Christmas Things to do in London in the Winter: Plan a festive London day out

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There’s just something about London at Christmas time which transforms the city from a hectic metropolis into a beautiful festive experience. Although the crowds are just as heavy, there are so many Christmas things to do in London in the winter months which make it a perfect option for a festive London day out!

Long street with Christmas lights stretched across the road with cars on either side
Regent Street and Oxford Street Lights

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Planning Christmas days out in London

There are plenty of fun things to do in London at Christmas, but it is also the busiest time of year in the UK’s capital. So if you have the flexibility, doing these activities on a weekday will help avoid the worst of the weekend crowds.

If you are restricted to just weekends for visiting London at Christmas, aim to go in mid to late November. Christmas Lights and the best Christmas events in London usually start opening from mid-November. So you can beat the December crowds by visiting in November.

London Christmas Tours

If you’re short on time or perhaps would prefer not to navigate the London Tube and transit system alone, there are countless affordable Christmas tours in London to help you experience the Christmas Lights and festive London attractions which are so iconic in the city.

This London Christmas Lights Tour on a vintage open-top bus is one of the top reviewed London Christmas Tour for a very good reason and it’s a great price!

Alternatively, this Christmas Lights tour on a regular open-top bus is THE HIGHEST reviewed London Christmas Tour and it’s a little cheaper than the vintage bus.

If you’d prefer a slightly more private experience, how about this London Christmas Lights tour in a Black Cab? Or this exclusive Christmas speedboat ride on the River Thames?

For a full festive London day experience, why not extend it into the evening too with this Christmas dinner cruise.

Or if you’re on a budget or have more time on your hands, a Christmas Lights bike tour or Christmas Walking tour might be more up your street!

Christmassy fun things to do in London in Winter

These are some of the best things to do in London at Christmas, just make sure you book them in advance!

Sky Garden

A garden with big windows looking out onto the London skyline
Sky Garden

The best thing about visiting London’s highest public garden is that it’s completely free!

Public access tickets are released every Monday so set yourself a reminder and book your tickets online here.

With festive decor, festive dining, winter bar decor and the option of Christmas parties and live music, a visit to the Sky Garden to see one of the best views in London is an unforgettable Christmas experience.

This is a great option too if you’re looking for things to do in London at Christmas with kids. WIth free tickets, it’s budget friendly and the great views are always great fun for the whole family.

The free ticket allows you an hour slot to enjoy the roof terrace and take in the views of The Shard, Tower Bridge and the city skyline, but if you want to dine or go to one of their Christmas events, you’ll need to book that separately. 

Leadenhall Market

Interior of the Leadenhall Market with shops and a Christmas tree in the centre
Leadenhall Market

Without a doubt one of the most festive things to do in London is to visit the ornate Leadenhall Market. And again, this is a great option for the family because it’s a completely free activity in London at Christmas!

Although Leadenhall Market is essentially a shopping arcade, the ornate ceilings, deep red festive interior and the consistently stunning annual Christmas decor makes this a must-stop spot for planning a festive London day out.

Also the Leadenhall Market is just a short 4 minute walk from the Sky Garden, so you can visit both in one trip easily!

Visit one of the London Christmas Markets

You really are spoilt for choice when it comes to the best Christmas Markets in London!

The best London Christmas Markets range from the world-famous Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, to the cool, alternative Southbank Christmas Market.

But there are also actual markets with amazing Christmas displays like Christmas at Borough Market or Greenwich Market.

Alternatively check out the magical Christmas Market at Leicester Square or the ever-popular Christmas display and events at Covent Garden.

There are also countless pop-up Christmas Markets in London such as the Selfridge’s Christmas Fair which runs for a shorter period each year. Check out the London city tourism website for an up to date list of what’s going ahead this year.

Find out more about the UK’s best Christmas Markets

Ice Skating in London in the Winter

Christmas tree in the middle of an ice rink in front of the Natural History Museum
Natural History Museum Ice Rink

Sadly, 2021 was the last year that the Natural History Museum Ice Rink was running.

But fortunately there are several other ice rinks in London which make the perfect festive London activity for things to do at Christmas in London.

Many of the ice rinks also run all the way through to mid-January, so it’s perfect if you’re looking for fun things to do in London in the winter but without the crowds!

