The time of the year when London feels most welcoming and beautiful has arrived: Christmas!
While I prefer not to spend Christmas Day here – missing my family weighs heavy – the days leading up to it are simply magical!
London is getting more decorated each year and I enjoy setting aside a full day to explore Christmas fairs, stroll through the decorated streets, and soak up the holiday spirit.
Thinking about these experiences, I’ve compiled a list of things you can do and see during this joyful time of year. Enjoy!
London is known for its festive Christmas markets and fairs! Nothing like strolling around a street market, admiring and perhaps purchasing Christmas ornaments, sipping on mulled wine, and eating some delicious street food at these Xmas markets.
Typically, these fairs stay open from early November until early January, so there is plenty of time to enjoy each one.
Here are some of the most famous:
Winter Wonderland, located in Hyde Park, is the largest of all, with over 100 craft shops, bars, food hall, ice rink, etc. It has an amusement park and an area called “Bavarian Village”, with the best of the German music and traditions. A little Oktoberfest on British soil. Since the pandemic, you have to book your visit in advance. For more info check here.
Southbank Winter Festival is right next to the London Eye, along the Thames, this market offers artisanal goods, food stalls, and stunning views of the river.
Christmas in Leicester Square, right in the town centre, the square also has a fair with little shops and several Bavarian-style wooden stalls.
Christmas by the River, set alongside the River Thames with the iconic city skyline as a backdrop, and next to Tower Bridge, the fair is in one of London’s most beautiful spots. Be sure to visit the Hays Galleria, which also has tents and it is all beautifully decorated.
Kings Cross Christmas Market, a 47ft Christmas tree, seven Christmas markets, après-ski-style food and drink, so what would you want more?
Kingston Christmas Market is located in Kingston-upon-Thames, where you will once again find log cabins serving drinks and street food, a live music stage, a marshmallow bonfire and a vintage children’s carousel.
Chelsea Physic Garden Fair has over 100 stands selling gifts and products from British suppliers, they also have classes to learn how to pack gifts. But unlike the others, you need to pay £6 to get in.
Greenwich Christmas Market: Set in the beautiful surroundings of Greenwich, this market features crafts, gifts, and festive foods.
In the City of London, next to St Pauls Cathedral, Guildhall, there are also some German-style cabins selling food and drinks. There is also Winterville in Clapham Common and Trafalgar Square is having a market as well.
These are just a few examples, but there are numerous other smaller markets and fairs spread across the city. Checking local event listings closer to your visit date will give you the most accurate and up-to-date information!
Walking around London during the Christmas festivities, despite the cold, is a delight. As I said, each year, the streets are more ornate with Christmas decorations.
Regent Street is one of the most famous. Formerly, each year, they made a theme of a movie released that year. However, in the last years, they have placed on beautiful angel lighting. This year (2023), the angels return, and you will have the opportunity to marvel at it.
New Bond Street is the street of the famous designer shops, and each shop window is decorated in a chic and beautiful way, and the street lighting itself is gorgeous.
Carnaby Street is hidden between Regent and Oxford St. and each year offers a different theme. Couple of years ago it was Carnival, another year as Bohemian Rhapsody and so on.
Oxford Street is all lit up, along with some storefronts like Debenhams, Selfridge, etc.
Covent Garden is not a street but a marketplace with a fair market that is charming all year round, but at Christmas, it gets even more special.
Seven Dials, located near Covent Garden, the 7 streets meets at a square, and all are lit up. Truly beautiful.
Other places also have unique decor, such as Trafalgar Square, The Royal Exchange at Bank, Marylebone Village, Leadenhall Market, King’s Road and Sloane Square in Chelsea, etc.
I love buying Christmas ornaments. If my house had more storage space, I would surely have many more of it. But still, I always end up buying a little bauble here, a little garland there, and every place I go, even out of season, I ended up buying something for Xmas.
Anyway, here in London several stores make an entire section for Christmas.
Christmas Magic Store is the one I like the most because they have a lot of different and quality stuff. They are located at Bluewater Shopping Centre and Lakeside (but I prefer the one at Bluewater), both just outside London.
Ruxley Manor is my new favourite!! The garden centre has one of the biggest Christmas Ornaments shop in London. From Xmas trees, lightenings, garden decoration and loads of bauble types. You won’t know what to buy.
Selfridges, on Oxford Street, is jaw-dropping. Lots of variety but a little higher price.
Liberty, near Regent and Oxford Street, make every year on the top floor an entire Christmas section and it’s quite remarkable.
Homesense is part of the outlet TK Maxx but only for home utilities, furnitures and house decor. At Xmas time, they have a whole section of beautiful ornaments and it is one of the best, as the price and quality are good.
Famous department stores such as Harrods, John Lewis, House of Fraser, Marks & Spencer, Debenhams also have beautiful ornaments with varying prices.
The supermarkets also sell a lot of Christmas stuff, though the quality is not the best.
If you have never ice-skating, this is the opportunity. London has a lot of rinks around the city, but honestly, I think they are overcrowded, and it’s hard to skate because the rink is not smooth.
Here I made a list of places that installed ice skating rink (usually between November and January).
Natural History Museum
Battersea Power Station
Tower of London
Hampton Court Palace
Westfield London White City
Skylight at Tobacco Dock
But, there are also permanent ones all year round, which are at Alexandra Palace, Lee Valley and Streatham.
Kew Garden has a lighting festival every year, and it’s impressive. Tickets are sold well in advance and usually sell out fast. It’s so worth it, and it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done around this time of Christmas here in London.
If you can, try to visit these places during week days, specially Winter Wonderland, because on the weekend it is almost impossible to walk as there are way too many people.
As you can see, there is no lack of options for what to do between November and January. Enjoy your time here and a great Christmas for all of us!