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Things To do in Winter in London

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There is never a bad time to visit London. 

Even when the weather is cold and the days are overcast, there are endless things to do in the city.


WHY VISIT LONDON IN THE WINTER

Due to the colder weather, wintertime in London is the off-season for travel.  

There are fewer visitors so prices tend to adjust down.

The most affordable time to visit London will almost always be in January and February, as the holiday season is over and there’s not a whole lot going on.

Visitors can expect lower airfare pricing and potentially even discounts on tourist passes and fun activities. 

Hotels in London are almost always expensive, but the winter season, except around the holidays, tends to provide some better pricing on rooms.


HOW'S THE WEATHER IN LONDON?

In short, London is chilly during the winter months. 

Overall temps might be in the -1 to 4 C (30s F) in the morning, and 4.5-15 C (40s-50s F) in the afternoons. 

There is often some precipitation, wind, and a few days of snow.

December

December has just 8 hours of daylight per day on average, and temperatures hover around the 4.5-10 C (40s F). 

There are usually around 9 or 10 overcast days with light to moderate rain, and around 2-3 days of snow.

Read our full post on December weather.

January

January is cool and wet although milder than in many other northern European cities. 

Temperatures continue to hover around the 4.5-10 C (40s F), although some warmer days might get as high as the 13 C (mid-50s). 

Daylight moves from around 8 hours a day to 9 by the end of the month. 

There is trace precipitation on 18-19 days on average in January, and you may see 2-3 days of snow.

Read our full post on January weather.

February

Feburary temps are similar to January’s, with daytime temps in the 4.5-10 C (40s F), moving up to the 10-15 C (50s F) on a few warmer afternoons. 

There will be around 18 days that are cloudy, with light amounts of rain or snow. 

It can also be a bit windy.  

Daylight increases from 9 hours early in the month to 11 hours by the end of the month.

Read our full post on February weather.


EVENTS IN LONDON IN THE WINTER

Although it’s cold in London in the Winter, city dwellers don’t let that keep them indoors. 

There are loads of events taking place outdoors, especially around the holidays.

Here are just some of them:


Take in the Christmas Lights 

London goes all out when it comes to lighting up the city for the holidays. 

Strings of glittering lights drape across streets throughout the city, and stores put up creative window displays that signal Christmas is soon to arrive. 

From Regents Street to Bond Street to Oxford Street, you’ll find thousands of lights, decorations, and even activities surrounding this special time of year. 

For information on some of the places to see the best light displays, read our post on The Best Christmas Lights in London.


Attend a Christmas Show

Each year dozens of holiday themed shows are performed in London throughout December.

You can find classical concerts, kid friendly theatre, Christmas caroling, and much more.

Just a few of the shows are:

Royal Albert Hall Christmas Sing-A-Long

Join over 5,000 carolers at this annual Yuletide concert at the iconic Albert Hall.

The Royal Philharmonic, the Royal Choral Society, and the British Imperial Military Band have joined in on the performance. It’s truly a magical experience.

Handel's Messiah

One of the most popular choral works of the season is the Hallelujah Chorus from Handle’s Messiah

Handel's Messiah concert bill from Westminster Abbey from Thursday, June 2nd, 1785
Photo by: Digital Bodleian

This work has firmly earned its place in Christmas tradition, and can be found in performances all throughout the English capital. 

For a list of other performances, visit our post 30 Christmas Shows in London.


Enjoy A Christmas Market

Street markets associated with Christmas pop up all around London. Here you’ll find food and drinks, crafts, holiday decorations, activities and more.

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

This annual celebration of all-things-Christmas is the biggest and most famous of Christmas Markets in London. But it’s so much more than that.

Over time it has grown to include the UK's largest outdoor ice-skating rink, a giant Ferris Wheel, a magical ice kingdom, several foods, merchandise stalls, and more.

For more information on dates, attractions, tickets, and opening times, visit our post Winter Wonderland Hyde Park, London.

Christmas at Covent Garden

Covent Garden is worth visiting any time of the year, but at Christmas, it truly stands out.

The covered market and piazza are festooned with beautiful decorations, giant baubles, twinkling lights, and mistletoe chandeliers. Music plays, the stall owners sell their seasonal goods, and holiday food and drink are plentiful!  

Activities have included a Mulled Wine celebration, a sandwich festival, frozen Christmas trees, and much, much more. 

Dates, times, and additional information on each year’s market can be found in our post Christmas at Covent Garden.

Other

Our post covering 9 London Christmas Markets will give you information on other markets to visit in the winter months.


Take a Christmas Themed Tour

If you’re looking for a guide through some of London’s best Christmas decorations, there are plenty of tours on offer. 

Just a few of them are:

Christmas Lights Walking Tour

Our pay-what-you-wish Christmas Lights Walking Tour takes you through cozy Christmas markets and past dazzling Christmas light displays.

