Winter is a magical time to spend in London. You’ll find a stream of hip festivities throughout December to put you in the mood for the holiday. Once Christmas is done and dusted, turn your attention to some of the other incredible happenings taking place which are guaranteed to beat the January blues!
The fun doesn’t need to stop once the trees and lights have been packed away. You’ll be amazed at the special offers available in London hotels at this time of year, too! Follow our insider tips to make the best of wintertime in London.
1. Get your skates on
Taking a twirl on one of London’s pop-up rinks is a winter must-do. Skate on the Natural History Museum rink for the ultimate family day out, they even have penguin supports for the littlest children! This and the rink that takes over the courtyard of Somerset House are on until 12 January. Impress your partner by taking them to the latter’s Skate Lates to skate hand-in-hand beneath the stars. If you’re in town with pals, head to hipster hangout Skylight at Tobacco Dock and skate on the only rooftop ice rink in Europe; you have until 25 January.
2. Pick up artisan crafts at a Christmas market
You don’t need to travel too far from the Park Grand Hotel London to stumble upon a cheery, German-inspired market where you can buy all manner of foodie delights and handmade products. Between snow globes, woolly knitwear, artisan soaps, traditional toys and other trinkets – you can tackle all your Christmas shopping in one go and even treat yourself to a little something as well. Check out our guide to London’s most festive markets.
3. Drink mulled wine on the Southbank
The festive wonderland of the Southbank Christmas Market is already in full swing and you have until 5 January to work your way along the riverside clutching mulled wine, snacking on seasonal treats and soaking up the winter atmosphere in this scenic strip. Get toasty at the alpine-style Jimmy’s Lodge after your dreamy, starlit stroll.
4. Admire the Kingdom of Christmas at Harrods
The annual Christmas window installation at luxury department store Harrods is such a spectacle it’s on par with what you’d expect from a leading fashion exhibition. This year’s display is the Kingdom of Christmas, a different animal has been chosen by each brand who is partnered with the window programme. If you can’t make it to Knightsbridge, the windows of Selfridges, Liberty’s and Fortnum & Mason can be found near to Lancaster Gate hotels and all worth a visit too.
5. Watch a traditional carol singing
Cosy up beneath the Nordic Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square and enjoy a free, live choir and Christmas carols service. Performances take place nightly between Monday 9 and Tuesday 24 December, and throughout the day at weekends. Alternatively, the Royal Albert Hall will host their yearly Christmas Festival which includes a series of sing-along Christmas carols between 21 – 24 December.
6. Catch a classic film screening
’Tis the season to rewatch beloved Christmas and family films for the umpteenth time, and whatever your favourite one is – you’re guaranteed that somewhere in London it will be cast upon the big screen! Throughout December you can find showings of classics from rom-com Love Actually to family favourite Home Alone and sentimental It’s A Wonderful Life. Wandsworth-based Backyard Cinema continues to show Christmas films as well as recent releases as far as 19 January at their Christmas at the Snow Kingdom pop-up.
7. Indulge in an afternoon tea
The classic British dining experience is popular throughout the year, but during winter the event is all the more decadent as you sit back among lavishly decorated hotel restaurants and enjoy pastries with a yuletide twist. Make the experience even sweeter by adding a glass of chilled champagne. Hotels near Lancaster Gate are ideal for an afternoon treat as you can take some time to recuperate during your Christmas shopping expedition.
8. Feel the magic at Christmas at Kew
One of the most enchanting ways to spend a winter night in London is to walk in the fairytale wonderland at Kew Gardens where the trees at the famous botanic gardens are drenched in over one million lights. Experience the cascading ‘waterfall’ lights from the treetop walkways in the Kew Arboretum, warm up by the ruby and emerald flames of the Fire Garden and settle back to enjoy laser light show in the newly reopened Temperate House. You’ll find plenty of street food stalls, spiced cider and hot chocolate as you meander. Until 5 January.
9. Make your own Christmas wreath
Christmas wreaths are all the rage in London this season, with plenty of chances to fashion your own to hang on your front door or brighten up your room at the Park Grand Hotel London. You can sign up to one of the free workshops at the Christmas by the River market on 11 December. Alternatively, The Zetter Townhouse and Megan’s King’s Road are both hosting thoroughly festive workshops on 15 December. The luxury event at Megan’s includes mulled wine topped with rum whilst Zetter are concocting special cocktails to spread Christmas joy and spark your creativity.
10. Tuck into a full Christmas dinner
Settle into a comfortable pub or restaurant with a roaring fire and share a hearty turkey lunch with your loved ones. A typical Christmas dinner with all the trimmings includes roasted meat served with vegetables, potatoes, stuffing and spoonfuls of gravy and cranberry sauce. Check out Julie’s (Holland Park), Forty Dean Street (Soho) or Simpson’s in The Strand (Covent Garden) for affordable but sumptuous three-course meals.
11. Hit the January sales
January in London is bargains-galore. All high street, luxury retailers and boutiques slash their prices to clear their shelves ready for spring arrivals. The sales in fact get started on 26 December, Boxing Day, and until the end of January, meaning you can snap up some impressive deals on all kinds of goods and take advantage of special offers on hotels at the same time!
