Christmas is a magical time of year to be visiting London. There are spectacular decorations everywhere, and people are generally in a festive mood. Here are some of our favourite seasonal experiences, which are all great reasons to visit London during the Christmas holidays.
1. Christmas Markets
There are several special Christmas markets operating in London. Typically, a selection of wooden huts or stalls with a variety of often handmade crafts. Some of the best include:
- Covent Garden Christmas Markets is three daily markets filled with handmade crafts and unique gifts for Christmas.
- Winter Festival at Southbank Centre has lots of pop-up food stalls & cultural activities for the whole family in this ever-popular location.
- Christmas by the River at London Bridge City is set close to Tower Bridge with a view of the Tower of London; enjoy pop-up wooden cabins selling all manner of treats.
- Winter Wonderland is set in Hyde Park and is always popular with younger visitors as there are a variety of fairground rides as well.
Santa’s Sleigh and Gigantic Bells at Covent Garden in London. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
2. Ice skating
Ice skating in London is a very popular seasonal activity, and the ice rinks provide help for less experienced skaters. Plus, they all have bars/cafes for those who prefer to watch. There are temporary ice skating rinks at:
- Somerset House provides a spectacular backdrop for ice skating. The building is often used as a filming location, and the terrace offers amazing views over the River Thames.
- Canary Wharf is an amazing regeneration project in the East End of town.
- Hampton Court Palace is a Grade I-listed royal palace in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames.
Skate at Somerset House with Moët & Chandon. Photo Credit: © Somerset House.
3. Illuminations and Christmas Lights
One of the best things about visiting London during the holiday season is experiencing the dazzling lights and decorations that adorn the city. Here are some of the best places to check out Christmas lights in London:
- Kew Gardens, a giant Botanical garden set on the edge of London, has an enchanting light trail. This gets bigger and more popular every year. A firm favourite with Londoners, especially families with children.
- Oxford Street always has impressive Christmas lights, but it can get a little busy at this time of year.
Other great places for Christmas lights:
- Carnaby Street is one of the spiritual homes of the swinging sixties. This year, the lights show the carnival colours of Rio de Janeiro – the first for London.
- The Strand has beautiful lights set in a big entertainment and shopping district.
- Sloane Square has exquisite lights and is a great part of town for interesting shops.
Carnaby London Christmas Lights 2023. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
The run-up to Christmas is hectic. People are rushing around doing last-minute shopping, but from Christmas Day until the New Year, London is less busy than usual, so this can be a great exploration opportunity.
Guide London provides friendly and informative Blue Badge Tourist Guides who can customise your itinerary to make sure you get the most out of your time here.
Try some of the well-known tourist attractions:
Or try something a little further afield:
- Royal Borough of Greenwich – Prime Meridian, standing with feet in different hemispheres, the Maritime Museum, and some of the best views anywhere in London.
- East End – Spitalfields and Shoreditch offer a buzzing, hip part of town with great shopping, its ‘Flat White’ culture, and street art.
- Notting Hill – a lovely village-type area with pretty houses and shops, where Julia Roberts met Hugh Grant.
Lady Chapel at Westminster Abbey in London. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
With the pound at a 30-year low, this is a great time for overseas visitors to shop, especially with the Christmas Sales starting straight after Christmas has finished.
Shopping for children
Even if you’re not looking to buy anything, the children’s shops can be great fun at Christmas. Some of the best include:
- Hamleys is known as the best toy shop in the world. In-store demonstrators will be busy keeping kids amused.
- Benjamin Pollock’s Toyshop is one of London’s oldest toy shops, where you can look for something a bit more traditional.
- LEGO® Toy Shop London – Leicester Square is one of the largest Lego stores in the world.
Shopping for adults
The well-known shops on Oxford Street will be even busier than usual. This gives good reason to try some of the more independent and quaint shopping areas:
- Burlington Arcade, situated on Piccadilly, is a beautifully styled arcade with many exclusive shops.
- Duke of York Square, just off the King’s Road Chelsea, is an eclectic mix of smaller shops as well as Saatchi Gallery (modern art).
- Seven Dials is just north of Covent Garden and has a wide variety of boutiques, cafes, and restaurants.
Whatever you choose to do, London will welcome you with open arms. Happy Holidays!
Royal Arcade on Old Bond Street. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.