Christmas Markets on the Southbank Tour

This walk gives you a view of some of London’s most famous attractions, all lit up for Christmas, and gives you chances to buy Christmas foods and mulled drinks along the way.


Visit Christmas at Kew

Thousands of people flock to Christmas at Kew each season to see this enchanting and festive after-dark attraction. 

Many of Kew’s 12,000 trees and bushes are lit up in jewel-like colours along a path that winds throughout the gardens.

Illuminations at Kew Gardens at Christmas
Photo by: m.shattock |  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic

There are also sparkling tunnels of light, dancing waterside reflections, food and fairground rides.

Our post Christmas at Kew provides information on dates, tickets, times, and activities.


Go Ice Skating

There are many ice rinks that pop up in London over the winter, some opening as early as October and staying open beyond New Year’s. 

A few rinks include:

Skylight Tobacco Dock

Skylight is Europe's only real ice rooftop ice-rink!  

Bookings should be made the day of the visit. They also have igloos and Alpine Huts for rent. 

To learn more, visit their website.

Hampton Court Palace

Guests can take to the ice right outside King Henry VIII’s front door! 

On the banks of the River Thames. Food and drink can be found at Miss Polly’s Cafe and skate aids can be rented.  

To plan your trip, visit their website.

Alexandra Palace

Alexandra Palace is an iconic London Landmark, host to concerts, events, and exhibitions, with 196 acres of parkland, and an international-sized Ice Rink. 

Their “Festive Skate” runs from November 28th - January 8th. More information can be found here.

For more options and information, read our post 10 Place for Ice Skating in London.


Celebrate New Year’s

London is one of the best cities in the world to celebrate New Year's.

There are a wide array of fun events and activities taking place in London on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day including fantastic fireworks displays and a parade with over 10,000 performers.

This is one event that checks off all the boxes: it’s free, it’s fun, and it’s family-friendly!

Learn more about where to see the fireworks and other fun activities in our post Free Things to do on New Year's Eve in London.


Join Twelfth Night Celebrations

If all goes according to tradition, on Thursday 5th January 2023, starting in the early afternoon, folks can partake in this free, somewhat surreal event ending the Christmas season.

You'll see Holly Man emerging from the River, cakes handed out, toasts made and the crowning of a King and Queen followed by a street procession, dancing, and storytelling!

The arrival of the Holly Man by boat to Bankside on the River Thames, for the Lions' Part Theatre Company's Twelfth Night celebrations
Photo by: Scott |  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic

This all takes place on Bankside, not far from the Globe Theatre.

Learn more about Twelfth Night events here.


Celebrate Burns Night

Every January 25th, Brits around the Kingdom, honor Scottish poet and lyricist Robert Burns, born on January 25 in 1759.

Many London restaurants will be having "Burns suppers", part of the annual tradition.

Be warned: it is not a Burns Supper if haggis is not being served (see Wikipedia's relatively mild explanation as to what haggis is). 

To get a rundown of the many events taking place in London that day and night, see this helpful list from Visit London.


TOP THINGS TO DO IN LONDON IN THE WINTER

There are endless things to do in London over the winter, many of them indoors. 

A few suggestions for activities you might enjoy include:


Visit Westminster Abbey

One of the jewels in London's crown, Westminster Abbey is a must-visit for history lovers and those who enjoy a touch of royalty!

Westminster Abbey has seen over 16 royal weddings, including Will and Kate's, and is the burial location of 17 monarchs.

Inside can be found The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries, Poet’s Corner, the Coronation Chair, The Lady Chapel, the Grave of the Unknown Warrior, and more. Services can also be attended.

For information on times, tours, and tickets, read our post here.


Enjoy the Theatre

There''s always plenty to see on stage in London. The winter is no different, and in December there are loads of plays, musicals, and concerts that celebreate the holidays.

Some places to visit for these holiday shows are:

West End

London is home to the West End – the neighborhood of the world’s best plays and musicals.

With discount tickets easily available and a selection of shows as varied as it is impressive, this is the perfect winter activity.

See our Discount Theatre Tickets guide on how to secure a good price for one of the shows.

Royal Albert Hall

After the success of the Great Exhibition in 1851, Prince Albert – who was responsible for the Great Exhibition – proposed that a permanent venue should be built nearby to serve the continuing education and enlightenment of Victorian society.

Eventually Royal Albert Hall was created by Queen Victoria, one that has hosted every kind of concert from rock to opera, stage performances, ballet, and more.   

Read our post Royal Albert Hall Tours for information on how to visit this gorgeous and interesting venue.


See London from Above

London is truly an amazing city and one that should be seen from above if given the chance. 

