Below are the details for 2019. We'll update this page with information for Christmas 2020 when it's announced, so keep checking back.
Christmas is an expensive time of year, especially in London, so indulge in these free ways to get into the festive spirit in the capital. You won't have to spend a penny — though of course there are plenty of chances to get rid of your money if you're so inclined.
Hunt out The Snowman at London Bridge City
12 giant sculptures of Raymond Briggs's The Snowman are placed throughout the London Bridge City area throughout the festive period, forming a free and family-friendly sculpture trail. Each Snowman has been decorated by an artist to represent one of the 12 Days of Christmas, and kids will love tracking down the beloved character.
Free, 26 November 2019-5 January 2020.
Free ice skating in Covent Garden
London's ice rinks can be rather pricey, but there's a new one in Covent Garden this year, and it's free to skate on. The New York-inspired Tiffany & Co. rink centres around a giant bottle of the brand's perfume, programmed to diffuse the 'sparkling floral scent of Tiffany Eau de Parfum' over the area at intervals throughout the day.
Free, book ahead, 29 November 2019-26 December 2020.
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland 2019
The Christmas behemoth that pops up in Hyde Park every winter is free entry, meaning you can wander around to your heart's content without spending a penny. To dodge the crowds, avoid weekends and evenings — we recommend weekdays early in the run, or wait until the final week in January.
Sure, if you want to have a go on those funfair rides, go ice skating, watch the circus, get some food and drink, do your Christmas shopping at the Christmas market or enter the ice kingdom, you'll have to pay (and steeply too). But just for wandering, it's completely free. We've put together a guide to places to eat and drink near Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, if you can't face the queues and crowds to eat once you're in there.
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland. Free entry, 21 November 2019-5 January 2020
Christmas in Leicester Square 2019
Wooden chalets, food stalls, Santa's Grotto and a 1920s spiegeltent all pop up in the centre of Leicester Square for Christmas, and it's free to wander around and enjoy the atmosphere.
As with Winter Wonderland, you could spend a decent amount of dosh here if you were so inclined. The 1920s Spiegeltent has an impressive line-up of shows, including burlesque and cabaret, and of course you'll have to pay if you want to see Santa, or tuck into food or drink. Otherwise, you can pass a short amount of time here, enjoying the pretty lights for free, and snapping a few Instagram shots. It's much smaller than Winter Wonderland though — you'd struggle to spend a whole afternoon here.
Christmas in Leicester Square. Free entry, 8 November 2019-5 January 2020.
See the London Christmas lights
London's various Christmas light displays are switched on from early November (see the exact switch-on dates), and they're free to visit. Wander round Regent Street, Oxford Street, Covent Garden, Carnaby and other areas in the dark to see London at its twinkly, festive best — we've put together a guide to when, where and how to see them, including a handy map.
If you can spare a couple of quid, hop on a bus for an even better way to see the lights.
Wander round the Christmas markets
In addition to the two mentioned above, there are dozens of other Christmas markets and fairs to visit in London, and many of them are free admission (although again, you will of course have to part with your pennies if something tempts you).
Top of the list is Southbank Centre's Winter Market (8 November 2019-5 January 2020), a cute collection of wooden chalets decked in sparkling lights, right next to the river. Head further east along the Christmas by the River (26 November 2019-5 January 2020), a Christmas market next to City Hall, with a backdrop of Tower Bridge. Lovely.
Wander round the department stores
London's department stores are some of the most festive places in the capital. Well, they should be, they start cranking up the Christmas in August. The big four to hit up for Christmas are Harrods, Selfridges, Fortnum & Mason and Liberty.
It depends what you're looking for in a festive day out. Fortnum & Mason always sticks to a very traditional Christmas — think red and gold decorations, and an exquisitely decorated staircase. The Liberty Christmas department is a quaint affair, with hundred upon hundreds of baubles and decorations up in the rafters of the gorgeous wooden building.
Selfridges tends to ramp things up a notch, and even more so this year with Future Fantasy Christmas theme. And Harrods? Well, it's Harrods isn't it — although the Christmas department has shrunk in size somewhat for 2019. We pitted these big four against each other — see which one came out top.
Carol concerts in London
If you wanted, you could go to a carol concert every evening in December, and still barely scratch the surface of London's carol services. They're not all free — but many are for charity, so that's understandable — but why not see what's on at your local church?
Take a look at our guide to spending Christmas in London for other festive things to do. If you're on less of a budget, why not take a turn on one of the capital's pop-up ice rinks, or settle down for a festive film screening.