Planning to spend the Christmas season in London? Keep reading to find out the top Christmas things to do in London for 2023.
London is quite easily one of the best cities in the world for Christmas charm and cheer. As the twinkliest time of year nears again, London at Christmas time becomes a center of Christmas songs, sparkling lights, and glittery decorations.
As the gloomy winter months descend, the festive season adds a little joy and color to city life. Pop-up stores and markets happen all over the city, festive bars become the hotspot for meet-ups, and street food stalls and markets all start gearing towards our ever-needing desire for more mince pies.
I was born and raised in London and spent countless Christmases in London, ogling at the lights and seeking out the best of what’s on during the Christmas season.
There’s no shortage of great things to do in London for Christmas or London events during Christmas. Keep reading to find out the best Christmas spots in London for 2023 and beyond for a fun London Christmas.
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Christmas Things to Do in London
There is no shortage of festive things to do in London during Christmas. Whether you’re a foodie ready to explore the food scene, wanting the best Christmas attractions in London, or just looking for the best Christmas shopping locations then look no further.
There’s always something for everyone in London at Xmas. Without further ado, here are the best places to go in London at Christmas.
Explore Covent Garden
Covent Garden is one of the best places to visit in central London as it is but at Christmas time it’s a real gem. Towards the end of November, the Christmas decorations come out and the Covent Garden Piazza is transformed into a festive playground.
Giant baubles and mistletoe hang from the glass ceiling of the market, the giant Covent Garden Christmas tree is in full view on the Piazza and decorated trees greet you as you enter.
In Covent Garden this year, you’ll find lots of festive pop-ups, live lights every day from 11am-midnight, and festive stands selling many different varieties of mulled wine.
If you happen to be doing your Christmas shopping in the area, make sure to come by for a festive atmosphere and some pictures as it really is one of the best places to visit in London during Christmas.
Enjoy a Christmas Dinner Cruise on the Thames
There’s little that beats seeing the sights of London right before Christmas with all the dazzling lights and decorations. But why not do it in style while also enjoying a Christmas dinner and floating down the Thames?
City Cruises offer a number of different Christmas days out in London and one of the best is their London: Christmas Party Dinner Cruise.
You’ll celebrate Christmas in style with a festive three-course meal while seeing London’s iconic skyline. The 4-hour cruise also includes a welcome glass of bubbly and DJs playing all the best Christmas classics. Find out more and book your experience here.
Go to Leicester Square Christmas Market
London might not be Germany or France when it comes to Christmas markets, but there are a few dotted around the capital. If you’re looking for fun things to do near Leicester Square then Leicester Square Christmas Market is one of the best markets in Central London and while it is small it does have a very festive atmosphere indeed.
At Leicester Square market you’re free to walk around and grab a festive bite and some mulled wine while shopping for seasonal decorations, gifts, and more. There are also a few fairground games to keep young ones entertained.
The best thing about the London Christmas markets is the atmosphere and while there isn’t much else to do but eat, drink, walk around and shop, it’s really the festive atmosphere that makes them a must-visit during the holiday season.
Leicester Square market is free to visit and is open from 9th November 2023 to January 8th 2024.
Southbank Christmas Market
For those Christmas Market fans, there’s also the Southbank Christmas Market at the Southbank Center. Watch the festive lights bring life to the Thames bank where visitors can sip on mulled wine and grab some superb food while exploring the market.
The market is conveniently located next to some of London’s top attractions which include the London Eye, the Houses of Parliament, and Big Ben.
It’s also within walking distance from Covent Garden and Leicester Square Christmas market which means you can easily visit them all in one night.
There are over 100 stalls selling everything from sparkling Christmas decorations to mulled wine and roasted chestnuts. The Southbank Christmas Market is split up into different sections; a section devoted to food and drink, one for arts and crafts, and another for decorations.
The Southbank Christmas market runs from 2nd November to 26th December 2023 and is free to enter. It’s open from 11 am-10 pm every day (11 pm on Saturdays).
Prefer to visit some of the best London Christmas food markets through a tour? Check out the Winter Markets Food Tour “Special Christmas” and explore all the best festive snacks and drinks in the capital.
Get your Christmas Cheer on at Winter Wonderland
Winter Wonderland is probably one of the biggest winter and Christmas extravaganzas in London at this festive time of year. Held in Hyde Park each year, Winter Wonderland is a fair-style Christmas attraction yet it’s much more than just a fair.
Split up into many different sections, it allows for easier navigation depending on your priorities. Head to Circus Town for the Zippos Christmas Circus- the largest circus tent in the UK.
