London

Christmas in London: Why London is the BEST Place to Spend the Holidays

October 23, 2018
Christmas in London - London is the BEST place to spend the holidays. Find out why on www.apairofpassports.com

I’m a total Christmas nut, so it’s no surprise that I’m addicted to Christmas in London. Christmas in London is so festive and exciting, making it the perfect destination for any Christmas lover. The city gets decked out with Christmas lights, carolers pop up at train stations, and pubs become extra inviting with their promise of warm fires and mulled wine. When you’re not at home binge watching Netflix’s Christmas originals (ahem, A Christmas Prince, *swoon*), you’ll want to be out exploring the best of what London has to offer at Christmas.

Things to do in London during Christmas 2018

'London, as a city, is very Christmas obsessed' - Rory Gilmore

And oh is she right! Londoners live and breathe Christmas; and I’m so happy to stand there and do it with them! Here are some of our favourite things to do during the holiday season in London:

Skate at London’s Outdoor Ice Rinks

Christmas in London - Ice Skating at Somerset HouseImagine skating under the stars – well, street lamps – in front of some of London’s finest buildings. Growing up, I was a huge fan of ice skating, and my birthday parties were always at the local outdoor skating rink. London takes outdoor ice skating up a notch. These skating rinks are in incredible places: in the middle of Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland; in front of Somerset House; and even outside the Natural History Museum. There are so many places to go and ice skate. The best part? Most of them don’t just have ice skating. They have Christmas markets, ski lodge pop ups, and so much more, making for the perfect Christmas day out in London.

Where to Ice Skate in London

Skate at Somerset House - Christmas in London - Ice Skating in London

Somerset House

With it’s partnership with Fortnum & Mason, Somerset House may just be the classiest skating event in London. Put your skates and make your way around the rink, surrounded by one of London’s most beautiful buildings. Skate Lates is a great option for adults, but there’s fun to be had for the whole family. After skating, browse the Fortnum’s pop up shop or sit down for some fondue.

Essential Information: Skate at Somerset House is open from 14 November 2018 – 13 January 2019. Tickets start at £11.00 for adults (1 hour skating session). Closest Transport: Charing Cross/Temple Station. Click here for more information & to book.

Natural History Museum

South Kensington is one of the most beautiful neighbourhoods in London, and the Natural History Museum sits right in the center of it all. Spend the day wandering South Kensington (here’s a suggested itinerary) before popping over the Natural History Museum for a skate. If you get too cold, don’t hesitate to check out the interior of the museum – it’s free and one of the most Instagrammable locations in London! After skating, wander over the Queen’s Arms pub for a drink in one of South Kensington’s coziest spots.

Essential Information: The Natural History Museum ice rink is open from 25 October 2018 – 20 January 2019. Tickets start at £12.65 for adults. Closest Transport: South Kensington Station. Click here for more information & to book.

Canary Wharf

If you find yourself on the east side of London, Canary Wharf is a great option for skating in London at Christmas. Skate under the lights of the shiny high rise buildings and you’ll feel like you’re at Rockefeller Centre in New York City!

Essential Information: The Canary Wharf Ice Rink is open from 2 November 2018 – 16 February 2019. Tickets start at £16.95 for adults, though there is a £9.95 early bird special for the first skating session of the day. Closest Transport: Canary Wharf. Click here for more information & to book.

» Visiting London? Here are our 10 favorite tourist attractions. «

Indulge in the Festivities at Winter Wonderland

Christmas in London - London is the BEST place to spend the holidays. Find out why on www.apairofpassports.com

Ice skating, Christmas markets, winter-themed bars… Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland has it all! It’s easily the biggest Christmas event in London and people LOVE it. With the carnival rides and games, Winter Wonderland is perfect for a family day out. But that’s not to say it isn’t perfect for adults, too – there are plenty of bars (including a German beer house), delicious food stalls, and activities for people of all ages.

