London in winter

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Great cities like London attract significant numbers of visitors all year round. The weather in London in winter is not the most appealing, yet there are still a few outdoor attractions, and it’s not a problem if you wear appropriate clothing. There are many more indoor attractions, and it is an easy exercise to create an itinerary for a London winter weekend, a few days or even a week or more.

Other than on special occasions, you will find smaller crowds, although booking tickets in advance still makes sense as this city is big. The city’s transport infrastructure makes it easy to get around, even to the very outskirts of this enormous city. Here are some ideas for you as a start to your planning a trip to London in winter.

London In Winter

things to do in london in winter
Wandering around Hyde Park in the snow with Albert Memorial in the background is one of the fun things to do in London in winter.

20 Things To Do In Winter In London

1- Take The Harry Potter Guided Walking Tour

when is winter in london night view
Wandering around Piccadilly Circus is one of the things to do in winter in London. Make sure you dress in warm clothing.

The Harry Potter series of films are hugely popular and even if you are not a huge fan, the walking tour around some of the locations made famous by the movies is fascinating and will likely whet your appetite to sit down and watch one of them.

The tour starts at Southwark Cathedral and passes several of London’s most famous landmarks.

Hear how these landmarks relate to Harry Potter with a knowledgeable guide providing information as you walk and answering questions from their participants.

If you are a fan, you will love visiting the Harry Potter film sets at Warner Brothers Studio. It’s an extremely popular attraction, so skip the line and reserve your tickets here.

2- Visit Madam Tussaud’s

The wax models of Madam Tussaud’s are famous worldwide.

There are now several venues worldwide, but the whole thing began in Baker Street, London, nearly a couple of centuries ago.

Today’s museum is on a nearby and larger site on Marylebone Road.

French sculptress Marie Tussaud chose London for her museum because she could not return to France because of the Napoleonic Wars.

Some exhibits are on permanent display while others change with the popularity of entertainers, politicians, sports and celebrities.

While there are now more than 20 such museums worldwide, London remains the largest and most impressive option.

Madam Tussaud’s in London is a popular attraction, so skip the line and reserve your tickets before you go.

3- Ride The London Eye

winter wonderland in london
Riding the London Eye (London Ferris wheel) is one of the iconic things to do in London in winter.

The London Eye on the Thames opened on 31 December 1999 as part of London’s celebration of the forthcoming Millennium.

It remains the highest observation wheel in the world at 135 m (450 ft).

In the winter months, we are likely to have to wrap up warm even by day.

However, even in winter, this is a popular attraction so you should think about buying a ticket in advance to avoid the queues.

You can see London beneath your feet when you reach the apex, depending on how clear the day is.

It’s a thrill to pick out some of London’s iconic landmarks like St. Paul’s Cathedral or Buckingham Palace.

4- View The Tower of London and Crown Jewels

This 11th-century construction built by William the Conqueror could tell many a story if it could speak.

Its guardians are the Yeomen, and the famous ravens, with the Crown Jewels the most precious things they are guarding.

The Tower was regularly used during the time of the Tudor King, Henry VIII, who imprisoned wives and enemies for committing treason before their execution.

Years before, the two princes, sons of Edward IV, lived there before their mysterious deaths were supposedly ordered or performed by the future Richard II, who sought to dispose of other claimants to the English throne.

The Tower of London is a busy attraction, so skip the line and reserve your tickets before you go.

5- Explore Kew Gardens

london in winter
Visiting Kew Gardens is one of the popular things to do in London in winter. Here’s the Red Mansion.

The Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew contains the most impressive collection of flora anywhere in the world.

The collection, gathered over many years, is a spectacular reminder of the variety of flora worldwide.

Almost 100 countries collaborate with Kew, which employs more than 1,000 people.

This is an important research centre, and visitors are sure to be impressed by what they can see as they walk around.

Even on cold winter days, you can feel warm in areas where tropical plants are on display.

Kew Gardens is a popular spot, so book your admission ticket in advance to save time.

6- Travel Through Time In The London Transport Museum

This museum plays an important role in explaining how London was able to develop into the huge city you visit today.

You will find the museum in Covent Garden, and on view is the first underground steam train from the 19th century.

Other engines and famous transport posters help explain the development of transport in London and its contribution to the city’s development.

The interactive exhibits are great fun; the tube driver training simulator is particularly impressive.

The days of horse-drawn carriages faded as the underground railway emerged.

The map of the underground reveals the extensive system running today, a reason why visitors can reach all parts of the city so easily.