12. Have a go at Veganuary
Running in tandem with the popular ‘dry January,’ Veganuary is the month-long challenge to follow the vegan lifestyle which has become popular in London. Whether you go part-time or full-time vegan, we recommend you sample some of the delicious vegan eateries in London. Many restaurants will offer a special vegan menu in January. You could even take a vegan cooking class at the London Vegetarian School or Made In Hackney.
13. Drink a cocktail (or two!) at a rooftop bar
London always looks pretty from above, but over winter when the city is aglow with Christmas lights it’s even more mesmerising, particularly as rooftop bars get a winter makeover. We recommend taking a trip to Madison, St Paul’s, where you can sip a Snowdrop or cradle a Hot Buttered Rum and peer across the dome of the iconic cathedral from their Enchanted Woodland themed terrace.
14. Hibernate with a duvet day
Sometimes we all just need to have a day tucked up in bed drinking hot tea, reading our book or binging on TV – especially during winter once the Christmas frenzy subdues. When the temperatures plummet in London, take that as a sign and embrace the duvet. Even better, you can find enticing special offers in London hotels throughout the winter months.
15. Get close to nature at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2019 exhibition
Of all the art exhibitions taking place in London over winter, one of the most unmissable ones is the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2019. Taking place yearly at the Natural History Museum, it gives a unique insight into the animal kingdom and nature all around the world. It’s on until May, so plenty of time to check it out.
16. Cheer on the New Year’s Day Parade
If you’re spending New Year’s Eve in London, rise bright and early to witness the street spectacle that is the annual parade which kicks off at noon in the capital. Expect floats, marching bands, acrobatics and a lot of costume as 10,000 international and UK participants take part in the grand event. You’ll see acts from Britain’s Got Talent, the London School of Samba and even traditional dragon dances from London Chinese Chinatown Association! Watch for free along Piccadilly, Pall Mall, Lower Regent Street and Trafalgar Square.
17. Hang out at the Winterland alpine playground
Fulham’s snug alpine pop up is kitted out with fur-lined private chalets, Instagrammable igloos and a lodge flowing with hot cocktails and fondue. There’s even a hot tub which can be hired privately and a playground of wintery games. Live bands and DJs add to the après vibe on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Until 5 January.
18. Snuggle up in your Christmas knit
Every year in December, Londoners don cosy or novelty knitwear and stride into their offices in support of Christmas Jumper Day – a national fundraiser for Save the Children. If you’re planning on coming to London on 13 December be sure you’ve packed your own, even if you only wear it when relaxing at the Park Grand Hotel.
19. Admire 27,000 illuminated white roses
Find some solace and take time to think about your loved ones at the Ever After Garden, a unique and special installation in Grosvenor Square (Mayfair) this December. Over 27,000 illuminated white roses fill the square. It’s free to explore the illuminated garden, although donations in exchange are appreciated for a white rose to take home. All funds raised will benefit The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity. Visit before the installation closes on 22 December.
20. Look (but don’t nibble) at Gingerbread City
The latest borough to crop up in London really takes the biscuit. The brainchild of the Museum of Architecture, this model city is made entirely of gingerbread and can be visited at Somerset House until 5 January. Teams of architects, engineers and designers have created buildings which include replicas of Wembley Stadium, The Gherkin, Chelsea Barracks and 22 Bishopsgate. You can sign up to a gingerbread house making workshop and see how yours compares!
21. Brush up on your history
If you need a break from your Christmas schedule or are looking for something to do after the holiday – retreat to one of London’s museums and indulge your inner historian. Winter exhibitions to add to your list include Uncover the Troy: Myth and Reality (British Museum), Tutankhamen: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh (Saatchi Gallery, Chelsea) or for a more spiritual option, get enlightened at the British Library’s Buddhist exhibition.
22. Celebrate Burn’s Night
In the spirit of camaraderie with our Scottish neighbours, Londoners rejoice on the evening of 25 January in celebration of the poet Robert Burns, who was born on this date in 1759. Revellers typically toast the national treasure by sharing a wee meal of haggis washed down with scotch. Head to Bourne & Hollingsworth for a traditional Burns Night of ceilidh, supper club and whiskey.
23. Experience spine-chilling theatre with Touching the Void
If you think getting out of Oxford Street tube station is a challenge, invest in tickets to see David Greig’s adaptation of Joe Simpson’s mountaineering memoir Touching the Void at the Duke of York Theatre. This gritty tale is the perfect antidote to festive fatigue!
24. Hit the slopes
We can’t guarantee snow in London this winter, but we can point you in the right direction to where you can hit the slopes. Chel-ski is a high-tech indoor ski slope where you can practice your snow plough and take beginners or improvers classes with the experts. No snow, no problem!
25. Ring in the Chinese New Year
As spring draws near, London’s Chinese population prepares to celebrate the Asian Lunar New Year on 25 January, marking the Year of the Rat. You can expect plenty of celebration in the surrounding week including parades, performances and delicious food. Head to Chinatown and Trafalgar Square, where the celebrations are most concentrated.