Essential Information

  • Opening Dates: 22 November 2018 – 6 January 2019, 10:00-22:00 daily
  • Closest Transport Links: Green Park, Hyde Park Corner, Marble Arch
  • Admission Price: FREE! Certain activities are paid or require a ticket.
  • Books activities here

More Winter Pop-Ups in London

Christmas in London is way more than just Winter Wonderland. If this massive winter celebration in Hyde Park doesn’t sound like your type of thing, consider visiting one of the other winter pop-ups in London.

Winterville, Clapham

Winterville is a slightly hipper version of Winter Wonderland and, while it’s fun for the whole family, they’ve added a few extra things to make the adults really enjoy it. There are still carnival rides and food stalls, but there are also comedy shows, a 9-hole crazy golf course, and a roller disco rink. Whether you’re there for the food (being presented by the geniuses behind Street Feast) or the activities, Winterville is bound to be a good time!

  • Opening Dates: 15 November – 23 December 2018, open Tuesday-Sunday
  • Closest Transport Links: Clapham Common & Clapham South
  • Admission Price: Tuesday – Free; Wed-Sun – £2; Fri-Sat – £5 after 6pm (note: entry is free if you have purchased advance tickets for an attraction or event)
  • Read more here
Winterland, Fulham

Winterland is Neverland London’s newest creation, and it’s based after an Alpine Club. If you’re going in a group, there are plenty of cool areas that can be booked out, and there are so many activities you can spend the whole day there. From beer (and prosecco) pong to curling, you definitely won’t be bored! Note: Winterland is aimed at adults. Children are welcome on Saturdays and Sundays until 17:00 if accompanied by an adult.

  • Opening Dates: Opens 8 November 2018; open Thursday-Friday 18:00-23:00; Saturday 12:00-23:00; Sunday 12:00-20:00
  • Closest Transport Links: Imperial Wharf & Wandsworth Town (Overground); Parsons Green (Tube)
  • Admission Price: £5 General Entry; areas booked online include entry
  • Read more here

Stock up on Gifts and Decorations at London’s Christmas Shops

Christmas in London - Shopping at Liberty London's Christmas Store

You won’t truly understand the magic of Christmas in London until you step into Liberty’s Christmas Shop for the first time. The small section in London’s most beautiful department store offers enough Christmas sparkle to keep you going for a full day.

All of London’s department stores open their Christmas shops before summer is even over. About half a floor in each of the major department stores is taken over by ornaments, Christmas decorations, and incredible Christmas-themed displays. We tend to buy our Christmas decorations at John Lewis, but can’t help but wander into Liberty to ‘look’ at least a couple of times each season!

My Favorite London Christmas Shops

  • Liberty – Regent St, Soho, London W1B 5AH (closest tube: Oxford Circus)
  • Selfridges– 400 Oxford St, Marylebone, London W1A 1AB (closest tube: Bond Street)
  • John Lewis – 300 Oxford St, Marylebone, London W1C 1DX (closest tube: Bond Street)
  • Harrods – 87-135 Brompton Rd, Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7XL (closest tube: Knightsbridge)

Dine at one of London’s Alpine Restaurants

Christmas in London - Fondue in London at Fortnum's Lodge

One of my favourite things about skiing is sitting in the ski lodge, drinking hot chocolate, and reading a book. I’m a total half-day skier, and the lodge is a great place to sit and relax when I’m just over it. Unfortunately, London is not surrounded by mountains and populated with ski lodges. However, the brilliant masterminds behind really cool pop-ups have started bringing ski lodges to London.

Our favourite fondue restaurant may be in Switzerland, but that doesn’t mean we can only indulge in this cheesy dish while on a ski holiday. Here are some of our favorite Alpine-inspired restaurants in London:

  • Jimmy’s Lodge – Jimmy’s Pop Ups are always incredible, and Jimmy’s Lodge is no exception. Located on South Bank, you can pop in for some raclette and a hot drink, book to dine in the restaurant (there’s fondue!), or book out one of the igloos for a night with friends (£600 minimum spend applies).
  • Piste at Archer Street – This basement bar at Archer Street has ALL the après-ski vibes! Settle in on a fur lounger and enjoy some winter themed cocktails and stick around until late if you want to party.
  • Fortnum’s Lodge – Located at Somerset House, Fortnum’s Lodge is the perfect place to stop for fondue after having a skate around at Skate at Somerset House.
  • Alpes London – Alpes is located in a shipping container at POP Brixton, which totally adds to the cozy factor. They have a range of Alpine dishes, including fondue. We highly recommend the deep-fried olives!

