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From early November until New Year’s Eve, London is one of the most festive cities in the world, so you’re pretty lucky if you’re visiting at that time of year.

To help you experience allll of the Christmas-y things to do in London (or choose just a couple that are to your own taste) we compiled this list to help you get in on the action like a true Londoner (spoiler alert: it’s not all about Winter Wonderland).

*This post has been updated for the 2023 season.

(WA = Wheelchair Accessible)

Visit a Christmas market

European cities are quite famous for their lovely little Christmas markets, and London gets in on that as well with some world-famous ones as well as lesser-known local favourites.

People visiting the Leicester Square Christmas Market during this day; this is one of the best things to do in london during the christmas seasonLeicester Square Market

The touristy Leicester Square has a very festive market each year. It’s got everything that a traditional European market has, with stalls selling festive food, mulled wine and lots of gifts (some that are better than others). 

If you have little ones with you, pop into Santa’s grotto for a fun Santa spotting. There’s also a vintage Spiegeltent where you can see a Christmas-themed show. This year, they have the trailblazer La Clique, a global show that features the top talent from the worlds of circus, comedy and cabaret. Get the tickets here.

Christmas at Leicester Square | Central London | WA | 8th November 2023 – 7th January 2024

Food stalls at the Southbank Centre Christmas MarketImage Courtesy Southbank Centre

Southbank Center Winter Festival

Every year along the Southbank is the pop-up Winter Festival, run by the Southbank Centre, the UK’s largest arts centre. Naturally, the festival’s most popular feature is its winter market, with its stalls lined up along the River Thames, and it’s got the usual stalls and spots to eat, drink and shop. 

But what makes the Winter Festival more special than the others is the arts and theatre programme. Along with plenty of free art and light installations all around the Southbank area, many winter nights will have at least one or two art exhibitions or musical performances you can get tickets for. Check the website to see what’s on when you visit.

Winter Festival at Southbank Centre | Southbank | WA | 28th October 2023 – 7th January 2024

The fun-fair at Winter Wonderland welcoming visitors in the evening. Visiting this market is one of the top things to do in london during the christmas seasonImage Courtesy of Winter Wonderland

Winter Wonderland

This needs very little introduction, it’s a super famous fair that happens every year.  Located in Hyde Park, expect to browse over 200 Bavarian huts selling festive drinks, food and winter-themed gifts. There’s also plenty of fairground rides, an ice skating rink, karaoke area, and other activities, both free and ticketed.

It’s free to visit Winter Wonderland during off-peak periods, and tickets go up to £7.50 per adult at peak times. Heads up here– this is THE most famous Christmas-themed thing to do in London and therefore the crowds get absolutely insane. We recommend you keep reading for some, erm, better alternatives.

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland | Central London | WA | 17th November 2023 – 1st January 2024

Lantern and Christmas lights parade at Greenwich Market in winters.Image Courtesy of Greenwich Market

Greenwich Christmas Market

Pop down to Greenwich on a December Saturday and you’ll find over 150 stalls with a beautiful selection of items for sale, like stocking fillers, original artwork, eco-friendly candles, handmade jewellery and more, with everything being British-designed-and-made.

Of course, once you’ve finished your shopping you can visit one of the many food stalls selling street foods or grab some mulled wine to warm you up. This year, witness a spectacular Greenwich lantern procession and the switching on of the twinkling Greenwich Market Christmas lights.

Christmas at Greenwich Market | Greenwich | WA | From 15th November 2023

One of the top things to do in London during Christmas season is to visit the beautifully lit Christmas Market in Kinston at night.Image Courtesy of Kingston Christmas Market

Kingston Christmas Market

Head to Kingston, a leafy suburb in south London for a winter-themed market in its popular market square. Food lovers can choose from bits like artisan cheeses and handmade baklava, and can shop for gifts like ornaments, art prints, or wool hats and gloves, all sold out of cosy winter cabins. #ShopSmall!

Kingston Christmas Market | Kingston | WA | 16th November – 31st December 2023

Indulge in a Christmas-themed afternoon tea

Afternoon tea is a fun experience if you’re visiting London (us Londoners tend to reserve it for special occasions) and some of London’s best afternoon tea spots go all out on their winter or Christmas-themed teas once November and December roll around. Here are just a few of the stand-out teas.

A spread of festive afternoon tea delights, overlooking the Buckingham Palace is one of the top things to do in london during the christmas seasonImage Courtesy of Rubens at The Palace

Winter Wonderland afternoon tea at The Rubens at The Palace

Have your afternoon tea overlooking Buckingham Palace and in an old-school English-style hotel. Executive Pastry Chef Sarah Houghton, who was a finalist in the 2021 edition of ‘Bake Off: The Professionals’, turns their traditional afternoon tea into a festive experience with a Winter Wonderland twist. And it includes bottomless mulled wine!

