Christmas in London is magical. Twinkling lights, gorgeous decor and wreaths at every turn, mulled wine and plenty of holiday activities have made London my top city in the world to celebrate this joyous season in.
Planning to be in the big smoke for the most wonderful time of the year?
My favourite activities for a very merry Christmas in London
Do a walking tour of the Christmas lights in Soho and Mayfair, key streets: Regent’s Street, Oxford Street, Seven Dials, Mount Street, New Bond Street, Piccadilly, Carnaby and Marylebone Lane. Don’t miss hustle and bustle of Oxford Street or the angels on Regent’s Street. Carnaby Street, tucked away between Regent’s Street and Oxford Circus, is one of my favourite places to see lights, and there are a few really great restaurants and bars in the area- Disrepute is a lovely 70s-esque speakeasy.
And, if you’re after Christmas shopfront decor, the facades of these places are always at the top of my list of places to check out to get in the holiday spirit: Seven Dials, Cartier, Moyses Stephens, Neill Strain Floral Couture, The Ritz London, The Royal Arcade, Nikki Tibbles Wild at Heart, The Ivy Chelsea Garden, George, Clos Maggiore, Leadenhall Market, Tiffany & Co., Lavender Green Flowers, Annabel’s, Henrietta Hotel and the staircase in Fortnum and Mason, plus its outside windows. Tip: Most of these places, plus so much else, is in Mayfair and Chelsea.
Visit Kew Gardens, where a sparkling trail of twinkling lights awaits. The entire path, over a mile long, is wow worthy. Bonus: There’s prosecco and mulled wine available throughout the trail!
Wander the seasonal market pop-ups at Southbank, Winter Wonderland (so many rides and games!) and Winterville (less manic than Winter Wonderland). Winter Wonderland, albeit touristy, is practically a cultural institution. If you’re visiting, reserve tickets for games/rides in advance to avoid long waits in line.
Spot the city’s spectacular trees-
- Outdoor favs: St. Pancras International (giant tree!), Covent Garden and Trafalgar Square (a gift to London by the people of Norway)
- Indoor favs: Claridges and The Ritz
Go ice skating at the Natural History museum, Tower of London or Somerset House. Pro-tip: Somerset House was featured in the film ‘Love Actually’, and is one of the city’s most iconic rinks.
Shop London’s iconic stores and take home a few British treats, like brandy butter, Christmas pudding, Christmas crackers, yule log, mini mince pies and Cadbury. Liberty, Selfridges, John Lewis, Harrods and Fortnum & Mason are all excellent options for shopping, and usually beautifully decorated. And, if you can’t get enough of the department stores, head over to Covent Garden to admire the festive decor and do a bit of shopping in pretty boutiques.
Stroll through London’s markets- Borough Market (don’t miss the Christmas puddings, gingerbread men and mulled wine), Maltby and Camden are a few of my favorites for seasonal treats and festive feels. Columbia Road is also beautiful this time of the year with holly, evergreen trees and metallic branches.
Enjoy a warm pint or mulled wine at the pub. I’ve loved pub culture since day one of living here, but with holiday decor all around (hi, Churchill Arms) and no shortage of warm drinks, cosying up at the pub on a Sunday afternoon is practically mandatory. Bonus points if there’s a roaring fire, like at The Blind Beggar.
Fancy a festive tipple? This year, Miracle, the festive Christmas pop-up bar that got its start in New York years ago ventured across the pond the London. A themed menu of drinks, hopping Christmas tunes and no shortage of cheesy holiday decor make this place perfect for a few December drinks. Many of London’s other cocktail bars, like Aqua Shard, have seasonal tipples on the menu. And, in Aqua Shard’s case, also offer a spectacular view of the city below.
Peruse London’s neighborhoods to see how residents decorate for the holidays, spoiler: no shortage of stunning wreaths. A few of my go-to areas:
- Chelsea – The side streets and squares off King’s Road
- Belgravia – Elizabeth Street is a can’t miss
- Notting Hill
- Angel in Islington
Listening to the sounds of the season with carols at Westminster Abbey or a jazzy take on classic Christmas tunes at a SkyGarden concert.
And, activities I didn’t get around to last year but are high on my list for future holiday seasons:
- Attending Christmas Day service at St. Pauls’ Cathedral (if I’m in London)
- Seeing the Nutcracker at the Royal Opera House, or candlelit carols in the days right before Christmas
- Spending at day at Blenheim Palace near Oxford, I’ve heard the Christmas light trail is incredible
- Grabbing tickets to see a movie with the film score done by a live orchestra at Royal Albert- this year, they’re doing Home Alone, but I won’t be in London the weekend it’s happening
- Admiring Hogwarts in the snow, I loved my first visit to Warner Bros Studios and am excited by the thought of seeing the sets decked out for the holiday
- Visiting Winterville (if it’s around in years to come year)- smaller than Winter Wonderland, I’ve heard it’s an adult playground for games and festive drinks
- Stepping back in time at a palace- Kensington Palace or Castle Howard in York
If you’ve ever spent Christmas in the capital, what’d you enjoy the most about the season?