Tina Engstrom

Guide to Enjoying Christmas & New Year In London

London offers a variety of ways to keep you entertained over the festive season. Here are some of the best tips from Guide London to help you make the most of the capital over Christmas and New Year!

Christmas Markets in London

In the run-up to Christmas, why not get into the festive spirit by visiting some of the Christmas markets? Christmas markets in the United Kingdom were very popular until Oliver Cromwell banned the celebration of Christmas in the fashion people had become used to, and this affected the Christmas markets, which died out instantly. Christmas markets have been revived in recent years, and they often have continental themes.  A few of the best Christmas Markets in London include:

Winter By The River

When: 14 November 2023 – 01 January 2024
Address: London Bridge City, London SE1 2DB
Price: free entry

Christmas in Leicester Square

When: 8 November 2023 to 7 January 2024
Address: Leicester Square, London WC2H 7DE
Price: free entry

Christmas Wednesdays at Columbia Road Flower Market

When: 30 November, 7 December, 14 December, and 21 December 2023
Address: Columbia Road, London E2 7RG
Price: free entry

Christmas in Covent Garden

When: Open seven days a week, until Sunday, 7 January 2024
Address: Covent Garden Christmas Village, East Piazza, The Market Building, London WC2E 8RF
Price: free entry

Greenwich Late Christmas Market

When: Open seven days a week, 10 am–5:30 pm
Address: Greenwich Market, London SE10 9HZ
Price: free entry

South Bank Centre Winter Festival

When: 28 October 2023 to 7 January 2024
Address: Southbank Market, The Queen’s Walk, London SE1 8XX
Price: free entry

There is also a host of seasonal festivities waiting for you at Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, including rides & attractions, ice skating, Christmas markets, bars, cafes, restaurants, and street food, plus free live music.

Apple Market at Covent Garden in London. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey. Apple Market at Covent Garden in London. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.

Christmas Lights in London

All the main shopping streets in London are lit up and decorated for Christmas, and many of them have extended opening hours in the run-up to Christmas. It is also worth heading off the beaten track to explore Christmas lights and decorations in areas such as Store Street (off Tottenham Court Road), Granary Square (King’s Cross), and the Duke of York Square (Chelsea). Children will also love the huge Christmas tree made up of 2,000 Disney soft toys inside St Pancras International station.

Christmas Carol Concerts and Choirs

Many of London’s churches and cathedrals have carol concerts and services throughout December. Some are ticketed events; others are free to attend. Venues include famous concert halls such as the Royal Albert Hall and Barbican Hall, but it is also well worth checking out London’s many churches.  There is also nightly carol singing around the Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree.

2018 Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree and carol singers. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey. 2018 Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree and carol singers. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.

Christmas Day in London

With no tubes or buses running, make the most of an almost traffic-free London by exploring the city on foot or opting for a Santander bicycle. There are also taxis and minicabs available (charging extra). Get up early and head for Hyde Park and watch members of the Serpentine Swimming Club take part in the annual Peter Pan Cup swimming race at 9 am.

Walk around the city, taking in London’s beautiful architecture, explore street art and enjoy the Christmas Decoration and lights on largely deserted streets.

Most attractions are closed on this day, but a few will open, including Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!, which showcases weird and wonderful items from around the world.

Many restaurants and pubs are closed, and those that are open may only offer special Christmas Day menus and they tend to get fully booked well in advance. Restaurants planning to open at least for part of Christmas Day include The Cinnamon Club, Cinnamon Soho, The Orange, Grazing Goat, and Quaglino’s. Most hotel restaurants are open, and some branches of restaurant chains may be open.

Most London churches will have Christmas Day services. It’s advisable to check with the individual church in advance, but Central London churches with Christmas Day services include St Martin-in-the-Fields, St Paul’s Cathedral, Southwark Cathedral, and All Hallows by the Tower.

To get even more out of your Christmas Day in London, why not book your own private walking tour with a professional Blue Badge Tourist Guide using our GuideMatch service.

View of the London Eye and Loomin, an electric neon canopy sculpted by David Ogle along Queen’s Walk near South Bank Centre in London. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey. View of the London Eye and Loomin, an electric neon canopy sculpted by David Ogle along Queen’s Walk near South Bank Centre in London. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.

Boxing Day in London

Many high street stores in London start their sales on Boxing Day (26 December), and many attractions are open again. Most tubes and buses are running, but there are no Overground or Transport for London rail services.

New Year’s Eve in London

The magnificent fireworks display at London Eye, which showers the Thames with light, is a ticketed event and is now sold out. However, the fireworks can be enjoyed from further away, for example, from parts of St James’s Park near Buckingham Palace.  For a view of fireworks going off all over London, head for Primrose Hill.

New Year’s Day in London

London’s New Year’s Day Parade celebrates its 30th year, and more than 8,500 performers representing 20 countries will take part, including Pearly Kings and Queens, cheerleaders, marching bands, dancers, and representatives from West End shows. The parade starts at 12.00 on Piccadilly and finishes at 3:30 pm in Parliament Square.

Crowd lining parade route London New Year's Day Parade. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey. Crowd lining parade route London New Year’s Day Parade. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.

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