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See the best of Christmas in London. Dazzling decorations, soulful musical events, world-class entertainment and neighbourhoods full of festive cheer. Here’s our guide to the best things to do in London for Christmas 2023.
LAST UPDATE: 17 Dec 2023
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Christmas in London is magical.
As the temperature drops, winter gloom is interrupted by the glow of lights over regal streets and iconic buildings.
Throughout the year, there’s a host of fantastic things to do in London. But over Christmas, London has an unrivaled energy.
Listen to the hum of carols on neighbourhood streets. Attend a Christmas concert in a grand hall. Stroll majestic plazas with magical lights. Sample seasonal fare at street food stalls and impromptu igloos.
Whether you’re looking for classical events, boozy pubs, cool markets, or a feel-good festive meal, Christmas in London has something for everyone.
1. THE LONDON CHRISTMAS LIGHTS
With historic architecture and iconic streets, London is the perfect canvas for festive lights. Seeing the city streets on show is one of the best ways to start your London Christmas.
Many of the high streets are decorated with elaborate, festive displays. Some feature a different Christmas-related theme each year. Others repeat familiar decorations.
Most are centrally located and easy to collect on foot. Some of our favourites are:
- New Bond Street – especially the Cartier store.
- Regent Street – 300,000 lights over London’s grandest address.
- Grosvenor Square – memorial featuring 20,000 illuminated white roses.
- Carnaby Street has a bold celebration with neon lights.
Read the full guide — More great displays can be found in our London Christmas Lights guide.
2. CAROLS AT THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL
Royal Albert Hall on the southern edges of Hyde Park is one of the most distinctive buildings in the UK.
Each year, they put on a programme of heart-warming live events, but our favourite is Carols at Royal Albert Hall. In spectacular surroundings, enjoy one of the most uplifting sing-along carols in the city.
Carols at the Royal Albert Hall run from Saturday 16 December to Sunday 24 December.
3. LA CLIQUE AT SPIEGELTENT IN LEICESTER SQUARE
La Clique is a spectacular night of unbelievable acts. It features mind-blowing circus skills, outstanding cabaret performances, and award-winning entertainment.
Expect to see comedy acts, scantily clad acrobatics, gymnastic ability, soulful singers, and plenty of joy.
La Clique is held in Spiegeltent, a large travelling entertainment tent, located in the Leicester Square Christmas Market.
Performances start on 8 November 2023 and run until 6 January 2024.
It’s not for the whole family, but it’s an uplifting Christmas event in its own special way. There’s a bar in the tent and admission is restricted to 16+.
4. THE LONDON CHRISTMAS MARKETS
It wouldn’t be a London Christmas without a visit to one of the city’s charming Christmas markets.
Christmas markets in the UK are traditionally about trinkets and souvenirs. But, you can also find quality gifts and artisanal crafts.
Here are some of the best markets in London over Christmas:
- Leicester Square Christmas Market – for a party atmosphere.
- Winter by the River – festivities in an iconic location.
- Spitalfields Christmas Market – vintage fashion and craft workshops.
- King’s Cross Christmas Market – handmade gifts and designer fashion.
Read the full guide – For more, read our complete guide to the London Christmas markets.
5. CAROLS BY CANDLELIGHT AT ST MARTIN-IN-THE-FIELDS
St Martin-in-the-Fields is a neoclassical church in Trafalgar Square.
It has featured in TV and film including Notting Hill, Doctor Who, and Sherlock thanks to its beautiful façade and central London location.
Attending a concert at St Martin-in-the-fields is one of the most uplifting Christmas events in the capital.
For 2023 they have Festive Family Carols and Gingerbread decorating workshops for the whole family. But the highlight is Carols by Candlelight, a moving experience in the beautiful church.
Tickets: St Martin-in-the-Fields.
6. CHRISTMAS AT KEW
Christmas at Kew is one of the highlights of a London Christmas.
The gardens are transformed into a winter trail that brings the spirit of the festive season to life. As you move through the gardens, an incredible sound and light show creates a rousing display.
Bop along to Christmas pop tunes. Admire whimsical arrangements of classics. Be delighted by this unique horticultural take on Christmas.
The highlight is the grand greenhouse illuminated in a high-tech sound and light spectacular.
The trail is 2.7 kilometres long with food trucks along the way plus boozy refreshments.
7. SHOP IN A GRAND DEPARTMENT STORE
While London is a shopping hub throughout the year, at Christmas the grand department stores pull out all the stops.
Snap up some wonderful Christmas spirit and possibly even a bargain.
Harrods has over 300 departments including rare items, luxury fashion, homewares, and technology. The food hall is the perfect place to pick up Christmas dinner goodies.
