Our guide to being in London over Christmas … updated throughout the year.
Countdown to Christmas
Trafalgar Square is where you’ll find the huge Christmas tree, donated to the people of Britain by the city of Oslo each year, and it’s lit up beautifully from early December. On weekday evening and weekend afternoons lots of different groups get involved in carol singing beneath the tree, making it a very festive place to be.
Winter Wonderland opens in Hyde Park on 21 November 2014 with a huge fun fair, games, Christmas market and seasonal food and drink. It’s free to enter and very jolly but everything you do inside will cost you apart from walking around and soaking up the atmosphere.
Out east, Winterville opens in Victoria Park, Hackney on 2 December 2014. A newcomer to the London Christmas scene is promises a covered ice rink, ferris wheel and horse-drawn carriage rides plus lots of what you’d expect to find in Hyde Park with a bit more urban edge e.g. on trend street food traders, LGBT-minded entertainment and local craft beer. It’s free to enter but attractions and events are ticketed inside. Read our preview.
Southbank Winter Festival 2014 brings together family Christmas shows, comedy, a Christmas market and a vintage new year party.
Lots of Christmas markets, festive fairs and yuletide festivals proliferate throughout the capital in December to help make Christmas shopping jolly. Here’s the huge list of last year’s events. Watch this space for updates later in the year.
Winter ice skating is always hugely popular in London. Pretty ice rinks pop up at places like the Natural History Museum, Canary Wharf, Somerset House and Hampton Court Palace. Our 2014 Guide To Seasonal Skating In London is now ready for your perusal.
London theatre gets extra twinkly in December with a cracking programme of festive shows. Here’s what we recommended last year.
Santacon sees hundreds of people dressed as Father Christmas make their way through central London streets partaking of ‘festive spirit’ as they go and ending up at a big Christmas party on a Saturday in mid-December.
Christmas Day in London
Christmas Day can be a magical time to explore the capital. No tubes, buses or trams will be running, but if you can get into town by cycle hire, taxi or your own transport, here are some of the things going on.
The Peter Pan Cup is an annual Christmas Day swimming race in the Serpentine whose roots go back 150 years. The race starts at 9am, just turn up to spectate.
The Charles Dickens Museum in Bloomsbury usually opens 10am to 5pm, with mince pies and mulled wine. It is wise to book in advance, as it’s very popular.
The Christmas Day Grand Tour of London, is a unique guided walk which explores nearly 10 miles worth of the capital at its quietest. It starts at 5.45am in sight of Big Ben and finishes in time for a drink in the West End before the pubs close. Booking essential.
Enjoy a festive feast and sightsee on the River Thames at the same time aboard a City Cruises Christmas Day Traditional Lunch Cruise. Booking essential.
London Walks traditionally put on a ‘Christmas Morning 1660′ walk about Samuel Pepys London at 11am and an afternoon Dickens walk at 2pm. Just turn up, meet in Trafalgar Square.
An increasing number of central London pubs and restaurants open on Christmas Day but the decision to do so can be last minute. NB Pubs have to shut by 4pm. Hotels are a good bet for bars open later. Check out our list of what was open in 2013 and we’ll bring you more information as winter draws in.
Get in the mood with this lovely time-lapse video by Mattia Biacci.