Perhaps it’s fair to say London does Christmas time better than anywhere in the world. Tower Bridge looms large in the dying light of dusk, Christmas lights on Southbank sparkle across the night sky and the shops in Knightsbridge have ever-increasing extravagant displays.
When there is simply so much to see and do, fitting it all into one day can seem a daunting prospect, but don’t let that deter you – with our suggestions you can easily plan your perfect day in London at Christmas.
If you live or venture into the city this Christmas and want a break from the humdrum of the crowds on Oxford Street, then why not consider trying some of these Christmas things to do in London this holiday season.
Christmas At Kew Gardens
With the changing of the seasons, the landscape around us undergoes so many transformations it can all pass you by too quickly. Now with this wonderful day and evening out, it needn’t. The winter landscape is wonderfully reflected at Kew Gardens where you’ll be able to go from traditional British gardens, frosted and iced, to sub-tropical glasshouses.
A private tour guide will show you around, the garden revealing its secrets as you go, before you and a guest head off to enjoy a 3-course Michelin star dinner at the Glasshouse restaurant.
Drink the Ultimate Hot Chocolate
When a well-established Rome based chocolate shop opens a branch in London then you know it must be worth investigating. This is certainly the case with the hot chocolate made by Said, which can be found in the heart of Soho.
An upmarket, luxury chocolate shop, Said prefer to display their chocolates in small, opulent heaps. Their hot chocolate can be found bubbling away in little vats behind the counter. Sit inside and enjoy the rich, thick piping hot beverage and watch the world go by.
Visit a Christmas Market
While you might have heard some are best avoided, London sees some fantastic markets and fairs come the winter. The best one, however, is open to hot debate. Some say Southbank’s Centre Winter Market is not to be missed, while others claim Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland festivities are both vast and difficult to match. Whatever the case, it’s rarely a bad thing to see competition so healthy.
For the top markets to visit in London and beyond, have a look at this list of the Best Christmas Markets in the UK.
Go Ice Skating
In case you hadn’t noticed, temporary ice rinks have been popping up all over the place to cater to one of the nation’s favourite wintery pastimes. Hampton Court’s rink, set right outside the red-bricked Tudor palace might just be the most romantic, while Hyde Park’s efforts can’t go unnoticed as they claim to have the biggest outdoor rink in the UK.
See London’s Christmas Lights
The ‘turning on’ of Christmas lights has become an event somewhat exclusively pertaining to children. Rather, the best time to see them is during a post-light shopping spree or after drinks with friends.
Regent Street’s displays continue to impress, and Soho’s are certainly enough to make you stop for a photo, but Christmas lights outside of the city are not to be sniffed at either. Kew Garden’s glasshouse is a palpitating spectrum of colours, while the Bird and Deer Park in Gloucestershire becomes flooded with blues and pinks when night falls.
Cultural London Exploration
Make sure you have time to experience some of Britain’s finest museums and historic sites including the British Museum, the Tate Modern gallery and the National Gallery.
If you want to ensure images of London live long in the memory then why not consider going on a London photography tour. Under the guidance of a former Independent photographer, you’ll learn how to identify and capture the significant and the unusual in an everyday street setting. This hands-on cultural experience is one of the best ways to capture London in her Christmas best.
View London at Christmas from the Thames
It is easily forgotten that the Thames used to be the lifeblood of the capital but this Christmas remind yourself of some of the most iconic buildings and sights in all of the world by taking to the water. Inspired by the events of 1814 when the Thames froze solidly for four days, this boat cruise takes you back almost 200 years to celebrate the London of old.
This includes a 3-course menu including roasted meats, pies, oysters, ice shard cocktails, roaring limestone fireplaces and fabulous entertainment by Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts trained singers. Everything, from the surroundings to the cut-glassware, harks back to Victorian times and you’ll see the lights of London from a whole new angle.
Eat Christmas Lunch Out Of The House
You won’t need us to tell you Christmas lunches are typically a homely affair for all the family. It is worth mentioning, however, that some restaurants around London remain open over the Christmas period. While that fact alone isn’t enough to pique anyone’s interest, the idea that Michelin starred restaurants are creating their own Christmas menus might.
If you’re taking a no-holds-barred approach to your Christmasa in London, why not indulge yourself on a specially created four-course menu handcrafted by Mr Anton Mosimann, caterer for the 2011 royal wedding. Dine in the world’s smallest private dining room – an intimate realm all to yourselves – and savour an enticing palette of best-in-season specialities.
If you would prefer something simpler and quicker in order to get back to exploring the city, then the Bar Boulud at the Mandarin Oriental is not to be sniffed at. Lunch at Michelin-starred chef Daniel Boulud’s bistro ventures provide simple, heart-warming food for any palate.
Go Christmas Shopping at Harrods
No list of things to do in London is complete without festive Christmas shopping. All those gifts aren’t going to buy themselves! If TRULY’s collection of Christmas gifts doesn’t quite fit the bill, or you prefer browsing real shelves, then a good old trip to Harrods or Fortnum’s could be what’s required to solve those gift dilemmas.
With the fashion and interior shops in Marylebone High Street, followed with some gourmet treats Selfridges Food Hall, being unsuccessful in finding Christmas presents for yourself or loved ones isn’t really an option.
For something extra sumptuous, consider combining your shopping spree with a glamorous day of bubbles and pampering. This Harrods shopping experience involves a shopping spree at the legendary department store, a must-do activity for anyone looking for magical things to do in London at Christmas.
After a glamorous, but somewhat tiring day of festive retail therapy, indulge in a Champagne afternoon tea with a massage to follow. It’s the perfect way to spend a festive winter’s day in London with Mum or your best gal pal.
See a Show on the West End
Ironically, a good show tends to stick in our minds better than a lot of Christmas gifts we receive. There’s something that much more magical about London’s West End during Christmas. The twinkling lights, jaw-dropping sets and festive favourites are an unmissable combination. With some of the most famous musicals in the world to be found running across the city during the holiday season, you certainly won’t be short on choice.
For the full West End experience, why not combine fine food and your choice of one of the top musicals in London. As well as premium seats to your favourite theatre performance, you and a special someone will experience pre-theatre dining at one of London’s acclaimed restaurants from Gordon Ramsay’s Savoy Grill, to William’s Bar & Bistro. Food, friends and festive theatre – could there be the more perfect London Christmas experience?
Overnight Stay at a Festive Hotel
The choice is a little overwhelming and there is something to suit any budget, but you’d do well to consider The Haymarket for a hotel in a great location with timeless style. Brightly coloured, rooms are triple glazed against the London nightlife. With an indoor pool, bar and gym, it has everything you could want from a place to relax.
If you prefer your accommodation to be slightly more homely, look into staying at Hazlitts Hotel for a Georgian home that feels like stepping back in time. With panelled walls, oil paintings and antiques, it is a wondrous glimpse back into historic London.
Which of these luxurious things to do in London this Christmas will you be doing?
- 1 Christmas At Kew Gardens
- 2 Drink the Ultimate Hot Chocolate
- 3 Visit a Christmas Market
- 4 Go Ice Skating
- 5 See London’s Christmas Lights
- 6 Cultural London Exploration
- 7 View London at Christmas from the Thames
- 8 Eat Christmas Lunch Out Of The House
- 9 Go Christmas Shopping at Harrods
- 10 See a Show on the West End
- 11 Overnight Stay at a Festive Hotel