In London on Christmas Day and wondering what to do? Looking for something to fill the hours between the presents and the turkey? Here's the lowdown on Christmas Day in the capital.
Is London busy on Christmas Day?
If you're up early enough, you can see London's streets fairly empty. That used to be a novelty, but these days is more likely to trigger lockdown flashbacks. By 11am, the masses are out (and, we noticed in recent — pre-Covid — years, the streets get busy earlier every year, largely with tourists here for the holiday season).
What transport runs in London on Christmas Day?
No tubes, buses, trains or trams run on Christmas Day, leaving walking, cycle hire, taxi, or your own vehicle (the ULEZ and Congestion Charge don't apply on 25 December, but the LEZ does) as your options for getting into and around town. Here's a full guide to public transport in London between Christmas and New Year, including Christmas Day.
What opens in London on Christmas Day?
A smattering of cafes and pubs may be open, but nowhere near as many as normal. One particular thing to note is that a lot of London's toilets, located in cafes, restaurants, pubs and stations, won't be available today. Just something to consider before you fill a flask/your bladder with mulled wine. Here's our full guide to what's open in London on Christmas Day.
Things to do and events in London on Christmas Day 2023
CHURCH SERVICES: Sing along to the services at Westminster Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and St Paul's Cathedral. Some events are ticketed and usually sell out in advance, but live streams are often available — check websites closer to the time. Of course, churches all over London run services on Christmas Day; check with your local for details.
VOLUNTEERING: If you're reading this in advance of the big day, you might still be in time to sign up for a volunteering slot at one of the many charities that operate on Christmas Day to help the capital's most vulnerable, including the homeless, and the elderly or isolated who may otherwise spend the day alone.
GOLDEN TOURS: This company runs tours on Christmas Day, taking you past sights such as Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London over the course of three hours on board a coach. Pick from a morning or afternoon slot (8.30am/2pm).
SWIMMING: While London isn't exactly replete with options for a Christmas Day dip, some pools do open for a few hours, including Hampton Pool. Here's our guide to swimming in London on Christmas Day, though consider yourself warned that you need to book several weeks in advance for some of the options.
PETER PAN CUP: Every year, a group of hardy swimmers takes to the icy depths of Hyde Park's Serpentine, in pursuit of the Peter Pan Cup. You can't take part unless you're a member of the Serpentine Swimming Club (and really, would you want to?), but you can drop by and offer your support from dry land. Find out more about the history of the Peter Pan Cup here. Free to watch, 9am start
SIGHTSEEING CRUISE: City Experiences run Christmas Day Sightseeing Cruises up and down the Thames, lasting an hour and passing some of London's most famous landmarks, accompanied by a live commentary (pre-recorded commentary available in other languages). Festive drinks and snacks including mulled wine and mince pies are available to buy on board, and the cruise starts and finishes at Westminster Pier. The same company also offers a three-hour Christmas Day Lunch Cruise, including a four-course meal on board. Various departures 9.45am-2.45pm
GUIDED WALKS: Guided walks don't stop just because it's Christmas Day. Take a Samuel Pepys themed walk based on Christmas morning 1660, the first time Christmas celebrations were permitted in England for eight years. It begins in Trafalgar Square, at 11am. There's also a Christmas Day Charles Dickens walk, starting in Trafalgar Square at 2pm
CHRISTMAS LIGHTS: What could be more festive that wandering among London's Christmas lights? Today's likely to be one of the quietest days to see them, even with festive sightseers lurking, as the West End shopping crowds aren't around. Our preferred option of seeing them by bus isn't available today due to the festive transport shutdown, but there's nothing to stop you walking or cycling between the twinkling displays as darkness falls.