16 Of The Most Wondrous Things To Do In London At Christmas This Year

Yes, there might be Christmas films starting to arrive on Netflix and you’re only just thinking about buying your presents (guilty!), but the city is doing its best to tempt you outdoors. There are so many incredible things to do in London at Christmas, so we’ve put together a little guide of things see, do, or eat through this festive season. Will you be enchanted by a festive light display? Drink your body weight in mulled wine? Fall head over heels for an ice rink (literally)? Whatever you choose to do, go forth and spread that Yuletide joy!

* Please note that we’re still a ways off actual Christmas, so we will be updating this roundup as and when we get more info. 

a shot of christmas by the river, which starts in november, with people walking along the river next to twinkling light fronted stalls
Credit: Christmas by the River

Start with wooden huts, full of lovely arts and crafts. Add a sprinkling of hearty street food. Top it off with a mug of mulled wine or boozy hot chocolate, and you’ve got a perfectly charming evening planned! Here are our five favourite options, but you can see even more in our roundup of London Christmas markets.

❄️ Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park’s massive celebration of all things Christmas

⛄️ Christmas by the River, cute riverside market with street food, crafts and pop-up bars

🌇 Leicester Square Christmas Market, thriving market in the heart of town

🎅 South Bank Christmas Markets, complete with cosy riverside igloos

🍽️ King’s Cross Christmas Markets, six weeks and eight different themed markets which arrives back into town on November 28.

a christmas tree in the middle of the glide ice skating rink at battersea power station
Credit: Joshua Atkins

Amongst all the things to do in London at Christmas, this is a definite classic. Torvill & Dean you may not be, but ice rinks are undeniably fun whether you’re weaving in and out of crowds or inching your way along, clutching at the barriers. Get your skates on at London’s best ice rinks, and don’t forget to reward yourself with a hot chocolate after!

🧊 Glide at Battersea Power Station, with fairground rides for anyone too scared to step on to the ice

SKATE at Somerset House, complete with rink-side bar to warm your bones

🌆 Canary Wharf, an enchanting rink among the skyscrapers

👑 Queen’s House, skate around the ice rink at Greenwich’s UNESCO World Heritage site

🛍️ Westfield Winter Village, a vast ice rink with Europe’s largest Christmas tree (65 feet) – which this year is sponsored by the new movie Wonka

the lit up bells and christmas decorations at covent garden
Credit: John Nguyen/PA Wire

Some time around early November, London starting lighting up for the season. And while the city’s electricity bill may be trending upwards, the illuminations have certainly brought the sparkle to town. Here’s just a handful of the festive light displays you can find all over the city.

Oxford Street, some of the earliest to turn on this year (back on November 2!)

😍 Carnaby Street, where a walk through the history of Carnaby-Street-Christmas-lights-past awaits

😇 Regent Street, where the spirits of Christmas shine down upon the city

🌟 Covent Garden, which is complementing the dazzling lights with flurries of snow

💙 Mayfair, whose blue arches turn London blue with envy every year

rooftop igloos covered in twinkling white lights as dusk casts a purple shade over them
Credit: Indiana Petrucci

Every year, a whole host of magnificent winter pop-ups take over rooftops, riversides, and terraces, steadily feeding Londoners a diet of glorious food, warming winter cocktails, and toasty vibes. Lovely stuff – especially when you get to cosy up in an igloo all the while!

❄️ Willows On The Roof, rooftop igloos perched above John Lewis Oxford Street looking out across central London

⛸️ Glide at Battersea Power Station, rink-side igloos to escape the cold and watch others glide on by

☕ Tipis on the Green is London’s first sustainable Christmas pop-up with premium tequila brand Pimentae Drinks, and we think it’s going to be tip(i)-top.

🏢 Panoramic rooftop views, igloos and an ice skating rink at Skylight Tobacco Dock

🔥 Thor’s Tipi at Winter Wonderland, not technicallyyyy an igloo (at all), but similar vibes with added warmth and joviality

5. Hit the shops for some last-minute Christmas presents

Santa behind a display of goods available from the Selfridges Christmas Shop
Credit: Selfridges

Unless you’re the hyper-organised type who’s got their gifts bought, wrapped, and under an immaculately-decorated tree already, I’ve got a feeling you’ll be needing this one. Stores all over London are dressed up for Christmas, and here’s a few with sure-fire festive appeal.

😍 Liberty’s, always London’s earliest to open Christmas shop

🎁 Harrods, the famous department store is full of festive cheer, inside and outside

⭐️ Selfridges, who have gone joyously OTT once more

🗓 Fortnum & Mason, a fabulously bougie shopping mainstay

💛 John Lewis Oxford Street, with a beautifully organised Christmas store and a festive rooftop to boot

the palm house light show at kew's christmas trail, with purple and blue illuminated jets of water lighting up the scene
©Raymond Gubbay Ltd – Richard Haughton

Syon Park’s stunning Enchanted Woodland may have finished, but there are still light festivals aplenty to marvel at. Everywhere from the boughs of Kew Gardens to the railways on the outskirts of London are lighting up this winter, and here’s where we reckon you should be heading.

