In London and all around the UK, Christmas Eve is usually spent out and about with loved ones. Whether that’s by heading to the local pub to drink yourself silly until midnight or leaning into nostalgia by attending a pantomime based on your favourite children’s story, we Londoners rarely stay at home on Christmas Eve. Here are the top things to do in London on Christmas Eve.
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Head to a local boozer
If there’s one thing Brits love to do on Christmas Eve, it’s going to the pub. Now, Londoners love a pub regardless of the time of year but come Christmas Eve; you want to bet that pubs will be chock full of those waiting for the clock to strike twelve. It’s basically a British rite to go to the pub on Christmas Eve, and a lot of the time, they’ll be decked out in festive decorations, fairy lights, and Christmas trees, and many will be serving hot mulled wine. If you do fancy joining in with the UK tradition, it might be worth booking ahead; they get swamped this time of the year, especially if you plan on having a bite to eat.
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Attend a Christmas carol concert
If you want to embrace the traditional festive season in the UK, consider attending a Christmas carol concert. There are concerts all over the city, in cathedrals, churches and even street side, so there’s always something to suit everyone. For something extra special, check out Christmas by Candlelight at the Freemasons’ Hall, a magnificent landmark period building, where you’ll get to listen to a series of performances in the beautiful Freemasons’ Hall illuminated by the light of candles. Listen as the Belmont Ensemble and Trafalgar Sinfonia play incredible congregational carols, compositions and festive and choral works in the flickering glow of candlelight.
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Go to midnight mass at church
If you want to keep things traditional, attend one of the many midnight mass services around the city (and all over the world if you’re not in London). It’s believed that this western tradition started in 430 AD and became widely popular by the twelfth century. The service occurs in a church and generally starts just before midnight and is a way to honour Jesus’ birth and dedicate the festive season to God. The most famous places to attend midnight mass are the grand Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s, although you can only attend with a secured free ticket, so be sure to get one early.
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Enjoy a Christmas Eve dinner
Many families and friends in the UK like to go for a special dinner on Christmas Eve, and there are plenty of places around London to do so. There will be many pubs and restaurants with a dedicated Christmas menu, but the legendary Dishoom will be serving a menu featuring Indian twists on festive classics, like chilli Brussels sprouts, turkey raan and cranberry chutney. If you want to keep it a little more traditional, then The Cadogan Arms on King’s Road has a set festive menu including turkey with all the trimmings, Beef Wellington and decadent Christmas pudding with brandy butter sauce. But you won’t have to go far for a great Christmas Eve meal in London.
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Glide around one of London’s ice rinks
Ice skating is definitely one of the things to do in London on Christmas Eve, and there’s nothing more festive than gliding around an ice rink lit by fairy lights and listening to classic Christmas tunes. When November sneaks up on us, ice rinks start to pop up around the city, the most famous being at the iconic Somerset House (WA). This year, though, all eyes are on ice skating at Skylight Tobacco Dock (WA), where you can nab a ticket for two, which includes a 45-minute skating session each, a main meal per person and a bottle of house wine to share. Glide around the rooftop ice rink with the sparkling city skyline as your backdrop before enjoying a bite to eat from the alpine-inspired menu.
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Wander through the city and see the Christmas lights
One of the top things to do in London on Christmas Eve is to take a stroll around the city to see all of the city lights, from Oxford Street’s epic 5000 light display to Kew Gardens’s Winter Light Trail. This year, though, we’ve got our eyes on Christmas at Kenwood’s breathtaking light trail, complete with epic installations, multisensory displays of light and sound and spectacular city views from the grounds of Kenwood. Festive-themed refreshments will be served along the trail, where you can enjoy a bite to eat and a cup of steaming mulled wine. Make sure you secure tickets early for either of these special experiences.
Read next: Where to See Christmas Lights in London
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Go to the cinema and see a festive flick
There are a few pop-up cinemas around the city showing Christmas classics, but Backyard Cinema has several screenings throughout the day and evening on Christmas Eve, like Home Alone and It’s a Wonderful Life. They’ve taken it up a notch this year and decorated the space in a classic winter wonderland style. It’s definitely one of the things to do in London on Christmas Eve.
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Embrace pantomime season
Lastly, on our list of things to do in London on Christmas Eve is embracing the pantomime season, which means one thing: Christmas is right around the corner. This year you can expect everything from Jack and the Beanstalk at the London Palladium and Cinderella at Theatre Royal Stratford East to Rumpelstiltskin at Charles Court Opera. There’s a panto for everyone in London, and it’s a wonderfully nostalgic way to spend Christmas Eve that doesn’t involve sinking ten pints down the local pub.