Like every major city in the Western world, London celebrates Christmas. For the visitor the most obvious sign of this are elaborate Christmas trees around the capital. Here are a few of them:
1. The Norwegian Christmas Tree in Trafalgar Square
This is London’s most famous Christmas tree. Every year since 1947, Norway has sent a tree to the UK as a thank-you for sheltering the Norwegian government and royal family during the Second World War. On 7 December 2023, the latest tree sent from Scandinavia was unveiled in the Square. It was a fifty-year-old spruce that was felled in November and shipped to London before it was decorated with 300 long-life light bulbs. This tradition which is now in its seventy-sixth year, is under threat because of its carbon footprint. The Mayor of Norway’s capital Oslo, who supervised the event, has insisted, however, that it will continue in the foreseeable future.
Carol singing at Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square in London. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
2. The Harry Potter Christmas Tree in King’s Cross Station
London King’s Cross station has become a destination for fans of Harry Potter on a trip to London. The famous Nine and Three Quarters Platform sign has been erected so that they can take a photograph/selfie there. Be warned, however. There is often a long queue of fans of the famous boy wizard there. You may have to wait an hour or two. There is no charge for taking this photograph but inevitably, a gift shop has been opened next to it, and a Christmas tree with the 9¾ sign on it has been erected nearby.
King’s Cross Station Christmas Tree 2023. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
3. A Bookish Christmas Tree at Saint Pancras International
Standing next to King’s Cross is the somewhat more impressive Saint Pancras station (which stood in for King’s Cross in the Harry Potter films). In collaboration with the bookshop Hatchards, whose main store is in Piccadilly, Saint Pancras has erected a ‘tree’ which is constructed from books and shelves. There are eight nooks where people can sit and listen to books being read or browse amongst titles, including A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and the Narnia novel The Lion, Witch and Wardrobe by C S Lewis.
Christmas Tree in St Pancras International. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
4. Somerset House Christmas Tree and Ice-Skating Rink
One of the most popular activities in London over the festive season is ice skating and the capital has several rinks where enthusiastic skaters can join in the fun. The ice rink at Somerset House is always well-attended, and a festive Christmas tree stands next to it.
2023 Christmas Tree at Somerset House in London. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
5. UK Parliament Christmas Tree
The UK Parliament has a tree that stands beneath the famous clock, Big Ben. (In fact, the name ‘Big Ben’ applies to the bell behind it, but everyone uses the name for the clock.). It is not possible to enter the grounds of Parliament to photograph the tree with Big Ben in the background, but here it can be seen with Westminster Hall, the oldest part of the Palace of Westminster, behind it.
Christmas Tree in Parliament. Photo Credit: © Edwin Lerner.
6. Covent Garden Christmas Tree
A perennial favourite, Covent Garden’s Christmas tree reigns supreme as a breathtaking spectacle. This year, a 60-foot behemoth is adorned with 30,000 twinkling LED lights. As you wander through the piazza, its luminous glow casts a magical spell, transforming the historic market into a wonderland.
Covent Garden Christmas Tree 2023. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
7. Leadenhall Market Christmas Tree
This year, the Leadenhall Market Christmas tree stands tall and proud at eight metres, reaching for the magnificent glass-and-steel roof. It’s not just any tree; it’s a mesmerizing spectacle of light and colour. Thousands of twinkling LED lights dance across its branches, creating a kaleidoscope of hues that change and shimmer, casting a magical glow on the surrounding shops and stalls.
Christmas Tree at Leadenhall Market in London. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
8. Royal Christmas Trees
Unlike the trees above, the British Royal Family generally keeps their Christmas trees indoors. Buckingham Palace is closed at this time of year so the royal trees cannot be seen by the public. However, a tree is on display in Saint George’s Hall, Windsor which can be seen by visitors to the castle, which is open over the festive season – but not on Christmas Day or between the 11th and 15th January. Windsor Castle is the oldest of the royal homes, but the royal family usually spend Christmas at their country estate at Sandringham House.
The Christmas tree in St George’s Hall. Photo Credit: Royal Collection Trust / © His Majesty King Charles III 2023.