🎇 Christmas at Kenwood, a magnificent light trail amongst the flora and fauna of Hampstead Heath

🌈 Enchanted Eltham, the historic palace is dappled with colours

🎄 Kew Gardens, where breathtaking lights adorn the trees and bushes

🚂Epping Ongar Light Fantastic, a magical railway with stunning lights

The Churchill Arms all covered in thousands of Christmas lights, with a sign above the door welcoming in visitors with a 'merry Christmas'
Credit: @churchillarmsw8, via Instagram

We have a pretty staggering dining scene all year round, but when Christmas comes a-calling, everyone from neighbourhood restaurants to Michelin star spots busts out the decorations. This lot below have had quite the glow-up!

🎠 sketch, London’s prettiest collection of restaurants is enjoying ‘A surreal white Christmas theme this year

😅 The Little Scarlet Door, check out their ‘New York Living Room’ theme with added canapés and cocktails by the Christmas tree

🎄 Churchill Arms, London’s most Christmassy pub is festooned with over 80 Christmas trees

🥢 Tattu London, luxurious modern-Chinese sharing menus and limited-edition Aurora Borealis-themed cocktails fit the bill for their ‘The Great Snow’ theme once again

St Pancras Christmas Tree 2023
Image: St Pancras International x Hatchards Books

Red, green, and gold is traditional, sure, but when you’ve got the budget and the creative vision of the world’s top designers behind you, you can afford to dream a little bigger, darling. Don’t let London’s tree-mendous Christmas trees make you too envious though…

🌆 St Pancras, a fantastic tree which comes in collaboration with Hatchard Books and which even comes with benches under it so you can read to your hearts’s content

🌲 Covent Garden, because what isn’t amazing over at Covent Garden during Christmas

💎 Claridge’s, which this year has been designed in collaboration with none other than Louis Vuitton

🎅 Leadenhall Market,  illuminating the entire market with its dazzling lights and striking decorations

🎁 Trafalgar Square, love it or hate it – this gift from Norway is at least a dependable constant in the lives of Londoners

9. Settle down for a festive film

Everyone’s got a favourite, whether it’s something traditional like Miracle on 34th Street, or something explosive like Die Hard (it’s a Christmas film, don’t @ me). Luckily for you, the finest flick-lovers in town have been cooking up enchanting new ways to watch the classics…

📽 Luna Cinema, festive films – at a palace, no less!

👑 Prince Charles Cinema, where you’ll be watching festive films all through December

🎻 Candlelight: Christmas Movie Soundtracks – instead of watching the films, have your favourite festive film tunes brought to life in candle-lit environs

🎼 Enjoy an exciting programme of Christmas movie soundtracks at the stunning Cadogan Hall this year – sounds like a winner to us!

10. Sip on a bevy of Christmassy drinks

Let’s face it, you’ll be drinking enough mulled wine this holiday season – so why not mix things up? With London boasting some of the best cocktail bars around, you can be sure of creative concoctions that’ll bewitch the tastebuds and keep you feeling merry (within your limits, of course).

🎄 Miracle at Henrietta, the insanely festive cocktail bar absolutely full of Christmas décor

🍹 The Lucky Club Camden, bottomless fondue,  margaritas and happy hours to boot too

🐟 Sexy Fish, a host of Christmas cocktails along with Japanese food, whiskies and plenty of festive cheer

11. Immerse yourself in a whole other world

group of people with hands outstretched as fake snow falls down

group of people with hands outstretched as fake snow falls down

Step off the streets of London and into a whole other world with these festive experiences and immersive installations. You can see the holidays in a whole new light, head back in time to a Christmas experience of old, or simply get wrapped up in festive cheer.

