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 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
🎠 Selfridges Christmas Market, boasting a marvellous helter skelter
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 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 cracking New Year’s Eve plans
🦖 Natural History Museum, here for its final year
🌆 Canary Wharf, an enchanting rink among the skyscrapers
👑 Queen’s House, skate around the ice rink at 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 2021
😍 Carnaby Street, bearing a message of change and hope
😇 Regent Street, where the angels shine down upon the city
🌟 Covent Garden, filled with 115,000 gorgeous lights
💫 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, a perfectly Instagrammable setting for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner
🏙 Aviary, boasting rooftop igloos with a view over the city
😎 Bar Elba, the Waterloo party pods
🔥 Tobacco Dock, boasting quayside pods and alpine-inspired food
🌳The Secret Garden, private domes in Kensington
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, a fabulously bougie shopping mainstay
💛 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 second year for the gorgeous light trail
🌠 Winter Lights, Canary Wharf’s hi-tech feast of illuminations
🚂Epping Ongar, a magical railway with stunning lights
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!
🏂 Sky Garden, home to a new Alpine-themed bar.
😅 Indulge – or run 100 miles away from – this pop-up brussels sprouts restaurant
⚡️ Churchill Arms, the Kensington pub festooned with over 80 Christmas trees
🦆 Duck & Waffle, the sky-high spot now dressed up as a Polar Express-themed wonderland
🤑 The Ivy Chelsea, which has had a magnificent Grinch-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…
🌲Covent Garden, because what isn’t amazing over at Covent Garden during Christmas?
🇫🇷 St Pancras, designed in partnership with ZSL London Zoo
💗 Claridges, back with another mesmerisng effort
🏆 Leadenhall Market, illuminating the entire market with its dazzling lights and striking decorations
📍Coal Drops Yard, a spectacular 28-metre beacon in King’s Cross
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
⛵️ Floating Cinema, hurry though, this is docked up until December 5!
📽 Luna Cinema, who are hosting beautiful screenings in Battersea and Kensington
👑 Prince Charles Cinema, where you’ll be watching festive films all through December
🐱 Catford Mews, the 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
🧇 Duck & Waffle, who have revealed a devilish hot chocolate with a twist
🍸 Barrio, who are hosting an FF (festive fiesta) all through December
😋 London Cocktail Club, where you can make and drink six of your own cocktails with friends
🍻 Honestly, anywhere that’s warm right? Here’s a bunch of spots with heated outdoor areas
Also published on Medium.