10 things to do in London at Christmas

Christmas is what lights up the world in winter, brings places to life with twinkling lights, and London is no exception to this Christmas magic!

Ana Caballero

Ana Caballero

8 min read

10 things to do in London at Christmas

London at Christmas | ©Jamie Davies

With a variety of festivals, ice rinks and traditional markets, you'll find that everything is in place for the Christmas spirit to shine and be seen from every corner of the city.

Want to know the best things to do in London at Christmas? Look no further!

1. Go to a musical in the West End

Inside the London Coliseum| ©Tom Page
Inside the London Coliseum| ©Tom Page

London in winter is known for its creative scene. And the musicals that take place in the West End area will not disappoint. Some of the most acclaimed shows are:

  • The Lion King: one of the most acclaimed musicals based on the 1994 Disney film.
  • Moulin Rouge: also based on the film of the same name, it tells the love story between a composer and a cabaret actress.
  • Matilda: based on the famous novel by Roald Dahl, the plot revolves around Matilda, a bright and intelligent girl whose parents despise her.
  • Mamma Mia: if you're a fan of ABBA songs, you know which musical to choose. You'll be thrilled and you'll feel like dancing and singing along to their iconic songs.
  • The Phantom of the Opera: I'm sure you've heard of this musical, but have you had the chance to see it live? It premiered in 1986 and is still in action today, which is a sign that this timeless work leaves no one indifferent.

Plus, if you happen to be in the West End at Christmas, you're bound to see a Christmas show among the musicals you can see in London, such as Elf The Musical.

Buy tickets for London musicals

2. Take a sightseeing bus tour of London's best decorated streets

Stroll down Oxford Street| ©Cristiano Betta
Stroll down Oxford Street| ©Cristiano Betta

With an impressive array of light displays, London arguably has some of the best festive displays Britain has to offer. From London' s finest landmarks to London's most secret spots, everything looks Christmas style.

One of the best things to do in London at Christmas is to simply gawp at the Christmas lights that permeate the high streets! And one of the best ways to get around them is by tour bus, where you can also have a nice cup of tea while you wander around the capital. Here are what I consider to be the streets with the most spectacular Christmas decorations:

  • Oxford Street: one of the best streets to find stunning bursts of glitter. For many Londoners, these are the most famous lights in London. This long street showcases over 1700 installations to see, not to mention it's a great place to do some Christmas shopping.
  • Regent Street: This celebrates a star-studded lighting event every Christmas. The street is traffic-free at night and nearby shops also hold interesting events, so it's worth keeping an eye out for the details this famous street has to offer.
  • Bond Street: London's upmarket shopping district is also known for its legendary Christmas lights - the extravagant designer shop windows are also worth a look! It is estimated that there are more than 250,000 individual lights connected to each other.

Tour London by sightseeing bus

3. Stroll through the kew gardens and say hello to Santa and his elves

Stroll through London's Kew Gardens| ©Jim Linwood
Stroll through London's Kew Gardens| ©Jim Linwood

London's Kew Gardens is one of the city's most impressive green spaces. Located just 30 minutes from the city centre by public transport, this beautiful botanical garden contains amongst other things the Kew Palace and one of the most extensive botanical collections in the world - an unforgettable adventure for all the family!

The best thing for the occasion is that Kew Gardens offers an impressive array of light and sound displays to admire as you walk along the Christmas trail. Along this two-kilometre trail, you'll find around a million lights twinkling on tree branches and a glittering tunnel of bells.

There are mini doughnuts and marshmallows to eat along the way, as well as cakes, roast chestnuts and hot chocolate. And apart from the lights, there are also vintage fairground rides and, of course, Santa and his elves!

  • Address: Richmond TW9 3AF

Book tickets for Kew Gardens

4. Visit Harry Potter Studios and feel the magic of Hogwarts

Christmas is one of the best times to visit Harry Potter Studios, and even more so if you're visiting with children. There are usually special Christmas-related activities or the sets are decorated according to the season. For example, the Forbidden Forest is covered in snow, as is Diagon Alley and even the model castle itself. You can also witness the Gryffindor Common Room filled with Christmas decorations.

Visiting Harry Potter Studios at Christmas is a unique opportunity to enjoy the sets in a different and special way.

Book tickets to Harry Potter Studios

5. Ice skating at the Natural History Museum next to its towering Christmas tree

Enjoy ice skating| ©Ungry Young Man
Enjoy ice skating| ©Ungry Young Man

There's no shortage of ice skating rinks in London, but the most beautiful place to do some Christmas pirouettes is at the Natural History Museum's ice rink.

Not to be outdone by the beautiful views of the historic building, you'll find a huge 30 foot tall Christmas tree in the middle, with cafes serving hot chocolate and multiple Christmas cakes.

Plus, if you're not a fan of gliding back and forth on the ice, there's an observation deck that provides a view of everything going on around you. It's open from 10am until 9pm, every day until January.

