The very best things to do during Christmas in London

The holidays are coming and what better place to spend Christmas than in London? Few cities can compare to the UK’s capital when it comes to Christmas cheer with lots of Christmas trees, Christmas lights, and a gazillion fun activities to do.

Tickets for many of the major attractions for the festive season are on sale now so you would do well to start planning, others are still waiting for dates to be confirmed so do check back regularly.

Christmas in London with kids
Pavilion of Kew Gardens in Christmas time, London, UK

Is Christmas a good time to visit London?

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London is a great place to be at Christmas. London is a lively city at the best of times but come Christmas the capital really springs to life. Central London is decorated in thousands of bright Christmas lights, the shop windows go all out with festive displays and there are more festive events taking place than you could possibly squeeze into your diary.

Christmas is a popular time to visit London so do make sure to book accommodation well in advance if you plan to be here over the holiday period. Take a look at our guide to where to say in London here.

Here are our top picks for family activities at Christmas time in London.

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Christmas Shows in London

I love a good Christmas show and fortunately London has a lot of them to offer. Here are just a selection of some of the family-friendly shows scheduled for this year.

Circus 1903

We’ve seen this show twice now and could happily go again. This turn-of-the-century circus features contortionists, acrobats, knife throwers and incredible puppetry form the team behind War Horse, all led by a comical and charismatic ringmaster. This is pure Christmas joy for the whole family.

Circus 1903 is in town from 15 December 2022 – 1 January 2023 with shows at 11am, 3pm, 7:30pm. Tickets from £20

Dates: 15 December 2022 – 1 January 2023

Location: Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8XX

Website

A Christmas Carol at the Old Vic 

This Christmas classic returns of the Old Vic for a sixth year, this time with Owen Teale treading the boards, otherwise known as Ser Alliser Thorne from Game of Thrones. 

Dates: 12 November 2022 – 7 January 2023

Location: The Old Vic, The Cut, London SE1 8NB

Website

Frozen 

Let’s be honest, Frozen is good to see any year round but Christmas is a particularly good time to see the musical version of the ridiculously popular Disney animated film. 

Read our review of the smash hit musical here

Dates: through to March 2023

Location: Theatre Royal Drury Lane, Catherine St, London WC2B 5JF

Website

Hex 

Based on the tale of Sleeping Beauty, Hex promises to be a fun and colourful musical for Christmas. It will be staged at the National Theatre.

Dates: 26 November 2022 – 14 January 2023

Location: National Theatre, Upper Ground, South Bank, London SE1 9PX

Website

Dolly Parton’s Smoky Mountain Christmas Carol 

For something a little different this Christmas, book tickets for this new musical written by the Queen of country, Dolly Parton. 

Dates: 8 December 2022 – 8 January 2023

Location: Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX

Website

The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe 

Step through the wardrobe and into the magical kingdom of Narnia this Christmas. 

Dates: Until 8 January 2023

Location: Gillian Lynne Theatre, 166 Drury Lane, London, WC2B 5PW

Website

The Nutcracker 

It’s not Christmas without The Nutcracker; this year it’s being performed at the Royal Opera House. 

Dates: 6 December 2022 – 14 January 2023

Location: Royal Opera House, Bow Street, London, WC2E 9DD

Website

Elf the Musical 

Join Buddy on his adventures this Christmas when the musical comes to London’s Dominon Theatre for eight weeks.

Dates: 14 November 2022 – 7 January 2023

Location: Dominion Theatre, 268-269 Tottenham Court Rd, London W1T 7AQ

Website

The Snowman 

Back for its 25th year at the Peacock theatre is holiday favourite The Snowman

Dates: 19 November – 31 December 

Location: Peacock Theatre, Portugal St, London WC2A 2HT

Website


Christmas Pantomimes in London

Nothing says Christmas quite like a traditional pantomime (“oh no it doesn’t!”) and there are always a handful to choose from. Some options this year include:

Jack and the Beanstalk seems to be a popular theme this year but it’s not the only tale being brought to stage. Here are some of the best Christmas pantomimes in London for 2022:

Jack and the Beanstalk at The Palladium 

Dates: 10 December 2022 – 15 January 2023

Website

Cinderella at the Theatre Royal Stratford East 

Dates: 19 November 2022 – 7 January 2023

Website

Jack and the Beanstalk in the Churchill Theatre, Bromley

Dates: 3 December – 31 December 2022

Website

Jack and the Beanstalk at the Lyric Hammersmith 

Dates: 19 November 2022 – 7 January 2023 

Website

Mother Goose at the Hackney Empire 

Dates: 19 November – 31 December 2022

Website

Goldilocks and the Three Bears at the Richmond Theatre 

Dates: 3 December – 31 December 2022

Website

Christmas in London with kids
Christmas lights in London

Where to see Santa in London in 2022 

If you can’t get to the North Pole (or Lapland, where we all know he really lives!) this Christmas then don’t worry, you can hand your Christmas list to Father Christmas at one of the following santa’s grotto.

