London at Christmas Time

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You asked for tips on what to do in London at Christmas time, so I did a bit of hunting around to see what I could find. This year is going to be different, so I’ve tried to find out what’s open, what’s closed in London for this Christmas 2024. I’ve spent 8 Christmases in London as a resident and when we lived in Wales I’d come to London most years to see the lights, do some shopping, maybe take in a show. I’m sure we can help you plan on a wonderful few days, a special outing, or a weekend in London over Christmas.

London at Christmas Festivities London
Use our post to help plan your London Christmas trip! Festivities and what to expect in London over the Christmas period.

London is always fun at any time of year but at Christmas, she has extra magic.

The darkness of the late afternoons helps make the lights and decorations all the more spectacular as you munch on your roasted chestnuts and sip a mulled wine.

London at Christmas lights treee
London is extra magical over the Christmas period. The capital sparkles with lights and multiple Christmas trees, shop windows light up, and there ae plenty of festive events and tours to choose from.

So if you’re thinking of visiting London this Christmas, we have some up-to-date tips and recommendations for you.

Some dates are not yet out and many events were cancelled last year, we’re adding confirmed dates as fast as we can.

London Christmas
London’s Covent Market decked out for Christmas.

A lot of London’s Christmas events, including the ice rinks, are hugely popular so pre-booking may be the best idea in 2024. It’s busy in London at Christmas time, particularly in the last weeks before Christmas as the shopping crowds come to buy their holiday gifts. You must be ready for crowds.

Everything is subject to change of course, but the UK and London have been open quite a while now and fingers crossed everything will stay stable.

But double-check everything we mention here! We give you links where we can.

London at Christmas

London at Christmas Time

We update this post every year to give you dates, timings, train closures, and special events. We’re adding 2024 information as soon as we can find it.

The Holiday Season is in swing in London from about October / November.

If a Christmas event is not in the post yet it’s most likely that dates have not yet been released or our information from last year is still displaying to give you an idea.

Our favourite Christmas Market and Food Fair is held on the South Bank, last year it ran from the 3rd of November to Boxing Day, the 26th November. This is part of the Winter Festival events in London, but you will find more Christmas Markets around the city. Covent Garden is particularly good for Christmas.

London Attractions You Can Book This Christmas

The attractions below could be perfect for your Christmas outing or special treat. London Zoo is normally open over Christmas but booking are required, see here for details.

Some museums, for instance, the Natural History Museum, were accepting bookings for their special exhibitions. Titanosaur, Life of The Biggest Dinosaur, was their special exhibition, non-members have to pay, and that ran into January 2024. Book here for current special events.

London ice rinks at Christmas
The ice rink and carousel outside The London Natural History Museum at Christmas.

If you are visiting the Natural History Museum during the Christmas holidays, book a time slot. It’s the only way, now, to guarantee you will get in. Regular museum bookings (free) can be made here. The museum website stated that they will be closed from the 24th to the 26th of December last year. Opening time is 10 am, last admission, 5.30 pm.

Christmas at Kew ran last year at Kew Botanic Gardens near Richmond to January 7th 2024, book here. There’s quite a lot of walking at Kew, but the festive light show is great.

London Harry Potter at Christmas
The Warner Bros Harry Potter Studios have special displays over the Christmas period.

Hogwarts is the Snow is a special event at the Harry Potter Warner Bros Studio Tours. You always have to book a time slot to go here, it’s the best Harry Potter experience in the world, and its very much worth going. The Christmas event is normally open until the 14 th of January, search here for admission.

The Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park is on most years, but this one is closes on January 1st normally. so be quick! Check for tickets here.

Christmas lights tours are always very popular in London at Christmas (rightly so), book a vintage open top bus tour here, or the kids’ tour, Tootbus, here.

London at Christmas Theatre
London’s Theatres at Christmas.

What’s on at the theatres this year in London? Last year The Nutcracker (London National Ballet) was on at the London Coliseum to the 7th of January 2024 and Elf the Musical is at the Dominion Theatre to January 6th 2024.

If you want to see a traditional British pantomime, The London Palladium has a panto of huge stars. Peter Pan was on for Christmas 2023 featuring Julian Clary and Jennifer Saunders – amongst others! These traditional British pantos usually run until the second week in January.

