Christmas in London

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The build up to Christmas in London is an especially magical time to visit. London is vast, and there are so many incredible things to do to celebrate Christmas here. From spending the afternoon exploring one of many winter markets to heading off the beaten track to explore the city, its tales and of course its festive lights, there is something to suit every festive need. Here are 20 ways to celebrate Christmas in London this year.

Christmas in London

20 Things To Do To Capture The Festive Spirit During Christmas in London

1- Visit Hogwart’s Castle in the Snow

Christmas in London weather Hogwarts
One of the enchanting things to do during Christmas in London is to visit Hogwarts Castle in the snow.

A visit to Warner Bros. Studio to see the Harry Potter set is magical at any time of year.

However, the sets and props are transformed into a winter-filled Wizarding World masterpiece at Christmas.

The model of Hogwarts castle is dusted with snow, the Great Hall is laid out for a festive feast complete with decorations and flaming Christmas puddings, and the Gryffindor Common Room is filled with decorations.

In 2021, the Forbidden Forest set has also been draped in filmmaker’s snow to create an enchanting winter wonderland atmosphere.

This wintery wonderland is only open until 16 January 2022 and pre-booking is required.

Hogwarts Castle in the snow is at Studio Tour Dr, Leavesden, Watford WD25 7LR. To reach the studio, catch a train from Euston Station to Watford Junction, where a shuttle will take you to the studios.

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2- Christmas at Kew Gardens

things to do in London over christmas covent garden
Another place to soak up the Christmas spirit is London’s Covent Garden.

Kew Gardens is a popular location in London for anyone who loves gardening.

However, in winter, the experience is elevated to create one of London’s must-visit Christmas locations.

Every year, Kew Gardens transforms into a glowing winter wonderland after dark.

The gardens are lit up with light tunnels, light sculptures, and fairy lights in trees.

Be sure to stop by the Palm House, which is completely lit up in jewelled coloured lights.

In addition to lights, there are also fires in the Fire Garden, and for the little ones, you may spot Father Christmas.

The gardens also host several street food vendors offering up festive fare and hot drinks.

Entry must be pre-booked, and the gardens are operating under limited capacity.

Christmas at Kew Gardens is at Kew, Richmond, London, TW9 3AE. The nearest tube station is only 500m from the entrance to the gardens.

3- Head to Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland

things to do in London during christmas ice rink in Hyde Park
Capture the spirit of Christmas in London at the ice rink in Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland.

A Christmas in London staple is visiting the Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park.

Winter Wonderland is open in the heart of Hyde Park for six weeks of festive fun.

Inside, there are a variety of attractions and activities, including rides and games and lots of wintery food and drinks.

The Winter Wonderland comes to life with its thousands of glistening lights when the sun sets.

Pre-booking is required to enter Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland in 2021 and there are several dates to choose from, as it’s open from 19 November to 3 January.

Winter Wonderland is at Hyde Park. Victoria, Bond Street, Knightsbridge, Green Park, Marble Arch, and Hyde Park Corner are the nearest tube stations.

4- Celebrate with the animals at ZSL

What could be more magical for wildlife lovers than spending time with animals at Christmas?

From 27 November to 3 January, London Zoo is transformed into a snowy animal kingdom.

When visiting the zoo, head out on a festive family trail to help Santa gather important information about all of the animals.

Once you have your information, report back to Mrs Claus to ensure the animals all get their presents.

London Zoo has also created a Sensory Sweet Shop filled with clouds of candyfloss, candy cane forests and a marshmallow meadow.

London Zoo is at Regent’s Park, London, NW1 4RY. The nearest tube stations are Camden Town, Chalk Farm, Baker Street and Regents Park, all of which are approximately 1 mile (1.6km) walk away.

5- Drink Beer at London Christmas Beer Market

Christmas in London flight of beer
Attending a beer festival is a fun thing to do during Christmas in London.

2021’s London Christmas Beer Market at Truman Brewery is hosting more than 100 stalls of food and drinks to get you into the festive spirit.

More than 50 craft brewers, spirit makers and cocktail creators from across the UK will be gathering at the market to deliver festive drinks and masterclasses.

Of course, the drinks are for sale to take away to add to your own yuletide traditions.

Artisan food will also be present at the market and handmade decorations.

