London is a fantastic place to visit at Christmas time. I’m a little biased because I live in London and I love the city at any time of year, but at Christmas it becomes especially magical.
The city lights up with Christmas decorations and it comes alive with festive markets. Christmas in London actually starts pretty early, with some of the ice-skating rinks and Christmas markets opening up as early as 1st November.
Which is great, because it means you have plenty of time to enjoy the Christmas atmosphere in London!
Having lived in London for seven years means I tried quite a lot of all the different festive season activities around.
There are loads of Christmassy things to do in London, but if you’re only visiting for a short time you won’t be able to see them all.
In this post I’ve listed all of my personal favourite things to do in London at Christmas, including the best Christmas markets, ice skating rinks, activities, and some practical tips from a Londoner about getting around the city during the busy festive season!
Before you go, have you booked your London hotel already? If not, check out my Londoners guide to the best areas to stay in London
- 1 10 best Christmas activities to do in London
- 1.1 Visit Winter Wonderland
- 1.2 Go ice skating at the Natural History Museum
- 1.3 See the Christmas decorations in & around Oxford Street
- 1.4 Visit Southbank Christmas Market
- 1.5 Pair ice-skating at South Bank with a visit to the London Eye!
- 1.6 Shop at Covent Garden
- 1.7 Go to Leicester Square Christmas market
- 1.8 Eat a Christmas roast in a pub!
- 1.9 Do a festive afternoon tea bus tour
- 1.10 Try all the Christmas street food!
- 2 Where to stay during Christmas in London
- 3 How to get around London at Christmas time
10 best Christmas activities to do in London
Visit Winter Wonderland
Winter Wonderland is possible the ultimate Christmas in London activity, and one of the most Christmassy places that you can imagine.
It’s a huge Christmas market located in Hyde Park, with all sorts of food and drinks stalls, fun fair rides, ice-skating, Christmas gifts and Christmas decorations everywhere.
There’s something for everyone and it’s guaranteed to get you in the Christmas mood! Winter Wonderland usually gets set up around mid-November, and is around until the start of January.
It’s also very very busy. If you want to avoid the crowds go during the week in the early afternoon, that way you can enjoy it for a while without crowds and wait for the decorations to light the place up once the sun goes down.
Also, if you can only visit on the weekends or after work when it’s busy, make sure to get off the tube at Green Park instead of Hyde Park Corner.
You’ll walk a little bit longer but trust me, it will be much more pleasant than the mass of people that will be trying to squeeze past you at Hyde Park Corner.
Go ice skating at the Natural History Museum
At Christmas time you will find that ice-skating rinks pop up everywhere around London. There are quite a few in very iconic spots, but my personal favourite is the one at the Natural History Museum.
It usually has a huge Christmas tree in the middle and pretty Christmas lights on the trees everywhere around it.
I used to do ice-skating as a kid and I get pretty competitive about it, I love big ice rinks but since these are a bit lacking in London, the best one you can go to is the Natural History Museum one.
It’s fairly big compared to some of its fellow pop ups around London, and the atmosphere is super festive.
I also personally love the Natural History Museum (can’t help it, they have dinosaurs!) so I like making a trip out of it and visiting both while I’m in the area.
If you go during the day, or early in the Christmas season (they set it up mid November!) it won’t be too busy either which will make it more fun. This is also one of the best photo spots in London!
See the Christmas decorations in & around Oxford Street
At Christmas they put up decorations and fairy lights everywhere around London. The vast majority of the main streets will have decorations, but there are a couple that have noteworthy Christmas lights up.
My personal favourites are around Oxford Street, Mayfair and Carnaby Street area.
Carnaby Street is always really coloured as it is, but at Christmas they take things up a notch. In Mayfair you will also find the famous Christmas tree of the Annabels gentleman club.
You can’t go inside without being a member but it’s close to Oxford Street so you can easily visit it and snap some photos from outside while visiting the area.
You can pair a visit to this part of London with some serious Christmas shopping, whatever you’re looking for you’re very likely to find it on Oxford Street (just make sure to visit during the week, weekends on Oxford Street can be mental)!
Visit Southbank Christmas Market
I love street food markets in London. I love them even more when they are Christmas themed. Quite a few street markets pop up in London during the festive season, but my personal favourite is the Southbank one.
It’s located just under the London Eye and along the river, which is a lovely area to visit regardless of the market or not.
They always have amazing food, so you can get food or hot chocolate (or mulled wine, if that’s more your thing) and sip it while watching the sunset over Westminster.
They have great food but also some nice Christmassy souvenirs if you want to buy some presents. Whatever time of the year you’re visiting, Southank is without a doubt one of the best things to do in South East London with kids.
Pair ice-skating at South Bank with a visit to the London Eye!
I’ve already told you that the Natural History Museum ice rink is my favourite, but there is another one that despite being quite small, is worthy of featuring in this London Christmas bucket list.
Every year they set up a small ice-skating rink just under the London Eye.
