Pumpkin spice latte and sweater season is in full swing, and with that comes planning your Christmas vacation. December in London is magical and one of my favorite cities during the holiday season. Few places can match its Christmas light displays, decadent afternoon tea in the most festive settings, and endless choices for ice skating, Christmas markets, and holiday shopping. If you’re thinking of spending Christmas in London read on to discover the 10 BEST things to do in London in December!
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December in London – 10 BEST THINGS TO DO IN LONDON IN DECEMBER
1. London Christmas Lights
The best streets for over-the-top London Christmas lights are Oxford Street, Carnaby Street, Bond Street, Marylebone, Seven Dials Christmas, and Regent Street. These are all in central London and most are conviently located in the major shopping areas. Walking around at night and seeing the Christmas lights in London is hands down one of my favorite memories.
2. Ice Skating
December in London is the perfect time to take a whirl on the ice. Skate around some of London’s most iconic locations. The best picks are Somerset House, The Tower, Natural History Museum, Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park, and Hampton Court Palace just outside of London.
3. Christmas Markets in London
My favorite Christmas markets in London are Covent Garden (don’t miss the giant Christmas tree), Southbank Center Winter Market, and Leicester Square Christmas Market. Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park is the biggest and extremely popular, but I found it a bit cheesy and better for those with kids. You really can’t spend Christmas in London and not visit a Christmas market…or 10…so be sure to put it at the top of your list of the BEST things to do in December in London
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4. Carols at Trafalgar Square
Christmas carols are sung below a giant Christmas tree in one of the busiest squares in London. Performances take place between 4pm and 8pm on weekdays, and 2pm and 6pm on weekends. Be sure to check the calendar as there are usually a few dates without performances. This is one of the best things to do in London in December that is completely free!
5. Christmas Shopping in London
If you’re spending Christmas in London and have a few holiday gifts to check off your list you have certainly come to the right place! Complete your Christmas shopping in London…a major fashion and shopping capital. You’ll have plenty of options between boutique shops, famous department stores, and all the Christmas markets in London.
Check off your holiday shopping list at the infamous Liberty London, my favorite department store in London. Come here for fewer crowds and a more boutique shopping experience. Stop at Arthur’s on level 2 for a quick break to sample some of the best scones in London! Fortnum and Mason, the Queen’s favorite “grocery store”, is the perfect place to buy fine teas or gourmet food items. Duchess Earl Grey is my favorite tea.
6. Cathedrals: Carols, Concerts, and Christmas Services
December in London marks the start of some pretty memorable Christmas concerts. Listen to holiday classics in the magnificent setting of St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey or attend a candlelit service. Several concerts are actually free.
7. Christmas at Kew Gardens
Enjoy a 1-mile trail through the botanical gardens lit with over 1 million lights. Be sure to get tickets in advance. This is one of the best things to do in London in December if you have kids. Walking along the path and taking in the magnificent Christmas light displays makes for quite a memorable night.
8. the best afternoon tea in London During the holidays
Afternoon tea is an experience not to be missed when in London and Christmastime is no exception. Every time I visit I’m on the hunt to find the best afternoon tea in London…so it’s safe to say I’ve tried quite a few. The more popular and high-end spots go all out with their decorations and many offer themed holiday menus featuring festive-inspired pastries. Some even include Christmas carols or Santa Clause appearances.
*Bear in mind that many places use this as a way to increase their prices.
For a splurge and all out Christmas spirit, try The Dorchester, Claridge’s, or The Ritz London. These spots offer some of the best afternoon tea in London. All have stunning holiday decor and Christmas themed menus. The Mirror Room at Rosewood London is one of my favorites. The winter themed decorations are gorgeous and they don’t upcharge their tea during the holidays like the options listed above.
Because I’m a sucker for a cozy afternoon filled with scones and clotted cream, this is probably one of my favorite activities on the list of the best things to do in December in London.
9. London Christmas Shows and Performances
Book a seat for the Royal Ballet’s Nutcracker at the Royal Opera House or the English National Ballet’s Nutcracker at the London Coliseum. A Christmas Carol is another festive option at The Old Vic. If you’re thinking of spending Christmas in London book these tickets immediately. This is one of the most popular ticketed attractions and seats sell out fast.
10. Hogwarts in the Snow
I wouldn’t be a true Harry Potter fan if I didn’t list Hogwarts in the Snow as one of the best things to do in December in London. Warner Bros. Studio Tour London transforms at Christmastime. The Great Hall is decorated as it was for the Yule Ball, the Hogwarts Castle model is dusted with snow, and other sets are decorated with holiday props that were used during filming.
For die hard Harry Potter fans there are also several dates in December for “Dinner in the Great Hall”. This is a specialty event and tickets must be purchased far in advance, they aren’t cheap either (around $300 per person). Guests enjoy an evening of drinking and dining in the Great Hall in all its Christmas glory. After dinner the rest of the stuido is open for guests to wander at their leisure, enjoying the sets with far fewer people.
Being the Harry Potter lover that I am, my dream is to attend this one day. I would die fully content and happy if I did!
I hope this list of the 10 BEST things to do in December in London not only helps with planning but inspires you to spend Christmas in London.