The holiday season in London is quite magical! The decor starts to go up in early-mid November and by the mid-end of November, Christmas is in full swing. As you’re planning your itinerary, here are my suggestions for your Christmas in London Bucket List. I’m not sure it’s possible to do all of this in one trip, unless you’re going for the whole Christmas season! So if you’re short on time, here are my top five things to do in London for Christmas.
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Christmas in London Bucket List: Christmas Markets
Southbank Centre Winter Market – Stroll along the Thames and enjoy this festive Winter Market. You can book dinner in an igloo, buy holiday gifts, and enjoy warm drinks. Be aware, that this does get rather crowded in the evenings.
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland – Winter Wonderland takes over Hyde Park and it has it all…beer garden, food stalls, mulled wines, rides, music and more. Be aware, that this does get rather crowded in the evenings.
Borough Market – One of my favorite markets in London. And then they add a Christmas tree, so I’m all in! In all seriousness while this isn’t a traditional market with all the stalls brought in, it’s fun to visit an already great market decked out for the holidays.
Leicester Square – See a show (there are so many options) and then grab a mulled wine and stroll through the Christmas market.
Greenwich Christmas Market – Not a typical Christmas market in that this market is there year round, but they add lights and it’s more festive than the other eleven months of the year. And if you’re going to go ice skating at Queen Anne’s House (see below) this is a great stop for your day.
Winterville Clapham Common – This market didn’t take place in 2019, but be on the lookout to see if returns in 2020.
Christmas in London Bucket List: Ice Skating
Natural History Museum – This might be the most popular London at Christmas photo! I will add though, that for as popular as this photo is, the rink is not too crowded. And after you skate you can pop into the Museum to warm up!
Somerset House – Enjoy the ice rink at Somerset House where you’ll also find a mini ice rink for the littlest skaters.
Queen House Ice Rink – Head south of the river for a skate at Queen’s House Ice Rink. Round out the day with a stop at the Prime Meridian and a stroll through Greenwich Market.
More Christmas Spirit
Kensington Palace – A gorgeous Christmas tree, a decorate palace, afternoon tea, it’s royal Christmas perfection. If you’re looking for more than the obligatory picture of the tree, capture this angle.
Department Stores – Head to Harrod’s, Fortnum & Mason and Selfridges for all the holiday decor. The displays will wow you and leave you ready to upgrade your decorations at home.
Covent Garden – You can’t help getting into the Christmas spirit with a stroll through Covent Garden. Enjoy a cookie from Ben’s, take a picture with one of the Christmas trees or pop in and visit the London Transport Museum.
Christmas at Kew Gardens – Book your tickets early for this holiday spectacular, one of my holiday favorites in London.
Advent Services at Westminster Abbey – There is something so special about attending an Advent service where they’ve been holding services for centuries. Be sure to look up their schedule online and get their early enough to get a good seat.
Backyard Cinema– A delightful immersive cinema experience. While this is something you can do all year-round in London there is something quite special about the winter themes. You’re able to choose from a variety of holiday movies shown in either the Winter Night Garden or Christmas at Snow Kingdom.
Know Before You Go: A premium ticket doesn’t cost much more than a regular ticket, so it’s worth it.
Charles Dickens Museum – The Museum is fully decorated for a Victorian Christmas so it is a must-visit at Christmas time.
Know Before You Go: It’s especially fun to visit the Charles Dickens Museum and then go see A Christmas Carol. I’d highly recommend seeing the Old Vic production of the show. However, you can also cozy up at home and watch the movie. I’d also recommend visiting the museum earlier in the day for smaller crowds.
Churchill Arms – Officially the UK’s most festive pub, the outside is decorated with 75 Christmas trees and over 17,500 Christmas lights! This is the perfect stop after visiting Kensington Palace as it’s just a couple of streets over. I think it’s worth a walk down Kensington Palace Gardens to admire all of the Embassies decorated for Christmas.
Christmas Lights – There are so many delightful light displays to see in London during the holidays. The ones that are most notable are Carnaby Street, Regent Street, and Oxford Street. There are some great open top bus tours to see the lights.
Charles Dickens, who lived in London, wrote A Christmas Carol so this is a fitting book to read during the holidays.
Interested in visiting other European destinations? Here’s a look at my recommendations of what to do, see, eat, and read on your next European adventure.