Spending Christmas in London? The Ultimate Guide With Magical Christmas Ideas
Spending Christmas in London? Christmas-Only Ideas That Will Make You Enamoured
Today you’re going to find out all about making the most of Christmas in London and I’m here to help you choose where to go and what to see during this special time. After all, London is a melting pot for all different nationalities and you’re bound to experience it in not one, but a few locations scattered around the town – that’s if you do your research beforehand!
Don’t worry, you’re in safe hands! Being a Londoner and visiting some of my favourite locations in the capital almost on an annual basis gives me a good idea of what’s worth seeing if you’re spending Christmas in London and have only a few days around. Being Polish, you can imagine how much I value Christmas traditions!
I don’t think you’d need much convincing that Europe is the epitome of Christmas festivities. Europe is compact compared to other continents and each country holds its own set of unique traditions, history, cuisine and of course languages. With London being the melting pot, you will hardly run out of things to do in London at Christmas.
Make The Most Of The Magic Christmas in London
Add to it Christmas season and you’ll be spoilt with Christmas markets, Christmas decorations and state-of-the-art Christmas illuminations, Christmas shopping fever and if you’re lucky, you’ll get to experience White Christmas with the presence of snow.
By now, you’ll have come to a conclusion that if you’re not around, you might be missing out! Now that you’re all in the Christmas spirit, let’s shift our focus to spending Christmas in London. With the weak pound, very diverse culture, astounding creativity and thousands of flights landing in London, you are going to reminisce on your Christmas in London for another few years!
Christmas markets in London
With hundreds of Christmas things to do in London, you will need to decide on seeing a fraction of things! Unless you have plenty of time to spare. In this case, I’m already jealous of your lifestyle. One of the most cherished Christmas things to do in London are London’s Christmas markets turn London into a Bavarian village, with wooden chalets and mulled wine. With many similar traditions between Poland and Germany, you can imagine I feel like I’m back at home! There are a few Christmas markets in London that you should prioritise over others so here they are, prepared all neatly for you.
Christmas by the River – London Bridge
Without being biased, Christmas by the River is one of the best Christmas markets in London, it’s the quintessence of London’s iconic landscape and festive feel to it. I can consider myself lucky working around there as it allowed me to explore this place inside out.
First of all, it’s a vibrant place, ideal for meetups, sightseeing and bitesize food. As soon as you walk through Hay’s Galleria, you’re going to notice a giant Christmas tree; you can hardly walk past it without admiring it.
Next one, dozens of artisans selling unique style gifts, dazzling jewellery, chic hats, paintings, music and many, many more, like wreath making classes at London’s iconic Christmas market. Now walk up towards HMS Belfast War ship museum and more chalets emerge, some selling craft beers and spirits, cocktails, mulled wine and Snowdonia cheese. Not to mention the food chalets with German sausages, Japanese bento boxes, Korean popcorn chicken, hog roasties and Greek wraps. They’re just heavenly!
I occasionally treat myself to a guilty snack, that is to yummy macarons and brownies which are unbelievably good! Not to mention the views of the Tower Bridge, both during day and night with the second to none views over City of London. It’s so pretty that I purposely arranged to meet a few friends after work!
London Winter Wonderland
Winter Wonderland is an attraction of its own and it’s rated high amongst things to do in London at Christmas.
It’s been one of my go-to places ever since I moved to London! You may wonder why. It’s a Christmas themed food market turned amusement park in Hyde Park where both adults and children can easily find themselves entertained for a few hours!
First of all, let’s make it clear, since you’ll only get to experience it between 22nd November and 6th January, it’s one of favourite Christmas hangout spots for many Londoners and commuters and beloved UK and foreign visitors’ Christmas sight.
You’d be happy to hear that’s right in the heart of London, right by Mayfair and Hyde Park Corner and completely free to enter. You cannot complain about the opening hours. Winter Wonderland is conveniently open from 10 in the morning until 10 pm, making it impossible to miss and ideal to wind down after a busy day packed with sightseeing activities.
