Christmas in London
There's nothing quite so magical as spending Christmas in London. The Christmas activities here are world-class, and there’s plenty to see and do in the capital to make you feel festive at this time of year.
This cool metropolis is known for its awesome art galleries, many museums, great nightlife, world-class shopping and fantastic food year-round. But, during Christmastime, London offers plenty in the way of seasonal entertainment too.
From world-renowned markets to spectacular seasonal shopping, you’re never short of things to do in London at Christmas. Here’s our pick of the best Christmas activities on offer in the UK capital.
Book Tickets to a Christmas Show or Pantomime
What could be more festive than going to see a Christmas show or pantomime during your stay? Luckily, London’s legendary theatres don’t disappoint at this time of year.
Christmas panto season is in full swing from early December onwards. There are plenty of Christmas shows, plays and musicals in the glittering West End, specially created for the season. For star-studded performances, book your ticket to see the annual London Palladium Pantomime.
This year, you’ll be able to see over 100 dancers bring the Nutcracker to life at the London Coliseum, courtesy of the English National Ballet; the Royal Ballet will be also be presenting their version of the show at the Royal Opera House. usually present festive shows.
Christmas at the Royal Albert Hall is always special too, with a spectacular line-up over the festive season; there’s the iconic performance of Handel’s Messiah, seasonal ballet recitals, traditional carol concerts and big-band Christmas smash hits.
Just remember to book your tickets online – preferably ahead of schedule (they’re popular!).
See the City Lit Up
From November onwards, the streets of London are adorned with beautiful Christmas lights. Take a festive stroll around the city one evening to really make the most of it.
Regent Street lights up from the 13th of November until the January 2nd, with the theme ‘The Spirit of Christmas.’ Around the corner on Oxford Street, the streets are alight with stars this year. Both areas are famed the world over for their impressive light displays around Christmas and, this year, the surrounding shops and restaurants will be hosting a series of events to get you in the festive spirit; there are wreath making workshops at Lush (175-179 Oxford St) and Anthropologie (158 Regent Street), gin masterclasses at John Lewis (300 Oxford St) and the return of ‘Christmas Market on the Mews’ at Selfridges. For full details, visit the Regent Street and Oxford Street websites.
Carnaby Street, which is just off Regent Street, is also beautifully lit up. This year, you’ll find a kaleidoscopic display of neon butterflies. Created in collaboration with the Choose Love charity, the lights ‘highlight butterflies’ powerful representations of life as a metaphor exemplifying spiritual rebirth, transformation, change and hope.’ To find out more about this years’ theme, and the incredible work Choose Love do, please visit the Carnaby Street website.
But it’s not just the West End that’s had a festive makeover; Marylebone Village has its own Xmas lights to enjoy, as does Northbank; you'll also find lights to marvel at in The Brunswick Centre, Seven Dials, Kingston, and Connaught Village. Plus, there are beautiful Christmas lights at Sloane Square in Chelsea, The Royal Exchange, St Katharine's Docks, The Shard and Trafalgar Square, where you'll find the splendid traditional Christmas tree every year.
Visit Winter Wonderland
Hyde Park is the biggest of four Royal Parks and a short stroll away from easyHotel London Paddington. It’s also home to the annual Winter Wonderland event: a whopper of a Christmas festival, which includes brilliant shopping, ice-skating, family shows, fairground rides, circus shows and a big wheel – where you can view the spectacle from high above. It’s free to get in and so big you could easily spend the day there.
After a brief hiatus in 2020, Winter Wonderland is back with a bang this year. Taking place from the 19th November until the 3rd of January, it’s set to be bigger and better than ever!
Head to Christmas at Kew
At Christmas, after dark, the gorgeous gardens at Kew light up in a stunning festive trail of lights. Christmas at Kew is so popular that tickets go on sale in June. There’s usually a light show at the Palm House and the gardens are lit by more than a million glowing bulbs. A fantastic mile-long trail through the famous botanic gardens awaits you, studded with magical performances, displays and installations.
This year, the installations will feature an innovative new piece combining lights, video design and projection, to bring Kew’s botanical illustrations to life. Christmas at Kew is open daily from 4pm-10pm, and will be running until the 9th of January.
