No other city does Christmas quite like London. To be fair, I haven’t been to New York City for Christmas yet (and if you have, drop me a comment to let me know what it’s like). Still, London has definitely mastered the holiday look. You’ll find streets decked in lights, shop windows turned into festive scenes, ice rinks in front of grand buildings and Christmas markets popping up everywhere. There’s so much to see! Even if you are staying for only a short time or even a layover, here s a list of the best spots so you know where to get your gloves and childlike wonder on.
You can watch the Video or read about all my tips (some more than in the video) below. Either way, pin this post for next year.
I can’t believe how long it took me to actually visit Notting Hill. The film of the same name has been one of my favourites for forever but the wait was worth it. It’s just glorious. Especially during Christmas the quiet streets and pastel doors seem even prettier. Imagine white classy houses with black iron fences dotted by tasteful Christmas wreaths and blinking lights in the dark.
London Christmas Markets
I am a sucker for Christmas Markets, be it in Germany or Austria. To my surprise I found just as great Christmas markets over in London and they are everywhere! Unlike with German or Austrian Christmas markets London has many different ones all over the city and they match each district’s tastes. You’ll find hand carved items, decorations and lots of artsy stuff in front of the Tate Modern (until 31 December). At Southbank – my personal favourite – you can eat global cuisine to your heart’s delight (until 23 December).
London Christmas Lights
Imagine a carpet of light softly floating above the busiest London streets. The iconic red buses are whizzing by and you catch the reflection of the white and blue bulbs. Most popular of all is Oxford Street, not only because of its shop window displays but also because of the 1778 snowball-like decorations with their 750,000 LED lightbulbs. A little further, you can catch different but just as unique light installations on The Strand, Carnaby, Regent and Bond Street.
While you’re on Oxford Street, don’t be afraid of entering even the fanciest looking shops. Harrods is trimmed with a big red ribbon outside and within, it looks just as lovely. This year, Selfridges has hilarious window displays with Santa in a hot tub or heading out for a ski session. One mall you should not overlook is John Lewis with its shimmering decoration in every room and a magical rooftop.
Harry Potter Museum
You could basically spend a full day here but if you’re pressed for time, schedule in about four hours. There is a special bus to take you to the Warner Bros-Studio Tour. Throughout the year, there are different events going on there and for Christmas, I think it’s particularly lovely. Snow will be blown over Privet Drive, Harry’s parents’ home and the Old Hogwarts Bridge. Even the miniature Hogwarts castle is covered in white. The Great hall and dorms are festively decorated.
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
Hyde Park is a must for every London visit as it is the green lung of the city and perfect for a refresher after walking all day. For a very special Christmas market and fair, enter the Winter Wonderland near Speaker’s Corner and Marble Arch. Entrance is free but for the plenty of events you’ll need a ticket. For instance, you can skate on the UK’s largest open-air ice rink, attend a Christmas circus shows or dance performance. Plus, there are more than 100 spectacular rides and attractions.
I haven’t skated on ice for way too long and next time I’m in London in December, I will rectify that. The one place that is highest on my list is the rink at Somerset House. Icy blue lights on a white ice surface in front of a grand house by the Thames? Count me in! Of course, there are plenty more places to dust off your skating skills.
Plays and Shows
Christmas in England entails a pantomime. Though that’s more aimed at kids, you can take the idea and head over to a musical or theatre performance. There’s always something going on and during weekdays, you can get tickets at about half price. The Globe is closed for performances in the winter, but you can see an indoor performance at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.
Should you visit London during Christmas?
London is always a great idea for a visit but during Christmas it’s the absolute best! If you fear that it will be very cold, that will most likely not be true. It will be chilly and probably slightly windy, but British winters are never super frosty and in London, there are so many stores and coffee shops around, you can always warm up. But why would you want to do that when there are millions of lights twinkling above you and happy smiles out on the streets?