If you're lucky enough to be spending Christmas in London this year, there are dozens of unique events and attractions that you won't want to miss. Traditional christmas carols in Leicester Square, the sparkling London Christmas lights, fabulous shows, and world-class shopping are just a few of the treats in store for you. Visit Christmas markets like Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park and the Greenwich Wintertime Festival or spend the day shopping in famous department stores like Selfridges, Harrod's, or Liberty of London. Sip mulled wine in front of a cozy fire in a dramatic setting, take the kids to see Santa, see a Christmas movie or treat yourself to a spa day. There's something to appeal to all age groups this Christmas in London.
You won't be able to miss the spectacular illuminations this Christmas in London. Christmas lights spring up all over the city and it's well worth seeking out some of the best. The most famous London Christmas lights can be seen on Oxford Street; this year's lights are inspired by snowflakes as they fall gently from the sky and 750,000 LED lights and 1,788 decorations were used to create the display. Now in their 58th year, these iconic London Christmas lights were switched on by Rita Ora on 7th November and they will enchant shoppers and sightseers until the 5th of January, 2018.
You might wander along to Oxford Circus and then head south down Regent Street for some of the city's most beautiful illuminations. Take the opportunity to pop into famous department store Liberty for special gifts or pop into Hamley's, the capital's biggest and most famous toy shop, with the kids. Turn right at Great Marlborough Street as you head back towards Oxford Circus and walk along to Carnaby Street. You'll be rewarded for your detour with a dazzling display of lights and decorations.
If you're short on time but want to "do" Christmas in London well, Liberty of London is the ideal solution. In just one hour, you can shop for gifts for loved ones and admire some of the most charming window displays in the West End. Go on a Sunday, and the kids can meet Santa! Take the tube to Oxford Circus, or walk if you're staying in nearby hotels like The Savoy, 44 Curzon Street, or St. James Hotel and Club Mayfair.
Liberty has been serving Londoners for almost 150 years and its iconic store on Regent Street is one of the capital's most recognizable landmarks. The Christmas window displays are legendary and for this year, Liberty's own rooftops are the subject. These enchanting animated London Christmas decorations were inspired by Clement Clarke Moore's famous poem "Twas the Night Before Christmas." Foliage fringed windows depict a festive scene: it's Christmas Eve, the full moon illuminates the rooftops as the city sleeps and snowy chimney tops and roofs are adorned with some of the store's most sought-after luxury accessories. Once inside, visit the Liberty Christmas Shop where the children can see Santa on any Sunday between November 19th and December 10th.
Did you know that the famous Tudor revival building was constructed using the timbers from two ships: HMS Hindustan and HMS Impregnable (previously HMS Howe) in 1924? The Grade II Listed building is one of the most beautiful on Regent Street and its Marlborough Street façade is the same length as the HMS Hindustan.
Choose central hotels like the famous Savoy Hotel, where you can enjoy a special festive feast with all the trimmings on Christmas Day in London, yet still be close to some of the capital's most festive attractions. Christmas at Leicester Square is an annual event that combines a funfair and Christmas Market (complete with Santa) with some of the West End's best shows. Marvel at the lights, take a ride on the big wheel or carousel, and try seasonal snacks like roasted chestnuts.
Spending Christmas in London with the kids? Try to get tickets for 'Kids of the West End'; the stage show gathers together the young stars from some of theaterland's most popular productions, and it's one of the most exciting Christmas events in London. If you have younger children, you won't want to miss Monski Mouse's Christmas Baby Disco Dance Hall at Leicester Square. Those under 5 can take to the dancefloor with Monski and her helpers until 17th December.
Be sure to add a movie or two to your plan when you're considering things to do in London at Christmas. Leicester Square is known for its cinemas and you can see the latest blockbusters at the Odeon Leicester Square or the Empire Leicester Square. Walk around the corner to the Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Place where you can catch classic Christmas movies like It's A Wonderful Life, Muppet Christmas Carol, Gremlins, and Elf throughout December. Movie fans spending Christmas in London are certainly spoiled for choice; dozens of film events take place in the capital during December, such as the Floating Film Festival at St. Katherine's Docks and Backyard Cinema's Snowy Kingdom in SE1.
Explore the sights and attractions of Southwark this Christmas in London. Southwark lies on the south bank of the River Thames just across from the City of London, and it's easy to reach from hotels like Novotel London Blackfriars, Ibis London Blackfriars, and the Mercure London Bridge. The neighborhood is home to some of the capital's most recognizable landmarks, like the Shard and Tower Bridge, and to lots of famous attractions, such as the Imperial War Museum and Tate Modern - where you can catch the wonderful Modigliani retrospective during your stay for Christmas in London.
Venture a little further from the river to the Borough and Elephant & Castle neighborhoods for Backyard Cinema's Snowy Kingdom. It's one of the best London Christmas attractions for film fans, and you'll enter through snowy caves and cross an icy lake to the enchanted castle. Once in the grand ballroom, you can snack on popcorn and sip on Christmas cocktails while you watch classic films like Home Alone, Love Actually or Elf. Be sure to book in advance as demand for tickets is high.
Great, you're spending Christmas in London! There's nowhere better than London at Christmas for shopaholics, and you'll love searching for that perfect present in famous department stores such as Harrod's and Selfridges. If you're staying in hotels like Mercure London Hyde Park Hotel, 27 Paddington, both stores are within easy reach. You'll love the magical London Christmas decorations. Selfridges used hundreds of yards of red velvet to create the pearly Kings and Queens inspired Santas that fill their windows and giant snowballs and baubles are suspended over the escalators inside. Harrod's famous façade is illuminated for Christmas in London and the sight will take your breath away. Be sure to pick up one of their famous Christmas puddings or a Harrod's bear to make your Christmas in London even more special.
The Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank is the venue for one of the most compelling London Christmas events. Music lovers can expect a memorable evening as they take their seats for Ice Music. The show is presented by Norwegian percussionist and composer Terje Isungset with vocals by Maria Skranes. However, all the instruments featured in this chilling performance are made from ice. Ice drums feature heavily, of course, but you'll also get to hear the unique sounds made by ice horns and even an "iceofon." This highly-individual show is part of the Southbank's "Nordic Matters" event and it's sure to be an enchanting addition to your Christmas in London itinerary.
Choose a hotel that combines easy access to central London with great local attractions this Christmas in London. For example, the Haverstock Hotel is close to Camden Town and within walking distance of Hampstead and Hampstead Heath. The heath is a great place to walk off some of those calories after lunch on Christmas Day in London. It's one of the capital's biggest green spaces and there are lots of places for kids to run and play; ideal if they got bikes or skateboards from Santa. As well as grassy slopes and paved walkways, you'll find wilder wooded areas where you might spot a robin or two if you're lucky. Head for higher areas or walk east towards Parliament Hill Fields for some of the most impressive views of London looking towards the south. Because it tends to be quieter at Christmas in London, these popular vantage points won't be as busy.
If you're staying in central hotels like the Mercure London Hyde Park for Christmas, you're within minutes of one of the city's chilliest annual events. Christmas Day in London wouldn't be the same without the Peter Pan Cup, and it's a chance for you to get some bracing fresh air before that festive lunch. The race is open to members of the Serpentine Swimming Club who have qualified to participate over the past year. Water temperatures in December are around 4 degrees Celsius, so it's certainly not a race for the faint-hearted. Spectators are welcome, so wrap up in your warmest coats, gloves, and scarves and make your way to the Serpentine for 9 a.m.
The race takes place near the Serpentine Café on the south of the lake. Don't worry if you can't make it on Christmas Day - you can watch Serpentine Swimming Club members race every Saturday morning. Did you know that the first Peter Pan Cup was donated by author J. M. Barrie to mark the debut of his famous play on the London stage? That first race was won by H. Coulter and he was presented with a gold medal, a tradition that is carried on today.
Discover some of the city's most famous landmarks without the crowds. Christmas in London is quiet. Once crowded streets are almost empty, the traffic is just about non-existent and everything is silent and calm. Thus, it's the perfect day for a sightseeing trip. Although there is no public transport on Christmas Day in London, several tour companies take advantage of the quieter conditions to offer visitors a more intimate and satisfying experience.
Take a boat trip on the River Thames to see the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and the famous bridges up close or opt for an after dark tour in an open-topped bus past landmarks like Piccadilly Circus, Buckingham Palace, St. Paul's Cathedral (close to Novotel London Blackfriars) and the London Eye. You'll see the London Christmas lights at their very best and get unique views that wouldn't be possible on a normal day. You won't have to push past people to get the best photographs and you're in no danger of having those selfies photo bombed - definitely one of the most rewarding Christmas activities in town.
Lots of famous London clubs have special party nights and events over the festive season. Dance to top DJs at iconic nightspots like Ministry of Sound or Fabric this Christmas in London, or opt for friendly local venues like Egg in King's Cross. If electronic dance music isn't your thing, why not try to catch one of the fantastic shows that make Christmas in London magical? The Nutcracker is the quintessential Christmas ballet and you can see the Royal Ballet's enchanting performance at the Royal Opera House or join Clara on her snowy journey with the English National Ballet at London Colosseum.
Kids will love traditional Christmas pantomimes like Dick Whittington at the London Palladium or Peter Pan at the SSE Wembley Arena. Other great pantomimes this Christmas in London include Cinderella at Hackney Empire and Jack and the Beanstalk at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, or you might choose to see a classic play like A Christmas Carol at the Old Vic.
Kensington Palace at Christmas is a unique experience that you'll love whether you're five or fifty. Experience Christmas in London as it would have been during the reign of Queen Victoria at one of the Royal family's most beautiful residences, Kensington Palace. Admire the 19th century London Christmas decorations and the 8-foot-high tree, or take part in one of the Under the Christmas Tree family workshops that are available on selected dates. Visit on the 16th of December and kids can learn how to create their own Victorian puppet theater, or go along on any day for live chamber music in the Queen's State Apartments, presentations on festive fare, and Christmas themed activities.
No Christmas in the Capital would be complete without festive choirs, ringing bells and carol singers. "Deck the Halls", "Jingle Bells", "We Wish You a Merry Christmas": you can hear all your favorite carols in Trafalgar Square as part of the city's Christmas in London program. During the days and nights leading up to Christmas, 40 groups of carol singers will each sing for one hour under the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree - the world-famous tree has been given as a gift by Norway since 1947. Concerts are free with all donations going to local and national charitable organizations.
St. Paul's Cathedral has an outstanding program of traditional services and musical performances to help you celebrate Christmas in London. Marvel at Sir Christopher Wren's architecture as you sing along with the choir at the Family Carol Service on the 16th of December or at one of the Christmas Carol Services on the 23rd or 24th. Midnight and Christmas Day Eucharist are on the 24th and 25th December. Most of the events at St. Paul's are free. Check whether booking is required and go early to ensure your place.
St. Martin-in-the-Fields church is a wonderful setting for some of the most accessible concerts and services over Christmas in London. A special service in aid of the BBC Radio 4 Christmas Appeal takes place on 6th December while the installation of the famous Trafalgar Square Tree is marked with the annual Norwegian Concert at Christmas on the 8th. Closer to Christmas Day in London, the church presents Handel's Messiah by Candlelight on the 15th and 16th and family concerts on the 22nd and 23rd.