As the holiday season approaches, London transforms into a winter wonderland, offering an array of exciting activities and events for locals and visitors alike. Whether you're a first-time visitor or a seasoned Londoner, there's always something new to discover during this enchanting time of year.
From dazzling Christmas markets to ice-skating under starry skies, from world-class theater performances to sipping hot cocoa by the fire in cozy pubs — London has it all.
In this article, let’s explore what to do in London in December to fill your time to the brim.
What to do in London in December 2023
In December, London experiences typical winter weather with cool temperatures and occasional rainfall. It is advisable to pack warm clothing and comfortable shoes to keep you toasty as you explore.
London is a vibrant city with countless attractions, museums, parks, markets, and historical sites to explore. To fully immerse yourself in the city's charm and experience its diverse offerings, it’s best to plan at least five days or more if possible. This will allow you ample time to visit iconic landmarks like the Tower of London or Buckingham Palace, wander through neighborhoods like Covent Garden or Notting Hill, indulge in world-class cuisine at local eateries or enjoy some retail therapy on Oxford Street.
But of course, you’re wondering what to do in London in December, so let’s get specific.
Visit Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park
The most popular Christmas activity in London is the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. It’s best to arrive as early as possible as it gets very busy indeed, but it’s always more fun during the early evening when there’s a festive chill in the air.
Experience the magical atmosphere with ice skating, fairground rides, Christmas markets, and delicious food stalls.
Explore the Christmas lights
Take a stroll along Oxford Street, Regent Street, Covent Garden, and Carnaby Street to see the stunning light displays that adorn London's most famous shopping districts. Of course, you can also drop in and do some shopping as you go; this is one of the busiest and most exclusive shopping areas in the whole city.
Attend a Traditional Pantomime
Enjoy a classic British tradition by watching a pantomime show at one of London's many theatres. It's fun for all ages and you might see the odd celebrity playing a star part if you’re lucky.
Always remember to book your pantomime tickets from the official box officer or a trusted seller. There are many fake ticket sellers, and you don’t want to have your time ruined by such a negative experience. However, if you visit the Box Office on the day of the performance, you might find you’re lucky enough to get cheaper tickets.
Go Ice Skating at Somerset House
Glide across the ice on one of London's most iconic outdoor rinks while enjoying the beautiful surroundings of Somerset House. You don’t have to be a top skater to enjoy this festive activity and it’s one of the best places to go in London for such a magical and festive experience.
Visit Kew Gardens' Winter Trail
Discover an enchanting world of lights as Kew Gardens transforms into a magical winter wonderland with illuminated trails and festive installations. This is a great spot for taking photographs and to enjoy a hot chocolate as you walk around.
Shop at Christmas Markets
Explore various Christmas markets around London such as Southbank Centre Winter Market or Greenwich Market for unique gifts, crafts, and delicious seasonal treats. London is known for its festive Christmas markets during December, offering a magical atmosphere.
Enjoy a Thames River Cruise
Take in breath-taking views of London's landmarks while cruising along the Thames River on a festive-themed boat tour. In terms of what to do in London in December, this is one of the most unique trips and although you’ll need to wrap up warm, it will show you a fantastic view of the city, without the traffic.
Ride The London Eye
One of the most popular tours in London is to ride on the London Eye. From the top, you’ll have a panoramic view over the city and if you ride during the early evening, the view will be full of Christmas lights.
It’s a good idea to book your ticket online head of time as the line can be very long and you’ll end up wasting precious sightseeing time in a queue.
Visit Museums & Galleries
Spend some time indoors exploring world-class museums like The British Museum or The National Gallery to escape the cold weather while appreciating art and history.
If you're looking for indoor activities on colder days, explore world-class museums such as the British Museum, National Gallery, or the Victoria and Albert Museum. Many of them offer free entry to their permanent collections. These are some of the best places to go in London whether rain, snow, or shine.
Indulge in Festive Afternoon Tea
Treat yourself to an indulgent afternoon tea experience with seasonal delights at one of London's renowned hotels or tea rooms for an extra touch of luxury during your visit. Remember to prebook for the best deals.
Practical Tips for Visitors
Now you know what to do in London in December, there some extra tips that will help make your visit as easy and as enjoyable as possible.
- Dress warmly: London can get quite chilly in December, so make sure to pack warm clothing, including a good coat, hat, gloves, and scarf. You’ll also need comfortable walking shoes.
- Plan for shorter daylight hours: In December, the days are shorter in London with sunset happening around 4 pm. Keep this in mind when planning your activities and make sure to take advantage of the daylight hours.
- Book attractions in advance: As it's a popular time to visit London due to holiday festivities, it's advisable to book attractions such as museums or shows ahead of time to avoid long queues or disappointment if they sell out.
- Use public transportation wisely: Public transport is an efficient way to get around London but be aware that services may have reduced schedules on public holidays such as Christmas Day and Boxing Day (December 26th). Plan your journeys accordingly using apps like Citymapper or TfL Journey Planner.
- Don’t forget your travel insurance: To cut out any worries about possible ‘what if’s’ it’s a good idea to book your travel insurance ahead of time. The AXA Travel Protection Plan is a flexible option to suit many different needs.
What to do in London in December? Plenty!
London in December offers a plethora of exciting activities and attractions that are sure to make your visit unforgettable.
To make the most of your time in London during this enchanting month, be sure to plan ahead and prioritize your must-see sights. Consider visiting popular attractions such as Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, or the British Museum during quieter times to avoid crowds. Additionally, don't miss out on experiencing the city's vibrant Christmas lights displays that illuminate famous streets like Oxford Street or Carnaby Street.
With its magical atmosphere and an array of seasonal delights awaiting you around every corner, London truly comes alive during December. So, get ready for an unforgettable experience filled with holiday cheer and create lasting memories in one of Europe's most vibrant capitals!
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