Celebrate the Holidays in True British Fashion with Our Guide to London at Christmas (2023)

From Christmas markets and ice skating to festive afternoon tea, London is the perfect place to spend your holiday vacation. Below, a few festive ideas to add to your itinerary.

Admire the Christmas Trees and Lights

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Trafalgar Square gets a festive makeover at Christmas time.

To say London embraces holiday decor is quite the understatement. In particular, the English capital knows how to decorate a Christmas tree. Head to Trafalgar Square to see a massive spruce all decked out in lights, an annual gift from Norway given every year since 1947.

Strings of twinkling Christmas lights can be found throughout the city during the holiday season, but they shine particularly bright at Kew. The Royal Botanic Gardens boast over a million bulbs, illuminating gardens, trees, and building on a one-mile trail. While there, younger visitors can meet with Santa and his elves and toast marshmallows, while adults enjoy mulled wine and shop for stocking stuffers.

Celebrate the Holidays in True British Fashion with Our Guide to London at Christmas (2)

Other notable spots to see lights include Oxford Street, Carnaby Street, Covent Garden, Regent Street, and the South Bank.

Stay Somewhere Festive

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Just around the corner from Trafalgar Square and Whitehall, Corinthia London is the coziest Christmas spot for those who like to be in the center of everything on the outside of the hotel, but away from it all as soon as they step inside. The hotel’s restaurant and library area is decked out as a lush alpine winter garden and hosting festive high tea and celebratory Christmas and New Year’s Eve dinners. Recover from all the revelry the next day at the ESPA Life spa, which offers Dr. Barbara Sturm facials, relaxation pools, and massages. For a truly memorable holiday, book one of the seven penthouses for a magical escape replete with a fireplace, Christmas tree, access to a private wine collection, and personal butler.

Celebrate the Holidays in True British Fashion with Our Guide to London at Christmas (4)

onefinestay will decorate your vacation apartment into the winter wonderland of your dreams to max out your holiday spirit.

For those traveling with a large family or who are planning to stay for several weeks (take advantage of remote work!) onefinestay, which offers luxury rental apartments and homes, is getting extra cheery by setting up fully decorated Christmas trees, garlands, and tablescapes by London florists Hayford & Rhodes upon request as well as delivering another fun British tradition: Christmas hampers.

Go Ice Skating

Celebrate the Holidays in True British Fashion with Our Guide to London at Christmas (5)

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There’s no more British a way to embrace the cold weather than by lacing up your skates, and hitting Somerset House’s open-air rink (above). Zoom around the courtyard (or scoot along the edge, holding onto the rail—hey! We don’t judge) all while enjoying the beautiful Christmas tree. Then, warm up with a cocktail and a view of the ice in the Skate Lounge or pop in the Fortnum's Christmas Arcade to sneak in a little holiday shopping. Consider yourself a night owl? New last year was a program called "Skate Lates," which brought special music guests to the rink in the evenings.

Skating is also available at Hampton Court Palace and at the Natural History Museum.

Or Try Curling at King's Cross

Kings Cross is a delightful newly renovated section of London that is home to loads of shops, restaurants, and activations for Christmas. This winter book a 45-minute curling session (which comes with its own Club Curling Bar for fuel), then stroll over to Coal Drops Yard for dinner at British designer Tom Dixon’s Coal Office, which offers up Mediterranean shared plates in a buzzy, yet relaxed setting created by Chef Assaf Granit—make sure to book in advance, it is a local favorite.

Shop for Gifts

Whether you prefer strolling through pop-up holiday bazaars or spending a full day at Harrod’s (complete with a trip to see Father Christmas), this shopping capital has something for everyone on your list. We recommend making a trip to Liberty London for beautiful accessories in the line’s signature prints, the latest beauty must-haves, and a gorgeous selection of stationery. Arket next door is a go-to for on-trend staples; their denim is perfect for gifting yourself. Then slide over to Savile Road and get the men in your life monogrammed handkerchiefs. If you’re searching for the perfect fashion-forward present, head to Dover Street Market, for wares from innovative brands like Comme des Garçons, Raf Simons, Erdem, and Thom Browne among many, many others.

Need more shopping ideas? Here's our complete guide to the best Christmas markets in London.

