Christmas in London
Festive fun in London
While London is a city for all seasons, it seriously turns on the charm in winter. Christmas in London is absolutely wonderful. As soon as the temperature drops and the clocks go back, the city is transformed. There are a lot of activities to do, London Christmas lights to see and many London Christmas markets to check out.
Winter Wonderland will also return to Hyde Park this year from 17 November 2023 to 1st January 2024. It's the biggest outdoor ice-skating rink in the UK, with festive attractions and stalls that are perfect for some Christmas shopping.
There are plenty of 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 from mid-November, London gets into the full festive swing of Christmas – or Chrimbo, as you might hear locals refer to it. 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.
Things to do in London at Christmas
Looking to do some Christmas shopping in London 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.
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.
When? Christmas lights and markets from mid-November 2023
How much does it cost? Free
Nearest tube station? Covent Garden
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’.
When? from 15 November 2023 to 7 January 2024
How much doest it cost? Between £21.50 and £28
Nearest tube station: Kew Gardens
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.
When? From 4 November 2023 to 24 December 2023.
How much doest it cost? Free
Nearest tube station: Embankment, Waterloo
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...
When? From 9 November 2023
How much doest it cost? Free
Nearest tube station: Oxford Circus
Yes, it’s slightly cheesy, but there’s a reason why this Hyde Park stalwart is London’s largest festive fiesta. 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.
When? 17 November 2023 to 1 January 2024
How much does it cost? Between £5 and £7.50
Nearest tube station: Victoria, Bond Street, Knightsbridge
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 2023 (Dates TBC)
Traditional Christmas food 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
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.
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.
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.