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. 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 you plan on a wonderful few days or weekend in London over Christmas.
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. So if you’re thinking of visiting London this Christmas, 2018, we have some up-to date tips and recommendations for you. Some dates are not yet out for 2018, we’re adding confirmed dates as fast as we can.
A lot of London’s Christmas events, including the ice rinks, are hugely popular, pre-booking may be the best idea.
London at Christmas Time
Christmas Lights and Decorations
London is all lit up like the proverbial Christmas tree already, 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. Our favourite spots for amazing festive lights and decorations are:
- Covent Garden ( pictured above)
- Oxford St
- Regent St
- Bond St
- Carnaby St
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
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 assistance in WW2.
Covent Garden is also boasting a large and impressive real tree this year ( above).
London Outdoor Ice Rinks at Christmas
- Canary Wharf Ice Rink
- Eyeskate at the London Eye.
- Hampton Court Palace Ice Rink
- Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
- Natural History Museum ( above)
- Somerset House
London Christmas Markets and Fairs 2018
There are one day Christmas Markets and events all over the city, but the biggest and longest running attractions are below.
- Hyde Park Winter Wonderland Nov 17th 2017-Jan 1st 2018
- Southbank Centre Christmas Market 8th December 2018- 6 January 2019
- Covent Garden Market runs all year round, but it’s extra special at Christmas.
- Outside the Tate Modern there is a large market, lots of food, alcoholic winter drinks and crafts. 17th Nov 2017-December 23rd 2017
- Leicester Square has a small market, a carousel and a scary looking ride.
Special Christmas Events in London
- Christmas at Kew, an after dark experience of magical lights at the famous Kew Botanical Gardens. 2018 dates here.
- Winter Wonderland Hyde Park , 2018 dates above, has it all, ice rink, big wheel, food stalls and a circus.
Christmas Day in London
This is the quietest day of the year in London, take the opportunity to walk in the parks and see the Chritmas 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.
Ripleys Believe it or Not is open. Very few other places will be. We went to Ripleys in New York, I was surprised by how good it is. We’re heading to the London Ripleys in the next few days, so I’ll let you know what it’s like. Ripley’s Believe it or Not, Piccadilly Circus, London review here.
The annual Christmas day Serpentine swim in Hyde Park is worth a watch if you’re out and about at 9am.
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 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.
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.
For more on visiting London head to our main London Travel home page. We hope you enjoy visiting London this Christmas