Explore London’s Christmas Markets

Christmas Market - Christmas in London

Whether you’re looking to shop or just enjoy the festive cheer, Christmas markets are the perfect place to spend an afternoon during the holiday season. London is full of Christmas markets, and it seems like more open each year. They may not be the quaint European Christmas Markets that you see in Germany and the rest of Europe, but we love them nonetheless and the variety means that there is a market for every taste.

Best Christmas Markets in London

  • Southbank Centre Christmas MarketStroll along the Thames as you take in the Christmas spirit & great views of the London Eye. The market is open from 9 November 2018 – 27 December 2018
  • Leicester Square at Christmas: The setup of the Leicester Square Christmas Market reminds me of the European Christmas markets located in the town’s main square. Except, here, you also get the hustle and bustle of Leicester Square. The market opens on 9 November 2018. Click here to read more about Christmas in Leicester Square.
  • Kingston Christmas Market: If you’re looking to get a bit outside of London, Kingston Christmas Market is the perfect place to visit. Kingston isn’t too far from Hampton Court, so a day at the palace and some ice skating could be in order, too! Kingston Christmas Market is open from 15 November 2018 – 31 December 2018.

Additionally, our favourite Saturday market in Duke of York Square develops a Christmas vibe, with decorations and even a Christmas grotto, if you’re looking to pay Santa a visit! Do your Christmas shopping on Kings Road for something less crowded than Oxford Street, and swing by the market to pick up some goodies. We love stopping for oysters before wandering around the food stalls with a glass of champagne in hand!

Treat Yourself to a Festive Afternoon Tea

Christmas In London - Festive Afternoon Tea in London - Conrad St James Hotel

No visit to London is complete without an afternoon spent having tea. Even though I live in London now, it’s still one of my favorite things to do, and something I insist on whenever I have visitors.

Over the holiday period, many afternoon teas take on a festive theme. Whether it is just the decorations on the table, or the entire menu that is dedicated to the holidays, it definitely makes for a unique experience. We love tea at the Corinthia Hotel during the holiday period, and the Conrad St. James offers one of the best seasonally themed teas there is. Another great option is Millie’s at The Ned – the building is stunning and they’re adding a festive twist to their afternoon tea for the holiday season.

If you want the full English tea experience, consider booking an afternoon tea at The Savoy or Claridge’s, two of London’s most iconic hotels.

See the Christmas Light Displays

Christmas in London - London is the BEST place to spend the holidays. Find out why on www.apairofpassports.com

Christmas light displays begin to take over London in October, and they’re full flung by the time it’s actually December! Tree lighting ceremonies take places, street Christmas lights all go on at once, and London turns into a sparkling place.

Carnaby Street, festive as ever, becomes a Christmas light lover’s dream. Oxford Street and Regent Street are decorated, as are all of the shops along them. Covent Garden’s decorations are always a spectacle to be seen, and the big tree goes up in Trafalgar Square. Kensington Palace & Buckingham Palace get festive, hotels compete for the best lobby decorations, and each neighbourhood has its own Christmas flair.

Out near Richmond, Kew Gardens goes from year round botanical garden to a stunning display of Christmas lights, complete with a light show! If you want to see Kew Gardens lit up, make sure you book in advance. The good spots fill up early on in the season. Christmas at Kew runs from 22 November 2018 – 5 January 2019. Read more about it here.

» LOVE LIGHTS? Check Out Kew Gardens at Christmas! «

2018’s Christmas lights Carnaby Street are extra special and dedicated to QUEEN (the band, not Her Royal Highness). They were unveiled on 21 October and will remain lit up until 4 January 2019.

Christmas on Screen/Stage in London

Beautiful Christmas Shops You don't truly know Christmas heaven until you step into the Liberty Store's Christmas Shop. And that's not even the biggest one! All of London's department stores open up their Christmas shops before summer is even over (yes...in August!). About half a floor in Selfridge's, John Lewis, the Liberty Store, and more is taken over with ornaments, Christmas decorations, and incredible Christmas displays. Our personal favourite store for decoration shopping is Peter Jones. However, the Liberty Store is the best for window shopping!