There are number of reasons why I keep coming back there. One of them is the unlimited amount of delicious Christmassy snacks (of course!), ranging from mouth-watering Spanish chocolate con churros, mulled wine or favourite winter comfort food, Bratwurst German sausages and many pubs to warm your cold feet up and enjoy a good old catch up with friends.
Honestly, the Bavarian village market is so huge that walking past over 200 cosy chalets selling festive food, arts and jewellery and crafts is still not enough to say you’ve seen it all. Each year there are more and more chalets joining the beautifully illuminated park.
My favourite ones are Christmas karaoke booths, ideal for a gathering with friends. So cosy, being tucked away, surrounded by the warmth, sipping on a cocktail or two and singing Christmas carols or whatever a cheesy song if that tickles your fancy. Bar Ice is also pretty good if you’re missing snow or like the chills although I prefer Belowzero Ice Bar in Mayfair.
There’s a lot more to it, like a stand-up comedy at the Winter Wonderland Comedy Club or the UK’s largest outdoor Ice Rink. Although there are quite a few good ones in London, the one in Winter Wonderland seems to be always busy. Piece of advice from me, consider booking in advance.
Next one, the rides. You are going to see them from afar, especially the Big Wheel, standing at 60 metres. In the early days, I used it to navigate around the Hyde Park! Winter Wonderland rides are a good alternative to Alton Towers or Thorpe Park during Christmas in London. Best part of it? Since it’s dark outside, Winder Wonderland boasts amazing illuminations and artsy ice sculptures.
Lastly, if you’re here with the youngsters, you may want to check out the Santa, Snowman experience and Teletubbies Christmas show. I cannot tell you much about it since I haven’t done it myself but judging how many families visit each year, this place should be on your radar!
Other Christmas Markets in London
I’d lie if I said there are only a handful. Depending on the area you’re in, you should also check out the following:
Christmas Markets in Central London
Leicester Square Christmas Market
Southbank Centre Winter Festival and Christmas Market
Monocle Christmas Market
Camden Market’s Christmas Take Over
Broadgate Winter Forest at Liverpool Street
Christmas Markets in East London
Old Spitalfields Market
Greenwich Christmas Market
Christmas Markets in South London
Winterville Clapham Common
Christmas Markets in West London
Ealing Christmas Market
Kingston Christmas Market
Wembley Christmas Market
For more details, check out my article listing all Christmas markets in London with locations and times here.
London Christmas Lights and Illuminations
When it comes to Christmas lights, there are only a few real contenders worldwide and London is seemingly the forerunner in this annual contest, along with Japan, which takes Christmas illuminations to the next level! However, is it lacking the authentic Christmas feel, traditional Western comfort food easily available across Europe and sitting on the other side of the globe. After weighing the odds, this makes London’s most fierce competition shrink in size.
Christmas lights and illuminations are irrefutably one of the highlights of magical Christmas in London and whatever the reason for your trip to London in December, I am sending an early alert out now – you are missing out if you don’t venture into out to explore the quintessential Christmas vibe as they are one of the beloved things to do in London at Christmas not just by the tourists, but also by many Londoners – including myself!
Upon your return home, you are likely to go under thorough investigation if you’ve seen them. Trust me, you will never see London roads looking prettier than during Christmas period.
To make it easy for you, I’ve summarised a few locations that will leave you flabbergasted even if you’re not into art, lights and all the pretty little things.
Central London Christmas Lights
Oxford Street Christmas Lights
Bond Street Christmas lights
Carnaby Christmas Lights
Regent Street Christmas Lights
Covent Garden Christmas
Marylebone Christmas Lights
London Zoo Light Trail
City of London Christmas Lights
Christmas at Leadenhall Market
South of the River Christmas Lights
South Bank Christmas lights
Alice In Winterland Trail at Southwark Park
West London Christmas Lights
Chelsea Christmas Lights
Christmas at Kew Gardens
The Enchanted Woodland
Wembley Silvana Light Maze
For the locations and exact dates and when the Christmas light turn on and off, check out my article dedicated purely to Christmas Lights in London where I’m writing more in detail about each of them individually here.