Reserve your entry pass to the London Transport Museum.

7- Enjoy Kensington Palace

The State Apartments in Kensington Palace are sure to impress.

The original mansion dates back to 1605, but William and Mary commissioned Sir Christopher Wren to expand the property at the end of that century.

His ideas were to add new wings to the original, and for the next seven decades, this was home to the British monarchy, although Buckingham Palace is now its home.

Today, the Prince and Princess of Wales use the palace as their official home while several special events and banquets take place there.

The impressive gardens and the apartments available for public viewing are well worth a visit.

Take a tour of Kensington Palace and peek into the lives of the royals.

8- Go To London Dungeon

London’s rich history includes several villains and the London Dungeon on the South Bank does an excellent job of describing that criminal past with interactive shows, live actors and two underground rides.

Originally there were just some wax models when the Dungeon opened in the 1970s, but gradually it was upgraded.

A 1000 years of London history has a place here.

Sweeney Todd’s Fleet Street barbers’ shop, where many a murder was committed is there, Jack the Ripper and Whitechapel are perhaps even more famous.

The ride to Newgate for execution takes you back to grim times.

Find out more about the London Dungeon experience.

9- Laugh On The Comedy Horror Ghost Tour

winter street food in london
Riding around in a double-decker bus to stay warm is one of the things to do in London during winter.

Many bus tours around Central London are great for general sightseeing but the Comedy Horror Ghost Tour is a little different.

Your conductor adds to the creepy feeling you will get as you tour the West End, Central London and the area south of the Thames.

Actors will bring scenarios to life along with technical effects.

You will see haunted places and burial grounds and hear some stories that are never really publicised.

Even some of the city’s top attractions, Westminster Abbey, Fleet Street, The Tower of London, and London Bridge, have spooky stories.

At the end of your tour, you may have a new viewpoint on such places, and hopefully, you will not get any nightmares that night.

Joining the Comedy Horror Ghost Tour is a fun way to explore London.

10- Marvel At Exhibits In The British Museum

what to wear in london winter
Exploring museums, such as the Natural History Museum, is the perfect thing to do in London in winter.

It makes sense to get a guide when you visit the British Museum as the museum is vast, with only a small percentage of its assets on display at any one time.

You may just have a broad interest in history, ancient times through to the Ottoman Empire, perhaps? Maybe the British Empire is your main interest or Anglo-Saxon Britain?

It’s all there, and even in a single day, you will only scratch the surface.

A licensed guide will help you get the best out of your time in the museum.

The building itself is impressive and there is no doubt that you will take away great memories after a visit.

It’s not difficult to spend a week at the museum without seeing everything and you’re likely to be inspired to plan your next visit to London.

Skip the line and reserve your spot on a guided tour of the British Museum.

11- Enter The Houses of Parliament

london weather in winter an action photo from changing of the guards
Watching the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace is one of the iconic things to do in London in winter (or any time of the year).

The public gallery is where you can watch the House of Commons debates while sitting.

There is a Christmas recess in winter, but you can watch if the Commons or the Lords are sitting.

You may also attend committee discussions where much of new legislation is examined in detail or where backbenchers get the opportunity to question ministers about policy.

You cannot walk around as you wish and will require an escort so join a guided tour if you want to see government in action.

12- Go To The Theatre

When you think about theatre, two places come to mind immediately: Broadway in New York and London’s West End.

Many popular shows in the West End require you to book weeks in advance.

Others do not play to packed audiences, even when the city is full of visitors doing their Christmas shopping.

You will have the choice of drama, musicals and comedy.

You may not be able to get tickets to your first choice, especially if you are looking for something immediately, but you will always be able to find an entertaining show.

It really is a must-do to visit the theatre on a winter visit to London.

13- Watch The Covent Garden Christmas Pudding Race

winter in london
Covent Garden in London in winter.

The charity fun run in Covent Garden is an annual event that you can participate in if you enter plenty of months in advance.

Teams of four dress in fancy dress, everything from Santa Claus to reindeer to tackle an obstacle course while trying to keep their Christmas pudding balanced on a tray.

The day begins at 11 am, with teams introduced to spectators over the following minutes.

The competition rules are explained before Cancer UK briefly talks about the charity and its aims.

There are a couple of races with the prize giving taking place around 12.30 pm.

14- Visit Santa At Hamleys

london in the winter
Seeing the Christmas lights is one of the top things to do in London in the winter. This is Regent Street’s festive decorations.