That’s just a quick overview of some of the most popular things to do over Christmas and into the New Year, Let’s look into things in more detail!

Christmas Lights and Decorations in London

London Christmas Lights Covent Garden
The beautiful Christmas decorations at Covent Garden, there is usually a Christmas food fair here too.

London is all lit up like the proverbial Christmas tree early, you’ll see lights on almost every street in the city.

The lights are normally switched on in the first week of November.

See dates for Londons Christmas Light Switch On Events here. In 2024 the Oxford St. Christmas Lights will start Christmas in November (date not yet confirmed).

Our favourite spots for amazing festive lights and decorations are:

  • Covent Garden (pictured above)
  • Oxford St
  • Regent St
  • Bond St
  • Carnaby St

Probably the best way to see the lights this year, and avoid the crowds, would be to book this open-top Christmas lights bus tour. If I were there that would be top of my wish list for next Christmas.

If you’re visiting London with small kids at Xmas, Tootbus have a Christmas lights tour by bus aimed at younger passengers.

London at Christmas Time uk
You can pin this! Just hover.

London’s Christmas Shop Windows

Stores in London really pull out the big guns at Christmas, you’re in for a treat of window dressing art:

  • John Lewis on Oxford St.
  • Fortnum and Mason in Picadilly
  • Harrods in Knightsbridge
  • Harvey Nichols Knightsbridge
  • Selfridges on Oxford St.
  • Dolce and Gabbana on Bond St
  • Tiffany Old Bond St.
  • Hamleys on Regent St.
  • Liberty Regent St.

London Christmas Trees

 Christmas tree London

The most famous tree in the world, the Trafalgar Square tree will be lit on (unconfirmed as yet) December.

The tree is an annual gift from Norway to the UK in gratitude for its assistance in WW2.

Covent Garden usually boasts a large and impressive Christmas tree too (pictured above)

London Outdoor Ice Rinks at Christmas

 Christmas ice rink London

London’s ice rinks are a very special part of Christmas in the UK, and you have plenty of choices.

Hampton Court Palace and The Queen’s House ice rink in Greenwich were reportedly open. Please check, things are changing constantly.

London Christmas Markets and Fairs

 Christmas Market London
This chap at Covent Garden was new for Christmas 2014 and he’s spectacular.

There are usually one day Christmas Markets and events all over the city, but the biggest and longest-running attractions are below.

Borough Market will most likely be open, along with Selfridges Christmas Market, Pexmas in Peckham, and Festive Flea at Vinegar Yard.

  • Leicester Square has had a small market, a carousel and a scary-looking ride. 
  • Outside the Tate Modern there was a large market, lots of food, alcoholic winter drinks and crafts.
 Christmas food fair London
Hot salmon at the food fair outside the Tate Modern on the South Bank

Special Christmas Events in London

  • Christmas at Kew, an after-dark experience of magical lights at the famous Kew Botanical Gardens.  There is something happening at Kew this Christmas but you’ll need to check their website for details.
  • Winter Wonderland Hyde Park, has it all, ice rink, big wheel, food stalls and a circus. This event runs for weeks and is absolutely huge.
Craft fair London
Christmas wreaths at a craft fair smell amazing!

More Christmas Activities in London

If you’d like to book a tour of the most Christmasy sites in London, you can do that. Walking tours and guided tours by taxi, open top bus, and more, are available. There are also special Christmas cruises and dining. Use the button below.

Of course, most of London’s attractions and places of interest will be open around Christmas time. As Christmas is very busy for Londoners, British visitors, and international tourists, we strongly recommend you book and reserve your spot at your must-see London attractions. For instance, you can book the following.

Christmas Day in London

Christmas Day is the quietest day of the year in London, take the opportunity to walk in the parks and see the Christmas windows and lights.

There’s something special about being in London at Christmas time but Christmas day itself in the city is a unique experience.

Very few places will be open in London on Christmas Day.

The annual Christmas day Serpentine swim in Hyde Park is worth a watch if you’re out and about at 9am.

Will The Museums Be Open on Christmas Day?

No, most, if not all museums in London will be closed on Christmas Day this year.

According to their websites the Natural History Museum will not be open on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day.

The British Museum has no tickets available over the Christmas period, 24th, 25th and 26th of December. (confirm here). London’s Science Museum, check if they’re open at Christmas here.

