Things To Do In London In December
What Are The Best Things To Do In London In December?
London is always a good time, but visiting London in December is nothing less than magical. Bundle up and roam the royal capital to marvel at the historic sights combined with the energy of this modern city.
The festive atmosphere in London in December is inspiring and will keep you on your toes for a guaranteed great visit. Christmas markets pop up around town, mulled wine is being poured, and the decorations and attractions put everyone in a great mood.
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The heavy hitter tourist sites will be on your list for any visit. You’ll have to see Buckingham Palace, Green Park, Big Ben, The Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament, Downing Street, and Picadilly Circus and much, much more. Take a walk along the Thames River and enjoy a Christmas River Cruise. But save some time for these special activities:
London Holiday Lights
The light displays in London are spectacular and add to the festive atmosphere we love during the holidays. Get out your map and head for the lights:
- Since 1947 the iconic Norwegian spruce tree at Trafalgar Square has lit up London and marks the start of the season.
- Regent Street is famous for its angels flying high above the stores from Oxford Circus to St. James, and Waterloo Place.
- The famous Kew Royal Botanical Gardens with its water features, light tunnels, colors shining through the trees, hot cider and cocoa, and even Father Christmas, is like a winter fairytale.
- Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland is a yearly event transforming the park with lights, rides, food, and of course, Santa.
- Oxford Street is one of the busiest shopping streets in London and is a magnet for more shoppers this time of year because the light displays makes everything sparkle.
- Marylebone has a beautiful display along with festivities, music, food stalls, Santa’s grotto, and a fairground.
- The ever lovely Covent Garden has an iconic tree lit up with over 100,000 lights. Enjoy the pop up shops and food and look up to see the glittering wonder.
- Carnival inspired Carnaby Street is alive with butterflies, underwater creatures, and fairies, all surrounded by music and shopping.
- Chelsea’s Cadogan Estate, Duke of York Square, and Sloane Square are filled with restaurants and shops whose displays are the background to reindeer, a curling rink, and plenty of mulled wine and treats.
- Bond Street chooses a theme for its lighting design each year that rivals the year before. From peacocks to crowned jewels, it’s guaranteed to be spectacular.
The London Eye
The London Eye is the world’s largest cantilever observation wheel. It’s a ferris wheel on steroids!
Opened in 2000, this attraction has become one of the must do things in London. You’ll be inside a giant pod getting a view of the whole city. (The pods sway, so don’t do it if you’re prone to motion sickness).
The Christmas displays and lights of the Southbank neighborhood revolve around (see what I did there?) this iconic ride. A 30 minute ride costs £32.50 per adult or £26 per person for a family. Buy your tickets online and be prepared to wait in line, unless you spend more for a fast track ticket. Not cheap, but one of those, “you gotta do once” kind of things!
Spend a day at Windsor Castle. Just 20 miles from Buckingham Palace and less than an hour outside the city, the castle is the largest occupied castle in Europe.
Take the Tube, or a ride share, and spend a day touring the castle, buying chocolate in the shop and having fish and chips in a pub across the street. Trust me, they take Christmas decorating very seriously here.
The town of Windsor couldn’t be more charming and inviting. Considering that the royal family have lived there for centuries, the town surrounding the castle feels very relaxed and casual.
The self guided castle tours with headsets are very well done and you’re allowed to see so much, including the famous paintings and furnishings. You can watch the changing of the guards and even go inside St. George’s Chapel.
Know before you go
When To Go
Winter in England is cold and wet, no doubt, but if you enjoy a winter holiday vacation then visit London in December. Plan on temperatures in the 40’s° F (5° C). You’ll most likely see some rain and might get some snow. So, warm and walkable boots, heavy coats, and scarves are your friends.
Where To Stay
If you can find an affordable place close to Westminster you’ll be lucky, but if not, all the boroughs have a lot to offer! Start your search with Westminster, and then look at Piccadilly, The City, Soho, Covent Garden, South Bank, Kensington, Chelsea, and Notting Hill.
- The sterling pound is the currency in the United Kingdom. The £ is divided into 100 pence.
- The adaptor plug you need is 230 volts. A Type G socket or a dual voltage converter should work.
- Dine at the iconic St. Stephen’s Tavern at 10 Bridge St. in Westminster for the best fish and chips.
- Make a reservation at The Ivy Chelsea Garden at 195 King’s Rd for a stunning and elegant garden atmosphere with the best food you’ll find in London.
How To Get Around
London is a city of diverse neighborhoods and boroughs. Get familiar with your map app, or if you are like old fashioned me, grab a pocket laminated map to carry around. Online, or on paper, make sure the map includes a map of the Underground Tube.
It’s very convenient to take ride shares, the Tube, taxi, or buses in London. Buy a Visitor Oyster Card because it covers all modes of public transportation with one electronic card. It’s activated when you start using it but doesn’t expire. It’s good for getting around all over London and even to Heathrow airport.
London is famous for it’s red double decker buses, so you should try that at least once! The Tube underground system is very thorough and can literally get you anywhere you want to go.
This neighborhood is on my London In December list because, not only is it the hip and quaint neighborhood of movie fame, this neighborhood is teeming with shops, book stores, and fabulous pubs and restaurants. Known for its pastel pinks, yellows, and blues, these streets are the very definition of picturesque, especially during the holidays.
See A Show
Promise me you won’t visit London without seeing a show. London’s theater district is extraordinary and the plays are among the best in the world. Take your pick. Buy tickets in advance and plan on festive dinner and a show, London style. You won’t be sorry. I use the Today Tix app.
Just a six minute walk from the Tower Bridge is the famous Borough Market. Dating back to the 12th century, this is the oldest food market in London. It’s run by a charitable organization and is committed to sustainable practices and outstanding quality.
Abbey Road &
St. John’s Wood
If you’re not a Beatles fan, then skip this suggestion. But if you love the Fab Four, then visiting Abbey Road in December is a great plan. The line waiting for the famous photo op is much shorter in the wintertime. Especially, if you arrive early in the day.
While you wait your turn, make friends with the people in line because they’ll take your picture and you’ll take theirs. Everyone is very friendly and patient as you make sure you get the great shot walking across the iconic crosswalk.
Afterwards, peek through the gate to the legendary studio door, and buy souvenirs in the gift shop. Then, wander less than 10 minutes to St. John’s Wood for some lunch and shopping.
To know me is to know that I love art museums. Winter visits to London museums get you out of the cold and into the history and culture of this remarkable city. There are many to choose from but let’s just start with my two favorites.
My favorite is The Tate Modern, at the end of the famous Millenium Bridge which connects to St. Paul’s Cathedral. Filled with collections of modern art from the early 1900’s to present day, its not overwhelming and has something for the whole family.
I also love the Victoria and Albert, or the V&A. It’s a huge and wonderful place to get lost for hours and days, not to mention the holiday gifts in the shop. I recommend you decide on one exhibit you really want to see and just plan on that. Unless you have endless time to meander. Your eyes will get caught by so much art, you’ll want to move into the building!
It’s hard to be in London in December and not think about Christmas at Hogwarts. Enjoy a Harry Potter tour or just find your favorite movie and book moments around the city. Platform 9 ¾ is at the Kings Cross Station. Prepare yourself for a long line if you hope to get a photo underneath the sign.
- Big Ben is meant to be called The Clock Tower and the bell inside the tower is named Big Ben.
- Jack The Ripper was never caught.
- Six ravens are kept in the Tower Of London for superstitious reasons.
- Cab drivers have to pass a test of memorizing every street in the capital.
Enjoy London in December and bring in the New Year in one of the most festive winter cities in Europe!