Hamley’s in Regent Street is the oldest toy shop in the world, opening in 1760 in High Holburn.

Today’s home is Regent Street, a seven-storey store with thousands of toys on sale.

Santa Grotto is ticket-only but does open in the last week of November, so several dates are available.

Youngsters can participate in carol singing, dress as elves and play games in the Grotto workshop.

What a treat for any son or daughter!

Obviously, meeting Santa is the highlight and the goody bag of gifts and the Christmas certificate your youngster leaves will certainly add to their Christmas experience.

15- Go Christmas Shopping

weather in london in winter
Going shopping is one of the fun things to do in winter in London. Here’s Leadenhall market and its shopping stores.

The Internet has changed shopping habits quite drastically, but prior to Christmas, the streets in Central London fill with shoppers.

Oxford Street is still one of the world’s most famous shopping streets and worth a stroll.

Harrods in Kensington and Fortnum & Masons are shops that are almost institutions.

You will find everything imaginable in Harrods while Fortnum & Masons is known for its quality foods.

When you add the numerous markets around the city, a city regarded as one of the world’s fashion capitals, there are few better places to do your Christmas shopping than London.

16- Attend The Switching On Of The Christmas Lights

things to do in london winter fountain and christmas tree
Wandering around exploring the sights of Trafalgar Square and joining the crowds for Christmas and New Year’s Eve are some of the things to do in winter in London.

Since 1959, the Christmas Lights and beautiful decorations have been a feature of Oxford Street, which welcomes shoppers from different parts of the country and beyond.

It is a tradition to get a famous personality to switch on the lights a few weeks before Christmas Day.

Kylie Minogue, Robbie Williams, Enrique Iglesias, Rita Ora and the multiple gold medal winner Steve Redgrave are among the personalities who have recently switched on the Lights.

You can also see the Christmas lights on an open-top vintage bus.

17- Get Bargains At The Sales

winter temperature in london
London festive Christmas street lights and decorations.

If you still have money left after spending for Christmas, there are plenty of bargains in the Christmas sales.

When shops open their doors, plenty of people who have been queuing, some overnight, dash to buy something that is vastly reduced and that they have had their eye on.

Sales make sense for retailers who may be looking to restock their shops for the New Year.

Rarely is there a chance to get vast reductions on quality branded items but if you attend the sales, this is your chance.

18- Join The Crowds On New Year’s Eve

winter in london temperature big ben fireworks
Watching the New Year fireworks celebration is one of the memorable things to do in London in winter.

The New Year is celebrated right around the world.

Australia welcomes in the New Year many hours before the United Kingdom, with major cities inevitably putting on firework displays as the clock chimes 12.

In London, numerous festivities begin on the evening of the 31st.

Big Ben chimes to announce the New Year, but before them, crowds gather in many parts of the city to begin the celebrations.

Trafalgar Square is a popular place, but there are many more.

The Millennium was a real focus, although Covid meant that public gatherings were not permitted.

Celebrations have resumed and there is no reason to think that such celebrations will not be part of London life in the future.

19- Laugh At A Pantomime

Pantomimes are a mid-winter tradition in the United Kingdom, and within London, there is always plenty of choices for families.

Pantomimes are hugely popular with families, especially children.

Some people’s only visit to a theatre is for the annual pantomime and places like the London Palladium join in the fun.

Firm favourites each year include Jack & the Beanstalk, Cinderella and Goldilocks & the Three Bears.

Some famous actors are happy to spend a few weeks each year in pantomime, and there is always a role for a comedy personality.

20- Enjoy The Southbank Centre Winter Festival

london temperature in winter
Looking for things to do in London in winter? Check out our top 20 activities.

The Southbank Centre is an all-year-around entertainment facility.

One of its regular features is the Winter Festival, which opens early in November and runs through to the New Year.

The festival involves various activities, musicals, art, circus and markets. There is something for everyone.

At this time of year, the Thames under lights is quite stunning, but you will need to wear warm clothing because temperatures can be anything down towards freezing.

With fine food and drink available, you may forget the temperature because of the warm glow of the setting and the entertainment. 

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Steve Smith is a widely travelled man who has lived on the South West Coast of Turkey since 2008. He hails from North East England where he lived most of his life but has been to every continent of the world, with a particular love for Southern Africa and its wildlife. He lists Argentina, India, and Vietnam as other favourite places that he enjoyed greatly while sport is also a passion, cricket and golf as a participant, rugby union and soccer as a spectator.