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While London is a city for all seasons, it seriously turns on the charm in winter. Christmas in London is wonderful. As soon as the temperature drops and the clocks go back, the city is transformed. There is a lot of activities to do and many London Christmas markets to visit.

After taking 2020 off as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Winter Wonderland will also return to Hyde Park this year: it’s high time to get excited about the biggest outdoor ice-skating rink in the UK, panoramic views and attractions. Winter Wonderland is the perfect place to start your Christmas shopping with a wander around the stalls.

Amongst things to do in London at Christmas: you’ll start seeing mistletoe and mince pies creeping into shops and cafés towards the end of October, but London gets into the full festive swing of Christmas – or Chrimbo, as you might hear locals refer to it – from around mid-November, when Christmas lights are officially ‘switched on’, department stores such as Liberty and Selfridges unveil spectacular seasonal window displays, and Londoners develop a mild obsession with Christmas sandwiches.

Don’t-miss Christmas experiences in London

Looking to do some gift shopping or simply want to soak up the season's festive spirit? London's many Christmas markets and beautifully decorated shopping streets are where it's at. 

Garlands and baubles decorating Apple market

Apple Market

Come Christmas, even locals who usually avoid the throngs of Covent Garden can’t resist the Apple Market’s pull. This year’s decorative display will see the return of the 40 super-sized mistletoe chandeliers that became an Instagram hit in 2016.

Christmas lights and markets from mid-November 2022. 

Christmas at Kew Gardens

Christmas at Kew

If you thought your Christmas party outfit was a showstopper, wait until you check out Kew Gardens’ seasonal makeover. A mile-long twinkling trail leads visitors past 27 botanic-themed illuminated installations, including kaleidoscopic projections and a chorus of ‘singing trees’.

From 16 November 2022 to 8 January 2023.

People browsing Christmas stands on the south bank with Big Ben in the background

Southbank Centre Winter Festival

The Thames’ cultural hub throws a neon-lit Noël celebration with a Nordic twist this year, with pop-ups, shows and performances by the river. Looking to heat things up? Don’t miss the rooftop Finnish sauna in the Queen Elizabeth Roof Gardens.

From 4 November 2022 to 24 December 2022. 

Christmas decorations for sale

Regent Street

The biggest retail players along this Central London stretch embrace the Yuletide spirit, as the street goes traffic-tree for its grand Christmas lights launch. You might even spot a minor British celebrity or two... 

The lights are switched from mid-November 2022.

The big wheel and other rides at Winter Wonderland

Winter Wonderland

Yes, it’s slightly cheesy, but there’s a reason why this Hyde Park stalwart is London’s largest festive fiesta. Now in its eleventh year, it’s been helping even the grumpiest of Grinches get into the Christmas groove with a winning formula of alpine-themed bars, ice-skating rinks, and raucous rides.

From 4 November 2022 to 24 December 2022. 

Contemporary art on the South Bank

Tate Modern Christmas Market

This Thameside powerhouse knows how to put on a buzzed-about art show, but it’s also a secret mecca for festive gift-gatherers. Join them in the gallery’s forecourt each December to browse its cutesy stalls and pick up quirky stocking-fillers.

From mid-November to end of December 2022 (Dates TBC). 

Festive foods to try

Every Londoner has some kind of festive food fixation, from mince pies to the ultimate ‘Christmas sarnie’ (that’s a sandwich) – the subject of many a heated lunchtime debate

Close up of some mince pies decorated with pastry stars

Mince pies

Thankfully, these don’t involve beef mince. Instead, these traditional, sweet-pastry pies are stuffed with a sticky, spiced mix called ‘mincement’; dried fruit, nuts, finely-chopped apple, and sometimes a soupçon of brandy.

Close up of a Christmas sandwich with turkey, ham and cranberry sauce

Christmas sandwiches

Nothing gets Londoners salivating at this time of year more than a turkey sandwich. Traditionally made from Christmas Day-dinner leftovers, they’re now on sale from mid-November. Various cafés and chains battle for supremacy, adding more and more festive fillings, from bacon and sage stuffing to cranberry sauce and Brussel sprouts.

Plate full of pigs in blankets

Pigs in blankets

Not to be taken literally, ‘pigs in blankets’ is the affectionate term for an ever-popular seasonal side-dish: small sausages wrapped in bacon, and baked until they’re extra crispy.

Close up of a Christmas pudding decorated with holly

Christmas pudding

Forget your mother’s advice of never playing with your food. The traditional end to any British Christmas dinner, this dessert made from dried food and spices is aged for a month before being served at the table, doused in brandy and set on fire.

Image credits: © Jeff Eden, RBG Kew; © Jeff Eden, RBG Kew; © Getty; © Shutterstock; © Shutterstock; © Shutterstock; © Eurostar; © Jeff Eden; © Eurostar; © Getty Images; © Eurostar; © Getty