Winter Wonderland Afternoon Tea | Westminster | WA | 14th November 2023 – 1st January 2024

Christmas tree at the Dorchester Hotel atriumImage Courtesy of The Dorchester

Festive Afternoon Tea at the The Dorchester

Christmas at The Dorchester is a bit like an out-of-a-film experience, with the lineup of Christmas trees at the promenade, the sparkling lights, life-sized toys, and the tall piles of gold-wrapped presents.

The festive afternoon tea promises the same magical feelings with a live school choir performing traditional carols while you dine on freshly baked pastries, delicious scones and homemade jam.

Festive Afternoon Tea at The Dorchester | Mayfair | WA

Waiter dressed up at Santa Claus for the festivities at the Shard; don't miss out on the Festive Skyline Afternoon Tea at Ting as it is one of the top things to do in london during the christmas seasonImage Courtesy of TING

Festive Skyline Afternoon Tea at Shangri-La in the Shard

Shangri-La hotel’s TING restaurant, being on the 35th floor of The Shard, western Europe’s tallest building, has some of the best restaurant views in the city (obviously). TING know how to do amazing themed afternoon teas in the sky and of course they pull out all of the stops for every festive season.

This year, take in the beauty of the city from 35 floors above whilst enjoying a selection of finger sandwiches and savouries, followed by plain and cranberry scones and delicious festive sweet treats.

Festive Skyline Afternoon Tea at Shangri-La The Shard | London Bridge | WA | 14th November 2023 – 9th January 2024

Treat yourself to a delicious festive drink

Love a drink? Yeah, us too. Especially when it’s a festive one, preferably surrounded by Christmasy fun. Here are some options for Christmas-themed drinks in London.

The Miracle Bar at the Henrietta Hotel, set up to celebrate Christmas in the 70s styleImage Courtesy Miracle at the Henrietta

Miracle at Henrietta Hotel

Miracle at Henrietta features a 70’s inspired Christmas home with retro decorations and coloured light.  You’ll be transported back in time for a nostalgic festive season, which you can pair with one of Miracle’s signature cocktails.

Miracle at the Henrietta Hotel | Covent Garden | WA | 13th November – 23rd December 2023

Personal pods at the Skylights Roof Dock, overlooking the London skyline.Image Courtesy of Skylight

Skylight at Tobacco Dock

Skylight at Tobacco Dock is bringing back their famous Canalside igloos and rooftop ice skating rink. They’ve also got an Après Ski Lodge, and a Secret Speakeasy, so you will definitely have plenty to do here. 

Skylight at Tobacco Dock | Shadwell | WA 

Enjoy a unique London Christmas experience

Christmas lights at Regents street overlooking the traffic; witnessing the shimmering installation is on of the top things to do in London during ChristmasSee London’s Christmas Light Displays

From November to early January, the city is beautifully decorated with thousands of Christmas light displays. For a fun and absolutely free thing to do in London, get walking about central London to take it all in and get in the festive mood without having to spend a penny.

To see all of the places you can spot Christmas lights around London, check out this article.


Christmas decorations at the Liberty store in Soho, during the holidays.Image Courtesy of Liberty

Take a peek at the Christmas shop window and storefront displays

Besides the city lights, many of London’s most famous shops, department stores and restaurants also decorate their front windows, creating the most stunning Christmas windows displays that always end up being featured in articles for Grazia or CN Traveller.  Why not take a stroll around London and see them in the flesh?

Some of our favourites are: Liberty London, Selfridges, Harrods, Pollock’s Toy Store, Hamleys, Harvey Nichols, Fortnum and Mason, The Ivy Chelsea Garden, Annabel’s, and all the shops along Bond Street.

Go Ice Skating

We’ve got some incredible ice skating rinks here in London during the winter season, so book a ticket, pop on some skates and get gliding.

Here’s where you can do so…

The Queen's House in Greenwich overlooking the beautifully lit ice rink at night; visiting an ice rink with your family is one of the top things to do in London during ChristmasImage Courtesy of Royal Museums Greenwich 

Queen’s House Ice Rink 

The Queen’s House ice rink, as the name says, is at the Queen’s House in Greenwich. This building is a 16th-century royal mansion used to display items from the National Maritime Museum’s collection.

From the ice rink, you can admire the Unesco World Heritage site, along with views of Greenwich Park to the south and Canary Wharf to the north, all surrounded by some of the best views in London.