There are ample opportunities to indulge in Christmas plays, movies, and more during Christmas in London. Various productions of The Nutcracker tend to pop up around the holiday season, meaning you can watch the English National Ballet at the Coliseum or The Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House (or both!).

Pop-up cinemas offer showings of Christmas movies starting in November. The Christmas Labyrinth, by Backyard Cinema, premieres at Winterville on 15 November and has movies showing through December. Backyard Cinema also has a film experience at Winter Wonderland. Visit The Snowman Experience and watch The Snowman as part of a walkthrough experience. In Hackney, Pop Up Screens is showing Christmas films in their Narnia inspired Cinema in the Snow from 13-23 December 2018. All of these are great opportunities to watch your favorite Christmas film in a Christmas themed setting!

What will you be doing in London this Christmas?

x-kelly

This post was updated 23 October 2018


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9 Comments

  • Reply Alex | Life Well Wandered October 18, 2016 at 5:10 pm

    I LOVE London at Christmastime! All their Christmas spirit really makes the short days and long nights a lot better. I was so sad when all the Christmas markets closed and all the lights were taken down. I wouldn’t be upset if they decided to just have all their Christmas stuff up all year round 🙂

    • Reply apairofpassports October 27, 2016 at 9:28 am

      Haha I agree! I don’t even mind Winter Wonderland taking up so much of Hyde Park because I feel like a little kid again every time I walk in there!

  • Reply Lena Elzayn October 27, 2018 at 5:22 pm

    Such a great list! We’ll be there and will work our way through it. We only have 2 days. I def want to do Winter Wonderland, anything else to prioritize?

    • Reply apairofpassports October 29, 2018 at 5:09 pm

      Yes, definitely visit Winter Wonderland or one of the other Christmas markets. In terms of my other top picks, I’d say to see the Carnaby Street lights (love them!), visit the Liberty Christmas shop (you’ll LOVE it, I think!), and book up for a festive afternoon tea. I also think Christmas at Kew is right up your alley, but it’s a bit out of the way so if there is something else you’d rather do in the evening, skip Kew this time around. And, of course, spend some time in a pub with mulled wine 🙂

  • Reply Kimmie Conner October 28, 2018 at 7:59 am

    Ahhh this gives me such FOMO! I LOVE London and lived there for a while but have never been there during Christmas season. I would love to check out the Christmas markets!

    • Reply apairofpassports October 29, 2018 at 5:08 pm

      London is SO FUN at Christmas – you’ll have to plan a trip at some point in the future!

  • Reply Katie October 29, 2018 at 2:10 pm

    Hi – do you have any recomendations for what to do after Christmas? So in the period between Christmas and NYE and over NYE? thanks!

    • Reply apairofpassports October 29, 2018 at 5:07 pm

      The period between Christmas and NYE is a fun time – London is still buzzing but it also feels much quieter than it does before Christmas.

      Many of the things in this guide (markets, ice rinks, etc.) are still open into January, and after Christmas is a great time to visit them. We actually went ice skating at Somerset House after Christmas one year and it was a great way to keep the festive spirit alive. I also love the period between Christmas and New Years for day trips. Consider a visit to Oxford or Cambridge – it’ll be quiet since school is not in session, but that makes it the perfect time to explore and then warm up over mulled wine at the pub!

      If you’re a big shopper, Boxing Day is also a big day for sales in the UK (the equivalent of Black Friday, kind of). In terms of NYE, we don’t usually spend it in London so I’m not sure what the best thing to do is. The fireworks are amazing, though, so if you can find a spot where you can watch them, definitely do that!

  • Reply Ingrid November 2, 2018 at 1:12 pm

    This looks amazingly beautiful! I’ve visited London in Spring, Summer and Autumn, but somehow missed the Winter season even though I’m convinced Christmas is magical over there. I need to plan a visit now that I also know what I shouldn’t miss.

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