With temperatures dropping and days getting shorter, you may be longing for spring and summer to roll around again. But while the weather may not be so appealing right now, there’s still plenty to do in London in the winter.
Indeed, as Christmas approaches, the city transforms into something quite magical with twinkling fairy lights, festive decorations, Carollers on the streets, European-style markets, and lots of fun seasonal events.
Whether you’re visiting for the weekend, or you live in London and you’re looking for some ideas to tempt you out of hibernation and get out and about this winter, there are countless attractions and activities to suit everyone.
1. Visit London’s Winter Markets
London is well known for its markets, and even more of them start popping up as we get closer to Christmas. London’s Christmas markets are a great place to pick up gifts, enjoy some seasonal food and drink, or just wander around and enjoy the festive atmosphere.
There are dozens of markets to explore all over the city. Make sure to check out Borough Market for yummy treats like mulled wine and turkey and cranberry rolls, and the mega Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park.
2. Take a Stroll Around London’s Parks
You may think that summer is a better time to enjoy London’s Parks, but a crisp winter walk when you’re wrapped up warm can be a great way to blow the cobwebs away.
Hampstead Heath is popular for walking at any time of the year, and you can get a great view of the cityscape from the top of Parliament hill, which looks particularly enchanting in the snow. For something a little more wild, explore Richmond Park with its population of red deer.
It’s not technically a park, but Kew Gardens puts on an impressive show in December, with a mile-long trail around the gardens lit up with millions of fairy lights. There are also laser light shows, interactive art exhibits, a fire garden, and vintage fairground rides.
3. Go Ice Skating
In November, dozens of outdoor ice rinks start to pop up all over the city. Ice skating is a must-do activity in London in the winter. As well as having some fun and exercising with your friends and family, you can enjoy festive tunes and lights, and warm up with a hot chocolate or mulled wine.
The annual ice rink at Somerset House is always a popular choice, and it plays host to well-known DJs for a night out with a difference. The Natural History Museum also has a family-friendly ice rink, which looks particularly beautiful with its Christmas tree and lights. There are also ice rinks at the Tower of London, Hampton Court, Camden Market, and the Queen’s House at Greenwich.
4. See the City from a Rooftop Bar
Think rooftop bars are just for summer? Think again! When temperatures start dropping, London’s rooftop bars pull out the patio heaters and blankets, decorate with fairy lights, and add mulled wine to the menu.
Aviary in Shoreditch is always a great spot for after-work drinks, but it’s even more appealing now they’ve added cosy igloos to their rooftop. Also in Shoreditch, Queen of Hoxton is promising raclette, fire pits, and an absinthe bar. Bar Elba in Waterloo will be going one step further this year by adding an artificial ice rink to its rooftop bar, and Skylight returns with Europe’s only real rooftop ice rink.
5. Tour London’s Christmas Window Displays
London’s department stores really pull out all the stops when it comes to creating a festive window display, and they’re well worth a visit even if you’re not planning on shopping.
Harrods, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, Fortnum & Mason, Liberty, and Harrods all go to great efforts with their Christmas window displays. If you happen to be in the Belgravia area, it’s also worth checking out Peggy Porschen Cakes, who always decorate the outside of their café beautifully to match the season.
6. Enjoy a Drink in a Cosy Pub
London’s pubs are world famous, and there’s no better place to be on a dreary winter evening than in a cosy pub with your best friends, enjoying a pint or a glass of wine.
There are literally thousands of pubs in London, so wherever you are, there’s sure to be one close by. If you’re looking for a traditional pub with an open fire, try one of the oldest pubs in London – Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese on Fleet Street.
7. See a Festive Theatre Performance
Seeing a West End theatre performance is a special treat at any time of the year, but it can be particularly magical at Christmas. There are also plenty of pantomimes to choose from in various venues, and traditional ballet, like The Nutcracker at the London Coliseum and Royal Albert Hall. There are also carol performances, winter-themed modern dance performances, and circus shows scheduled throughout the winter season.
8. Check out London’s Winter Festivals
Thought festival season was over? While you may want to make your festival outfit more weather appropriate, there are still plenty of festivals to look forward to during the winter in London.
Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland Festival is probably one of the biggest and most well known. It’s free to enter, but there’s plenty to spend your money on once you’re inside.
The Southbank Centre Winter Festival runs each year on the riverside and offers not only Christmas markets, but also a programme of festive music and family fun.
9. Get Your Christmas Shopping Done
London is of course one of the best shopping destinations in the world, and there’s nothing better to get you in the festive mood than buying presents under the Christmas lights of Oxford Street, Regent Street, Bond Street, Covent Garden, and Carnaby Street.
10. Get Christmas Party Ready at one of London’s Spas
Exhausted after all that shopping? Stressed out with the business of the season? Head to one of London’s world-class spas to relax, unwind, and escape the chill outside.
Cowshed is offering a number of festive spa treatments at its London spas, including a two-hour back massage, mani-pedi, and facial, with a glass of fizz. If your winter skin is in need of some TLC, try the Be Nurtured facial at ESPA life spa at Corinthia. Or if you want to warm up your whole body, have a “Hot Pinda Paradiser” massage at The Landmark London hotel spa. Warm oils and spices such as cardamom and cinnamon will be massaged all over your body for an invigorating and rejuvenating experience.