London is a magical place to be at Yuletide with Christmas carol concerts in Trafalgar Square, a galaxy of lights iconic illuminating buildings and outdoor ice skating in romantic locations. Here are 12 things to get you in the swing of Christmas in London.
1. Marvel at London’s Christmas lights
Revel in the full beauty of London’s Christmas lights snuggled up on an open bus sightseeing tour – at night. Take in all the iconic sights like the Tower of London, Harrods and Piccadilly Circus, all dressed up in their Christmas best. If you prefer to admire the lights from ground level, head to Oxford Street, Regent Street and Carnaby Street for dazzling illuminations.
2. Sing along at Trafalgar Square
The air around Trafalgar Square will be filled with the sweet melody of Christmas carols during 11-22 December. Enjoy rousing seasonal tunes in the glow of Trafalgar Square's 20-metre Christmas tree (an annual gift from the people of Norway since 1947). Performances will run from 4pm-8pm (Monday-Friday) and 2pm-6pm (Saturday-Sunday). Please note there’ll be no performances on 12 December.
3. Indulge at Fortnum & Mason Food Hall
Fortnum & Mason’s luxury hampers are an iconic symbol of Christmas in Britain - even Her Majesty The Queen is said to enjoy them. Each hamper is packed full of delicious seasonal fare to eat and drink. If you’re travelling light, you can buy the hamper treats separately in the temptingly good Food Hall.
4. Lace up for outdoor ice skating
Get your skates on and hit the ice at one of London’s outdoor ice rinks. Go for a spin (or a triple axel if you’re a pro) and admire some of the prettiest buildings and locations in the city. Our favourites include Somerset House, Natural History Museum, Tower of London and Hampton Court.
5. See a Christmas show
Bustling around London with bags of Christmas shopping can seem like a pantomime at times, so why not experience the real deal instead? Chuckle at the slapstick antics on stage in Aladdin at Hackney Empire or Snow White at the London Palladium. For more family-friendly fun, book tickets for the classic The Snowman Musical at the Peacock Theatre.
6. Go on a Harry Potter Walking Tour
“Merry Christmas, merry Christmas, ring the Hogwarts bell. Merry Christmas, merry Christmas, cast a Christmas spell!” Christmas at Hogwarts is a truly magical experience, so why not take a guided Harry Potter tour of London? Handily the tour will take you through Leadenhall Market – the location for numerous London scenes in the Potter films – perfect for picking up last-minute luxury Christmas gifts.
7. Wander in Winter Wonderland
There’s plenty of things to see and do at Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland so give yourself lots of time to explore this festive bonanza! Explore the Secret Forest and its ice sculptures of mythical creatures, watch acrobatic and comic acts at Zippos Circus or sing karaoke in an Alpine-inspired cabin. It’s free to enter Winter Wonderland but tickets for attractions are sold separately.
8. Watch a Christmas classic
Boxing Day in Britain largely revolves around what to watch on TV, so a festive film is always a must. If you fancy your Christmas classic on a bigger screen - check out Luna Winter Cinema, St Katherine Docks, Theatre Royal, One Aldwych for Christmas classics screenings. For a screening with a difference, try the Floating Film Festival at St Katherine Docks. Make sure you wrap up warm!
9. Follow the magical trail at Kew Gardens
The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew is transformed into an illuminated magical, mythical place with more than a million twinkling lights, during its Christmas at Kew event. Follow the trail into the moonlit woods to see enchanting sights like the flotilla of glowing boats on the lake and the Fire Garden. Keep an eye out for Father Christmas and his elves who occasionally make a guest appearance!
10. Have fun at Hamleys
Unleash your inner child at the oldest and largest toy shop in the world, Hamleys. From the daily puppet show on the ground floor to the Lego Experience on the fifth, there’s heaps to keep little kids (and big ones) entertained. And if all the excitement leaves you hungry, visit the Scrumpalicious Snack Shop for sweets, shakes and smoothies.
11. Delight at festive window displays...
London’s top department stores pull out all the stops and get very creative and for their spectacular Christmas window displays. Get your phones ready for lots of gold, stars, sequins and the occasional dusting of fake snow. Head to Liberty, John Lewis, Selfridges and Harrods for eye-catching festive shop fronts.
12. ...then hit the shops!
A visit to London at Christmastime isn’t complete without a picking up a bargain or two in the sales. Usually taking place a few days before Christmas, expect to see huge discounts as retailers make room for their new stock. Oxford Street is the popular choice but if you want to escape the crowds try High Street Kensington, Westfield (in Stratford and White City) or the London Designer Outlet in Wembley.