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A Christmas in London Bucket List

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.

As with most of my posts, some links may be affiliate links. This means at no additional cost to you, I may make a small commission on anything you buy through the links.

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Literary Connections

Charles Dickens, who lived in London, wrote A Christmas Carol so this is a fitting book to read during the holidays.

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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.

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Christmas in London: My Five Favorites

It’s no secret that my favorite time of year is November and December. Because I love Christmas! There is just something so magical about this time of year that puts a perpetual smile on my face. So when a $400 flight deal popped up from LA to Heathrow, I couldn’t pass up the deal. Because in the words of Jenny Colgan in Christmas at the Cupcake Cafe, “Christmas in London. Best in the world.” Here are is a look at my favorite things to do for Christmas in London.

As with most of my posts, some links may be affiliate links. This means at no additional cost to you, I may make a small commission on anything you buy through the links.

Christmas at Kew Gardens

As London is so far north, it is dark by 4:30p during December. This means there are quite a few hours for viewing Christmas lights. And Christmas at Kew is simply magical as the after dark trail lights up Kew Gardens. With Christmas music playing and mulled wine stops along the path, this is a must-visit during the holidays. There a variety of different light displays, food options (you can even toast marshmallows) and photo opportunities.

Know Before You Go: Tickets need to be purchased online ahead of time and sell out, so book your tickets early. I would recommend booking early in the evening if possible. I went at 5p, when the Gardens open, and when I left two hours later, the crowds were significantly larger. The Victoria Gate is easily reached via the District Line from the Kew Gardens station. As you’ll be strolling through the Botanical Gardens in the evening I’d also recommend throwing a set of these hand warmers in your pockets.

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A Christmas Carol at the Old Vic

A Christmas Carol was written by Charles Dickens in London in 1843, so it only seems fitting to see A Christmas Carol while in London. And this production did not disappoint. The music was incredible, including a beautiful rendition of See Amid the Winter Snow. There was just the right touch of interaction with the audience and Christmas magic. If I lived in London, this would be an annual tradition!

Know Before You Go: The seating was not in a traditional arrangement due to the layout of the stage so just be aware when purchasing tickets. Before the show you can get a free mince pie from the production, which was quite tasty! If you have time earlier in the day, I’d recommend a visit to the Charles Dickens Museum to help set the stage for A Christmas Carol.

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Advent Liturgy at Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey, as it exists today, was built in the 13th century and is a World Heritage Site. So while any trip to London should include a stop at Westminster Abbey, I believe your visit is made even better by attending a service. The candlelight Advent Liturgy was one of the most peaceful moments of my trip and during the hustle and bustle of the holidays I recommend taking a minute to stop and slow down.

Know Before You Go: You can begin queuing up around 2p and I do recommend arriving early in order to get a good seat. They opened the doors and began seating people at least a full hour before the service began so you won’t be waiting outside too long.

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Covent Garden

This is one of my favorite areas of London and Christmas takes it to a whole other level. It truly feels magical to wander around Covent Garden while it’s decorated for the holidays. Multiple Christmas trees, street performers, the London Transport Museum (one of my fave underrated London museums), and loads of yummy treats. Be ready for a number of photo spots and soak in all of the Christmas magic.

Know Before You Go: There’s no way to eat all the different treats you’ll encounter in Covent Garden, so just choose one or two! And if you arrive at Covent Garden via tube, before you opt to take the stairs out of the station, know that there are 193.

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Holiday Doors of London

London residents and store owners alike know how to dress a door for Christmas! The displays are visually stunning and I imagine if you came back year after year, they would only get better. I saw so much fresh greenery and fun twists on the traditional reds and greens of Christmas decor. Truly, you could spend hours strolling through the streets of London (I average 10 miles a day) admiring the decor.

Know Before You Go: If you take a picture of every beautifully decorated door and window display in London you’ll be stopping for every other door. So if you want pictures of all the doors just know you’ll be stopping quite frequently. Otherwise just snap photos of the really outstanding doors.

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Literary Connections

As Jenny Colgan says in Christmas at the Cupcake Cafe, “London is not the place to be if you want to escape Christmas. It does the most wonderful Christmas in the world, and I want to be a part of it.”

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