London Christmas Musicals and Theatre Shows
Feel free to disagree with me on this one but to me London musicals and theatre are one of the best attractions of London and reasons to make a trip up here. Even more so if you’re planning Christmas in London as they are regarded as best things to do in London at Christmas.
Musicals at Christmas in London
Why? With many Christmas-only shows, you will be competing for seats with Londoners and Brits from all over UK wanting to get the tickets for festive family shows, Christmas pantomimes and ballets. One of them is Snow White at the London Palladium, Peter Pan at the Richmond Theatre or Aladdin at Hackney Empire.
And for the ultimate Christmas experience, I highly suggest booking your tickets in advance for the Royal Ballet’s the Nutcracker at the Royal Opera House. Although it goes on from December till mid January, I doubt there are any tickets left for if you’re reading this article in November.
Ballet In London At Christmas
You should definitely try by all means as the ballet is accompanied by the fabulous sounds of Tchaikovsky’s score. Most of the time, however, The Nutcracker tickets get sold out a lot sooner. If you’re unlucky, you can also try English National Ballet’s Nutcracker at the London Coliseum with over 100 dancers and musicians. The window is even shorter, though, usually only in the second half of December!
Another good one, especially if you’re coming with a group of girlfriends for Christmas in London, is Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake at Sadler’s Wells Theatre. Expect to see female corps-de-ballet swapped with the male cast. If you feel like it’s your calling, I’ve got great news for you; this ballet goes on for two months, from early December till end of January!
There are more musicals and theatre shows to see, of course, like the famous Hansel and Gretel at the Royal Opera House, Christmas Festival at the Royal Albert Hall and the beloved A Christmas Carol at The Old Vic with no one else but Ebenezer Scrooge. Even if you try hard to prove me wrong, you are not going to be bored during Christmas in London!
Alternative Christmas in London
There’s also something for Speakeasy ones. Troxy in East London is organising Christmas concert with Some Voices choir and live band, singing to some tunes by Basement Jaxx Amy Winehouse or Plan B. And if that wasn’t enough, there are many Christmas comedy shows which, although are bound to be busy throughout December, they are more likely to have available tickets. You snooze, you lose!
London Christmas Afternoon Tea
Afternoon tea is just as iconic to the UK as its famed fish and chips. And whilst it’s not limited to any time of the year, if you happen to be spending Christmas in London, you may as well try the limited-edition Christmas afternoon tea. If you’re a fan of British culture, then sipping on an afternoon tea in London is a must and I can only imagine you prioritising a themed afternoon tea over many other things to do in London at Christmas.
Let me warn you though, it’s never going to be as cheap as chips! It’s a nice treat and I think it’s an experience you’d want to have when visiting the UK, whether it’s London at Christmas or any time of the year. Just remember to try it with your friends and family to make your memories lasts. Unless your Instastory will remind you what it was like!
And to make it easy for you, I’ve divided afternoon tea venues into affordable, mid-range and high-end Christmas afternoon teas.
Affordable Christmas Afternoon Tea
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The prices for an affordable afternoon tea are at around £25 to £35. Here are a few suggestions for you if you’d like to get the taste of seasonal, Christmas afternoon tea:
Strand Palace Hotel
Cutter and Squidge
Forest on the Roof
Galvin at The Athenaeum – also gluten free!
