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How To Celebrate Christmas and New Year’s Eve in London—For Every Type of Traveler

With its dazzling illuminations, festive traditions, and holiday markets, Christmas in London is nothing short of magical.
Hi, I'm Zoë!

Zoë Smith is a British travel writer, editor, and digital content creator who has lived, worked, and traveled over six continents, and is currently based near Nantes, France. She has written for Rough Guides, CNN, and Culture Trip, and is digital editor at FrenchEntrée.

From ice skating in Hyde Park to carol concerts in Trafalgar Square and admiring London’s Christmas lights, the British capital wastes no time getting into the festive spirit over the holidays. London is at its most enchanting during the Christmas season, and it’s the perfect time to dig out that festive sweater, cozy up with some mulled wine and mince pies, and enjoy some seasonal sightseeing. Here are some of the best things to do in London over Christmas and New Year’s.

1. For families: Have fun at the Winter Wonderland

Christmas lights and carnival rides illuminate Hyde Park in London.
Don't miss the twinkling Christmas lights and carnival rides in Hyde Park.Photo Credit: Moomusician / Shutterstock

Experience one of the most popular Christmas-themed attractions in London.

The annual Winter Wonderland in London’s Hyde Park has become one of the city’s largest and most beloved festive events, held each year from mid-November through early January.

Head down to the royal park with friends and family for a day of frosty fun, including roller coasters and rides, live music concerts and performances, a huge Christmas market, an ice bar and Bavarian beer hall, and London’s largest open-air ice rink. Don’t forget to book your tickets in advance, as popular dates, shows, and activities often sell out.

2. For illumination enthusiasts: Take a Christmas lights tour

christmas tree in trafalgar square, london, at night
Christmas lights are virtually everywhere in London, including Trafalgar Square.Photo Credit: Sven Hansche / Shutterstock

Admire London’s glittering holiday decorations.

The grand switch-on of London’s Christmas lights takes place at the start of November, and the city’s historic landmarks and legendary shopping streets sparkle with spectacular illuminations through early January.

Some of the best Christmas decorations include the huge tree in Trafalgar Square, the magnificent displays of Oxford Street, Regent Street, and Covent Garden, and the unique display along Carnaby Street. See the lights from a double-decker bus, by black cab, or on a family-friendly walking tour.

3. For foodies: Tuck into seasonal specialties

people shopping at borough market, london
Borough Market feels festive year-round, but especially at Christmas.Photo Credit: albertolpzphoto / Shutterstock

Add a festive twist to London’s most popular foodie experiences.

The sweet scent of mulled wine and roasted almonds is synonymous with a stroll around London’s atmospheric Christmas markets, and the city’s street food stalls, bakeries, and restaurants are brimming with seasonal treats over the holidays.

Join a festive food-tasting tour of Borough Market or enjoy a Christmas afternoon tea in London and taste British favorites like mince pies and Christmas pudding. Or, if you want to indulge in a traditional Christmas dinner, London’s pubs will be serving all the trimmings.

4. For movie fans: Act out iconic festive films

harry potter diagon alley set, warner bros studio tour, london
Film nerds won't want to miss the Warner Bros. Studio Tour, which puts on special Christmas events.Photo Credit: chrisdorney / Shutterstock

Movie magic meets winter wonderland.

Whether you’re a diehard Harry Potter fan, count Love Actually among your top Christmas films, or can’t get enough of A Christmas Carol, London provides plenty of ways to experience your favorite Yuletide movie moments.

Experience the seasonal extravaganza Hogwarts in the Snow at Harry Potter Warner Bros Studio, discover Charles Dickens’ London on a Christmas Carol–themed walking tour, and look out for movie theaters and pop-up cinemas screening Christmas classics throughout the holidays.

5. For couples: Cruise (or skate) past the Christmas decor

ice rink at somerset house, london
Hold hands as you ice skate at Somerset House.Photo Credit: Cedric Weber / Shutterstock

Every night is date night over the holidays.

London is the perfect destination for a romantic getaway, and date nights in the city feel even more magical over the Christmas period. Snuggle up with your loved one on an evening sightseeing cruise along the Thames River and admire the holiday illuminations from the water.

Couples can also get dressed up to take in one of London’s Christmas concerts or glide hand-in-hand around the famous Somerset House ice skating rink. You could even capture lasting memories of your trip with a Christmas Lights photoshoot.

6. For solo travelers: Join a Christmas tour

aerial view of canterbury cathedral, england
There are plenty of day trips from London, including to Canterbury Cathedral.Photo Credit: Alexey Fedorenko / Shutterstock

Share the holiday cheer with like-minded visitors.

If you’re wondering what to do in London on Christmas Day or Boxing Day (both of which are public holidays in the country), the best option is to join a tour. Check off two UNESCO sites, Stonehenge and Bath, with a combined day tour; visit Canterbury Cathedral and the White Cliffs of Dover; or take a Boxing Day tour to Oxford and Shakespeare’s home in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Explore the English countryside, enjoy a traditional Christmas lunch, and celebrate with other travelers who are spending the holidays away from home.

7. For market lovers: Browse London’s Christmas markets

covent garden market in london decorated for christmas
Covent Garden Market dresses up for the holidays.Photo Credit: Alena Veasey / Shutterstock

For Christmas shopping, London is the best.

From pop-up street food markets to Christmas craft fairs, there are at least a dozen Christmas Markets in London, providing lots of opportunities for Christmas shopping. Peek into the atmospheric chalets of Covent Garden Market on a walking tour, browse the Winter Market along the Southbank, or pick up fine handicrafts at Greenwich Christmas Market.

Foodies won’t want to miss the annual Taste of London fair, while the Hampton Court Palace Christmas Market has one of the most beautiful backdrops.

8. For first-time visitors: Visit London’s top attractions

christmas light tunnel at kew gardens, london
The Christmas lights at Kew Gardens are not to be missed.Photo Credit: Sarah Bray / Shutterstock

Seasonal sightseeing shows off London at its best.

If it’s your first time visiting London, you’ll want a balance of festive fun and city sightseeing. The good news is that many of the most popular Christmas events in London are held at the city’s top attractions. Ride the London Eye for an aerial view of the city’s Christmas lights, experience the Christmas at Kew illuminations at Kew Gardens, or explore the Christmas exhibition at the Tower of London. In the evening, snag tickets for a Christmas show in London’s West End Theater District.

9. For party people: Celebrate New Year’s Eve in London

london eye in red lights with trees covered in blue lights
Even the London Eye gets dolled up for the holidays.Photo Credit: Roberto Evangelisti / Shutterstock

Take your pick of New Year’s extravaganzas.

There are few more memorable ways to celebrate the final day of the year than by watching the New Year’s fireworks in London, set against a backdrop of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye.

Wrap up warm to watch from the official viewing areas, snag a table at a river-view restaurant, or count down to midnight at one of London’s many New Year’s Eve parties instead. Celebrations continue the following day, with more than 10,000 performers taking to the streets for the London New Year’s parade.

10. For the musically inclined: Attend a Christmas carol concert

candlelit concert in St Martin-in-the-Fields Church, london
Catch a candlelit concert at St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church.Photo Credit: William Barton / Shutterstock

Get in the Christmas mood with some festive tunes.

Whether you prefer traditional carols or classic pop hits, no Christmas tour is complete without a festive soundtrack. One of the most popular venues for Christmas carol performances in London is St Paul’s Cathedral, but you can also attend a candlelit concert at St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church in Trafalgar Square, watch a Christmas show at the Royal Albert Hall, or take part in a Christmas-themed silent disco as you explore the city.

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