No beer market would be complete without entertainment, and at this festive offering, a gospel choir will be performing.

London Christmas Beer Market is at The Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, London, E1 6QR. Take the tube to Shoreditch High Street.

6- Go wine tasting at Fortnum and Mason

Spiral stairway in Fortnum & Mason department store
Fortnum & Mason department store is a place to go Christmas shopping in London.

If beer isn’t your tipple, head over to Fortnum and Mason to sample exquisite wine.

Fortnum and Mason offer a Christmas Wine tasting which offers up sample glasses of their festive wine collection, ready to be purchased by wine lovers.

Sadly due to restrictions, the event is not taking place in person this year, however cases of their festive wines are for sale in an exclusive wine case.

Each case contains a special selection of festive wine favourites from their in house sommelier.

Cases include reds, whites, sweet wines and of course, fizz.

Fortnum and Mason wine tasting cases can be picked up in-store or ordered online.

Fortnum and Mason is at 181 Picadilly, St James’s, London, W1A 1ER.

7- Go On The Alternative Christmas Lights Walk

christmas london lights
Look out for lights around the city. Pictured here is the Winter Lights festival around Christmastime in London.

London is a beautiful city, filled with eclectic architecture, narrow streets, and parades.

There is no better way to take in the city in winter than on an evening Alternative Christmas Lights Walk.

The event, run by Look Up London, takes festive revellers through some of London’s lesser-known streets that are, of course, beautifully adorned with Christmas lights and decorations.

Guides also open up the world of London through unusual and magical historical tales of each area.

Please be aware that tickets for the tour must be booked in advance.

The walk lasts two hours and runs from 2 Stratford Place to Covent Garden Plaza. The nearest tube station to Stratford Place is the Oxford Street entrance to Bond Street Tube Station.

8- Enjoy an early Christmas lunch aboard a steam train

things to do in London on christmas Christmas Mince Pies
Christmas Mince Pies.

Take lunch aboard a steam train for a more luxurious and romantic festive experience.

The Christmas Lunch by Steam runs on the Belmond British Pullman.

At £420 per person, this certainly isn’t the cheapest way to enjoy the festive season in London, however, it certainly will create incredible memories.

You will depart London Victoria on the Belmond British Pullman, a spectacular steam train from the 1920s.

On your journey, you will be served a festive five-course lunch with wine in beautifully decorated surroundings as you travel through the British countryside.

Booking is limited to two exclusive trips, on Thursday 2nd and Saturday 11 December, but the company offers several other Christmas journeys such as Christmas lunch, Christmas carol journeys and festive afternoon teas.

London Victoria Station is at Victoria Street, London, SW1E 5ND.

9- Watch A Christmas Play

when is Christmas in London mulled wine
Drink mulled wine at one of London’s Christmas markets.

There are many plays on during the festive period in London, but none recall the childhood wonder of winter like The Snowman.

Raymond Briggs illustrated the celebrated children’s classic The Snowman in 1978.

This wordless book was adapted for TV and transformed the illustrations into magical animation accompanied by music.

Now a returning West End musical, The Snowman features music and lyrics by Howard Blake and an incredible set design by Ruari Murchison.

This is truly a magical way to spend a wintery evening with the family.

The Snowman is on at Peacock Theatre, Portugal Street, Kingsway, London, WC2A 2HT. The nearest tube station is Holborn.

10- Enjoy a festive afternoon tea

Christmas in London afternoon tea
Enjoying a deliciously festive afternoon tea is one of the joys of spending Christmas in London.

A trip to London would not be complete without a traditional British afternoon tea.

This is no different around Christmastime, as many of the celebrated afternoon tea venues out a festive twist on their traditional menus.

While many of the hotels, such as Claridge’s and The Rubens at the Palace, will seat you in festive surroundings decorated with extravagant Christmas trees and serve festive flavours, there are some more unusual Christmas afternoon teas on offer.

B Bakery transforms their London Bus afternoon tea into a Christmas theme, with hot chocolates and gin cocktails on offer, while you travel through the beauty of London decorated for Christmas.

For a festive afternoon tea filled with whimsy, head to The Dilly. Their festive afternoon tea is inspired by the Tales of Peter Rabbit and includes an adorable meringue snowman, as well as savoury and sweet treats inspired by Beatrix Potter’s famous tales.

