Updated December 5, 2023
London at Christmas becomes, in one simple word, magical. The sun sets early (as in 4:30pm early), leaving plenty of time in the evenings to walk around and soak in all the beautiful Christmas lights.
It’s also a city full to the brim with Christmas markets, where you can find holiday themed food and drinks, go ice skating, and shop for gifts for everyone on your list. The only problem will be how to fit everything in your suitcase for the trip home!
Here’s my list of the best things to do in London at Christmas.
See all the Christmas lights
The easiest way to see lights across the city is with a Christmas light double-decker bus tour. See the lights of Regent Street, Trafalgar Square, and Piccadilly Circus as well as the Tower Bridge and Tower of London.
The tours are between an hour and a half and two hours long depending on traffic.
To see the lights from the best vantage point book a seat on the open upper deck.
Visit Hogwarts in the snow
The Warner Brothers Studios are always one of London’s top attractions, but they’re even more popular at Christmas. The Harry Potter movie sets are decorated for Christmas, complete with flaming Christmas puddings in the Great Hall.
See Diagon Alley dusted in snow, or the Forbidden Forest at its winter best. Through the rest of the studio you’ll see fires roaring in the fireplaces, and Christmas trees decorating the dormitories and the Gryffindor common room.
Enjoy one of London’s many Christmas markets
London is full of beautiful Christmas markets, each with its own unique ambience. You can also visit one of London’s regular markets, like Borough Market or Covent Garden, and see them all dressed up for the holidays.
Or you can go to one of London’s specific holiday markets. One of the best is the Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park, where over 100 wooden chalets are set up selling all kinds of holiday foods and gifts.
Go ice skating
One of the easiest skating rinks to get to if you’re in central London is the one that's set up each year at Somerset House on the banks of the Thames. Enjoy the neoclassical courtyard and beautiful Christmas tree as you take a spin around the rink. Afterwards you can warm up with a hot chocolate, or for something more grown up you can indulge in a cocktail at the Moët & Chandon Skate Lounge.
If you’d like to experience the UK’s biggest outdoor ice rink, head to Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland. Enjoy live music while you skate under the many fairy lights and soak up the holiday spirit.
Shop ‘till you drop
London is always an excellent shopping destination, but it’s even more so during the Christmas season.
Stroll through Covent Garden and Seven Dials to experience some of London’s best (and most Instagram worthy!) Christmas decorations while shopping for brands like Malone and Tiffany & Company.
Oxford Street and Regent Street are year-round shopping destinations, but at Christmas they’re lit up with spectacular holiday displays. Take some time to admire the window displays at Selfridges while you’re in the area.
Make sure to stop by Fortnum & Mason in Mayfair. You’ll want to spend some time exploring their food hall, where you’ll find Christmas puddings, mince pies, and Christmas hampers to satisfy the most discriminating tastes.
You’ll also want to head over to Knightsbridge after dark to see Harrods, one of the world’s most famous department stores. It’s a delight, sparkling with over 12,000 lightbulbs. Their giant Christmas shop is also a great place to find those quintessential British Christmas crackers and beautiful ornaments.
Have a festive afternoon tea
Tea in London is always an experience, but during the holidays it’s even better. Many of London’s classic hotels, like the Langham, The Four Seasons, Claridges and The Lanesborough have festive teas that they only offer in November and December.
Enjoy seasonal savories and sweets, holiday-themed cocktails, and a proper British cuppa, while taking in the beautiful seasonal decorations and listening to Christmas carols.
The Bottom Line
With so much to see, it’s easy to spend a weekend or even a week experiencing all the Christmas wonder that London has to offer.
Are you interested in booking a trip to experience it for yourself? Click here to get started.