Here are some of the best London ice rinks to enjoy over the festive period:

  • Somerset House ice rink – book here – tickets start from £11 for adults
  • Alexandra Palace ice rink – book here – tickets start from £9 for adults
  • Skylight London ice rink (on a rooftop with epic city views!) – book here – tickets start from £15 for adults
  • Queens House ice rink in Greenwich – book here – tickets start from £15 for adults
  • Hampton Court Palace ice rink (usually runs from the first week of November if you really want to avoid the crowds!) – book here – tickets start from £16 for adults

Most of these locations will require you to book online in advance, although some will accept walk-ins during less busy times.

Regent Street and Oxford Street Lights

Large lit up angel attached to a tan stone building at night.
Regent Street and Oxford Street Lights

You can’t spend a festive day in London at Christmas without seeing the famous Regent Street and Oxford Street Christmas lights!

In 2021, the London Christmas lights broke world records with over one million bulbs in the Christmas light installations!

Take a stroll down these famous shopping streets at dusk or just as it gets dark (4pm in the winter in the UK!). See the famous glittering angels above the red double-decker buses and the illuminated storefronts.

Also don’t miss the colourful Carnaby Street which also always puts on a show for the Christmas season in London!

Liberty’s and Hamleys

Hot air balloon decoration hanging in the interior of Liberty
Liberty London

Depending on whether you’re on a day out with friends or you’re looking for things to do in London with kids at Christmas, the shopping area around Oxford Street and Regent Street offers plenty of festive shopping (or window shopping) options!

Visit the famous Liberty London department store on Regent Street. The grand Tudor façade is always special to see, but the store always pulls it out the bag with some extravagant festive decoration in their vaulted gallery inside!

Take a quick walk through to see the decorations or spend longer to make a purchase or two!

If you’re with kids then don’t miss a visit to Hamleys Toy Store, also on Regent Street. This lavish toy store is absolutely guaranteed to be a magical experience for children, regardless of whether you make a purchase or not!

Pergola Paddington Deck the Halls

Pergola Paddington Deck the Halls interior with Christmas trees, and decorations
Pergola Paddington Deck the Halls

Definitely not an activity for children! But if you’re looking for things to do in London for Christmas, the city has no shortage of locations for a festive tipple, or three!

Ending a busy festive day in London with a warming drink is the perfect way to round off the day, and the best part about this location is that you’re right near the train station so you can make a quick getaway back home when you’re ready!

Pergola Paddington is a large bar situated not far from Paddington Station and they always do a spectacular job of transforming their huge drinking hall space with decorations to fit the season.

Visit their rooftop garden theme in summer, their German Oktoberfest theme in autumn and in Christmas, don’t miss their Christmas themed experience, complete with over 350 Christmas trees, a full-sized sleigh and half a dozen festive pop-up food stores.

For their Christmas events, you will need to book a ticket in advance which is usually £10. However, you’ll be given a token upon entrance and the ticket cost can be redeemed for a free drink.

Think festive food, mulled wine, wooden winter grottos and Christmas trees everywhere! Pergola Paddington is the perfect place to go if you need Christmas ideas in London for a big group of friends!

Book Pergola Paddington here.

Summary: The best places to go in London at Christmas

Of course there are countless festive events, pop-ups and experiences for all ages and groups in London, you can’t possibly fit them all in one day out! But hopefully this day trip guide can give you some ideas for how to spend a festive day in London and Christmas things to do in London for everyone!

Pin this for later to help you plan your future trip!

Pinnable image with 4 photos of London at Christmas, the Oxford Street lights, ice rink, Leadenhall Market and Liberty London display. Text reads Things to do in London at Christmas

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7 thoughts on “Christmas Things to do in London in the Winter: Plan a festive London day out”

  1. I love this! You can’t beat a walk around London to see all the Christmas lights & you’ve highlighted that I need to make sure I get into the city soon to see them, especially as the crowds will be smaller than normal this year. Also can’t believe I’ve still never made it to Sky Garden or Winter Wonderland. Thanks for the prompt. Ice skating at the Natural History Museum is such a wonderful experience, so sad it’s the last year!

    Reply
  2. Oh London during Christmas looks seriously magical! I would love to experience this one day 🙂 Lovely post and amazing photos Helena!

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  3. Wow, London looks absolutely stunning all dressed up for Christmas. I have yet to make it to this amazing city and I’m honestly thinking wintertime may be the time to see it! Thanks for all the inspiration, as always.

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  4. I’ve never been to London at Christmas time but it looks so pretty and festive! I’ve yet to visit the Sky Garden so that would be at the top of my list. Wandering the Christmas markets and Leadenhall Market would be so fun! And ending the day with a drink at Pergola Paddington would make it an awesome day!

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