Looking for things to do in London at Christmas? Whether you live here or are visiting the capital over the holiday period, it's a great place to get festive, with plenty of different events taking place, from ice rinks to Christmas markets, Christmas lights and festive food and drink. And that's before we even think about New Year's Eve.
Not many details for Christmas 2019 have been released yet, but we'll be adding them when we know more, so keep checking back.
Countdown to Christmas 2019 in London
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 from early December. The decorations themselves usually cause some debate, but 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. It's usually switched on on the first Thursday in December, so we'd guess Thursday 5 December 2019, but keep checking back for confirmation.
Plenty of charities and organisations look for volunteers to help both in the run-up to Christmas and on Christmas Day itself. Have a look at what's going on and where you can volunteer in London over Christmas 2019.
If juggernauts are more your thing, the Coca-Cola truck usually comes to London as part of its UK tour — 2019 dates TBC.
Oh, and one more thing. Keep an eye out for Santa's early arrival in the capital, documented in this charming Instagram account. Follow it to bring some festive sparkle into your life.
Looking for things to do on Christmas Eve? Here's a guide to what's going on over Christmas Eve 2019. Bear in mind that many shops, restaurants, cafes, bars, museums and galleries may close earlier than usual on Christmas Eve.
London's Christmas lights 2019
London's Christmas light switch-ons begin in November — here's what's switched on when. It usually begins with the Oxford Street Christmas lights switch-on on in early November (it was 6 November in 2018 — 2019 date is TBC). Here are some of the best photos of 2018's lights (and if Christmas trees are your thing, we've got London's 2018 loveliest here). We have to say though, this may well have been our favourite 2018 Christmas light display — fingers crossed for something as lovely for Christmas 2019.
If that's whetted your appetite, here's our guide to seeing London's Christmas lights by bus.
Christmas shopping in London
Lots of Christmas markets, festive fairs and yuletide festivals proliferate throughout the capital in December to help make Christmas shopping jolly. Here's our guide to London's Christmas markets and fairs.
London's got a wealth of department stores to choose from — find out which is our favourite. Selfridges usually opens its Christmas department sometime in the balmy days of August, and the other stores soon follow suit — many with Santa's grottos inside them.
If it's decorations you're after, you'll find plenty of tree hangers that pay homage to this great city. In fact, we found so many, we mapped them.
Christmas 2019 events and festive things to do in London
CHRISTMAS FILMS: Plenty of places screen festive classics in the run-up to the big day. Find out where to get your dose of Elf, Love Actually or It's A Wonderful Life with our guide to Christmas movie screenings.
WINTER WONDERLAND 2019: Winter Wonderland opens in Hyde Park (November 2019 January 2020) featuring a huge fun fair, ice rink, games, Christmas market and seasonal food and drink. It's free to enter but gets very busy and everything you do inside will cost you apart from walking around and soaking up the atmosphere. We spoke to some visitors to find out what the attraction is.
CHRISTMAS ICE SKATING IN LONDON: 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 from October right through until February. Here's our guide to where to get your skates on over Christmas.
SANTA'S GROTTO: The kids can share their Christmas wishes (and perhaps find out if they're on the Naughty or Nice list) at these Santa's Grottos and Father Christmas appearances around the capital. Most book out well in advance, so plan ahead. Do spare a thought for those elves though — here's what it's like working at the Harrods grotto.
ENCHANTED ELTHAM 2019: Enchanted Eltham Palace is a winter lights trail, lighting up the beautiful grounds with fairy lights, to be enjoyed with a mince pie and mulled wine. It took place in December 2018 — stand by for 2019 details.
WINTERVILLE 2019: Winterville popped up on Clapham Common in November and December 2018, with funfair, ice rink, street food stalls, roller disco, crazy golf and more. Watch this space for 2019 details.
CHRISTMAS AT KEW 2019: Christmas At Kew is a twinkly light trail, winding through Kew Gardens after dark. As well as the lights — which are always stunning — there are food stalls and Victorian funfair rides. You need to book in advance — tickets for Christmas at Kew 2019 go on sale in June 2019.