The Artic Circle section is the place for winter-themed workshops and the Bavarian Village is perfect for those looking for a cozy chalet for a drink or two.
There are also many Christmas markets inside where you can buy a range of interesting and handmade products from Christmas decorations to gifts and candy. To top off the day, Winter Wonderland also has its own ice rink so you can make the most of the winter fun without needing to go anywhere else.
There are many different entrances to Winter Wonderland depending on where you want to begin. You’ll need to pre-book entry tickets online before visiting and it’s also a good idea to pre-book entry to a number of different popular activities. Plan your visit here and have the best Christmas in London.
Watch A Christmas Carol at the Old Vic
Returning for its sixth consecutive Christmas at the Old Vic Theatre, Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol is the classic story of Ebenezer Scrooge as he is visited by the three ghosts of Christmas.
At the Old Vic this year you’ll be able to see Jack Thorne’s critically- acclaimed adaption of the classic Christmas story. Emmy Award-winner Christopher Eccleston is confirmed to star in 2023. It’s one of the biggest Christmas events in London.
Performances will run from 11th November 2023 until 6th January 2024 making it one of the best things to do after Christmas in London. Get your tickets here.
Go Ice Skating at Somerset House
In London at Christmas, an array of different ice rinks pop up around the city.
The award for the most beautiful ice rink in London in recent years went to the National History Museum’s ice rink, in my opinion, but sadly the National History Museum will no longer run in 2023 and beyond.
There are, however, many other gorgeous places to show off your ice skating skills. Our favorite this year has to be Skate at Somerset House, where you can pirouette inside the gorgeous 18th Century courtyard of Somerset House.
Admire the 40ft Christmas tree, have a good time with friends, and make the most of the Skate Lates which involve ice skating to live DJ sets later in the evening.
Other ice skating rinks in London at Christmas include Canary Wharf Ice Rink, the brand new Glide at Battersea Power Station, Hampton Court Palace, and Winter Wonderland.
See the Christmas lights
One of the best free things to do in London at Christmas, the Christmas Lights bring a magical atmosphere to the streets of central London. There’s no shortage of Christmas lights around during the Christmas period and this year is no exception.
With beautiful displays happening on many main streets in London, one of the best Christmassy things to do in London is to just gawk at them.
Some of the most famous Christmas lights in London are located on the busy shopping thoroughfare. The lights in the most recent years have been based around the iconic angel. The star-studded switch-on event is also one of the best in London to mark the start of the festive season.
Intersecting Regent’s Street you’ll find Oxford Street with also has a lovely array of Christmas lights. This year you’ll find cascading stars falling all through the streets 1.2 miles.
While you’re at it, Oxford Street is also a fabulous place to do some Christmas shopping.
Another great street for Christmas lights and Christmas activities in London is Carnaby Street which has a wide range of lights around themes of love, positivity, and joy. They often collaborate with various charities at this time to bring a more positive message to the public.
At Carnaby, you’ll find suspended globes, pink neon lights, and box signs all bringing a little light into your Christmas period.
London’s luxury shopping street is transformed during the Christmas season with beautiful hanging lights up and down the street as well as individual, festive store displays.
This year there’s a new royal theme that features at Bond street- a definite tribute to the late Queen.
At each major Bond Street junction, you’ll see large crowns, largely inspired by the Imperial Crown. Other lights have been designed to resemble royal necklaces. Some 93,000 more sustainable LED lights have been used this year too.
This year Cartier, Christian Dior, and Ralph Lauren also have some pretty lovely storefront displays too so make sure to keep an eye out for those.
Want to see all the Christmas lights in one unforgettable experience? The London Christmas Lights Tour by Vintage Bus Open Top is one of the best experiences in the capital for not only riding one of the vintage London buses but also for seeing all most of the lights in one experience. Find out more here.
See a Christmas Show
In London, the festive season also brings a string of Christmas-themed shows and London Christmas events to the cultural scene. You’ll find many classic Christmas-themed plays, ballets, and shows in the run-up to Christmas in the capital.
For ballet fans, watching the enchanting The Nutcracker at this time of year is a real treat. This year it plays at the London Coliseum from the 14th December-7th January.
Elf the Musical is also a fun London Christmas event at the Dominion Theatre.
Christmas Actually, curated by Love Actually writer and director Richard Curtis runs at the Southbank Center from 7-11 December 2023. Get tickets here.