Tickets from £17 for adults and £10 for children. 

Queen’s House Ice Rink | Greenwich | WA | 23rd November 2023 – 7th January 2024

All lit up for the festivities, the visitors enjoy their time at the Somerset House ice rinkImage Courtesy of Somerset House

Somerset House Ice Rink

Skate at Somerset House returns again this year with a collaboration with Switzerland Tourism, who curate the decorations for the famous 12-meter-tall Christmas tree, transforming the courtyard into a Christmas wonderland.

But what makes this one of London’s favourite winter experiences are the new series of rink-side decks takeovers at Skate Lates with Rock Angel, the gourmet dining at their West Wing restaurant Chalet Suisse by Jimmy Garcia, or that you get an ultimate rink-side view at Skate Lounge by Whispering Angel, where you can enjoy a glass of Provence Rosé. 

Tickets from £15.00.

Skate at Somerset House | Strand | WA | 15th November 2023 – 14th January 2024

Christmas carols and other festive performances at Trafalgar Square.Image Courtesy of Trafalgar Square

Listen to Christmas carols in Trafalgar Square

Throughout December, head to Trafalgar Square to listen to some Christmas Carols performed live. Each group usually sings for around an hour and they collect donations to be given to charitable causes.

While there, you can also see the 25-meter tall Christmas tree gifted by the Norwegians, an old tradition in recognition for Britain’s support during World War II. The tree is decorated with hundreds of lights, but it’s usually a point of contention for Londoners because, well… it’s sometimes a bit sad-looking! Go and see for yourself…

Christmas at Trafalgar Square | Westminster | WA | Throughout December

See a Christmas theatre show in London

Why not do something a bit more culturally enriching? The famous West End theatre district puts on tons of incredible shows, including winter and Christmas-themed ones.

Clara dancing with the wooden figure of the Nutcracker. Catching up with these festive themed ballet performances is on on the top things to do in London during Christmas Image Courtesy of London Coliseum

Nutcracker at the London Coliseum 

Tchaikovsky’s famous score is played live with over 100 dancers and musicians. The story follows Clara who received an enchanted nutcracker as a present on Christmas Eve. They then embark on a journey together, where they find a magical world.

Ticket from £15. 

Nutcracker at the London Coliseum | Covent Garden | WA | 14th December 2023 – 7th January 2024

A snap from the Snowman's theatre production at the Sadler's Wells Peacock Theatre.Image Courtesy of Sadler’s Well Theatre

Snowman at the Sadler’s Wells Peacock Theatre

Snowman is an adaptation of Raymond Briggs’ book that explores the winter wonderland of a boy and a snowman that comes alive. A two-hour piece by Birmingham Repertory Theatre with an engaging mix of dance, live music, storytelling, and magic.

Tickets from £18. 

Snowman at the Sadler’s Wells Peacock Theatre | Clerkenwell | WA | 18th November – 30th December 2023

People taking at stroll at the Hyde Park in London.Image Courtesy of Royal Parks

Visit one of London’s Parks

Almost every single public park in London is open during the festive season, so be very British and go for a brisk winter walk. Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens are a great combo for Central London, or head to East London and explore Victoria Park, frequently voted London’s best park by Londoners. Find out more about Victoria Park in the video above.

Installations for Christmas at the Westminster Abbey.Image Courtesy of Westminster Abbey 

Attend a Christmas Mass at Westminster Abbey

Christmas Mass attendance is on a ticketed basis and this year they’ll be released early autumn, with services and carols happening on the 23rd and 24th of December. This is a great way to participate in a special religious event and to see the interior of Westminster Abbey without having to pay for a ticket!

Advent and Christmas at Westminster Abbey | Westminster | Restricted WA | 24th – 25th December 2023

If you’re spending the Christmas Day in London, then check out this article dedicated to special activities available only on Christmas Day, plus some important things to know about the city on that day.

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Things to Do in London During the Christmas Season

Jessica Dante

Jess is the founder of Love and London, an online travel guide that helps London tourists to visit London like they live there. She's been featured in Refinery29, Forbes, BBC Radio 2, HuffPost, and more. Jess is also a sustainable and ethical travel advocate.


  • Todd says:

    Hi Jess,

    Me and my Fiancee are planning on coming to London for our honeymoon. We both want to experience London during christmas, but would still like to spend the holiday with our family back home.

    What’s the earliest we can come and get the Christmas experience? Do they seem to decorate as early there as they doe here?


    • Jess says:

      Hi Todd! I’d shoot for the two weeks before Christmas to make sure you see it all. The unofficial date for most Christmas-y things to start is 1st December-ish, or the first weekend of December.

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