It’s that time of the year again, folks. Everywhere you look, Londoners are donning their best reindeer ears and slipping into their finest Christmas jumpers. Supermarkets are piled high with turkeys and boxes of mince pies,
and there are Christmas lights strung from virtually every tree, lamp post and shop in London. Yup, it’s definitely beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
If you’re lucky enough to have some free time during the season, then you’ll want to read our top tips on the best things to do in London at Christmas.
Yes, it is overly commercial. Yes, it is hyped up out of all proportion, and yes, there probably are better ways that we could spend our money. But honestly, Christmas isn’t going anywhere, so you might as well make the best of it.
London’s Christmas decorations are second to none, with more and more to see each year. In addition, there really is no better way to get into the spirit of Christmas than by going ‘up West’ to see the lights. Try Regent Street or Covent Garden for classy, Carnaby Street & Soho for cutting edge; or, alternatively, if you just want to see them throw the kitchen sink at it, head to Oxford Street.
Pantomimes are the most traditionally British of Christmas entertainments. The exact origin of the form is not known, but I think we can safely say that the style of panto that we know and love today, developed right here in England. In London, at Christmas, there are dozens of good shows to see, but for something extra special why not try Aladdin at the Hackney Empire?
Ok, we know what you’re thinking. A Walk? Outside? In this weather?! Yes, we know it’s cold, and yes, we have seen the weather forecast, but honestly, London is at its most magical at this time of the year, and to truly appreciate it, as George Micheal famously said, you’ve got to go Outside.
Why not choose the brilliant London Walks company. They are fantastically knowledgeable about the city, and what’s more, their guides are out every single day of the year. Yes, that does mean Christmas Day. Indeed, London Walks’ Dickens Christmas Day Walk is one of the company’s finest.
One of the great things about London in the winter is that there are just so many great places to escape the weather and get cosy. We’ve practically made an art form out of it. There are cool restaurants, trendy cafes, traditional pubs, cosy hotel lobbies, not to mention a plethora of spas and retreats. Here are our recommendations for London’s cosiest places. And if you’re looking for a venue with a fireplace, then why not try the following locations: The Hoxton or The Standard.
5. Get your skates on
No guide to the best things to do in London at Christmas would be complete without mentioning skating. What do you mean you don’t know how to skate?! Ok, don’t worry, half the fun is getting out on the ice and having a giggle. London has festive Ice skating rinks in some of the most scenic locations in the capital. For something truly fabulous, try Skate at Somerset House.
We don’t mean Christmas shopping. We mean treating yourself. And why not|? If you can’t indulge in a little retail therapy at Christmas, then when can you exactly?!
This article couldn’t even begin to do justice to the wealth of shopping options that London affords, with everything from traditional favourites like Fortnum & Mason and Selfridges, to newcomers like Westfield Stratford and Westfield Shepherd’s Bush. However, if you are looking to bag a bargain, then why not visit the O2’s fabulous Icon Outlet? With a dazzling array of designer brands, a wealth of food and drink options and up to 60% of all clothes purchases, what’s not to like?!
7. Watch a Christmas carol concert
You’ve been saying you wanted to attend a Christmas Carol concert since you were roughly fifteen – and yet you still haven’t gotten round to it. Well, now’s the time to do something about it. You’ve got a wealth of choices,
There’s the big ticket events (St Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey), the mud tier performers, like St Martins in the Fields, and the plucky outsiders – Battersea Dog’s Home even gets in on the action.
8. Help out at a homeless charity
Christmas is about giving and what better way to start doing something about that than by helping the homeless? The festive season can be stressful enough when you have somewhere to live and food in your belly. Can you imagine what it’s like when neither of those things are a given?
If you’d like to do your bit, try one of these:
9. Do something quirky
And what’s more quirky and random from a Christmas perspective than Gingerbread City? A model city made entirely from gingerbread, the annual celebration of London’s built environment has made quite a name for itself with this uniquely novel building material. While we can’t promise that the practice of gingerbread construction will catch on, the exhibition certainly has. It’s absolutely fascinating, too.
10. Embrace your inner student at Santacon
What could be more festive than a huge mob of slightly inebriated students running around town in ill fitting and wholly unconvincing Father Christmas costumes? Ok, don’t answer that. It’s fun. So, put aside your doubts, pull up those red trousers and make sure your beard is firmly held in position – it’s time for Father Christmas to ride again.
There was no official Santacon event this year, but not to be outdone, thousands of Londoners still got dressed up as Santa and took to the streets of London on the 14th of December.
Well, we hope you’ve enjoyed our guide to great things to do in London at Christmas. For more ideas about things to do during the festive season, please click here.