Make sure to check back as not all dates for venues have been announced yet including Father Christmas at the London Wetland Centre and Santa at Hamley’s.

The magic of Christmas at ZSL London Zoo 

Meet Santa in his magical grotto at ZSL London Zoo and you might even return home with a gift (you must book visits in advance). For something even more magical, book a VIP Meet Santa ticket and the elves will sneak you into the Zoo before it opens to the public for a VIP Breakfast with Mrs Claus and then a meeting with the man in red. 

Dates: TBC 

Location: ZSL London Zoo, Regent’s Park, London NW1 4RY

Website

Santa Land at Winter Wonderland 

Santa Land sits in one corner of Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park and is a great place to deliver your list to the big man. Santa’s Grotto is open daily from 10am to 6pm. Entry is free but you will need to purchase an entry ticket for Winter Wonderland.

As well as meeting Father Christmas, Santa Land has kids’ rides, food stands and Santa’s parade which starts at 5pm Monday to Wednesdays.

Dates: TBC 

Location: Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park, London W2 2UH

Website

Christmas at the London Transport Museum 

Meet Santa and help fix his sleigh, follow a fun winter Underground roundel trail and enjoy a festive family movie. 

Dates: 4 – 23 December, 11am – 3pm daily 

Location: London Transport Museum, The Piazza, London WC2E 7BB

Website

Santa’s Grotto at Alexandra Palace 

The Big Man is spending some time at Alexandra Palace this festive season. Young kids can meet Santa, have their photo taken and go home with a small gift.

Dates: TBC 

Location: Alexandra Palace, Alexandra Palace Way, London N22 7AY

Website

Storytelling with Father Christmas at the Royal Albert Hall 

Dates: 2 – 21 December; tickets go on sale 15 October 

Location: Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore, South Kensington, London SW7 2AP

Website

Father Christmas Storytelling at the Chelsea Physic Garden 

Dates: TBC 

Location: Chelsea Physic Garden, 66 Royal Hospital Rd, London SW3 4HS

Website

Christmas at Kew 

Santa always makes an appearance during Kew’s spectacular Christmas light trail. 

Dates: 16 November 2022 – 8 January 2023 

Location: Kew Gardens XXX 

Website

Father Christmas the London Wetland Centre

Make sure to book this visit with Santa at the London Wetland Centre. Visitors will have the chance to meet Father Christmas and Ken the Grand-Elf in his tranquil wetlands’ grotto.

Dates: TBC 

Location: London Wetland Centre WWT, Queen Elizabeth Walk, Barnes, London, SW13 9WT

Website

Christmas in London with kids
Fortnum and Mason’s amazing Christmas lights

Christmas Markets in London

A number of Christmas markets take place in London at this time of year.

Winter Wonderland Christmas Market

Winter Wonderland is home to over 100 traditional wooden chalets selling Christmas gifts, decorations and more.

Dates: 18 November 2022 – 2 January 2023

Location: Hyde Park, London, W2 2UH

Website

Selfridges Christmas Market on the Mews

Dates for this Christmas market have yet to be announced but keep an eye out as this is a magical place to get into the Christmas spirit. Tucked away on a mews behind the department store are market stalls selling street food, gifts and even Christmas trees. There are also a handful of fairground rides to enjoy. Fingers crossed it takes place again this year.

Dates: TBC

Location: Selfridges 400 Oxford St, London W1A 1AB

Website

Southbank Centre Winter Market

The festive alpine chalets of the Southbank Centre’s winter market are the place to go for seasonal food including fondue, bratwurst and mulled wine.

Dates: TBC

Location: The Queen’s Walk, London SE1 8XX

Website

Leicester Square Christmas market

The market in Leicester Square is a lovely market to wander around with a glass of mulled wine in hand. The wooden huts sell everything from festive ornaments, toys and yummy festive treats.

Dates: TBC

Location: Leicester Square, London, WC2H 7NA

Website

Covent Garden Christmas Village 

Covent Garden is a fun place to visit at any time of year but come Christmas time the neighbourhood transforms into a truly magical place. The annual Covent Garden Christmas Village includes a festive food market, Christmas gifts, mulled wine, festive food, and plenty of Christmas trees and baubles. 

Dates: TBC

Location: Covent Garden Piazza, Cranbourn St, London WC2H 7AR

Website

Greenwich Christmas Market 

Greenwich Market is open daily throughout the year with Mondays, Wednesday, Fridays and the weekends being dedicated to arts and crafts and Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays for antiques and collectables. During the Christmas period, however, the market becomes a Christmas one with over 100 vendors selling food, gifts and festive knick-knacks. 

