Looking for ideas of things to do in London at Christmas? We’ve got you covered. Our team at Urban Chic in London has put together our 47 of our favorite ideas for enjoying Christmas in London. This includes the Christmas lights, shopping, ice skating, family days out, plays and carol concerts and the best places for a festive afternoon tea – all the best stuff!
London is one of the most exciting cities in the world at Christmas with such as buzz! We hope these ideas and links help you get organized for your Christmas in London.
Light up your London Christmas day out or trip. These are the top places to go and ways of seeing the Christmas lights.
1. The Christmas lights in London are the best illuminations in the world. They are usually switched on in the first week of November amongst a great fanfare of musicians, food stalls and children’s choirs. The beginning of the happiest time of the year!
2. From Regent Street to Oxford Street. Carnaby Street, Bond Street, Marylebone Village, Covent Garden and Chelsea, a sparkling array of lights burst into colour.
3. London bus tours offer an open top London by night tour where you can visit London’s most spectacular light displays.
4. Syon Park creates an Enchanted Woodland Walk where an illuminated trail winds around the lake and 600-year-old gardens through the historic arboretum of Syon House, ending at the spectacular Great Conservatory.
5. Kew Gardens invites you along a trail of festive deliciousness. An after dark experience of a magical trail of lights include some incredible showstoppers such as Temperate House, the largest surviving Victorian glasshouse in the world.
6. Blenheim Palace is the birthplace of Winston Churchill. They go all out at Christmas with a classic Christmas market, fully themed displays throughout the historic home and a light trail similar to the one at Kew.
7. Churchill Arms in Kensington is the most decorated pub in London. Each year it transforms into a Christmas spectacle. Built in 1750, it was frequented by Churchill’s grandparents and is crammed with Churchill memorabilia.
Shopping! With more being bought online in the run up to Christmas, making time to find those special gifts for friends, families (and yourself) is really worth it. Make sure you hit the best places and find those gifts you hadn’t thought of yet! The Christmas markets are really popular.
8. Portobello Market, Notting Hill is a London institution full of antique and vintage shops. The shops and market stalls offer an eclectic mix of clothes, accessories and antiques.
9. Covent Garden where the cobbled piazza and market buildings are irresistible this time of year. The stunning Christmas tree and decorations in every shop and restaurant make it a joy to explore. There are several designer shops and Covent Garden Market is perfect for upscale handcrafted gifts. There is even a Disney Store in the square.
10. The Noble Collection on Neal Street is a must for Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and D.C. Memorabilia.
11. Forbidden Planet on Shaftesbury Avenue has an abundance of comics, collectibles and sci-fi books, as well as action figures and toys, as well as clothes and posters.
12. Regent Street has had a regeneration in the last few years. Famous for its lights, it is also an elegant thoroughfare packed with beautiful shops. Hamleys, the world’s oldest and largest toy store, established in 1760, is a delight for both adults and children.
13. Oxford Street is one of Europe’s busiest streets. It is over a mile long and mainly made up of high street stores. You can stop for some roasted chestnuts and mulled wine along the way.
14. Carnaby Street retains much of the aesthetically individual and dynamic that made it stand out in the 60’s. It’s not quite the Austin Powers style time capsule that you might expect but you may find some vintage/retro clothes on Broadwick Street.
15. Bond Street is where London’s most expensive flagship shops are located with some seriously impressive festive displays.
16. Burlington Arcade runs parallel to Bond Street. Built in 1819 by Lord George Cavendish ‘For the sale of jewellery and fancy articles of fashionable demand’. Since the it has been patrolled by the Burlington Beadles who uphold a strict cod of conduct dating from Regency times. They were recruited by Lord Cavendish from his Regiment, The Royal Hussars and are still spotted there with their Victorian frock coats, gold buttons and gold braided top hats. The shops are still selling beautiful jewellery, cashmere, handmade candles and divine fragrances.
17. Fortnum & Mason is one of the oldest department stores in London, founded in 1707. It was started by Queen Anne’s Footman, William Fortnum and his business partner, Hugh Mason. To this day it is the official grocer to the Queen. Their famous Christmas hampers are legendary. They have the most beautiful tree decorations that are replicas of Faberge eggs. It is the store to stock up on Christmas puddings, mince pieces and yuletide staples.
18. St James is located behind Fortnum & Mason. It is home to some classic English brands.
19. John Lobb has been making the finest shoes and boots for gentleman since 1866.
20 Berry Bros & Rudd is an 18th Century, eighth generation, family run wine merchant. It’s many distinguished customers have included Lord Byron, George IV, King Louis Phillippe of France and Napolean III.
21. Turnbull & Asser developed a raincoat that doubled as a sleeping bag for the British army during the First World War. Over time, men’s dress shirts evolved and they are now synonymous with shirts. In 1962, they provided the outfits for Sean Connery when he played James Bond.