🕯️ Great Christmas Feast, let Charles Dickens take you on a whirlwind ride through a ghostly Christmas story

🌎 Avora, it’s not specifically Christmas-related, but there’s enough lights to put Regent Street to shame and they probably don’t celebrate Christmas where this adventure takes you anyway…

12. Wander around some festive museum exhibitions

the t-rex at the natural history museum wearing a christmas jumper and santa hat

the t-rex at the natural history museum wearing a christmas jumper and santa hat

🦖Natural History Museum, see the T-Rex in their fearsome(ly cute) Christmas jumper and terrifying(ly adorable) Santa hat

📮The Postal Museum, see the first commercial Christmas card that dates back all the way to 1843

🚂 London Transport Museum, a wintry trail awaits, as well as visits with Santa and the museum’s own winter wonderland

13. Have a cuppa with a festive flair at these Christmassy afternoon teas

A selection of a festive-themed afternoon tea at The Beaumont
Photo: The Beaumont

St. James’s Hotel & Club, a Michelin-starred chef has designed their traditional Christmassy afternoon tea with modern touches

🥂 The Savoy, ultra-luxe (ultra-obviously) collaboration with Champagne Laurent Perrier makes this the classiest of the yuletide afternoon teas

🫖 The Gallery at sketch, an unbeatable festive afternoon tea in eye-bogglingly beautiful surroundings

🎅Head Chef Ben Boeynaems will thoughtfully combine traditional afternoon tea flavours with unique culinary touches from across the pond, to create a festive twist on a classic offering at The Beaumont in Gatsby’s Room.

14. Craft yourself some Christmas cheer

The spirit of DIY has always been instrinsically linked to Christmas. From handmade ornaments hanging from the tree to hours spent constructing new toys and gifts on Christmas day, there’s always something craft-y happening. Brush up on those skills, or learn a new one, at these workshops.

🎅 London Transport Museum, decorate a festive fireplace to make a jolly pop-out Christmas card featuring Santa climbing down a chimney

💐 Leadenhall Market, make your own wreaths with Floral Merchant London

A picture of Shrek with a family at Shrek's Immersive Adventure
Photo: Shrek’s Adventure! London

Look, half the point of the season is to annoy an old man in a white beard and red hat with requests for the LEGO set of the Death Star from Star Wars, right? At least, that’s what I did in 2021 outside a Manchester United game… But if it’s Santa you want to meet, be sure to head on over to one of his grottos that have dotted themselves around the city.

😅 Shrek The Halls, because Santa isn’t red and green enough of course!

🎅 Alexandra Palace, Santa swaps the North Pole for North London

🎁 Visit the magical winter garden to meet Santa and his elf assistant at the London Transport Museum[/trackLink], or track him down in the Museum’s galleries for a jolly selfie. Climb aboard our Routemaster-inspired interactive sleigh to flash the headlights, ring the bell and set the Christmas cheer-o-meter!

16. [trackLink link_url=”https://secretldn.com/alternative-christmas-menus-london/”]Chow down on an alternative Christmas meal

A spread of festive food served at The Laundry in Brixton
Photo: Jack Lewis Williams

Sure, the turkey and all the trimmings may be traditional, but how often have you had a bite of dry turkey or unseasoned Brussel sprouts and wished you could have been eating anything else? Well, it’s up to you to convince your family to have Thai food for Christmas this year, if you want. But otherwise here are some other Christmas-themed meals you can eat in London – with no roasts in sight.

🤤 The Festive Raan Feast at Dishoom – turkey raan or (no-Turkey raan!), sprouts with lime-chilli dressing and café favourites including small plates, grills, biryanis and festive tipples to boot too. What’s not to love?

🍗 Head Sushi Chef Miho Sato at The Aubrey is fusing the very best of Christmas feasting with their award winning edomae sushi practice, for a set menu that transitions from a selection of nigiri and sashimi favourites, towards a festive robata turkey.

😋 Festive menu at Jikoni – Inspired by her mixed heritage and personal Christmas traditions, Ravinder’s festive menu will feature an array of creative and indulgent seasonal dishes, served family style. Sign us up!

🐖 Group feasting menus at St. JOHN Bread and Wine – This Christmas, the team at St. JOHN Bread and Wine has curated a selection of feasting menus for groups large and small. Centrepieces will come in the form of either whole roast pig, grilled venison, roasted Dexter beef or Roast goose and goose fat mash, with accompanying starters and desserts paired alongside of course.

🥟 This festive period at Poon’s Wontoneria in Fitzrovia, the pop-up from Amy Poon of the eponymous Chinese restaurant family, currently residing at Carousel’s No. 23 Charlotte Street – will introduce turkey and Chinese chestnut wontons to their winter menu. A festive special available in bowls of five, the seasonal wontons will comprise succulent turkey thigh, Chinese chestnuts, goji berries, ginger and wood ear mushrooms – a perfect alternative to traditional festive dining options this Christmas.

🍷 On November 2nd, The Laundry – Brixton’s all-day neighbourhood bistro and wine bar – will launch its new festive all-day menu from Head Chef Sami Harvey, just in time for celebrations in South London this Christmas. Available for lunch and dinner, guests will enjoy a selection of festive dishes with New World flair, alongside classic hearty winter sides of pigs in blankets, Brussel sprouts with chestnuts, Cauliflower cheese with sage and truffle gratin. Yum, yum!

Also published on Medium.

Secret London | News