Partake in Afternoon Tea

A full tea service is ideal any afternoon in London (We recommend making a reservation the first day you land, to help beat jetlag), but it’s a particularly nice way to warm up when it’s chilly outside. Kick off the holiday season at Sketch, whose pink interiors are Instagram-worthy any time of year, but at Christmas has been transformed into the Glade, a lovely wintry forest. For a classic experience, indulge at Fortnum & Mason. If hot chocolate is more your speed, stop by Knoops, a small chain of hot chocolate cafes where you order your drink with your desired percentage of cocoa, from 28 to 100 percent.

Visit Hogwarts in the Snow.

For fans of the Harry Potter series, the Warner Brothers Studio Tour really comes to life in the wintertime. In the weeks before the holidays, the attraction is transformed to include Christmas trees lining the Great Hall, and a festive-looking Gryffindor common room.

Attend Christmas Services

If going to church is part of your annual holiday tradition, St. Paul’s Cathedral is just one of many offering services.

Eat British Staples… and Then Try Omakase

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Sushi and other Japanese favorites at the Beaverbrook Townhouse Fuji Grill are the perfect break from British fare.

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Cold weather is the best time of year to enjoy a Sunday roast and sticky toffee pudding, not to mention a pint or two. Thomas Cubitt in Belgravia deliveries all of that and then some, you’ll never dismiss traditional British meals again. Then, move onto London’s other classic cuisine: Indian. Dishoom is an all-around favorite, with Bombay comfort food and live jazz music; they don’t take reservations so stop by in the late afternoon to put your name down (be prepared for a two-hour wait) while you have a cocktail or go shopping nearby. As a grand finale, treat yourself to omakase at the Beaverbrook Townhouse Fuji Grill. Omakase chef Goemon Ishikawa has curated a two-hour experience with a seasonal menu that is perfectly on point. And, unlike other Japanese dining experiences, it is topped off with dessert from Beaverbrook’s pastry chef. It is a memorable respite from fish and chips.

Check out the Peter Pan Cup

One of London’s most unique holiday rituals is the annual Peter Pan Cup, where members of the Serpentine Swimming Club jump into lake in Hyde Park for an icy Christmas Day race. Unfortunately (...or fortunately depending on your perspective), visitors can’t partake in the festivities, but it’s almost more fun to bundle up and watch the event.

Take a Weekend Trip

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The newly renovated North Lodge at Coworth Park for those staying with friends and family.

If your itinerary allows, Coworth Park is an excursion well-worth undertaking. Located about an hour’s drive outside London (just under two hours by train), the former 18th century manor home in Ascot is now a Dorchester hotel, nestled amidst world-class polo fields (Prince William and Harry are regulars). Book the newly renovated North Lodge on the property—the former gatekeeper’s cottage turned three-bedroom residence is ideal for large families or friends and absolutely perfect for those traveling with children (make sure to book them an equestrian lesson, Coworth has great ponies for littles, and horses for yourself). Don’t skip the toffee pudding on Sundays at the Michelin-starred restaurant or chips (fries) and a martini at their more casual restaurant, the Barn.

At this point you are probably bursting, but it is worth mentioning that all of Coworth Park's chocolate is handmade on the premises. Work it off with a swim at the spa, surrounded by amethyst crystals, a long stroll around the property (see if you can spy the home where John Lennon wrote and filmed the music video for Imagine), or that aforementioned horse ride. If you have trouble summoning up the motivation to return to London, we don’t blame you.

Meet Santa

Rumor has it, he'll be making appearances at both Royal Albert Hall and the Museum of London.

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Olivia Hosken

Style and Interiors Writer

Olivia Hosken is the Style & Interiors writer for Town & Country, covering all things design, architecture, fashion, and jewelry.

As the digital director for Town & Country, Caroline Hallemann covers culture, entertainment, and a range of other subjects

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Is it worth going to London at Christmas? ›

Christmas is a magical time of year to be visiting London. There are spectacular decorations everywhere and people are generally in a festive mood. Here are some of our favourite seasonal experiences which are all great reasons to visit London during the Christmas holidays.

Is London busy between Christmas and New Year? ›

Public transport to and around London is reduced over the Christmas and New Year period, so make sure to plan your journey in advance. Central London is extremely busy on New Year's Eve and public transport is limited on New Year's Day.