London has dozens of museums, some may be open on Christmas Day, but the main museums close for the holidays.

Where Can You Eat in London on Christmas Day?

Some hotels and pubs will be serving food on Christmas Day.

The Lamb and Flag in Covent Garden, The Sanctuary House Hotel in Westminster, The Ship in Southwark, The Swan in Hyde Park and The Star Tavern in Belgravia are currently listed as open for Christmas.

But obviously, please check.

Most British pubs will be open and very busy on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day.

Hopefully, you can find a cosy family-friendly pub to enjoy some good British pub food over the Christmas period.

London Public Transport at Christmas

Getting around London is tricky over Christmas, London’s public transport system is excellent, cheap and efficient, but Christmas is the worst time to experience it.

The huge crowds of shoppers make life very difficult for most of the Christmas school holiday period and every weekend.

On top of the crowds, there are also closures.

Remember there is usually no tube, overground or bus service on Christmas Day in central London and reduced service over the holiday period.

Check with Transport for London for latest details.

How Do British People Celebrate Christmas?

Well, obviously, it varies between families, but if you’re visiting London from abroad you might be interested, so I’ll tell you.

In my family, it was traditional to open our Christmas presents from under the tree and Christmas stockings stuffed by Santa (Who we usually called Father Christmas) very early on Christmas morning.

The rest of Christmas Day was either spent at home, cooking and eating a huge Christmas lunch, yes, we eat our turkey at lunchtime, not dinner time, or at a relative’s home.

British people tend to call lunch dinner if it’s a large roast.

We never watched the Queen’s speech, some do, we didn’t, although I’m very fond of our monarch.

Christmas lunch would be roast turkey, stuffing, pigs in blankets (sausages wrapped in bacon) roast potatoes, mashed potatoes, gravy, bread sauce, lots of vegetables.

The vegetables served should always include roast parsnips and sprouts.

A flaming Christmas pudding with cream (I don’t like brandy butter) would follow.

In the evening we’d normally eat turkey sandwiches, cheese (stilton), trifle and snack foods. Wine, port, and sherry would flow freely.

Relatives would come to our house for lunch or we would go to their homes.

It was a family time and we didn’t venture out much other than for a crisp afternoon walk maybe.

So as the British population tucks into their lunch and enjoys their presents, expect the streets of London to be the quietest they will ever be on Christmas Day. But Christmas Eve is another story, we’ll normally be out in force drinking and merrymaking, expect huge numbers.

What Time is The King’s Speech?

The King’s Speech or Christmas Message is normally aired at 3pm on Christmas Day.

Booking a Transfer from Heathrow into London on Christmas Day or Over the Christmas Period.

Several people have asked me about this now. The best I can do is send you here (opens in new tab). There are cars to pre-book your airport transfer and also bookings available for the Heathrow Express, but check dates and availability (see below).

Taxis can be very expensive in the UK so be cautious and look out for extra charges at Christmas time.

The Heathrow Express website here (opens in new tab), states that there will be maintenance work this Christmas and closures, check this for your dates.

We’ll add more Christmas information for London just as soon as it becomes available. For more on visiting London head to our main London Travel home page. We hope you enjoy visiting London, our favourite city, this Christmas

If you'd like to hire a car during your stay, use this car rental comparison tool to find the best deal!

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About the author
Alyson Long
Alyson Long is a British medical scientist who jumped ship to chase dreams. A former Chief Biomedical Scientist at London's West Middlesex Hospital she started in website creation and travel writing in 2011. Alyson is a full-time blogger and travel writer, a published author, and owns several websites. World Travel Family is the biggest. A lifetime of wanderlust and over 6 years of full-time travel, plus a separate 12 month gap year, has given Alyson and the family some travel expert smarts to share with you on this world travel site. Today Alyson still travels extensively to update this site and continue her mission to visit every country, but she's often at home on her farm in Australia.

23 thoughts on “London at Christmas Time”

  1. Absolutely loved your blog on Christmas in London! 🎄 Such helpful tips for making the most of the festive season. I recently stayed at Holiday Rental Apartments near Earls Court tube station ( The central location made exploring a breeze, and the services were spot-on. Highly recommend for anyone planning a London getaway!

  2. Wonderful windows, marvellous markets & twinkling trimmings. We totally love how London goes to town for the festive season! With so many options for things to do at Christmas in London, it can be hard to choose. Still, variety is the spice of life and with so much choice, there’s something for everyone.