Experience Hogwarts in the Snow
The Warner Bros. Studio Tour’s amazing festive feature, Hogwarts in the Snow, is well worth a visit if you’re able to make the 20 mile journey north-west of the capital. This year, the Forbidden Forest will be given a festive makeover and, once again, the Great Hall will be set as it was for the seasonal feast in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Whether you’re a fan of the Harry Potter franchise or not, it’s hard not to feel festive here.
Shuttle buses run regularly from Watford Junction station to the studios, which takes around 15 minutes. The easiest way to get to Watford Junction from central London is to catch a train from Euston, which takes approximately 30 minutes.
Schedule a Visit to Some of London’s Best Christmas Markets
The capital is home to a host of Christmas markets, where you can sample seasonal wares in a suitably festive setting.
There's Camden Christmas market, and the Southbank Winter Market for a start, which are packed with delicious, exciting and unusual festive treats. Camden Market morphs into a dazzling Christmas wonderland throughout November and December, with Santa's Grotto, flurries of snow, seasonal live music and lots of tasty street food on offer. This year, the market is getting its first ever ice rink too! Entry to the rink can be bought online, and ticketholders will also receive discounts at local street food vendors in the market.
This year, the Southbank Centre's Winter Festival will be running until December 23rd. It offers a feast of glorious festive fun including markets, music, entertainment, and fantastic street food.
Christmas by the River also takes place along the Thames, offering stunning views of Tower Bridge, the Tower of London and the City skyline. Running until 2nd January, you’ll find a range of alpine cabins along the riverside, selling delicious festive foods and crafts.
You can also enjoy the festive Christmas market in Leicester Square, and the seasonal craft events hosted by Crafty Fox, which take place at various venues across the capital.
We’ve put together a list of the best UK Christmas events happening in 2021, where you can find more information on the must-see Christmas markets in London, and in the rest of the UK.
Get Your Christmas Shopping Done in the Capital
London is considered to be one of the best shopping destinations in the country, so take advantage of it while you’re here and do your Christmas shopping. Whether you’re searching for unique, luxury or budget-friendly gifts, you’re sure to find what you’re after in the capital.
Covent Garden, Oxford Street, the massive Westfield shopping centre and Carnaby Street are all great for Christmas shopping.
Covent Garden is excellent for quirky, independent and luxury shopping. The famed Apple Market there is great if you’re looking for handmade gifts. This year, the area plays host to a Christmas Village on the Piazza, where you’ll be able to find festive foods and stop off at one of the market’s pop up bars. For more information, head to the website.
Oxford Street – one of the capital’s most famous shopping districts – is home to really big branches of your favourite high street brands, including a massive M&S. Here, you’ll also find all sorts of tourist shops and independent outlets. Nearby Carnaby Street is fun too, and is packed with unusual clothing stores and vintage treasures.
The Westfield Shopping Centre in Shepherd’s Bush is open until 10pm, offering late-night Christmas shopping for those last-minute gifts. It’s an epicentre of fashion, and stacked with fabulous outlets. You’ll find high street favourites like Topshop, huge department stores including John Lewis and luxury shops such as Gucci here. And, at Christmas, expect seasonal events aplenty. For a truly festive shopping experience, head to their Winter Village, where you can enjoy seasonal food and drinks from the comfort of your own alpine chalet.
There’s nothing more festive than skating gracefully (or not!) around an ice rink at Christmas.
And, in London, there are plenty of outdoor ice rinks that have been built especially for the festive season. Some of the most popular rinks can be found at the Natural History Museum, Hampton Court Palace and Somerset House. There’s also the ice rink at Ally Pally (aka Alexandra Palace), which is well worth a visit.
See the Trafalgar Square Tree
Nothing says Christmas quite like the famous Trafalgar Square Tree. Usually a towering 60-year-old Norway spruce measuring more than 20m high, it’s given to the capital each year by the city of Oslo. The tradition dates back to 1947, when the first tree was gifted to the city as a token of gratitude to the people of London, for their support during the second world war.
If you’d like to experience Christmas in London, we’ve got some lovely, budget-friendly hotels scattered across the city. Book your stay at one of our London hotels today, and try these must-do activities for yourself.