There are a few places you can take in a bird’s eye view of the river, parks, bridges, and landmarks:

Sky Garden

The Sky Garden is just what it sounds like, a garden in the sky, but one that has 360 degree views of London. 

It is completely free to visit, but you must make a reservation beforehand. 

Read our post How to Book Free Sky Garden Tickets.

The Shard 

This 72 storey skyscraper has restaurants, bars, a hotel, retail space and an observation deck that’s even higher than the Sky Garden.  

For information on tickets, read our post How Much to Visit the View from the Shard

The London Eye 

This massive ferris wheel has glass pods that allows guests to look out over some of London’s biggest landmarks.  

To find inexpensive tickets, visit our post Cheap London Eye Tickets.


Visit Palaces and Castles

Royalty and the history surrounding it has always been a big draw for visitors to London.

A few of the palaces and castles one can visit are:

Buckingham Palace

This is the official residence of the monarch, and has been since 1837. 

During this winter the Royal Mews and the State Rooms are closed, but one can still visit the Queen’s Gallery. 

It comprises over one million objects, including 7,000 paintings, 30,000 watercolors and drawings, and about 500,000 prints, as well as photographs, tapestries, furniture, ceramics, books, sculptures, and last but not least the Crown Jewels. 

For information on tickets, security, and times, visit our post Buckingham Palace Tours.

Kensington Palace

The 17th century palace has been home to members of the royal family including Princess Diana and Princes William and Harry. 

The Palace is open to the public year round. Guests can visit the King’s State Apartments, an exhibit on Queen Victoria’s childhood and more.

Audio guides explaining the history, people, and stories that fill every room of the Palace are available.

More information can be found in our post Kensington Palace Tickets | 10 Tips for Discounts.

Windsor Castle

Home to British Kings and queens for over 900 years, this royal residence is the largest occupied castle in the world. 

In recent years it’s been the site of the prayer and dedication ceremony of King Charles III and the Queen Consort, and the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

There are endless spaces to visit including the Middle Ward, The Round Tower, State Apartments and St. George’s Chapel.

For more information on the history of the castle, how to get there, and tickets, our post Windsor Castle Tickets and Discounts will be of help.

Other Palace and Castles to Visit


Visit a Museum

You could spend an entire trip visiting the many and varied museums in London and nothing more. 

The city has some of the most impressive collections in the world.

Our post The Best Free Museums in London will give you some ideas of places to visit including:

National Gallery

The National Gallery holds works by some of the most well-known artists in history, and their collection of 2,300 paintings includes works from all over the world. 

Throughout the year, the museum also hosts unique and specially curated exhibits. 

For more information, read our post The National Gallery of Art London.

British Museum

The British Museum has one of the most important collections of historical artifacts anywhere in the world, covering 2 million years of human history in over 60 galleries.

From an Egyptian sculpture gallery to a Roman Empire room and much, much more, you’ll find endless things to be fascinated by and learn about.

If you’re interested in a tour of this vast museum, visit our The British Museum Tour page. 

To read more about what you can visit for free, read our post How Much Does it Cost to Visit the British Museum.

Others Museums To Visit Include


View the Changing of the Guard

The Changing of the Guard is a formal ceremony in which a group of soldiers at Buckingham Palace is relieved of their duties by a new batch of soldiers.

The soldiers head down the Mall from St. James’ Palace to Buckingham palace, often with a marching band. 

In addition to the music, there are also Guards parading the colours (or flags) of their respective regiment, while all the soldiers are inspected and counted.

For more information about the ceremony, including times and locations, read our post.


Visit the Palace of Westminster

Inside the Palace of Westminster lies the Houses of Parliament, the world's oldest democratic body

All the legislative work of the Houses of Parliament take place in either the House of Commons or the House of Lords - and both of these chambers have sections that are open to the public.

Our post How to Visit the Houses of Parliament and the Palace of Westminster will tell you everything you need to know about how to plan your visit.

Note that nearby are Big Ben, the Churchill War Rooms, and 10 Downing Street.


Take a Jack the Ripper Tour

In 1888, a serial killer terrorized the desperately poor in London’s East End. 

These brutal murders were set against the backdrop of the chaotic filth and poverty of the Victorian London district of Whitechapel. 

The murderer, known as Jack the Ripper, was never identified, making this a real London murder mystery and one that has fascinated millions. 

Yes, it’s cold outside but that seems to fit this kind of tour. A list of London Ripper Tours can be found here.

About The Author

Margaret

An American simply by accident of birth, Margaret moved to London over 16 years ago and hasn’t looked back since! With a keen interest in History – and a BA degree to match – Margaret prides herself on her knowledge of the amazing city she calls home and she's been guiding here now for nearly a decade. Social history is her real expertise, with sound understanding of the day-to-day lives of Londoners over the past centuries.
Updated: November 28th, 2022
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