If you’ve yet to experience London at Christmas, let 2022 be the year to make it happen. London’s best known streets, stores, museums, theatres, venues, gardens and buildings all get into the Christmas spirit, creating experiences that just don’t exist any other time of year. Here are 17 things to do in London at Christmas.
Is it really Christmas in London without a visit to the Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square? The 25 metre high tree is a gift from Norway to London each year, and the lighting of the tree each December is one of the key Christmas events in London. Adorned with Norwegian style Christmas decorations by way of vertical strings of lights, the tree is also the location for carol concerts through the festive season.
Baskets of chestnuts and hung up mistletoe. Chimneys blazing and snowballs thrown with glee. Atmospheric and evocative, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is surely all that we love about Christmas. So, what could be better on Christmas Day than a walk dedicated to the man himself? The Charles Dickens London Walks meets at 2pm by the big Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square. You’ll be transported to Dickensian London, deep into the Victorian underworld, with a glimpse of the London that inspired many of Dickens’ great works.
The glorious environs of Somerset House are given a festive makeover at Christmas, with the arrival of one of the best ice skating rinks in London. In the Skate Lates UNIQLO sessions live music comes courtesy of rink-side deck takeovers from leading contemporary DJs.
Many of London’s hotels and cafés put on sumptuous afternoon teas at Christmas time. From the upmarket offerings from the likes of The Ritz, Claridge’s and The Connaught to the quirky, with Brigit’s Afternoon Tea Bus Tour from B-Bakery (14 November 2022 onwards); this is certainly one of the tastiest things to do in London at Christmas!
London is transformed into a winter wonderland each Christmas courtesy of its spectacular and Christmas lights. Oxford Street is always festooned with lights, as is Carnaby Street, Kew Gardens, Bond Street, Leicester Square and Regent Street. Look out for special opening weekend events where DJs and customised gifts will often be part of the experience. You could take a wander around some of London’s more upmarket neighbourhoods, like Hampstead, Chelsea and Mayfair, there are usually good decorations on lots of the houses. And, keep an eye out for the special London Walks Christmas Eve Christmas lights walk too. It’s magical.
You can never have enough Dickens and at Christmas time, that is doubly true! The London of Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol & Seasonal Traditions steps into the heart of the famous festive novella, to the old Victorian City of London. But that’s not all. There will be tales of the origins of the seasonal traditions that we keep alive to this day, from pantomimes to Christmas puddings, cards to crackers. Departing from the Tower Hill tube, from late November onwards on Saturday or Sunday (and both as we get closer to Christmas!).
Indulge in some Christmas shopping whilst you take in the Christmas window displays. From Selfridges on Oxford Street to Harrods on Brompton Road, the window displays in London at Christmastime are a joy to behold. In 2021, the Fortnum & Mason Dream Worlds Christmas window was a bounty of candy canes, slumbering animals and gilded trees. The 2022 Christmas windows are sure to be equally delightful.
One of London’s most famous landmarks, St Paul’s is a delight at any time of year. But at Christmas, it becomes even more atmospheric. St Paul’s Cathedral hosts Christmas carol services, readings and concerts right through the festive season, including the traditional lighting of the Christmas trees and blessing of the crib. The Abbey Choir also performs Christmas concerts at Westminster Abbey, alongside its Advent and Christmas services.
‘The King’s birth-day. To White Hall, where all very gay; and particularly the Prince of Tuscany very fine, and is the first day of his appearing out of mourning. I heard the Bishop of Peterborough preach but dully.’ Delightfully indiscreet, Samuel Pepys’ diaries present a fascinating glimpse into 17th century life. Royal Navy administrator, MP and Chief Secretary to the Admiralty, Pepys’ diaries mention Royal palaces, kings and queens as easily as drinking houses, cousins and friends. Celebrate the festive season with a unique Christmas Day Samuel Pepys Walk, stepping back to the Westminster immortalised in Pepys’ diaries. The meeting place is, aptly, the Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square – at 11am.
One of the best things to do in London at Christmas is surely a pantomime. A traditional British festive activity, a ‘panto’ as it is affectionately known is a fun, family trip to the theatre. For 2022, there’s Jack and the Beanstalk at the London Palladium and Robin Hood at the Greenwich Theatre. For shows, how about Tchaikovsky’s classic The Nutcracker, performed at the Royal Albert Hall by the Birmingham Royal Ballet 28-31 December. Or even the Christmas Carol Singalong at the Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre on the 10 December.
The most wonderful time of the year doesn’t have to end on Boxing Day as you also have New Year to look forward to! The London Walks New Year’s Eve Pub Walk breaks out from the mayhem and madness of London’s West End. Instead, you’ll see in the New Year on the summit of Parliament Hill Fields, far from the madding crowds. The London Walks crew know just the spot for the best view of the main event fireworks, and all the side dishes from private displays across the city. There may be some rather lovely (and not too busy) Hampstead pubs involved in this walk too!
Mulled wine sipped from gloved hands, Christmas wreaths and twinkling lights high above, the London Christmas markets are a must in the festive season. One of the best Christmas markets is at the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, complete with outdoor ice rink for ice skating followed by a warming hot chocolate. Then there’s the Southbank Centre Winter Market. The Hampton Court Palace Festive Fayre takes place 2 – 4 December 2022. Or how about Christmas By The River (Thames) at London Bridge City, complete with street food from pop up stalls and chalet vendors, plus mesmerising views of the Tower of London.
From Harry and Ron’s first Christmas at Hogwarts in The Philosopher’s Stone to the long tables of the Great Hall groaning under the weight of a festive feast, Harry Potter is synonymous with Christmas. So, what better way to mark the occasion than with a visit to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London? For Christmas, their special Hogwarts in the Snow event sprinkles the famous movie sets with even more magic (and plenty of snow!). Runs from the 12 November 2022 – 15 January 2023.
Father Christmas is set to make an appearance at Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland in 2022, which tends to open between November and January. Santa’s grotto is located in Santa Land, a dreamland for the little ones. Hamleys in Regent Street often has a Santa’s grotto. Or how about the enchanting Christmas at Kew event, an after dark trail through the famous botanic gardens illuminated with festive installations. You may even spot the big man himself!
Many of London’s museums get into the spirit of the season with special events and trails for the family. Look out for events at the Natural History Museum, the London Transport Museum and the Charles Dickens Museum.
This one isn’t in London but it is Christmas through and through. The Dickens Christmas Festival takes place in Dickens’ hometown of Rochester, Kent, usually on the first weekend in December. It is full of familiar costumed characters, music, parades, food and a funfair. Look out for a London Walks day trip, hosted by our guide Simon.
Rivalling the tree at Trafalgar Square, the Covent Garden Christmas tree is bedecked with over 30,000 lights. But it’s not only the tree that will capture your attention at Covent Garden this Christmas. There’s the Christmas sandwich festival. The immersive Lego installation. 25 flavours of mulled wine. And there’s the Frozen Forest, dedicated to the Disney favourite. Head there early and shop in the many boutiques and stores of this popular shopping district.
Keep an eye out on the daily London Walks podcast for even more Christmas ideas and specials in the run up to the big day!