  • Address: Cromwell Rd, South Kensington, London SW7 5BD

Book a guided tour of the Natural History Museum

6. Celebrate in Hyde Park at the Winter Wonderland Christmas party

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland| ©TimeOut
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland| ©TimeOut

Since 2007, this classic Christmas event has welcomed over two million visitors a year. Not only is it one of the best parks in London, but it also offers one of the best Christmas activities in London. Don't know what to do in London this Christmas? Head to Hyde Park.

From mid-November to early January the park hosts festive markets, over 100 rides, a giant Ferris wheel, live entertainment including figure skating, a circus, live music, as well as numerous bars and restaurants. This means you can tailor your experience to suit your Christmas budget.

For a fun place to drink, try the Winter Wonderland bar, where everything is made of ice, including the chairs, tables and cocktail glasses. And at the Bavarian Hall, you can dance till your heart' s content to live DJs all day and night. Admission to the park is free.

  • Address: W2 2UH

Book a London Parks Bike Tour

7. Go for a coffee at Elan Café while enjoying their Christmas design

Decoration of Elan Cafe in London| ©EL&N London UK
Decoration of Elan Cafe in London| ©EL&N London UK

The Elan Cafe in London is one of the most Christmas themed cafes in London. With a quirky Christmas design, lights in every corner of the space and relaxing music, its wreaths of pink baubles, glittering fern branches and walls of pink flowers definitely make it one of the best places in London for Christmas ambience!

And if that wasn't enough, all the cafes overlook the stunning pink Christmas tree at St Pancras International Station. This special 'tree of hope' casts a magical pink glow over St Pancras. It is decorated with 1,200 metres of festive ribbon printed with quotes of love and hope from team members to celebrate the commitment, compassion and selflessness shown by their staff.

You can visit the station and enjoy Elan's menu options, but their coffees are among the most popular in London, so don't forget to order your cup of coffee.

  • Address: St Pancras International, Unit 32-33, Euston Road St. Pancras Station, London N1C 4QP

Book a food tour of London

8. Eat at 34 Mayfair

Eating at 34 Mayfair| ©Beaky
Eating at 34 Mayfair| ©Beaky

Home to one of the most spectacular Christmas installations ever seen, 34 Mayfair is one of the quirkiest places to eat in London.

In the run up to Christmas, the restaurant installs 14,000 decorations, including 8,400 glittering baubles covering every inch of the walls and ceilings!

This steak and grill restaurant's Christmas menu includes Japanese Wagyu steak, white truffle, Italian pizzas and Peking duck with pancakes. They also do weekend brunches and private dinners. Also, if the art of food is something you appreciate, I recommend booking a food tour of the city of London.

  • Address: 34 Grosvenor Square, S Audley St, London W1K 2HD

Book a food tour of London

9. Explore the Winter Market at the Southbank Centre

At the Southbank Centre Winter Market| ©Pete Woodhead
At the Southbank Centre Winter Market| ©Pete Woodhead

As the days grow shorter and the outdoors turns frosty, the Southbank Centre Winter Market transforms into a seasonal wonderland of sorts, bringing some warmth to the cold, wintry nights.

It's the place to go to find mulled wine, cinnamon treats and handmade gifts. Take a stroll through the market and check out the beautiful view illuminated by the fairy lights. Most of the stalls are open until 10pm, so there's plenty of time for a hot drink and a bite to eat after a long day.

  • Address: Belvedere Rd, London SE1 8XX

10. Watch a Christmas movie at Luna Drive-in Winter Cinema

At the Luna Drive-in Winter Cinema| ©The Luna Cinema
At the Luna Drive-in Winter Cinema| ©The Luna Cinema

There's nothing better for a winter's evening than watching a Christmas classic! And if it's at a drive-in cinema, all the better.

This fair offers open-air cinema in various areas of England. The best thing is that the Christmas cinema related plans vary in location and features, so I recommend you visit the Luna Drivein website for more information.

All the films shown at this time of year have a Christmas feel to them such as Home Alone, Love Actually, and other classics that are not to be missed.

11. Listen to carols in Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square Carols| ©Kathleen Tyler Conklin
Trafalgar Square Carols| ©Kathleen Tyler Conklin

Over forty carol groups sing for an hour in the run up to Christmas to raise money for charities, especially in December in London.

Be sure to wrap up warm and head to the impressive Christmas tree in the middle of the square for a glimpse. Every year a giant Christmas tree is gifted from the city of Oslo to London, a tradition that has been in place since 1947 as a way of recognising England's brave role during the Second World War. The tree is usually around 25 metres (82 feet) high and is dressed with hundreds of illuminated light bulbs. Don't miss it!

Also, I recommend having a hot chocolate and snuggling like a penguin around the tree while the carols play. There are often food and drink stalls dotted around the square.

  • Address: Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN