Things to Do for a Spectacular Christmas in London
If you’re planning a getaway this festive period, how about a Christmas in London? With the current cost of living crisis making everyone tighten their belts a little, what better way to beat the winter blues than a staycation this December! Save a few pennies on heating and swap your radiator for the twinkling Christmas lights of the Big Smoke this winter. There are plenty of things to do in London at Christmas. From magical musicals to captivating light displays, there’s something for solo travellers, couples’ breaks, group getaways and family fun.
How to Get There
Everyone knows fuel prices have been through the roof this year. Do your bit for your wallet by taking public transport to London. No matter where you are in the UK, journeys to the capital are pretty simple. The LNER service that runs from Scotland is perfect for northern dwellers. Remember to book in advance – look after those pennies and the pounds will look after themselves. Plus, did you know a 16-25 Railcard only costs £30? This deal often pays for itself in just one round trip, plus you have the 33% discount for a whole year afterwards.
For the super-frugal among us (penniless students – we’re looking at you!), the Megabus is our trusty travel companion. A trip from Manchester to London, for example, will set you back around £10. The sooner you book, the less you pay!
Once you’re in the capital, transport is super simple. No Oyster card needed – just tap your contactless card on the ticket gates. If you do have an Oyster card, we recommend linking your railcard to it so you can enjoy more discounts on TfL services too.
But let’s take a look at the things to do in London at Christmas.
Top 6 things to do in London at Christmas
Harry Potter Studios London Christmas special
Step into Christmas in London at the world-famous Harry Potter Studios. The magical world of witches and wizards is transformed into a wintry paradise between November 12th and January 15th for Hogwarts in the Snow. Reflecting the blustery conditions outside, the beloved sets are blanketed in snow. You can visit your favourite wizarding winter destinations including Diagon Alley and the Forbidden Forest and you don’t even need to bring your coat. The absolute highlight of this festive trip is the decadent Yule Ball hosted in the Great Hall itself, complete with an orchestra arrangement to help you live your Hogwarts fantasy. You’ll also discover how filmmakers incorporate fire, ice and snow into their cinematic masterpieces – just like magic!
West End Christmas Magic in London
On a cold Christmas Eve, the West End is waiting for you… London’s West End has a whole host of Christmas-themed plays, musicals, ballets and, of course, classic Christmas pantos. Music fans will holler for “Dolly Parton’s Smoky Mountain Christmas Carol” at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, while fun-lovers will enjoy Elf the Musical at the Dominion Theatre. Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol” is showing throughout the festive period at both The Old Vic and the Rose Theatre Kingston. Don’t be a scrooge and miss this chance of festive cheer. For a clever spin on this British classic, head over to Marylebone Theatre to solve mysteries in “A Sherlock Carol” – elementary, my dear Watson!
Few spectacles are as spellbinding as the elegance and sublime beauty of ballet. Tchaikovsky’s legendary winter ballet “The Nutcracker” is playing at the London Coliseum and the Royal Albert Hall this season. For a Gothic take on a classic production, snap up your tickets for Matthew Bourne’s “Sleeping Beauty” at Sadler Well’s Theatre.
Plenty of pantos are also gracing London stages this year. These include “Jack and the Beanstalk” showing at the London Palladium and Lyric Hammersmith and “Mother Goose” at the Hackney Empire.
Christmas at Kew
From mid-November to the start of January, the Royal Botanic Garden at Kew is hosting an enchanting lights show special. As the last of the dusk light fades, the gates to this fairytale spectacle open. Twinkling lanterns and magical displays guarantee an extraordinary experience. You can book tickets online. When booking, simply select a timeslot for entry which suits you best between 4:20 pm and 8:20 pm. The event also features street food vendors with mouthwatering sweet and savoury offerings, plus delicious drinks to warm you up. It is definitely one of the best things to do in London at Christmas!
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
Any Christmas break in London would be incomplete without a trip to Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland. Now on its 15th edition, this action-packed spectacle in one of the capital’s eight royal parks has something for every mood.
If you’re after adventure, the amusement park rides in Santaland are guaranteed to take your breath away. The selection includes German-inspired coasters like the Munich Looping and the thrilling Wilde Maus, as well as nostalgic fun-fair classics such as dizzying helter skelters, awesome funhouses and soaring chairoplanes. For a more relaxed ride, take in the sights of the glittering city skyline on the big wheel.
Next, get your skates on! Hyde Park hosts the UK’s largest open-air ice rink that professionals and Bambis on ice alike will love. Other frozen attractions include dazzling ice models as well as sculpting workshops, an ice bar, and a cool ice slide.
You can also book to watch epic shows such as the jaw-dropping daytime Christmas Circus or Cirque Beserk in the evenings. Adept aerialists will leave you in awe at their impressive acrobatic feats. Of course, you can check some items off your Christmas shopping list here at the German-inspired wooden chalet stalls showcasing gifts, decorations, and snacks.
To secure a spot, you need to prebook your tickets online. During the booking process, you can add shows and rides to the ticket to plan your visit. Spending £25 on pre-booking attractions online will even secure your entry ticket for free! Otherwise, entry is £5 or £7.50.
The Wonderland runs from November 18th to January 2nd – and weekends do sell out quickly so it’s best to book with plenty of time in advance. We recommend making a full day of it and exploring the beautiful Hyde Park before heading over to the Winter Wonderland.
Winter Lights at Southbank Centre
You think we are running out of things to do in London at Christmas? Well, you are wrong! An absolute Christmas must in London is the Winter Light event at the legendary Southbank cultural centre. A feast for the eyes and
the mouth, light sculptures and art exhibitions are fascinating. Alongside this, pop-up bars and markets are cooking up an array of mouth-watering festive dishes – think lobster rolls, toasted marshmallows and fondue. Yum! Open from 11am everyday in November and advent, the Southbank Centre is sure to be a highlight of your London trip this Christmas.
Christmas Shopping in London
Every year, it’s the same story: you promise yourself you will be extra prepared and start Christmas shopping as soon as you pack your Halloween pumpkin away. Fast forward to December 23rd, and it’s a mad scramble around the local high street for scented candles and socks to give to your nearest and dearest. Don’t leave it until the last minute this year; add a weekend city break to your wish list and pop down to London to nab the perfect pressies. Legendary shopping areas like Oxford Street, Harrods, and Carnaby Street guarantee great gifts. Just imagine the smile on your family’s faces on the 25th! Christmas isn’t all about giving and receiving though – it’s also about feeling that festive cheer in the air. Regent Street dazzles with its iconic angel lights display and Covent Garden boasts 115,000 lights to keep your spirits high while you shop.
There is no shortage of fantastic things to do in London at Christmas. Save some pennies on your staycation break by booking tickets to the capital in advance. Once you’re there, you can indulge in an epic variety of shopping opportunities, light displays, West End shows, and whatever else takes your fancy. Christmas in London proves why this really is the season to be jolly!