Looking to celebrate the most magical time of the year in London? Then look no further! There is something for everyone in the capital.
This is just a snippet of what there is to see and do in London around the festive season. Have fun and be sure to wrap up warm wherever you go!
Discover 15 wonderful traditions that take place every year in this enchanting city.
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See the Christmas Tree in Trafalgar Square
Visit Trafalgar Square to take a look at the infamous Christmas tree that is carefully erected annually. This Norwegian tree was a gift from Oslo, Norway as a thank you for British help during the second world war.
In 1940, King Haakon VII was forced to flee to London after Germany invaded Norway. His speeches were broadcast to Norway through the BBC World Service, and at the same time, British forces trained Norwegian commandos to fight key Nazi installations in occupied Norway. The Christmas tree was first erected in 1947 and has been put up every year since. The rest is history!
Visit the Wonderful Christmas Lights Displays
Who doesn’t love to kick the festive season off with the turning on of Christmas lights!
London Christmas lights are often turned on by a local celebrity, the Christmas lights on Oxford Street, Bond Street, Carnaby Street or Covent Garden are by far the best in London (in our opinion).
Oxford Street lights were first lit in 1959 following the footsteps of nearby Regent Street. They have since been enjoyed yearly apart from 1976 and 1977 when the light display was absent due to the economic recession.
Did you know – In the Victorian era, people lit up their Christmas trees by placing candles on them which often resulted in house fires.
Aww at the Christmas Window Displays
Department stores in London will go all out with their Christmas window displays. Window shopping during the holidays is one of the best free things you can do.
The first on my list of recommendations is Selfridges. Every year they go all out for their Christmas displays and they even have a whole team dedicated to this. The 2020 displays were all about the ultimate symbol of the festive season – the Christmas tree. I love that they have a commitment to sustainability with Project Earth and the displays continue to use more recycled materials.
Harry Gordon Selfridge created the phrase ‘X shopping days until Christmas’.
Fortnum and Mason, The Queen’s grocer put on a great display. They believe Christmas festivities start when the Christmas displays are revealed. Eight iconic windows are decorated each year showcasing brilliant craftsmanship using hand sculpting, painting, lighting and bespoke engineering.
When you pop in don’t forget to pick up one of their luxury hampers (also happens to be a great gift!).
Harrods never fails to impress us with their displays every year! In 1908, Father Christmas made his first appearance in a store.
Eating Mince Pies Whilst Watching a London Christmas Movie
There is nothing better than eating mince pies whilst watching a classic London Christmas movie like Love Actually, Bridget Jones’ Diary, A Christmas Carol, Last Christmas, About a Boy, or The Holiday, just to name a few.
Some cinemas to check out are:
- Backyard Cinema creates a new theme each year for the holiday season.
- Prince Charles Cinema always puts on a fantastic festive line-up!
- Luna Cinema has some seriously cool venues like Kensington Palace in the Pavilion on the Palace’s Orangery Lawn.
Attend Midnight Mass at Westminster Abbey
This beautiful church has been in London since 960. The church was rebuilt in 1245 into Gothic style and finished in 1517 The church is most likely where you saw Prince William and Kate’s wedding, as well as other Royal weddings and ceremonies.
Westminster Abbey celebrates the birth of Christ, the Light of the World, during a late-night service on Christmas Eve. There is singing of Christmas Carols, music from the Abbey Choir, and a sermon lasting about an hour and a half.
Catch a Show at Royal Albert Hall
The Royal Albert Hall has a great list of Christmas shows, there’s always something for everyone. From The Muppet Christmas Carol’ In Concert, The Nutcracker to Christmas With The Royal Choral Society and many other great shows.
Tickets to shows go on sale around August and make sure you book ahead to get the best prices and seats.
Explore The Hogwarts In The Snow
All aboard the Hogwarts Express! Grab your wands as it’s time to visit the Great Hall with its festive makeover and sip butterbeer. The whole studio is covered in a blanket of snow from the Hogwarts castle model and shop fronts of Diagon Alley.
Booking tickets in advance is a must so get in early to avoid any disappointment.
Ice Skating at One of Iconic Locations
Natural History Museum and Somerset House bring out the true spirit of Christmas with their ice skating rinks. With the stunning buildings as the backdrops, it does make for a magical experience and photo opp!
Whether you want to try out your ice skating skills or people-watch whilst sipping a mulled wine, it’s a must-do.
Did we say pantomime? Oh no we didn’t. Oh, yes we did! (Did you see what we did there?)
The festive season simply isn’t complete without seeing a good old pantomime.
These light-hearted performances are perfect for a family day out and you will often see some famous faces with starring roles. A pantomime, commonly referred to as ‘panto’, is a musical comedy stage production that takes well-known fairy tales and puts a spin on them using slapstick comedy, singing and dancing.
They are enjoyed by families, particularly at Christmas time, and often include the audience in the jokes.
Explore One of the Wonderful Christmas Markets
The Christmas markets are found dotted all over the country – but nothing beats the London Christmas markets! Enjoy a bratwurst sausage in a bun followed by a creamy hot chocolate whilst enjoying the hustle and bustle of the crowd.
The markets are a place to enjoy delicious street food and purchase beautifully hand-crafted gifts for loved ones.
The most popular markets can be found in Leicester Square, Greenwich, Southbank Centre and Kingston.
Held annually at Hyde Park, Winter Wonderland is a truly magical event packed with jolly Christmas markets, exciting rides and fun attractions. Enjoy the spirit of Christmas with a spot of ice skating before entering the mythical ice kingdom made with 500 tonnes of sculptured ice!
Get Your Christmas Clothing Out!
Every year we pull out our Christmas jumpers (sweaters) and proudly wear them around London (at least I do). Whether it’s your friends roping you into a pub crawl, Christmas party or you just love Christmas there is always an excuse to wear one. Don’t forget about the socks, ties and any other clothing you can think of!
Get in early as all the good ones always sell out! Alternatively, buy a unique jumper at a thrift store or on Esty.
Christmas Afternoon Tea in London
England is famous for its afternoon teas and what better way to enjoy the classic British tradition than with a Christmas theme. Restaurants and teas shops create beautiful spreads of foods with festive cakes, cookies, seasonal sandwiches and you can’t forget a scone with jam and clotted cream.
Seeing as you are celebrating add some champagne too!
Some of my recommendations are:
- The Ritz London.
- The Langham.
- The Waldorf Hilton.
- Scoff & Banter (Budget friendly).
- The Savoy.
Go a Dip at Serpentine in Hyde Park
The Serpentine Swimming Club have a Christmas tradition where they jump into the freezing cold water in Hyde Park to take part in the Peter Pan Cup.
Children’s writer J. M. Barrie used to present the winner of the 100-yard swimming race a cup. Because of Mr Barrie, the race was titled the Peter Pan Cup.
Whilst you may not want to jump into the freezing cold water it is the perfect thing to watch on Christmas day.
Decorate Your Christmas Tree with London Ornimates
The world can thank Prince Albert, the beloved husband of Queen Victoria, for popularizing the tradition of Christmas without a tree.
In 1848, a magazine published a drawing of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, and their children celebrating around a decorated Christmas tree.
Why not make it special by hanging some London decorations. Whether you are just visiting or live here there are so many iconic decorations you can get to remind you of your time here.
Hi, I'm Kat, an Australian that moved to London in 2013 to start a new adventure. What a roller-coaster that was! I love helping others move to the UK and people explore the world! I’d be honoured if you’d say, “Thanks!” with a £3 coffee on Ko-fi.