  3. Thank you for this helpful content. We are visiting London for a few days in advance of Christmas and have looked into booking a bus tour to see the lights. The one that we are most interested in only has spaces available at 15:00. This may seem like a silly question, but will it be dark enough then to appreciate the lights? (We are coming from a lower latitude :))

    • It won’t be completely dark but it’s likely to be getting there. By 4pm I’d say yes. Sunset in London at Christmas is 3.56 pm. And boy do I miss it! It doesn’t feel like Christmas without dark and sparkling lights. Enjoy!

  4. Hey I planned a trip to london from 11.11-14.11.2022 wanted to see a christmas decoration etc but it officialy starts from 18th? Or is it chance to see it at that time? Thanks a lot M.

    • I’ve read that the Oxford St. lights are being switched on on the 22nd Nov this year, and they’re usually the first. There will be Christmas stuff in the shops (it’s starting to appear already) then the Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park is starting on 18th Nov this year, I believe. The dates are just starting to be confirmed for Christmas 2022, this post will be updated once they’re available.

  5. I can’t believe I have never been to London. It’s a must. And especially after your post 🙂

  6. Thank you Allyson,
    Ive been to London many years ago, and not over Christmas. My siblings, our spouses and I are visiting London, and hopefully Scotland over Christmas break from California.

    This has loads of interesting information, I look forward to you updating this list for 2022

  7. Thanks for an inspiring blog post – we visited London December 2019 and used your post as an inspiration. Thanks!

    We also blog about our small adventures in Denmark, and find inspiration from other bloggers.

  8. Hello! We are thinking of visiting London for a 20 year anniversary family trip. I know the ground transportation is all but closed on Christmas Day, but what about Christmas Eve. It was be nice to get there around the 18th and fly back on the 24th before all of the closures. Thanks!

    • You’d have to check with transport for London, but their Christmas schedule for 2019 won’t be announced yet. Last year there were closures on the rail line in from Heathrow over Christmas. Did you mean that or buses and underground actually inside London?

  9. Great post, Alyson! London can be truly magical at Christmas time but it is also very busy so it’s good to be prepared for everything and make a plan of action. There are some really great Christmas markets dotted around London – both for food and for general shopping. And it’s a great idea to check out one of the outdoor ice rinks – perfect for students, families and everyone really.

  10. Will be arriving in London on Christmas Day. Do you know if I could arrange transportation from Heathrow to hotel ahead of time since public transportation is not available? Any suggestions on restaurants would be greatly appreciated. I will be traveling with 2 teenage boys and my husband.


    • Can you check with your hotel to see if they offer that service Maria? Failing that, you’d probably need to pre-book a car service online and importantly…agree a price. You don’t want to turn up and find the taxi drivers wanting to charge you triple time because it’s Christmas. I’ve added a link towards the bottom of the post that gives you a selection of transportation options from Heathrow into Central London. These can be booked in advance and could save you a headache. But it looks to me as if the Heathrow Express is not running Christmas Day due to maintenance. I’ve included a link to the Heathrow Express website above too. You can double check.

  11. HI, Ill be in London for Christmas and i would like to go for a traditional lunch in a pub or restaurant without spending a fortune. Most ive seen are 100 Pounds and over. 1st i dont want a 5 courses menu, just just basic, and second im not spending that much for kids..
    Any suggestions?

    • No, sorry, Christmas day will always be massively expensive because the staff are paid so much more to be away from their own families. It’s not something we’ve ever done, although my husband is a Chef, in London we’ve always been home Christmas day. Most places will be closed.

  12. Thank you so much for these informations. We’ll be in London before Christmas to see the lights and a bit of shopping. I’ll keep an eye on your site for updates.

  13. Traveling on Christmas Day London, the web site you link to has not been updated since 2013 ??

    We’ll be in London Dec 20 – 29 2018 and was researching the city and things to do, found your web site.

    How do I get current information on tourist issued around Christmas?

    Thank you Now retired first visit to London

    • Hmmm… not sure. Will have a look at that link for you…. very little information available yet for Christmas 2018 and New Year 2018 -2019. Transport for London has not announced anything as yet, which I’m not surprised by as it’s only June. Will be updating as soon as details are released.


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