Christmas in London 2018
Sparkling Christmas lights, mulled wine and mince pies; it certainly is the most wonderful time of the year! Christmas in London is truly magical experience, with so many great activities and events throughout the festive period.
Between eating, drinking and being merry, there are lots of festive activities to enjoy in London including a hop-on hop-off bus tour of the city in full festive swing. To help plan your visit, our ultimate guide to Christmas in London 2018 provides some great ideas to celebrate Christmas in the capital.
Christmas Lights London
Most of London’s Christmas lights are switched on around mid November and there are lots of ways you can enjoy them in the city.
Christmas Lights Tour
Be dazzled by London at Christmas on our Christmas Lights bus tour, departing from Leicester Square at 6:30 PM and 8:30 PM from 17th November - 29th December. Our 45-minute festive bus tour takes you past the Christmas tree at Trafalgar Square, Oxford Street Christmas lights and the world-famous Regent Street.
Southbank Winter Lights
The Southbank Winter Lights is a wintery themed concert by the BBC Concert Orchestra in the Southbank Centre. Enter Queen Elizabeth Hall on 5th December to enjoy the concert, starting at 7.30pm, and book your tickets from just £12.
Christmas at Kew Gardens
Step into a world of fairytales and fantasy at Kew Gardens this Christmas. On the 22nd of November, Kew Gardens will light up for Christmas. Follow a twinkling light trail through the enchanting gardens, singing trees and a spellbinding fire garden. Book your tickets from 26th June.
Christmas Activities in London
Pop-up Christmas activities in London are only available around the festive season so make the most of these Christmas experiences during your visit.
Get Christmas off to a magical start with a visit to Santa’s grotto at the Royal Albert Hall. Meet Father Christmas from 21st November - 22nd December, operate Santa’s sleigh, tuck into pick ‘n’ mix and receive a photo and gift. Visits last around 1 hour and 15 minutes and tickets go on sale later this year.
For the ultimate Christmas extravaganza, visit Winter Wonderland for free at Hyde Park, home to the biggest pop-up ice-skating rink in the UK. Enjoy the ice bar, circus shows, Christmas markets and fairground rides with all of the family from 22nd November - 6th January 2019.
Hogwarts in the Snow
See Hogwarts transformed into a magical snowy setting from 17th November - 27th January at the Harry Potter Studio Tour. The Great Hall is decorated for the Yule Ball, Gryffindor common room is dressed for the season and a model of Hogwarts is draped in snow. Adult tickets start at £39 and the visit lasts around 3.5 hours.
The Natural History Museum is the perfect backdrop for a skate and mate date. Surrounded by frosted trees, mulled wine and toasted marshmallows, put your skating talent to the test and warm up in the Cafe Bar. Book your ice-skating slot before you visit when tickets go on sale towards the end of the year.
Christmas dinner in London and festive treats
Christmas is the best time of year to tuck in to hearty meals and delicious Christmas treats, so indulge in Christmas dinner, afternoon tea or a tasty mince pie in London.
Christmas Dinner in London
Tuck in to a traditional Christmas dinner in London. Visit Mabel’s in Covent Garden between 19th November - 30th December and indulge in a 3 course Christmas dinner from £35 per person. Book a Christmas finger buffet, bowl food, canapes, Christmas drinks or a sit down dinner in the heart of the West End.
Christmas Afternoon Tea
Christmas is a time to indulge, so tuck in to a festive afternoon tea. Tea at the Town House offers an alternative Christmas afternoon tea in London, transforming their usual Beauty and the Beast themed spread into a sugar-filled masterpiece. Check out more places to dine in our Afternoon Tea in London guide.
Delicious Mince Pies
You can’t beat a humble mince pie at Christmas. Head to St John’s Bakery on Druid Street near Tower Bridge between 9am-4pm every weekend to try their mince pies over the festive period. Mince pies start from £2 and there is also an array of breads, doughnuts and pastries for you to devour.
Christmas Shows in London
Immerse yourself in a traditional British theatre experience this Christmas by attending a pantomime, ballet or enjoy some of your favourite Christmas carols.
The Palladium Pantomime
One of the ultimate British Christmas traditions is going to see a pantomime. Following last year’s Olivier award-winning pantomime, Snow White is coming to the London Palladium in 2018 starring Dawn French and Julian Clary. It runs from 8th December - 13th January 2019 with matinee and evening performances throughout the festive season.
Christmas Carols by Candlelight
Head to the Barbican for a traditional concert of Carols by Candlelight. Enjoy a concert of seasonal classics and musical masterpieces by performers in 18th century costume on 23rd December at 2.30pm. As well as enjoying the performance, you will also be invited to sing along with some of your favourite carols.
The Nutcracker Ballet
The Nutcracker by the English National Ballet returns to the London Coliseum following sellout performances in 2016 and 2017. This traditional Christmas treat will transport you through dance to the magical Land of Snow. Book tickets from 13th-30th of December from just £20 for an adult.
Christmas shopping in London
There is no better place to go Christmas shopping than London. Hit the high streets, seek out unique gifts and make time to break for delicious food and hot drinks.
Home to a grand-looking Christmas tree and more than 115,000 sparkling lights, a trip to Covent Garden will have you feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. Admire the lights or visit the high street stores and pretty market buildings for designer labels and independent brands to find the perfect outfit for a Christmas party.
A magical interactive shopping experience for the latest toys and classic treasures, Hamleys is every child’s dream. The store on Regent Street is open every day and has a Christmas toy parade towards the end of November before unveiling their window display. Give the kids inspiration for their Christmas list at Hamleys.
Find your favourite high street stores on Oxford Street where you can eat, drink and shop until you drop. Whilst Christmas shopping in London, you’ll be blown away by the iconic Oxford Street Christmas lights, window displays in Selfridges and the John Lewis Christmas Roof Garden to get you in the festive spirit.
Christmas Markets have become a festive favourite in London. At Wintertime festival on Southbank, wander through the twinkling riverside market and enjoy mulled wine, delicious food and pop-up performances. Purchase artisanal gifts, stocking fillers and spread some festive cheer with friends and family at Wintertime festival.
Christmas Day in London
If you’re wondering what to do on Christmas Day in London, you’ll find the city much quieter than usual. There is no public transport on Christmas day and lots of restaurants are closed, so try to book a hotel offering Christmas dinner and fill your day with some relaxing activities.
If you are looking for church services in London on Christmas Day, visit Great St Bartholomew at 9am and 11am. Other Christmas services in London’s oldest parish church include an Advent Carol Service at 6.30pm on 2nd December and a midnight mass of the Nativity at 11.45pm on Christmas Eve.
Peter Pan Cup
The Peter Pan Cup has been a Christmas tradition for open water swimmers since 1864. Only members of the Serpentine Swimming Club with a handicap can enter and they take to the water at to race at 9am on Christmas Day. Head to Hyde Park to experience a unique and exciting Christmas Day tradition in London.
Go for a walk around the city or park
On one of the only days the city sleeps, enjoy a quiet walk through the streets of London on Christmas Day. Stroll along the high streets beneath twinkling Christmas lights or walk off your Christmas dinner in one of London’s beautiful parks before relaxing for the evening with friends and family with some Christmas TV.
If you are visiting London for Christmas, wrap up warm as temperatures can drop below 5°C and plan your visit as pop-up attractions can get busy. Stay cosy and comfortable as you visit London’s sights by taking a hop-on hop-off bus tour around the city to explore London at Christmas.