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.
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.
Come Christmas at Apple Market in Covent Garden is one of the most popular tourist sites, even locals who usually avoid the throngs of Covent Garden can’t resist the Apple Market’s pull.
From 17 November 2017 to 9 January 2021
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 17 November 2017 to 9 January 201
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 2021 to 24 December 2021
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 2021.
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 19 November 2021 to 3 January 2022
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 2021 (Dates TBC).
London’s alternative Christmas market swaps Victoria Park for Clapham Common this year, but retains its hipster credentials – think club nights, crazy golf, cabaret and eclectic food stands, curated by Street Feast.
From 23 November 2017 to 5 January 2018
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
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.
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.
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.
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.