So you’ve booked your dream trip to Europe and you’re gonna be hitting London in December. There’s arguably no better time to visit the UK’s capital than when the yuletide merriment is in full swing. But it’s difficult to know what to do or where to go in such a ginormous metropolis! There’s so much shopping to be done, so many sights to see and of course, so many nights out to be had. So we’ve devised a list of the 9 most unmissable things to do in London at Christmas – from beer markets, ice skating, to slightly more unconventional activities, like Christmas pudding races.
So pull off the onesie, step away from the chocolates and your 84th viewing of Elf, and get out into London to experience some real Christmas spirit in one of the world’s biggest and best cities!
1. Skate at Somerset House
This stylish London mansion in Covent Garden may be best known as the home of London Fashion Week, but from 17th November until 15th January, you can don a pair of skates and sashay your way around Somerset House’s very own outdoor ice rink… or just inch your way around the sides.
Visit after-hours, and you’ll even be treated to a club-style experience, with a few of London’s most established DJ’s spinning everything from jazz, house, disco and indie while Somerset House’s Christmas lights twinkle all around you. Pre-or post-mulled wine is optional, but highly-recommended.
Open: Every day of the week until 11pm from 17th November until 15th January.
How to get there: Somerset House is bang in the center of London, meaning you’ll be able to round your day spent with Big Ben, the London Eye and the rest with a spot of skating. Temple (Circle line and District line) and Covent Garden (Piccadilly line) are the nearest tube stops.
2. Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
Far from just a family affair, Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland is home to an entire Bavarian beer village, heaps of street food, live music, high-octane thrill rides, an ice rink, an ice bar, hell, even a giant walk-through ice kingdom. It’s the perfect place to spend an afternoon shopping, or drinking with friends before hitting the city for a night out.
Open: From 18th November until January 2nd excluding Christmas day, from 10am until 10pm.
How to get there: Jump on the Piccadilly line to Hyde Park Corner or Knightsbridge, or simply walk the 25 minutes there from Piccadilly Circus!
3. Southbank Winter Market
For a Christmas Market experience a little more low-key than Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland, head to the Southbank Centre’s Hungerford Carpark, right on the banks of the Thames. It’s just over the bridge from Westminster, bang on top of the London Eye (not literally on top of the London Eye. That would be weird, and a bit too snug), meaning you can nip in for a pint, some hearty food and a stroll around the market stalls whilst sightseeing!
Open: Friday 11th November until Sunday 8th January. Sundays ‘til Thursdays, 11am – 10pm, and until 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
How to get there: The closest tube station is Waterloo (Bakerloo, Jubilee, Northern and Waterloo & City lines). If you’re coming from the other side of the river, stroll over Westminster Bridge from Westminster tube station (Circle, District and Jubilee lines) and turn left towards the London Eye.
4.Shopping on Carnaby Street, Soho
Home to some of London’s most stylish flagship stores and boutiques, Soho’s Carnaby Street has been an institution for fashion loving Europeans since the Swinging Sixties. Today it’s still a must see if you fancy poking around the best clothes stores that Britain has to offer. Throw in some seriously OTT, rock ’n’ roll themed Christmas lights and you’re onto the Instagrammer dream!
Open: If you can make it down for 10th November, Carnaby Street is celebrating their Christmas lights switch-on with a huge Christmas party. If not, we suggest you avoid weekends or evenings if you’d prefer less crowds.
How to get there: Oxford Circus (Bakerloo, Central and Victoria lines) and Piccadilly Circus (Bakerloo and Piccadilly lines) are a short walk away.
5. See a pantomime
“HE’S BEHIIIIIND YOU!”
Don’t even ask, and please, whatever you do, don’t YouTube ‘pantomime’ to see what one is; just trust us on this one and book yourself a ticket to one of London’s many theaters to indulge in this age-old British Christmas tradition. Based, often loosely on our favorite children’s fairytales, pantomimes are stage productions featuring lots of innuendo, slapstick comedy, questionable acting and embarrassing audience participation. Head to The Big Panto Guide to check out some more budget-friendly ones in your area and book tickets with some hostel buddies.
6.The Great Christmas Pudding Race in Covent Garden
This year marks the 36th year of this zany Covent Garden race. People in festive fancy dress will be battling their way across a series of ridiculous obstacles, trying to get a Christmas Pudding across the finish line intact. Last year’s event raised over £20,000 for Cancer Research UK, so why not head down and help them raise more this year, or even get involved?
Open: Saturday 3rd December; the first race is at 12:30.
How to get there: Covent Garden (Piccadilly line). It’s also a fifteen-minute walk from Leicester Square!
7.Harry Potter World: Hogwarts in the Snow
Admit it, a tour around the set of Harry Potter at the Warner Bros. Studio is probably pretty high on your London to-do list. As if hopping on board the Hogwarts Express, shopping on Diagon Alley and indulging in a pint of Butterbeer isn’t already magical enough, the school will be decked out for the holidays during the entire festive period with Christmas trees adorned with wizarding-world decorations, wreaths and garlands and heaps of the white stuff.
Open: From Saturday 19th November until Sunday 29th January
How to get there: The nearest station is Watford Junction. From there, you can jump on the studio’s special shuttle bus for £2.50 there and back.
8.Christmas dinner at the pub
Grab some pals from your hostel common room, don your jazziest Christmas jumpers (we’ve heard Primark does pretty cheap ones, and Primarks are everywhere in central London), and head to one of London’s thousand cosy, traditional pubs for a turkey dinner and a pint of ale.
Tip: Book in advance, as all of London’s holiday-celebrating population, potentially about 5 million people, are in on this one.
9.St Paul’s Cathedral for Christmas Day church service
Why not tick this beautiful cathedral off your sightseeing list on a cold and atmospheric evening, during one of their Christmas services, complete with carol singing? The best bit? It’s free!
Open: Various services, all different but equally as festive run throughout the whole advent calendar. Check on the St Paul’s website for specific details of each, and be sure to arrive early to bag a place.
How to get there: St Paul’s has its own tube stop, on the central line. There’s also Mansion House tube station a short walk away, on the Circle and District lines.