CHRISTMAS AT LONDON ZOO: 2018 was the first time the team behind Christmas at Kew took their expertise to London Zoo, creating a one-mile light trail among the zoo's grounds once the animals have gone to bed. If this floats your boat, find out about other winter lights festivals in London this Christmas, and keep an eye out to see if Christmas at London Zoo returns for 2019.
ALICE IN WINTERLAND: New for 2018, this lantern festival took over Southwark Park between November and January, with larger than life lantern versions of characters and scenes from Alice in Wonderland — plus a Mad Hatter's tea party and a chance to see Father Christmas. Fingers crossed it returns for Christmas 2019.
CHRISTMAS IN LEICESTER SQUARE 2019: A traditional Christmas market, Santa's grotto, and food and drink stalls all form part of festival Christmas in Leicester Square. It's organised by the people behind Udderbelly Festival, so there are plenty of shows in a 1920s speigeltent too. It usually runs November-January — keep an eye on the website for Christmas 2019 details.
ENCHANTED WOODLAND 2019: Syon Park's Enchanted Woodland is illuminated with colourful lights, all situated around an ornamental lake, and inside the historic arboretum. It took place in November 2018 — standby for 2019 details.
CHRISTMAS COMEDY: This was our pick of festive comedy shows in London for 2018 — fingers crossed for similar laughs in the 2019 festive season.
FESTIVE EVENTS NEAR LONDON: We love London, but sometimes we see something so good, we have to leave the capital for a while. These events are near enough to London to warrant a day trip — we'll be updating the list for 2019 closer to the time.
BAH HUMBUG: If you want to avoid Christmas entirely — even if just for a day — take a look at these non-Christmassy things to do in London in December.
Christmas 2019 food and drink in London
HOT CHOCOLATE: Whether you're ice skating, carolling or Christmas shopping, warm up with one of London's best hot chocolates... or enjoy the luxury of one of the capital's most decadent hot chocolates.
PUB CRAWL: Far be it from us to suggest you drink to excess, but if you are planning a pub crawl, might we suggest this 12 Days of Christmas pub crawl. It's geographically questionable but does have a pub for every line of the song.
OUTDOOR DRINKING: Take the party outside with London's best winter drinking pop-ups and cosy bars — plenty of heaters, blankets and warm cocktails will keep you toasty.
ALCOHOL-FREE: Don't drink? Fear not, we've got booze-free Christmas covered too.
WINTER WARMERS: If you just want something to stave off the cold, read our guide to warming winter food — from melted cheese to hot chocolates, and full roast dinners, it's all in there.
Christmas Day 2019 in London
Christmas Day can be a magical time to explore the capital if you get up early enough. After about 11am there's a surprising amount of people about and more and more pubs and restaurants open each year. It's still a special day in the city however. No tubes, buses or trams will be running but if you can get into town by walking, cycle hire, taxi or your own transport, here are some of the things going on.
Here's our complete guide of things to do in London on Christmas Day, and if it's Christmas Dinner you're after, these places served it up for Christmas 2018 — we advise booking well in advance for 2019.
An increasing number of central London cafes, pubs and restaurants open on Christmas Day but the decision to do so can be last minute — here's what was open on Christmas Day 2018 in London. Expect similar for 2019.
Once the big day is out of the way, we've still got you covered. Here's what's on on Boxing Day, and we've also handpicked some events to keep you out of mischief right through to New Year.
Spending New Year's Eve 2019 in London
It's never too early to make your New Year's Eve plans — plenty of parties and events sell out months in advance. Here's our guide to this year's New Year's Eve events. It contains daytime events and parties that go on well into the night to see in 2020 with a bang.
Things to do on New Year's Day 2020 in London
Ease yourself back into everyday life with our guide to things to do on New Year's Day. We've put together a special guide to the New Year's Day Parade, which takes place in central London every year.
Get in the Christmas spirit:
Get in the mood with these gorgeous festive photos of Christmas 2018 in London and this lovely time-lapse video by Mattia Biacci.
Keep up to date with the latest news, reviews, articles and features about Christmas in London.