It’s that time of the year again when the nights are getting colder, the streets are lit by sparkly lights, and everybody is humming their best take on Mariah Carey’s Christmas special. From November until the end of December, London sheds its skin and replaces it with something a whole lot twinklier. Christmas is looming, and there’s no better way to embrace the festive spirit than by diving head-first into the city’s top Christmassy activities. Here’s the ultimate list for those looking for the top Christmas-themed things to do in London.
(WA = Wheelchair Accessible)
See the Christmas lights around the city
Undoubtedly, one of the top Christmas-themed things to do in London is to see the legendary Christmas lights. Nothing quite gets you in the festive spirit more than the Christmas lights switch on, and from early November, Oxford Street’s dangling stars illuminate London’s most famous street, while Regent Street and St. James’s lights follow shortly after. Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square and Carnaby Street are also excellent spots to see even more lights and soak up the festive feelings.
Image Courtesy of Somerset House
Try your hand at ice skating at Somerset House
As soon as November comes around, ice rinks start popping up across the city in anticipation of the Christmas period. Somerset House is perhaps home to the most famous rink, and the neoclassical courtyard transforms into a festive dream. Expect a giant ice rink, a 40ft tree decorated with fancy Swiss themed decorations and the gourmet Chalet Suisse restaurant serving a menu of Alpine-inspired dishes. Make sure you book tickets in advance for this one.
Skate at Somerset House | Covent Garden | WA | 15th November 2023 – 14th January 2024
Image Courtesy of The Savoy
Enjoy a Christmas-themed afternoon tea
There isn’t anything more British than afternoon tea, but make that Christmas-themed, and you’re in for a real treat. After all, ’tis season for eating far too much cheese and drinking far too much wine. The Savoy always puts on a show when it comes to afternoon tea, Christmas or not, and last year’s menu included candied Christmas cake and white chocolate ganache with spiced cherry compote. The Ned is keeping it classic with gingerbread Christmas trees, chocolate yule logs and more mince pies than you can shake a stick at. Other spots worth checking out that usually host an excellent Christmas-themed afternoon tea include The Dilly, The Conrad St. James Hotel, and The Landmark London.
Image Courtesy of Winter Wonderland
Wander around a Christmas Market
Every year, around the festive period, Christmas markets pop up all around the city and are filled with twinkly lights, mulled wine, mince pies and everything and anything Christmas-themed. Winter Wonderland is London’s biggest and most famous (and therefore, most crowded) Christmas market, filled with fairground rides, beer tents, street food and German-inspired markets. Other markets include the one on the South Bank, the Selfridges Christmas Market and the Christmas market at Leicester Square.
Image Courtesy of Petersham Nurseries
Go to a wreath-making workshop
Another one of our favourite Christmas-themed things to do in London is to take part in a wreath-making workshop. Petersham Nurseries’ masterclasses are popular, where they teach you how to forage your own materials from woodlands and your garden to craft your own festive-themed wreath for your front door from scratch. They’re known for their outlandish arrangements, using floristry techniques to craft unique, wild wreaths finished off with festive berries and seed heads.
Petersham Nurseries | Richmond | WA | Selected dates between November – December
Image Courtesy of Kew Gardens
Go on the winter lights trail at Kew Gardens
Every year, Kew Gardens puts on a spectacular light trail, illuminating the gardens and marking that Christmas is just around the corner. Follow the trail through lit tunnels and past glistening lakes, and grab a bite to eat at any of the street food stalls serving up festive treats along the way. Keep your eyes peeled for Father Christmas; he’s also set to make an appearance along the route.
Christmas at Kew Gardens | Kew Gardens | WA | Selected dates, 15th November 2023 to 7th January 2024
Image Courtesy of St Paul’s
Christmas Carols at St Paul’s Cathedral
This might be one of the most quintessentially British ways to get into the festive spirit in London. Every year, this London landmark hosts a series of carol concerts, including family-friendly services and a traditional carol service on Christmas Eve. The best bit? They’re mostly free, except for a few charity gigs. It’s worth a visit just to get a glimpse of Sir Christopher Wren’s architectural masterpiece. Fun fact: St. Paul’s Cathedral famously survived a vigorous night of Blitz bombings in WWII (Google the pics, they’re eerily beautiful).
St Paul’s Cathedral | City of London | WA
Image Courtesy of Backyard Cinema
Watch a festive film at a Christmas pop-up cinema
Last up on our list of the top Christmas-themed things to do in London is watching a festive flick at a pop-up cinema. Nothing quite beats getting cosy and watching a film on the big screen with a steaming hot chocolate in hand. If you’re a bit of a film fanatic, you’ll be pleased to hear that Christmas cinema pop-ups are always in abundance in London. Backyard Cinema tends to deck its space out in a winter wonderland, and this year, Rivoli Pop-Up Cinema is showing classics in their beautiful ballroom alongside warming mulled wine. Another favourite is Luna Cinema, in four locations around the city, who are encouraging you to don your best Christmas jumper for winter film fun.