FORTNUM & MASON
Fortnum & Mason is a department store with old-world charm has been serving customers since 1707. The elegant retail space is stocked with luxury items. Their Christmas baskets are a sought-after gift.
One of the most exclusive department stores in London, Selfridges has a bright modern feel and high-end designer brands. After picking up some gifts, catch the latest release in their in-house cinema.
Housed in a mock Tudor building in the west end, Liberty is stocked with exclusive items and top-end homewares. Their Christmas shop on the 4th floor is packed with tasteful decorations.
8. EAT IN A FESTIVE RESTAURANT
A few London restaurants pull out all the stops when it comes to setting a festive mood. Here are a few great places to eat with Instagrammable Christmas decorations.
Mayfair 34 – 14,000 decorations help set the mood in this high-end eatery in Mayfair with a steak-heavy menu.
Balthazar – Classic French bistro dishes in a chic environment in Covent Garden with superb decorations.
Old Compton Brasserie – A charming and affordable restaurant in Soho with an excellent cocktail list and a lovely festive spirit.
The Little Scarlet Door – Trendy bar food in a beautifully decorated Soho townhouse from the people behind one of our favourite Notting Hill Brunch spots.
9. SOUTHBANK CENTRE WINTER FESTIVAL
Each Christmas, the Southbank Centre runs a Winter Festival. It includes Christmas shows, pop-up bars, art exhibitions, and free events.
Here of the highlights for 2023:
- A pop-up jazz club under the Royal Festival Hall will feature a reimaging of the Nutcracker.
- Koestler Arts is an exhibition by people in the criminal justice system, curated by poet Joelle Taylor. (free)
- Love Actually writer and director curates the festive variety show, Christmas Actually.
As part of the festival, the Southbank Christmas Market has pop-up bars, street food, and of course, plenty of mulled wine.
Book tickets and see what else is on at southbankcentre.co.uk.
10. COLUMBIA ROAD CHRISTMAS WEDNESDAYS
The Sunday flower market at Colombia Road is one of our favourite things to do in London.
Over the Christmas period, the traders remain open from 5 pm to 8 pm each Wednesday in December to fill the east London street with festive cheer.
Christmas Trees are on sale from the flower vendors and carol singing will happen between 7 pm and 8 pm. There’s plenty of mulled wine to relax the vocal cords and street food stalls to keep you satiated.
11. ICE SKATING AT SOMERSET HOUSE
Ice skating at Somerset House is a highlight of the London Christmas season.
The neoclassical courtyard is transformed into a winter wonderland with a 40-foot Christmas tree. There will be great food, chalet-inspired bars, and a vintage boutique.
The in-house skate school is great for beginners and there will be sessions with reduced capacity on weekday mornings.
Ringside DJ’s will provide tunes at Skate Lates with Rock Angel. The line-up includes celebrated DJ’s from around the world.
12. MATTHEW BOURNE BALLET AT SADLER’S WELLS
Matthew Bourne, an English choreographer, puts on a Christmas ballet with a modern twist every year at Sadler’s Wells Theatre.
For the 2023 season, Edward Scissorhands will return. The reimagining of the classic Tim Burton movie has enchanted audiences since it premiered in 2005.
It will be a visually arresting show with world-class dance and music, backed by the magic of film.
Performances run from 5 December 2023 through to 20 January 2024. Tickets can be purchased online via the Sadler’s Wells website.
After the ballet, walk down to the nearby Exmouth Market for a post-show dinner from one of the great restaurants lining the market street. We like the relaxed vibe and Spanish/Moorish bites at Morito.
13. ATTEND AN EVENT AT WESTMINSTER ABBEY
Westminster Abbey has been a place of history in the UK since the 1st century. Today, the mostly Gothic building is one of the most notable buildings in the world.
It’s the burial place of many British monarchs and since William the Conqueror, all English and British monarchs have been coronated here.
Listening to carols resonate around the exquisite building, is one of the best Christmas in London experiences.
There are several events at Westminster Abbey over Christmas. A performance of Handel’s Messiah will be on Tuesday 5 December 2023. The regular Christmas Concert will be on Wednesday 20 December 2023.
14. THE CHURCHILL ARMS
The Churchill Arms is a local pub in Kensington that does Christmas in an epic way. They add a whopping 22,000 lights to their already elaborate façade, turning the pub into a box of shining cheer.
Getting a shot of the magic from outside is a popular thing to do. Having a pint in the charming pub is a soul-reviving London Christmas activity.
Nods to Britishness and Winston Churchill are crammed under hanging pots and ceilings draped with greenery.
