London is a wonderful place to celebrate Christmas. There are lights, trees, food, drink, carols, and more that bring the City’s holiday spirit to its fullest strength. You’ve probably watched how London celebrates in films like Love Actually or Last Christmas, but there are plenty of things to experience beyond what’s been on your screens. If you find yourself in London around the holidays, we’ve identified five things you definitely need to see and do for yourself. If you think there’s something great that we left out, you can share that with us in the comments.
London’s streets go all out with the lights around the holiday season. From major high street commercial areas to major landmarks, you’ll find some of the best displays of anywhere in the world. Crystal Park Palace presents Lightopia, Oxford Street, Kenwood House, and more are just some of the festive light exhibits in London. To see the most, however, you can opt for buying a ticket to Christmas Lights London by Night bus tour, which takes you to Regent Street, Piccadilly Circus, the Marble Arch, Tower Bridge, and the Houses of Parliament to see them light up bright.
And speaking of lights, inevitably your guided or solo tours of the Christmas Lights will bring you to major shopping districts such as Oxford Street, Regent Street, or Carnaby Street. Big department stores like Harrod’s and Selfridge’s not only get in on the Christmas lights but also fantastic window displays. There’s nothing so festive as hitting the stores when they’re all decked out for the holidays and finding some great gifts to bring back to your family and friends. While you’re out and about, you can also find yourself some scrumptious Christmas treats or a holiday afternoon tea.
It may drain your bank account to do it, but Winter Wonderland is one of the most exciting events in London each year. Set up in Hyde Park, you can find over 100 rides, market stalls, cafes, restaurants, and shows to put you in the holiday mood. This year, Bar Ice is back and everything is made out of ice from the bar itself right down to the glasses for your cocktails. For those not quite ready to give up Halloween, there’s a Christmas-themed haunted house where you’ll meet the spirits of holiday ghost stories. The Bavarian Village also brings a bit of the German Christmas tradition to London. Ultimately, there’s no shortage of things to do at Winter Wonderland, and we can’t possibly list them all in this article.
One other thing to mention about Winter Wonderland is the chance to do some ice skating—though it’s not the only place in the City that offers it during the holidays. Two of London’s most gorgeous manor homes set up outdoor skating rinks that are open to the public. Somerset House features a rink in its courtyard that is decorated with a 40-foot Christmas tree and has plenty of mulled wine and other Christmas beverages to help you stay warm. Hampton Court Palace is another historic location that welcomes skaters every year and other places with their own rinks include Canary Wharf, Alexandra Palace, and the Natural History Museum.
Plays, Pantos, Films, and Concerts
London is a well-known theater and film town, so it should be no surprise that the City welcomes many arts performances around the holidays. The Royal Ballet will have its performance of The Nutcracker at the Royal Albert Hall, Alexandra Palace hosts a performance of A Christmas Carol starring Nicholas Farrell as Scrooge and Mark Gatiss as Jacob Marley, and these are just the tip of the iceberg. Pantos are a special kind of wacky theater tradition with dozens of fairytales and Christmas stories brought to life by any number of famous actors in hilarious ways. Additionally, Backyard Cinema, Secret Cinema, and other theaters offer unforgettable holiday screenings that you won’t want to miss.