22. Lock & Co was established in 1676 during the reign of Charles II. It is the oldest hat shop in the world. Admiral Lord Nelson visited before leaving for the Battle of Trafalgar. Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington wore one of the shops plumed hats at the battle of Waterloo. They also sold the first bowler hats in 1849. The shop is still family run.
23. Piccadilly Arcade is another pretty shopping arcade running between Piccadilly and Jermyn Street opened in 1909, designed by Thrale Jell, it is composed of bespoke tailors, antiques and vintage jewellery.
24. Selfridges usually begins the Christmas season in August. It was the first luxury department store to devote a whole section of the floor to Christmas.
25. Harrods is known throughout the world for being synonymous with high end shopping. The outside is covered with fairy lights. The food halls are legendary. It’s a delight to lose yourself for an entire day amongst the beautiful clothes, shoes and homewares it has to offer. Santa’s Christmas grotto is open for bookings usually from September and is always a magical experience, after which the children can explore the toy department.
26. Liberty is a Tudor Revival building with a tradition for fashionable and eclectic designs. Beautifully decorated at Christmas with its arts and crafts interior inspired by William Morris.
Our things to do in London at Christmas list would not be up to much without the top ice skating picks. Go get those Instagram pics and magical memories!
27. The National History Museum is one of the most magical ice rinks in London with the backdrop of the iconic architecture. The ice rink is around a 30ft Christmas tree decorated with thousands of fairy lights.
28. Somerset House is the ultimate Christmas ice skating destination, with live music from gospel choirs to avant-garde rap. You can also enjoy treats from Fortnum & Mason, such as chocolate fondue or cheese and wine.
29. The Tower of London ice rink is set alongside the wall of the historic fortress which is illuminated with festive lights at night.
30. Hampton Court Palace is the regal setting for the ice rink in the front. The sixteenth century palace belonging to Henry VIII is beautiful when lit up after dark.
31. Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park is the perfect family day out over Christmas. There is a circus, a show on ice, rides and games. Christmas markets and the largest outdoor ice rink in the UK.
32. Skylight in Tobacco Dock has an ice-skating rink on a roof top with stunning views across the city. After the skating, cosy up in the illuminated igloos and mountain huts for some mulled wine and winter cocktails.
Things to do in London at Christmas for families. We’ve picked three family days out that you will be talking about for the rest of Christmas.
33. ZSL London Zoo will keep youngsters entertained by watching festive movies, meeting Santa in his grotto in the heart of the zoo and taking part in some craft activities with Mrs Claus.
34. Head out for a Bucket Race (Scavenger Hunt) starting in the West End. There are several tasks to complete, from finding giant dragons in Camden to human pyramids in Hyde Park.
35. Hogwarts in the snow is a special experience for Harry Potter fans. The Great Hall is lined with Christmas trees and the dining table laid out for a Christmas feast. Hogwarts is transformed into a festive makeover at the Harry Potter studio.
Make time to watch a Christmas concert with some friends. Carol singing at Trafalgar Square, in that spectacular setting is one of our favorite things to do at Christmas in London.
36. Watch a traditional English Pantomime of Aladdin at the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith. The London Palladium also hosts a spectacular pantomime each year.
37. The Nutcracker with the English National Ballet at the Coliseum. Tchaikovsky’s magical Christmas story about a girl receiving an enchanted Christmas gift.
38. A Christmas carol opera at the London Coliseum. Take on a magical and transformational journey by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future.
39. Christmas Carols at the Royal Albert Hall, St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey are the perfect atmospheric setting to enjoy a singalong.
40. Carol singing around the Trafalgar Square Christmas street which has been donated every year since 1947 by Oslo, Norway as a token of gratitude for British support during the second world war.
Give your feet a rest and your stomach and taste buds a work out. We’ve picked some of the most iconic places to go and treat yourself to a festive afternoon tea in the capital.
41. The Waldorf Hilton transports you into the magical world of the Nutcracker with its Sugar Plum Fairy afternoon tea. You will also receive a bag of traditional bon bons to take home.
42. Biscuiteers in Notting Hill and Battersea offer a festive tea with orange and cranberry scones and Christmas Macaroons on the menu. Take part in a biscuit icing session afterwards and learn to ice like the professionals.
43. Browns Hotel in Mayfair frequented by Agatha Christie is the quintessentially afternoon tea experience. Enjoy it with a glass of mulled wine.
44. The Lanesborough Hotel in Knightsbridge provides the luxurious surroundings for a festive afternoon tea.
45. Claridges is beautifully decorated over Christmas with a designer tree in the lobby. The atmosphere is cosy and festive and the afternoon tea absolutely perfect.
46. The Dorchester festive afternoon tea with the opulent Christmas finery adding to the glorious setting is a real treat.
47. The Goring, where Kate Middleton stayed ‘the night before’ her wedding to Prince William is classic in style. The festive tea set in the lounge with its lovely open fire is quite an experience.