Festive afternoon teas can be found at various locations across London.

11- Experience a retelling of A Christmas Carol at Alexandra Palace

A good Christmas ghost story is a tradition for many Brits.

One of the most famous, and one that is told worldwide, is A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens.

Adapted numerous times for TV, film, radio, and the theatre, A Christmas Carol is possibly the most important and best-known Christmas ghost story.

From 30 November to 9 January, A Christmas Carol – A Ghost Story is being performed at Alexandra Palace Theatre.

The tale is led by the extraordinary Mark Gatiss, who retells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge’s fright-filled Christmas evening.

The show is filled with special effects to add to its spine-tingling nature; however, the cast steals the show and adds to its ghostly feeling.

Alexandra Palace is at Alexandra Palace Way, London, N22 7AY. The nearest tube station is Wood Green.

12- Sing Christmas Carols at St Paul’s Cathedral

St. Paul's Cathedral Christmas tree in London
St. Paul’s Cathedral at Christmas is a London drawcard.

Carols at Christmas have been a tradition for centuries, as oral retellings of the nativity were accompanied by music.

One of the best ways to become immersed in these incredible songs in even more incredible surroundings is by attending a carol service at St Paul’s.

There are numerous carol concerts at St Paul throughout the festive period, including the Blood Cancer UK Christmas Carol service, which raises funds for the charity.

The most festive of all services take place on Christmas Eve in the cathedral, where the retelling of the tale of the birth of Christ is intertwined with lessons spoken through the service and the powerful music of the carols.

St Paul’s Cathedral is at St. Paul’s Churchyard, London EC4M 8AD. The nearest tube station is St Paul’s.

13- Explore Paddington Pergola

London Christmas tree decoration red double-decker bus
Christmas tree decoration with a red double-decker London bus.

Become fully immersed in the Christmas spirit as you wander through the wintery transformation of Paddington Pergola.

Paddington Pergola has been renamed ‘Deck the Halls’ for the festive period and has been packed with twinkling lights, snow-dusted pine trees and of course, a cosy atmosphere.

Inside the pergola are Christmas Chalets which are bookable for up to 8 people to enjoy privately, or for smaller parties, head to the toasty heated Alpine Hall.

Blankets are aplenty, as you cosy up with a festive tipple of Hot Bourbon Toddies or Mulled Wine.

There are also five restaurants serving various food and drinks, including bratwurst and cheese fondu, and for those with a sweet tooth, candy cane s ‘mores are also available.

Entry to Deck the Halls must be booked in advance.

Paddington Pergola is at 5 Kingdon Street, Paddington Central, London, W2 6PY. The nearest tube station is Paddington Station.

14- Ice Skate at the Natural History Museum

Another of London’s festive traditions is the ice rink at the Natural History Museum.

The ice rink is open from 22 October till 16 January, only closing on Christmas Day.

The ice rink is in the magnificent Natural History Museum’s grounds and is surrounded by light covered trees.

The museum has hosted an ice rink on its grounds for 16 years, and 2021 will be its last as the museum looks to transform its grounds into a haven for urban wildlife.

It’s your last chance to skate here, so make an advanced booking online.

The Natural History Museum is at Cromwell Road, London, SW7 5BD. South Kensington, a five-minute walk away from the museum’s entrance, is the closest tube station.

15- Cosy up to a festive movie at Backyard Cinema

Backyard Cinema is hosting three incredible movie experiences across two locations in London.

Taking over the iconic Troxy in East London, Backyard Cinema will be hosting Love Actually, Elf and Home Alone.

This incredible evening will also feature a live choir and an original story narrated by George the Poet.

At Capital Studios in Wandsworth, Backyard Cinema has transformed the studios into a Winter Night Garden.

Beginning in the grounds of an ancient manor, walk through the enchanted forest to reach the mystical wardrobe.

Once you finally find your seat in this overgrown theatre, catch a showing of Love Actually or Home Alone.

Backyard Cinema has it covered for a more unique and fun-filled evening with a festive twist.

Troxy is at 490 Commercial Road, London, E1 0HX. The nearest tube stations are Limehouse, Shadwell and Stepney Green.

Capital Studios is at Ram Quarter, 13 Wandsworth Plain, Wandsworth, London, SW18 1ET.