Visit Windsor Castle
Christmas ideas in London continue with a visit to Windsor Castle. Christmas time is one of the best times to visit Windsor Castle, the Royal Home which is decked out with marvelous Christmas Decorations and a truly beautiful tree. The State Apartments are completely transformed at this time of year with tasteful decorations and twinkling lights.
At St George’s Hall, the 20ft Christmas tree is a real highlight, completely fitted with glittering ornaments and lights. A display of decorative royal items can also be seen at the Waterloo Chamber.
Shop for Seasonal Goods at Fortnum & Mason
Shopping at Fortum & Mason is always a good idea when in London but it’s at Christmas time that the Royal-approved store really stands out.
Head inside for the best of British products where you’ll be able to find everything from high-quality chocolates to some of the best teas in England. Some of my favorite products are the Champagne truffles, Victoria Grey tea, and their special Orange Marmalade with ginger and chili.
Products from Fortum & Mason also make wonderful gifts so make sure to head here for the best surprises for that foodie in your life.
Other London Christmas ideas for shopping spots are Harrod’s, Selfridges, and Liberty of London.
Listen to Christmas Carols at St Martin-in-the-Fields Church
Christmas Carol singing is a British tradition for as long as I can remember and one of the best places in town to hear them is at St Martin in the Fields Church. The parish puts on a number of epic Christmas concerts each year.
On a few selected days throughout December head to St. Martin in the Fields for Carols by Candlelight, a unique concert for music, carol singing, and festive readings surrounded by the gorgeous church interior.
For more Christmas Carol singing fun and even a singalong, head to the Christmas Carol Singalong at the Royal Festival Hall.
Shop for Christmas Treats at Borough Market
For foodies, nothing beats a morning of shopping for the tastiest of delights at Borough Market. At Christmas time you’ll be able to awaken your taste buds with some of the best of British Christmas fare.
Shop for the best seasonal produce as well as some Christmas classics like Christmas pudding, mince pies, fine wines, and a fine selection of cheeses and cold cuts.
Throughout the market, during the Christmas period, you’ll find traders sharing all their ideas and tips, from making the best Christmasy cocktails to charcuterie board styling.
Experience Christmas at Kew
One of the most visited attractions in West London, Kew Gardens is another very special place during Christmas time.
The large gardens are completely transformed by tunnels of light, lakeside reflections, festive illuminations, and sparkling fairy lights during the Christmas season. It’s one of the best things to do in London at Christmas for families and children.
While you explore the numerous attractions and lights displays you can also enjoy some street food and tasty hot drinks sold by vendors along the route.
As tickets are limited make sure to book tickets for your entry slot online and in advance. Christmas at Kew runs from 15th November until 7th January. Find more information here.
Make a Toast at one of London’s Champagne Bars
London might just have some of the best bars in the world and their selection also includes some pretty spectacular champagne bars. If you’re looking to make a toast this festive period on a London Christmas trip to remember, (which we highly recommend you do) make sure to do it in style at a really noteworthy bar.
Some of the finest champagne bars include Kettner’s Townhouse Champagne Bar in Soho, the American bar at the Savoy on London’s Strand, and the Library Bar at The Ned in London’s City. Christmas in London isn’t quite the same without a little bubbly.
Visit a London Pop Up Winter Rooftop Bar
Get festive with friends this year at one of the many London Pop-Up Winter Rooftop bars in the city. You’ll be able to enjoy delicious drinks and food to the skyline of London and an energetic and festive atmosphere.
One of the best rooftop bars in London this year is the Skylight Rooftop Bar at Tobacco Dock which provides a lovely area to relax and be merry with friends as well as its own small ice skating rink.
Another lovely option for cocktails with views of the West End and Trafalgar Square is the Rooftop at the Trafalgar, St James Hotel.
Watch a Christmas Movie at the Luna Drive-In
Is there anything better than sitting back with friends or family with a warm cup of hot chocolate and a cozy Christmas movie? I didn’t think so, but this year why not elevate your movie experience?
Luna Drive-In Cinemas offers a number of Christmas movie screenings across the country right from the comfort of your own car.
The closest location to London is Bluewater in Kent, where you can park your car in front of the giant screen, break out the thermos of hot chocolate and enjoy a night of festive fun.
Some of the best Christmas movies screening generally are Home Alone, Elf, The Holiday, Love Actually, and more. It’s one of the best things to do at Christmas in London, especially for those looking for something a little different.
What are your favorite Xmas activities in London? What best places to visit in London at Christmas will you be heading to? Let me know in the comments, below, I’d love to hear from you.
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