, head to the market at Bohemia Place where a delightful Santa’s grotto awaits visitors
🦁 ZSL London Zoo, add some animal sightseeing to your visit to the man in red
Also published on Medium.