The winter season in London is the coldest time of the year, but that shouldn't affect your trip. Apart from the fact that there are hundreds of plans to escape the inclement weather, these are the months of the year when there are fewer tourists and you'll have the opportunity to enjoy the city more comfortably. What's more, prices are cheaper than at other times of the year. Except at Christmas, when the city is full of visitors and prices are more expensive. In exchange, however, you will enjoy a truly magical city. Here are the best plans for your winter trip.
And if you're looking for other alternatives, read the post What to see and do in London where you'll find the best suggestions for any time of the year.
1. Visit the most popular Christmas trees in the city
Between the end of November and the beginning of December the Christmas spirit takes over the city of London. The streets start to be decorated and the lights start to shine, the markets open their doors and one of the best things to do is to visit the impressive tree in Trafalgar Square. With a height of more than 20 metres, this tree hides a very curious history, as every year since 1947 Norway has sent this fir tree to Great Britain as a thank you for its support in the Second World War.
2. Take a tour of the Southbank Winter Festival
Another must-do during November and December is to stroll around the Southbank Centre Winter Festival. On the banks of the Thames there are food stands where you can enjoy delicious food, craft stalls that will dazzle you and wooden huts where you can take shelter from the cold. There are also snow shows and festive performances - great for all the family!
Christmas is a truly magical time to travel to London. Make sure you visit this time of year and be dazzled by the lights, see the Christmas trees, go ice skating and enjoy a delicious hot chocolate at Winter Wonderland - there's something for everyone!
3. Be dazzled by the Christmas lights
At Christmas time, the city of London is filled with light and colour as thousands of light bulbs decorate its main streets, sites and shops. The Christmas lights switch-on usually takes place in mid-November, so if you visit the city during December you can enjoy this spectacle of light and colour. Oxford Street, Carnaby Street, Regent Street, Covent Garden and Trafalgar Square are all must-see destinations on your Christmas lights tour of London.
4. Immerse yourself in a movie Christmas on ice skates
If you're looking for the best picture for your Christmas card, don't hesitate to take a picture of yourself skating on ice. Since mid-November, several ice rinks have been set up in the City of London.
- Somerset House is the most popular of London's ice rinks and is located in the courtyard of a neoclassical palace on the banks of the Thames next to a large Christmas tree. You can also enjoy Christmas music while you skate and there is also a Christmas gallery.
- Natural History Museum: Located in the South Kensington neighbourhood next to the entrance of the Natural History Museum is one of the favourite skating rinks for skaters. In this case, the Christmas tree is in the centre of the rink. In addition, there is a hut that serves hot chocolate and where you can have a snack before or after the session.
- Hampton Court Palace: Located on the outskirts of London, this is another ideal setting for a skate race. It is located next to this palace on the banks of the Thames.
5. Stroll through Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park
Located in the heart of London, in Hyde Park, Winter Wonderland is a festival that starts in mid-November and runs until the first days of January and celebrates the Christmas season with a wide range of entertainment activities, attractions and gastronomic proposals. Don't hesitate to go in the morning with the little ones and enjoy a delicious hot chocolate, or enjoy a mulled wine with your partner or friends while you enjoy one of the many shows programmed.
6. Enjoy the musical 'The Nutcracker'
In winter, London's theatres kick off the season with Christmas-themed comedies, musicals and ballets. One of the classics that is repeated every year is 'The Nutcracker', a musical performance for the whole family that tells the story of a little girl on Christmas Eve. It is staged by the Royal Ballet and the English National Ballet. If you decide to go, I recommend that you buy your ticket in advance.
7. Visit Harry Potter Studios Park
An ideal proposal for this time of the year is to visit the Harry Potter Studios Park where you will find all the original objects and sets from the films: Platform 9¾, the Hogwarts Great Dining Hall, Diagon Alley, the teacher's office or the Forbidden Forest, among others. An unforgettable experience if you are a fan of J.K Rowling's saga. If you want more information about where and how to buy tickets, don't hesitate to read the articles Harry Potter London Studio Park tickets and ticket prices.
Harry Potter Studios Park is located just outside London. Visit the post how to get there and you will have no doubts about how to get there.
8. Escape the cold in one of the city's museums
What better way to escape the cold than to take refuge in one of the city's incredible museums. It's an inexpensive plan, available throughout most of the day and for all tastes. Here are a few options:
- British Museum: A must on your trip to London. Inaugurated in the middle of the 18th century, its collection includes pieces from all cultures and periods of history. Highlights include the Rosetta Stone and the sculptures and friezes from the Parthenon in Athens, among many others.
- The National Gallery: Located in Trafalgar Square, it includes a collection of more than two thousand paintings, including works by Van Gogh, Titian, Velázquez and Rembrand, among other great artists.
- Natural History Museum: Inaugurated at the end of the 19th century, this is one of the most spectacular museums in London and houses a complete collection that includes botany, entomology, palaeontology, mineralogy and zoology.
- Tate Modern: This museum houses one of the world's most important collections of contemporary art with pieces by Edvard Munch, Andy Warhol, Salvador Dalí and Pablo Picasso. Moreover, the building is a true marvel.
- Sherlock Holmes Museum: Obviously a must for fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Visitors will be able to see objects related to the detective's different cases and a wide collection of furniture and objects typical of the Victorian era.
If you are looking for more information do not hesitate to read the post 10 best museums in London.
9. Get to know Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey is a must-see on your trip to London. Located in the historic centre, it has been known throughout history as "the church of the Royal Family" as it has been the site of coronations since 1066 and has been used as a pantheon for monarchs.
Westminster Abbey is open every day of the week from 9.30am to 3.30pm, except Wednesday when opening hours are extended to 6pm.
10. Travel back in time at the Tower of London
Situated in the centre of the city on the north bank of the River Thames, the Tower of London is one of the must-see sights of your trip. This historic castle was built in 1066 and has more than seven buildings. The tour is estimated to take approximately three hours and it is highly recommended to purchase an audio guide to learn about the history of its evolution.
London's winter temperatures
London experiences very low temperatures in the winter season, ranging from 2 to 8ºC. In early March, temperatures start to rise and can reach 11ºC (52ºF). Even so, the weather shouldn't be too much of a constraint as the city has hundreds of ways to escape the cold. You might even get lucky and see the city covered in snow, which makes for a truly incredible postcard.
London's winter visitor numbers
London in winter is as busy as the rest of the year, as it is one of the five most popular cities in the world and is visited by almost 20 million people every year. Even so, the months of January and February see a lower number of tourists, while Christmas is one of the busiest times of the year.
London prices in winter
Prices in London in winter vary greatly depending on the month you visit. For example, during the Christmas period, prices tend to be a little more exorbitant, while in January and February you can find the cheapest prices of the year, both for flights and for hotels and excursions.
What to pack if you're travelling to London in winter
If your trip to London coincides with the winter season, you'll want to bundle up very, very well because temperatures will be very cold, between 0 and 8ºC. I recommend that you take a down coat, preferably waterproof, in case it rains, snows or just to insulate yourself from the humidity so typical of this city. Also, don't hesitate to pack comfortable, waterproof footwear, and don't forget warm T-shirts and leggings, fleeces and several winter jumpers.
London's winter holidays in the winter season
In winter there are a number of public holidays in London's capital: the usual 25 December and 1 January, which coincide with Christmas and New Year's Day, and 26 December, which is celebrated as Boxing Day. On these dates the main attractions have reduced opening hours and transport services may offer minimum services, so don't hesitate to check the timetables!