Does London have Christmas markets? ›

But, at Christmas? Well, that's when London's markets really come into their own. Every year, throughout November and December, the capital fills with the kind of markets that host fairy-light-lined stalls, festive street-food sellers and community tombolas, with a playlist of Christmas songs on loop in the background.

Where can I spend Christmas Day in London? ›

Christmas Day in London ideas and events
  • Photograph: Doug Peters/PA Wire. See London's streets sparkle. ...
  • Go for a dip in Hampton Pool. Sport and fitness. ...
  • Photograph: Shutterstock. ...
  • Cycle around the city. ...
  • Walk off all the turkey and trimmings. ...
  • © Serpentine Swimming Club. ...
  • Photograph: Royal Parks. ...
  • Photograph: Mike Redina.
Oct 13, 2022

What is the best way to celebrate Christmas? ›

  1. 01 of 09. Start a New Family Tradition. ...
  2. 02 of 09. Serve a Non-Traditional Dinner. ...
  3. 03 of 09. Wrap Gifts in Fabric. ...
  4. 04 of 09. Host a Virtual Gathering. ...
  5. 05 of 09. Decorate like Grandma. ...
  6. 06 of 09. Give Back. ...
  7. 07 of 09. Adopt New Ways to Celebrate Christmas. ...
  8. 08 of 09. Play a New Christmas Game.
Aug 22, 2022

What is the weather in London at Christmas? ›

As we near Christmas, daytime highs tend to be mostly 6-7 C (mid-40's F) and early morning lows around 3-4 C (upper 30's F). A few mornings will see temperatures dipping down to around -1 to -2 C (30 F). The coldest temperature recorded in London in December was -12 C (10 F).

Where is the best Christmas lights in London? ›

Regent Street Christmas Lights

Known as 'The Spirits of Christmas', the lights display (which covers Regent's Street and also St James) is the largest of its kind in the country. The 45 spirits flying over shoppers are covered in hundreds of thousands of LED lights.

What is open in London during Christmas? ›

Pubs and bars open in London on Christmas Day
  • The Flask, Hampstead.
  • The Founders Arms, Blackfriars.
  • Horniman at Hays, London Bridge.
  • The Narrowboat, Angel.
  • The Pilot, Greenwich.
  • The Ship, Wandsworth.
  • The Spread Eagle, Camden.
Dec 8, 2021

How do people dress in London in December? ›

Winter is cold. The key is to wear lots of layers (especially if you don't fancy bringing along a heavy winter coat), drink plenty of tea, and be prepared for the possibility of snow. When planning what to pack for London, choose tights, leggings, knee-high socks, and thermals like these for extra warmth.

What is the best time to go to London? ›

The best time to visit London is March through May when the temperatures are mild and the city's parks are green and blooming. However, late spring – along with summer – is also prime tourist season, and hotel and flight prices reflect the surge.

Does London have snow? ›

The city can sometimes experience extremes. Snowfall is an infrequent occurrence in winter, falling on an average of 16 days per year, though infrequently heavy. Thunderstorms are a similarly occurring feature, occurring on average up to 16 days per year.

How do people celebrate Christmas in the UK? ›

In the UK (or Great Britain), families often celebrate Christmas together, so they can watch each other open their presents! Most families have a Christmas Tree (or maybe even two!) in their house for Christmas. The decorating of the tree is usually a family occasion, with everyone helping.

What are Christmas traditions in England? ›

Brits typically tuck into roast turkey or a nut roast with vegetables, stuffing, and pigs in blankets, followed by a portion of Christmas pudding with custard. Families who enjoy a bit of flamboyance will douse the pudding with brandy then set it alight before serving.

What does England do for Christmas? ›

Families welcome the warmth and cheer of a Yule log blazing on the hearth. They decorate their homes with holly, ivy, and other evergreens and hang a mistletoe "kissing bough." Throughout the holidays, carolers go from house to house at twilight ringing handbells and singing Christmas songs.

What do English people do on Christmas? ›

Every Christmas, Brits love to watch pantomimes and meet their school friends down the pub. They eat Yorkshire puddings, mince pies, Christmas pudding, and Christmas cake.


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