Royal Garden Hotel
Town House at The Kensington
The Montagu at the Churchill Hyatt London
Mid-range Christmas Afternoon Tea
Expect to pay between £40 and £60 per head but the venues will usually be quite classy too:
Paul A Young x InterContinental London Park Lane
The Bulgari Hotel
Jumeirah Carlton Tower
Lanes of London
High-end Christmas Afternoon Tea
Anything that doesn’t fit the above! You’re look to pay at least £70 per person so choose your company wisely and make the afternoon tea treat lasts!
If you want to read more about the etiquette, the history of afternoon tea and some of the best venues in London, I’m covering it all in another article here.
Christmas activities in London
Now that we’ve covered some of the best Christmas markets, musicals, theatre and afternoon teas popping up across London at Christmas, it’s time to move on to burning some of those newly acquired calories in a truly festive style.
Ice Rinks in London
They are all scattered around London, with some being conveniently places right outside some of the most iconic London landmarks, like Somerset House, the Natural History Museum and Hampton Court Palace, on the outskirts of London.
You can easily combine Christmas market in London Bridge with Tower of London ice rink. In fact, Christmas by the River Christmas market stretches all the way from London Bridge to Tower Hill, making it a perfect winter leg workout in the proximity of grand historical setting of London’s elegant fortress.
Those who love the look of futuristic glass buildings won’t be disappointed with famed Canary Wharf ice rink. With short days and long nights, you are bound to see all suited and booted investment bankers leaving their offices often not earlier than 8 pm. With 1,200 sqm, it’s one of largest ice rinks in London so expect to get busy from late afternoons. Single ladies, it might be your lucky evening!
Did I say anything about rooftop ice rink and go-karting on ice? Well, you can do that too!
If you’d like find out more about them and the best ice rinks in London, simply click here for a full article about it!
Harry Potter fans, visit Hogwarts in the snow
No one here needs much convincing why visiting Warner Bros. Studios is a must whatever time of the year. Needles to mention that you will need to book your tickets in advance but they are worth every penny spent!
Another great news is that you can actually experience Christmas in the Wizarding World from 17th November till 27th January. I won’t say too much but expect the Great Hall to undergo a total transformation, covered in beautiful Christmas trees and Yule Ball decorations.
My advice is to book your tickets 1-2 months in advance unless you don’t mind a late admission which means you won’t stay there for long. Of course, don’t forget to see Platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross station, how on earth can a wizard like you get to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry otherwise?!
Get Cosy at an Igloo in London at Christmas
London is creative and you will quickly notice it! Over the past couple of years pop up igloos have been trending around London. There are really cosy and since they’re still a novelty, you can expect them to be booked out really quick! Last year we totally missed the boat for them because we looking into it too late!
Here are a few places where to see beautiful igloos in London:
Let’s start with Thames at Coppa Club in Tower Bridge, the place that fathered this unusual idea. The owners pretty much nailed their project. You can make yourself at home with cushy sofas and sheepskin blankets whilst sipping on a cocktail and filling your hungry winter belly with comfort-type dinner.
These sheepskin blankets remind me of my childhood and numerous visits to my beloved mountainous Zakopane in Poland!
The other equally amazing places are Igloos at Jimmy’s Lodge in South Bank, not far from the original Coppa Club, Rooftop igloos at Skylight in Tobacco Dock and Rooftop igloos at Aviary in Finsbury Square with top-notch city skyline views. Take your pick but act fast as Londoners are likely to outsmart you!
Fancy flying over to see the magic of Christmas in London?
Did I just create a London itinerary for your Christmas trip to London? With so much going on from November all the way till January, I’m sure you will get a real taster of Christmas in London. It must be said, no other place in Europe makes such a big deal out of Christmas!
So, if you happen to be visiting London around this time of the year, make sure to allocate enough time for the festive activities, Christmas shopping, Christmas markets, state-of-the-art Christmas lights, festive musicals and the seasonal Christmas afternoon tea. I guess this goes without saying that a 4-day city break may simply be not enough to cover all the elegance and charm London has to offer! Remember that the winter sale starts in December too!
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