Our fair city is just wonderful this time of year, so we’ve gathered up the very best things to do in London at Christmas.
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 – by choosing our top ten things see, do, or eat, and then giving five fabulous examples for each of them. Will you be enchanted by a festive light display? Eat your body weight in mince pies? 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, 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 a lovely Snowman trail
🌇 Leicester Square Christmas Market, thriving market in the heart of town
🎅 Christmas at Camden Market, complete with Santa’s grotto and an ice rink
🎠 Ally Pally Christmas Carnival, where the funfair meets Christmas films
Amongst all the things to do in London at Christmas, this is a definite classic. Tovrill & Dean you may not be, but ice rinks are undeniably fun whether you’re weaving in and out of crowds or inching your way around the barriers. Get your skates on at London’s best ice rinks, and don’t forget to reward yourself with a hot chocolate after!
🐳 Natural History Museum, where you’ll skate around a giant Christmas tree
⛸ Somerset House, complete with rinkside bar and an all-night skate
🔒 Tower of London, where the backdrop will take you prisoner
🌆 Skylight, skate above the city on this rooftop rink
👑 Queen’s House, a brand new rink on Greenwich’s UNESCO World Heritage site
Sometime around early November, London got lit, and whilst the city’s electricity bill is trending upwards, the illuminations have certainly brought the sparkle to town. Whilst you can find festive light displays all over the city, we think these five are top of the tree.
✨ Oxford Street, which has a sparkling new display for 2019
♻️ Carnaby Street, who’ve made their lights out of entirely recycled materials
😇 Regent Street, where the angels shine down upon the city
🌟 Covent Garden, filled with gorgeous mistletoe chandeliers
💫 The Shard, featuring the highest festive light display in town
Every year, a whole host of magnificent winter pop-ups take over rooftops, riversides, and terraces, steadily feeding Londoners a diet of gloriously carby street food, warming winter cocktails, and toasty vibes. Lovely stuff!
❄️ Coppa Club, home of London’s legendary riverside igloos
🌲 Broadgate Winter Forest, a little slice of Lapland in the heart of the city
💚 Queen of Hoxton, which has a wicked Oz-themed makeover for 2019
🔥 Winterland, where hot tubs have sprung up along the Thames
⛷ The Montague Ski Lodge, all the comforts of après skiing without leaving Bloomsbury
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, but this is our top five!
😍 Liberty, home to a spectacular tree and Christmas shop
🎁 Harrods, the famous department store is full of festive cheer
⭐️ Selfridges, who have gone joyously OTT once more
🗓 Fortnum & Mason, who’ve turned their store into a giant advent calendar
💛 John Lewis Oxford Street, with a beautifully organised Christmas store and a festive rooftop
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 skyscrapers of Canary Wharf are lighting up this winter, and here’s where we reckon you should be heading.
🎄 Kew Gardens, where breathtaking lights adorn the trees and bushes
🌈 Enchanted Eltham, where the historic palace is now dappled with colours
🎇 Wembley Winterfest, a first ever trail featuring a Burning Man favourite
🌠 Winter Lights, Canary Wharf’s hi-tech feast of illuminations
🏮 Lightopia, a magical lantern festival taking over Chiswick House in January
7. Dine in a beautifully decorated restaurant
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!
😮 34 Mayfair, now home to 14,000 baubles
🏂 Dalloway Terrace, currently transformed to evoke a Swiss ski resort
⚡️ Churchill Arms, the Kensington pub festooned with over 80 Christmas trees
🦆 Duck & Waffle, the sky-high spot now dressed up as a Nordic wonderland
🦁 The Ivy Chelsea, which has had a magnificent Narnia-inspired makeover
Red 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 best Christmas trees make you too envious though…
👠 Claridge’s, designed by Christian Louboutin and featuring a champagne bar
🇫🇷 St Pancras, which isn’t so much a tree as a Parisian landmark
💗 sketch, back with another mesmerising Yuletide transformation
🏆 Annabel’s, with a gigantic silver and gold tree guarding the entrance
🧱 The Savoy, who’ve used thousands of Lego bricks to build their tree
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, who’ve brought their beautiful Winter Night Garden to a new home
⛵️ Floating Cinema, where you’ll need to wrap up warm for films on the water
📽 Prince Charles Cinema, who are hosting a staggering all-night Christmas marathon
🎞 QUEENS, where you’ll be watching festive films on ice
🐱 Catford Mews, the new London cinema with a cracking festive lineup
10. Sip on a bevy of Christmassy cocktails
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, the insanely festive cocktail bar that’s returned to Covent Garden
☄️ Harvey Nichols, where you’ll be enjoying ice cream cocktails beneath the Northern Lights
🍸 Boundary, who are serving delightful drinks on their toasty roof terrace
😋 Nine Lives, who’ve unveiled a menu with an intriguing almond old fashioned
🥃 Terra Terra, where you can grab yourself an extremely Christmassy Negroni
Still thirsty for inspiration? Check out our fabulous guide to the best things to do in London this December – or if you’re truly ambitious, you can embark on a majestic quest by using our roundup of the 500 best things to do in London.
Featured image: @levanterman
Also published on Medium.