London in winter is magical especially during Christmas time. I’ve been to the city three times already earlier this year but my fourth which was for three weeks from end-November to mid-December was no doubt the best of the lot. Christmas lights and decorations are up everywhere, people are in a happy and festive mood and there is so much to see and do. In this post, I will list five of my favourite things to do in London during winter. Most of these attractions are available till the first week of January every year so if you are already in London or planning for a trip in future, remember to tick all these off from your things to do list.
Things to do in London in Winter
Go on rides at Winter Wonderland and Winterville
Winter Wonderland is absolutely amazing! I went there a day after it opened for this year and the atmosphere was fabulous. On weekends it can get really busy with long queues to get in (entry is free) but it is an experience not to be missed.
Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park is London’s biggest Christmas event featuring Christmas markets, an ice skating rink, carnival rides and games, circus shows, an ice sculpture kingdom, live music and entertainment, cinema and of course, my favourite, the food and drink stalls. Even if you are not doing anything else there, you must visit to at least have the bratwurst, grilled salmon, mulled wine, fudge, hot cider and hot chocolate.
Another very good option if you find Winter Wonderland too crowded is Winterville at Clapham Common. Smaller in size to its Hyde Park variant, the attractions are pretty much the same. Lots of food, backyard cinema, theatre shows, circus, puppet shows, rides, craft fair and activities for children. Winterville starts from mid-November and ends just before Christmas.
See the Christmas Lights
Switching on the Christmas lights at major London streets is a big event. They usually turn them on early November and that pretty much informally starts off the holiday season. I thoroughly recommend going to Oxford Street, Regent Street, Carnaby Street, Bond Street, Seven Dials and Covent Garden (they set up one of the largest Christmas trees in the city). Mind you these areas get crazy busy during this time especially during weekends but a visit is definitely worth it to see how the lights completely transform the streets.
Visit a Christmas Market
Apart from the Christmas Markets at Winter Wonderland and Winterville, there are quite a few that pop up during winter. This year, I visited the markets at Southbank, Greenwich and Leicester Square. They all offer an endless selection of handmade goods, jewelry, artwork, gifts, holiday knick-knacks, food and beverages. Also worth visiting is Borough Market for food. Even though it is open all year round, during winter, the market turns festive with beautiful decorations, Christmas goods like trees, wreaths etc and winter special food items like mulled wine, cider and other seasonal produce.
Go shopping and check out the special window displays
This time of the year, window shopping is quite a treat. Literally. All the shops and big department stores put up special window displays and they are so beautifully done. This year, Harrod’s famous display features festive rituals with a luxury twist, animals are carved into the pillars and panels of the iconic Liberty store, a giant champagne bottle pops and pours gold and silver hues at Harvey Nichols and Selfridges has a rock’ n’ roll theme with even Santa getting a rock star style makeover.
Also worth a visit are the shopping arcades to soak up the festive spirit and see the beautiful decorations. Burlington Arcade on Piccadily was my favourite.
Enjoy a festive afternoon tea
Afternoon tea in London is a serious affair and most restaurants, hotels and teahouses around the city serve up hot brews accompanied by trays of delicious mini-sandwiches, scones and other sweet and savoury finger food. While afternoon tea is available all year round, you tend to enjoy it more in winter. One of the most delightful Afternoon Tea experiences that you can have is at the iconic Fortnum & Mason. To know about my experience, read this blog post.
Apart from what I’ve mentioned above, there are plenty of interesting things you can do in London in winter . If you know how to skate, you can go skating at Somerset House, Canary Wharf, Natural History Museum. You can visit Kew Gardens to see the illuminated trail, enjoy Hogwarts in the Snow at Warner Bros Studio or watch one of the many musicals that play at West End. I’ve not been able to do any of these this year because you need to buy tickets way in advance but they are on my list for my next visit in winter.
What are your favourite things to do in London in winter? Do share in the comments below.