It’s not as big or heavily decorated as some of the others, but when you’re located right under the London Eye, with a view of Westminster and Big Ben in the background, you can afford to have less fairy lights up.
If you buy them together you can also get a discounted ticket to the London Eye. It’s the perfect opportunity to pair a typical Christmas activity with an iconic London sightseeing one!
I did it a few years ago on a Saturday morning and was surprised to find that they were both fairly crowd free.
Shop at Covent Garden
Covent Garden is a pretty popular part of London regardless of the time of year, but at Christmas time especially, it lights up with so many decorations that you can’t help but love it.
There will usually be huge decorations above the main market area, and a huge Christmas tree in the square just outside the Apple Market and in front of St Paul’s Church Covent Garden.
It’s a very touristy part of London, but beautiful nonetheless.
You can wander around the Apple Market and have some food there, there are lots of options both for on the go snacks and sit down meals, and then head over to the market to shop for some affordable souvenirs and Christmas gifts.
Go to Leicester Square Christmas market
Another Christmas market in London that I love is the one in Leicester Square. It’s not as big and grand as the others, but it’s exactly why I enjoy it so much.
After the chaos of Winter Wonderland, it’s nice to visit a more normal sized market, where you can wander around without having to queue to enter or being pushed around by others.
At the end of the day, most of the food and gift stalls are the same anyway. I also like the location of it.
Leicester Square is pretty much as central as it gets in London, so you can easily pair a visit to Leicester Square Christmas market with other sightseeing activities around London.
Eat a Christmas roast in a pub!
All the Christmas markets listed above offer loads of tasty Christmassy street food options (hello mulled wine and huge cinnamon buns) but if you’re looking to sit down for a Christmassy meal, you should definitely head to a typical English pub.
I’m not usually a fan of pub food, but when it comes to Christmas roast, I’m easily swayed.
Christmas roast usually consists of roast turkey with stuffing, potatoes, carrots, brussel sprouts, parsnips and pigs in blankets (little sausages wrapped in bacon), all covered with a healthy serving of gravy.
Pretty much all pubs will offer a Christmas meal menu with all the above, dessert and drinks. Prices usually range around £20 to £40 per person, but it massively depends on what part of London the pub is and how fancy it is.
Do a festive afternoon tea bus tour
Roast might be the ultimate English Christmas dining experience, but there is another very traditional British meal you have to try while you’re in London at Christmas; afternoon tea.
Afternoon tea is a very typical British meal, where you have tea paired with sandwiches, scones and cakes.
I’ve done a few afternoon teas around London but my favourite is the B Bakery afternoon tea bus tour, since it’s the perfect opportunity to pair a lovely dining experience with some sightseeing.
At Christmas time they have special afternoon tea Christmas menus and the bus will all be decorated with Christmas lights.
Try all the Christmas street food!
You’ve had a traditional English roast dinner, you’ve had a unique afternoon tea bus tour experience, but what about street food?
When you visit the Christmas markets I’ve listed above (or others) make sure to visit on an empty stomach! Amongst all the fun fair rides and Christmas souvenirs you will find plenty of Christmas themed street food.
They tend to be a bit over priced (it is London after all) but are usually really good!
You can usually find all sorts of food like poffertjes (small Dutch pancakes), cinnamon rolls, pretzels, hot dogs and burgers, and lots of drinks choices like beer, mulled wine and hot chocolates!
Where to stay during Christmas in London
A lot of these Christmas activities are spread out across different areas of London, there isn’t really one specific area that is better than others if you want to enjoy Christmas in London.
Public transport is pretty good in London as well so it’s easy to travel around. More than the area that you choose to stay in, make sure you are close to a tube station, so that you’re well connected to everywhere you want to go.
I lived there for three years and I love it because it’s a very central area with lots of bars, shops and restaurants, but it’s still off the main tourist radar, so you’ll only find locals wandering around and it’s not as busy as other parts of central London.
When my parents came to visit they stayed at the Hilton in Angel and loved their stay there.
How to get around London at Christmas time
Getting around London as a tourist can be challenging at any time of year, but especially so at Christmas time. Which is why my top tip, weather permitting, is to walk everywhere!
London is a big city but all the key attractions are close to each other, and you can easily visit them on foot.
Especially at Christmas time walking around London is part of the experience, as you’ll be able to enjoy all the fabulous Christmas decorations.
If the weather is too bad for walking then stick to the tube or buses, public transport is really good and will get you everywhere you need to go.
Final thoughts on visiting London at Christmas
What are you favourite London Christmas activities? Let me know in the comments below!
There are a million things to do in London at Christmas time. Christmas markets, decorations, ice-skating rinks, festive menus and activities pop up all over the city.
There are obviously a lot more Christmassy things you can do beyond the ones I have listed here, but as a Londoner who has spent the past seven Decembers here, I can confidently say these are some of the best things to do in London at Christmas.
If you’re looking for more suggestions, check out this other Christmas in London article.
Looking for more London & UK travel tips? Check out these guides:
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- A local’s travel guide to Stratford Upon Avon
- How to spend a weekend in Bath