16- Buy last-minute gifts at Chelsea Physic Garden

what to do in London at christmas Christmas gifts
Buying Christmas gifts in London is a fabulous experience.

Buying gifts requires careful thought to ensure the perfect present for that special someone.

The annual Christmas Fair at Chelsea Physic Garden returns this year to host more than 100 stalls of independents.

Selling everything from beautiful decorations to carefully crafted food and drink, you are bound to find the perfect addition to your Christmas table, stocking or ‘just because’ gift here.

Entry to the fair is ticketed and must be booked in advance.

Chelsea Physic Garden is at 66 Royal Hospital Road, Chelsea, London, SW3 4HS. The nearest tube station is Sloane Square.

17- Make your own wreath at Petersham Nurseries

What to do on Christmas day in London christmas wreath
A fantastic way to get into the Christmas spirit is to make your own wreaths.

While a beautiful and festive way to decorate your home, wreaths can lose that festive feeling when bought from a shop.

Why not make your own wreath with the help of the incredible staff at Petersham Nurseries?

Take part in one of their festive wreath masterclasses, which will teach you how to make a beautiful wreath to take home and make the most of foraged items to bring the festive spirit to your door.

The wreaths made at the nurseries are filled with winter foliage, festive berries and seed heads.

Wreath making classes will take place when the nurseries are typically closed, and bookings must be made in advance.

Petersham Nurseries is at Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, Off Petersham Road, Richmond, TW10 7AB. The nearest tube station is Richmond.

18- Watch the Nutcracker Ballet

London Christmas Ballet
One attraction not to be missed when looking for something to do in London around Christmas is to attend the Nutcracker Ballet.

The Nutcracker is returning to the Royal Opera House, a spectacular performance running from 23 November till 8 January.

The Nutcracker has long been tied to the festive season, and matching this wintery tale with the beautiful music of Tchaikovsky has created a classic performance.

Peter Wright’s production of The Nutcracker remains true to its Russian ballet origins, with solos and group performances tying the piece together beautifully.

The Royal Opera House is at Bow Street, London, WC2E 9DD. The nearest tube stations are Covent Garden, Leicester Square, Holborn, Charing Cross, and Tottenham Court Road.

19- Head to a Christmas party at The Underworld Camden

London in Christmas regent street lights
Christmas Lights Display on Regent Street in London.

For those after a mixture of nightlife and Christmas, The Underworld in Camden is a must-visit.

The Underworld hosts Blackout Club every week, a mix of indie and rock held every Friday night.

This club night is transformed into the Blackout Club Xmas Bash during the festive period.

Resident DJ’s play the best of rock and roll from 11 pm to 3 am, making it one of the more unique Christmas parties to attend in London.

While Christmas songs are unlikely to appear on the set list or request list made by those attending, you can guarantee the venue will be filled with festive spirit, plenty of lights and decorations, and of course, festive tipples.

Blackout Club Xmas Party tickets must be purchased in advance.

The Underworld is at 174 Camden High Street, London, NW1 0NE. The nearest tube station is Mornington Crescent.

20- Relax in a ski lodge at The Montague on the Gardens Hotel

Christmas lights in London
The Christmas decorations and bright lights on Carnaby Street are a must-see during Christmas in London.

For the ultimate ski experience during Christmas in London, head over to The Montague on the Gardens Hotel.

The Ski Lodge is London’s original ski lodge and is a must-visit destination for some of the best parties in London.

The Wood Deck at the hotel is transformed into the ski lodge and is decorated with pine trees, reindeer and even falling snow.

Guests can snack on candied pecans whilst sipping hot chocolate cocktails and mulled wine whilst cosying up under thick woolly rugs.

Bookings are available throughout the afternoon and evening and must be made in advance.

The Montague on the Gardens Hotel is at 15 Montague St, London, WC1B 5BJ.

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sarah holmes travel writer
Sarah Holmes is a travel and fashion writer living in the heart of England. From family adventures in numerous parts of the UK and Europe to exploring cities as an adult, Sarah has a wide knowledge of the best areas, sights and local tips that the UK and the neighbouring continent can offer. Sarah grew up in the North East of England, with incredible sights and landmarks only a short drive away. Her favourite places to visit include Seaham Beach, the Lake District and Alnwick Castle. Sarah has written for a range of fashion and travel blogs and print publications.