Local Tip // For 25 years, the Thai Kitchen at the Churchill Arms has been serving delicious authentic Thai food. Bookings are essential.
15. WINTER WONDERLAND
Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park is one of the best destinations over Christmas for family festive fun.
Skate on the UK’s largest ice rink. Visit the Ice Kingdom, an immersive sculpted ice experience. Test your nerves on one of the many adrenaline-inducing roller coasters. Feast on Bratwurst in the German village-inspired setting.
There are ice sculpting workshops, a high-energy circus, plenty of bars, Christmas markets, and a host of street food.
It’s a large-scale event and it can get busy, but earlier in the day the crowds are much smaller.
Entry is free during off-peak times, but online bookings are required for all entries.
16. CHRISTMAS AT BATTERSEA POWER STATION
Battersea Power Station transforms into a festive feast for the eyes with high-tech installations, stunning Christmas decorations, London’s only river-side ice skating, and plenty of great shopping.
Glide is open until 7 January 2024, when you can ice skate around a giant Christmas tree in front of the iconic backdrop of the power station.
Pick up a few Christmas gifts in the shopping centre or the Christmas Markets, (until 22 December 2023), or try your skills at a festive workshop.
The highlight is David Hockney’s “Bigger Christmas Trees) which illuminates the river-facing facade between 5 pm and 10:30 pm until 25 December 2023.
17. WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR
The Wildlife Photographer of the Year is an annual competition with a focus on wildlife preservation. The selected entries are exhibited in the Natural History Museum.
The exhibition features images from the natural world in beautiful and brutal imperfection.
It’s a wonderful thing to do when you’re looking for a change from the usual Christmas in London activities.
The exhibition runs from 13 October 2023 to 30 June 2024.
Tickets: nhm.ac.uk (entry to the museum is included)
Please note – The ice-skating rink at the Natural History Museum has been closed for several years. The gardens have been converted into a hub for urban wildlife.
18. COVENT GARDEN’S FESTIVE CHRISTMAS
Covent Garden is the epicentre of Christmas in London.
It’s home to a 60-foot Christmas Tree decorated with 30,000 lights. Surrounding it, various stalls sell crafts, jewellery, and souvenirs, in the iconic piazza.
Festivities kick off in November 2023 with the Winter Warmer Festival. Enjoy a mulled wine from several restaurants or grab one from the Christmas Cart while you shop.
Here are some great things to do in Covent Garden over Christmas 2023:
- Get a photo in front of the famous Covent Garden Sleigh.
- Admire the expertly decorated trees at Wonder Wood on James Street.
- Enjoy late-night shopping on Festive Thursdays with discounts and happy hours.
- Have a cocktail in the Miracle at Henrietta, a hidden bar among nostalgic decorations. (13 Nov 2023 to 23 Dec 2023)
For more information, read our guide to Christmas in Covent Garden.
19. WINTERLAND AT NEVERLAND, FULHAM
Winterland at Neverland in Fulham is a glamorous Christmas-themed, pop-up alpine paradise.
The whole venue is a great destination for festive fun. Enjoy a mulled wine by the fire pit, play arcade games, or hit the dance floor to their resident DJ.
You can purchase a general entry ticket or reserve one of the cool alpine spaces. Groups of 2 to 16 people can book a table or sofa in the Alpine Lodge. The private Winterland Igloos are great for 6-8 people. There are also Bar Cabins for 4, and Bavarian Tents for 10.
20. A LONDON PANTOMIME
For the benefit of international readers, Pantomine is a musical stage comedy based on a fairytale or nursery story. It features slapstick, a man in drag, audience participation, and mild innuendo to make the adults giggle.
It’s embedded in British culture and a great thing to do in London at Christmas.
The mega panto of the London circuit is at the Palladium and it’s bound to be a hit. The cast of Peter Pan includes Julian Clary dishing out the innuendo, Nigel Havers, and Jennifer Saunders.
Dates: 9 Dec 2023 – 14 Jan 2024 // Tickets: palladiumpantomime.com
Boss Lady Cinders is instantly smitten with Prince Henry at the Lyric Hammersmith. The ensemble cast includes Olivier-nominated Emmaual Akwafo as Lady Jelly Bottom.
Dates: 18 Nov 2023 – 6 Jan 2024 | Tickets: lyric.co.uk
Paul Merton stars as the damme Sarah the Cook in Dick Whittington at the Richmond Theatre. Expect a quirky retelling of the English folklore classic about the mayor of London who rose from poverty by selling his cat.
Dates: 9 Dec 2023 – 7 Jan 2024 | Tickets: atgtickets.com
JACK & THE BEANSTALK
Held at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, Jack and the Beanstalk by ‘Killing Eve’ writer Anna Jordan will feature original music. Something of a novelty for the panto circuit.
