Things to Do in London in December
This post lists the many things to do in December in London, including family-friendly events, things to do at night, and of course, free activities. With Christmas on the way, December in London is full of festive fun and there are more than enough activities for you to experience. With markets, holiday lights and even a winter wonderland, there’s something for everybody during the holidays. Be sure to check out our extensive list of Things to Do in London, which contains ideas also applicable for December, or our guides for other months for even more ideas.
Watch our weather and things to do in December video.
Here you will find the largest German-style Christmas market in town, as well as games, rides, ice skating, food, and drink (keep an eye out for delicious classics liked mulled wine and cider!). With terrifying thrill rides, a gigantic Ferris wheel with amazing views over London, and a section specifically for children, the Winter Wonderland makes an excellent day out for the family. And Winter Wonderland isn’t the only Christmas Market in London. Read our post on the X-mas markets in London.
2. See the Christmas Lights Free!
There are beautiful Christmas lights all over London – particularly along the shopping streets of Oxford Street, Regent Street, Carnaby Street and Bond Street. Covent Garden will be lit up with lights, as well as a public Christmas Tree dominating the plaza which will be full of holiday-themed goods. For a true visual treat, make time to visit Selfridge’s and Harrods, both of which will put up their most fabulous over-the-top and luxurious world-famous window displays – always worth seeing, even if you do not wish to go inside! Read our post on where to find the best lights.
There are ice skating rinks throughout the city – even at places like the Tower of London! The London Eye Frostival is an annual holiday event at the London Eye that features a giant ice rink with incredible views. Regardless of whether or not you will be celebrating the holiday season, ice skating is a great way to take advantage of London’s cold weather festivities. Click here for a full list of all the best ice skating in the city.
4. Meet the Reindeer at Covent Garden Free!
Real life reindeer are brought to Covent Garden every year for visitor’s to see. As they’re busy helping Santa in preparation for Christmas, the reindeer are only available on Saturdays from noon to 4 pm. There are also fantastic decorations and Christmas lights all around Convent Garden which are absolutely worth seeing! If you want to learn even more about the area, consider following our self-guided food tour of Covent Garden.
5. Enjoy Mulled Wine at a Christmas Market Prices vary.
During the holiday period, the Southbank along the River Thames holds a wonderful Christmas market with handmade goods and treats, making an excellent spot for some Christmas shopping. Here, also, there will be mulled wine and cider – the traditional London holiday drink! Most pubs throughout the capital will be providing mulled wine throughout the holiday season and stalls selling it will pop up in places like the Southbank market, Covent Garden, along the Kings Road near Sloane Square and in Leicester Square. Read our post on the X-mas markets in London.
6. Charles Dickens Museum Free with London Pass
Although Charles Dickens didn’t write A Christmas Carol while living in this house, this former home of the great English novelist is his official museum. And what better time of year to visit than during December and the around the Christmas holiday. Read our post on visiting the museum and watch this promotional video. There is an admission cost, but it’s waived if you have the London Pass.
7. See A Christmas Carol on Stage From £39 per person
Throughout the month of December, you can attend a number of different holiday shows around the city. One of our favorites is the classic A Christmas Carol, which is shown at the Old Vic near Waterloo Station. For more information on seeing a show in London, check out our post on how to get cheap theatre tickets.
Christmas has come to Hogwarts this year! If you visit The Making of Harry Potter at Warner Bros. Studios this holiday season, you will have the chance to see the Great Hall and Gryffindor common room decorated with Christmas cheer, as well as the model of the Hogwarts castle covered in snow. Tickets are limited so be sure to book them in advance. Join our Harry Potter Tour in London to learn even more about the filming of the series.
9. Go on a Christmas-Themed Tour Prices and dates vary
Go on a tour throughout the city to see the very best Christmas lights and decorations that London has to offer. Choose from a ride on a vintage bus or a private tour in a black cab. Learn more about all the different tours that London has to offer by reading our comprehensive guides on the best boat tours, best hop-off, hop-on bus tours, best night tours, and best pub crawls.
10. Celebrate New Years Eve in London
London is one of the best cities in the world to celebrate NewYear’s Eve. There is a wide variety of fun events and activities taking place, including fantastic fireworks displays. Learn more about where to see the fireworks in our post on free things to do on New Year’s Eve.
All of the Christmas markets, winter festivals, as well as Christmas lights displays – are free to visit (see our Top 10 section). Food and rides can be a bit pricey, but you can save by eating beforehand and just splurging on a mulled cider or hot chocolate while you’re there. Below are some additional ideas for free things to do in December. Click here for more ideas of free things to do in London any time of the year.
Trafalgar Square Caroling
Listen to Christmas caroling in Trafalgar Square between 4 pm and 8 pm on weekdays, and between 2 pm and 6 pm on weekends. No tickets are required and you can take a selfie in front of the large Christmas tree in the square. Singing takes place between December 11th and the 22nd, with the exception of the 12th and 16th. For more details, visit https://www.london.gov.uk/events/2017-12-11/christmas-carols-trafalgar-square.
Advent and Christmas Services at Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey offers several advent and Christmas services during the month of December. If you are attending a service, you do not have to pay. However, you may need to reserve a spot. You won’t be able to explore the building, the tombs or the memorials, but you will be in the central nave to enjoy the magnificence of the building. You can learn more at their Advent and Christmas page. Both Westminster and St. Paul’s Cathedrals have daily mass services as well as choral services in the evening. Read more on our tips for free entry page.
Hamley’s Toy Store
Go window shopping in Hamley’s Toy Store, which is considered one of the greatest toy stores in the world! Is there a better time of year to visit a toy store than during December? Of course, the temptation will be to spend loads of money, but you don’t have to. Sophisticated state of the art displays of the newest toys will entertain you for not even a pound.
Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace
This is a bucket list item. For many of you, it’s a must-see. December means smaller crowds and likely better views. So, if you don’t mind the colder temperatures, then this is a great time to witness this spectacle. We have a post detailing where to get the best views and describes the ceremony in detail. You can even watch our video that we produced.
Click here for more ideas of free things to do in London any time of the year.
Though December is one of the coldest times of the year in London, the early part of the month tends to still reflect fall temperatures — making it the perfect time to go ice skating or visit a Christmas Market! In fact, there is so much to do in London during December that we don’t mind even when the weather is bad. However, in general, high temperatures in December tend to hover between 5-10 C (35-45 F). Read our full post – Weather in London in December.
After dark is one of the best times to walk around London during the month of December as you can enjoy all the incredible Christmas lights displays. There are also several fun holiday activities in the evenings as well, such as ice skating and the Santacon pub crawl. As mentioned in our free things to do section, you could enjoy Christmas caroling in Trafalgar Square, which on weekends take place till 8 pm (20:00) or stop at Hamley’s Toy Store in St. Pancras station, which stays open till 9 pm (21:00). Below are a few additional night activities. Check out our post on things to do in London at night for even more ideas.
- Join the Santa Pub Crawl at Santacon London.
- Go to the Magical Lantern Festival, a spectacular fusion of lights and color that features hand-sculpted lanterns at Chiswick House & Gardens during the holiday season.
- Wander through the Enchanted Woods at Syon Park.
- Visit the Sky Garden in the ‘Walkie Talkie’ for one of the best FREE indoor views of the city…. and maybe stay for dinner to enjoy a festive Christmas meal.
- Check out a free comedy show. There are many free comedy nights around London — each of which offers a fun and entertaining way to spend a chilly night indoors in December.
- Late Night Museums