Dates: 18 Nov 2023 – 6 Jan 2024 | Tickets: stratfordeast.com
21. SEE A CHRISTMAS EVENT AT CADOGAN HALL
Cadogan Hall is a concert hall in Chelsea and the permanent home of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
Each year they put on a series of Christmas Events to elevate the festive experience in a classical way.
For 2023, Handel’s Messiah will be performed by the English Chamber Orchestra. The Royal Philharmonic will stage their Christmas Cracker concert filled with sing-along classics. The West End Does Christmas will feature the biggest stars of the West End and The Sixteen are back with their inspiring a cappella concert.
22. CATCH A FESTIVE FILM
Catching a nostalgic film in an atmospheric location packed with festive charm is one of the London Christmas highlights. There are several great ways you can watch your favorite Christmas Classic, rugged up under a winter skyline.
Watch your favourite holiday film in style at Luna Cinema. They have one location at Kensington Palace in the stunning Pavillion, and a second in the Victoria Town Hall in the Battersea Arts Centre. Seating options include sofas, beanbags and chairs.
The bar stocks Christmas-themed treats. Check the schedule at thelunacinema.com.
ST KATHARINE DOCKS FLOATING FILM FESTIVAL
For one week only, catch a classic Christmas film on a cosy sofa or deck chair, floating on a pontoon on the Thames. Blankets and heaters make this an all-weather event. The food from the Turkish restaurant Kilikayas Gastro Lounge is delicious.
The schedule runs from Monday 4 December to Sunday 10 December and will include Bridget Jones Diary, Miracle on 34th Street and other classics. Book at skdocks.co.uk.
PRINCE CHARLES CINEMA
Every year the. Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square puts on a Christmas schedule showing festive and not-so-festive classics. For 2023 you can see The Godfather, It’s a Wonderful Life, Eyes Wide Shut, Home Alone, and Love Actual, just to name a few.
Check the schedule at: princecharlescinema.com.
23. THE SELFRIDGES’ CHRISTMAS WINDOW DISPLAYS
The Selfridges windows have been a tradition of London Christmas since 1909.
Each year, a new and creative take on a Christmas theme is unveiled in the iconic London department store.
There are 15 windows in total and it’s one of the best free things to do in London at Christmas.
Start at Orchard Street end of the store on Oxford Street and make your way down to Duke Street. Don’t miss the windows around the corner on Duke Street as well.
The theme for 2023 is Showtime.
24. ENJOY A CHRISTMAS COCKTAIL
London always puts on a good cocktail. But at Christmas, pop-up bars, themed-up speakeasies and classic venues add extra warmth to your festive drink. Here are some places we recommend for your Christmas cocktails.
MIRACLE AT HENRIETTA
Hidden away on the mezzanine floor of the Henrietta Hotel, Miracle does a classic cocktail with a nostalgic twist. This year, enjoy retro decorations inspired by a 70’s home. It’s a great place to end up after exploring the Christmas activities in Covent Garden.
Miracle at Henrietta is open from 13 November 2023 to 23 December 2023. Bookings are essential.
DISCOUNT SUIT COMPANY
The Discount Suit Company does classic cocktails via traditional recipes. The neighbourhood bar with a clandestine speakeasy vibe, rocks to Northern Soul. It’s one of our favourite cocktail bars in London.
Located in a delightfully run-down building near Spitalfields, in a great place to end up after shopping at the Spitalfields Christmas market.
OPIUM COCKTAIL BAR
The 1920s-themed surrounds of the Optium Cocktail Bar are the perfect place for a special Christmas beverage. Over 3 seductive bars, enjoy an enterprising cocktail with an oriental twist. The dimmed, candle-lit ambience and expert creations make it a night to remember.
Located in Chinatown you could visit Opium at the end of our London Christmas lights walk.
25. DINE IN AN IGLOO
There’s no denying that the reduced daylight and cool temperatures amplify the Christmas vibe in London. One of the best ways to experience it all is to dine out in an igloo restaurant.
Enjoy fine food, and festive drinks while you dine in a pop-up snow globe.
- Wagtail London Winter Igloos offers a panoramic 360-degree view of the London Skyline.
- Coppa Club Igloos has some of the best views over the Thames and Tower Bridge with an extensive menu.
- Aviary delivers a snug space on their rooftop terrace complete with heaters and fairy lights.
- Fire and Fromage on the Southbank dishes up raclette and s’mores in a thoroughly festive atmosphere.
MAP | THINGS TO DO IN LONDON AT CHRISTMAS
Find a Christmas thing to do in London near you. All the events and attractions listed in this guide are on the below map.