Dates: TBC

Location: Greenwich Market, London SE10 9HZ

Website

Eccleston Yards Christmas Market 

Dates for this pop up Christmas Market have yet to be announced but we’re hoping that it returns for 2022 as this is one of the best Christ Markets in London. With gifts, live music, mince pies and mulled wine, it’s great for getting in the Christmas spirit. 

Dates: TBC

Location: 21 Eccleston Pl, London SW1W 9NF

Website

things to do in London at Christmas with kids
The bright lights of London at Christmas

Christmas Carols in London

Get ready to belt out your favourite Christmas tunes at one of these Christmas Carol concerts.

Shakespeare’s Globe

Part song, part storytelling is a magical re-imagining and re-wilding of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale The Fir Tree. Grab a cup of hot chocolate or mulled wine and join in to listen to the story of Christmas told from the perspective of the tree.

Dates: 15 – 31 December

Location: Shakespeare’s Globe, 21 New Globe Walk, London SE1 9DT

Website

St Paul’s Carols

It’s free entry to these popular carols at St Paul’s Cathedral so make sure to arrive early and beat the queue!

Dates: TBC

Location: St. Paul’s Churchyard, London EC4M 8AD

Website

Christmas Carols at the Royal Albert Hall

Perhaps the most elegant venue for Christmas carols is the Royal Albert Hall. The concerts start on December 17 and run until Christmas Eve with three performances a day at 11:00am, 3:00pm, 7:30pm.

Dates: Saturday 17 – Saturday 24 December 2022

Location: The Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore, South Kensington, London SW7 2AP

Website

Trafalgar Square Carols

Ever since 1947 the people of Norway have gifted the people of London a Christmas tree, which is put on proud display in the middle of Trafalgar Square. Over the holiday period different carol singing groups gather to sing in the square to raise money for their chosen charities. Although dates for 2021 have yet to be confirmed do keep checking their website as this is a lovely festive event. 

Dates: TBC

Location: Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN

Website

Carols in the Courtyard at Fulham Palace 

Enjoy mulled wine, mince pies, gingerbread men and plenty of singing in the restored Tudor courtyard at Fulham Palace. 

Dates: TBC 

Location: Bishop’s Avenue, Fulham, London SW6 6EA

Website 

Christmas in London with kids
Christmas lights on Oxford Street

Christmas Light Trails in London

In addition to the events listed below there are lots of places where you can get into the Christmas spirit in town. Some of the best places to see Christmas lights in London include:

The Oxford Street Christmas lights: Last year’s display was made up of 27 curtains of light using more than 200,000 bulbs dedicated to the key workers who looked after the nation during the pandemic.

Regent Street Christmas lights: If it’s Christmas razzle dazzle you’re after then head to Regent Street that always has a magical light display.

Covent Garden Christmas lights: Covent Garden is pretty picture perfect most times of year but throw in mistletoe chandeliers, a majestic Christmas tree and over 100,000 Christmas lights and it becomes the perfect place to enjoy the magic of Christmas.

Other places to enjoy Christmas lights in London include Marylebone Village, King’s Cross and Coal Drops Yard, Bond Street and along the South Bank.

Don’t miss the festive display outside Fortnum and Mason department store, just near Piccadilly Circus. Every year this iconic London department store puts on an ambitious and impressive Christmas display. Another store that goes to town for the holiday period is Harrods in Kensington.

Christmas at Kew

The Christmas lights at Kew Gardens are really the gold standard for light trails in London. The annual after-dark trail includes sparkling tunnels of light, dancing waterside reflections and trees drenched in cascading colourful lights. The Palm House light display is always spectacular.

Drinks, including hot drinks such as hot chocolate, are for sale at various points along the trail along with hot food and sweet treats. Last year Santa made an appearance as well.

Dates: 16 November 2022 – 8 January 2023. Tickets are on sale now.

Location: Kew Gardens, Royal Botanic Gardens, London, Richmond TW9 3AQ

Website

Palace of Stardust at Hampton Court Palace

New for last year was the Palace of Stardust, a light trail at Hampton Court Palace. Wander through the historic cobbled courtyards and the palace gardens that are filled with magical illuminations inspired by the palace’s famous astronomical clock; the ticking Tudor heart of Hampton Court installed by command of King Henry VIII.

Dates: 07 December 2022 to 02 January 2023. Excluding 12-13, 24, 25, 26 December. Tickets are for sale now.

Location: Hampton Court Palace, Hampton Ct Way, Molesey, East Molesey KT8 9AU

Website

Carnaby Christmas lights

Carnaby Street puts on a cool themed display every year – last year’s theme, Kaleidoscope, promoted love and kindness – and raises money for charities as well.

Dates: TBC

Location: Carnaby Street, Carnaby, London

Website

Winterfest in Wembley Park

Wembley Park’s free winter lights trail, Winterfest, goes all out for Christmas – last year it featured London’s largest LED tree.

Dates: TBC

Location: Wembley Park, Bridge Road, Wembley, HA9 9AA

Website

Lightopia at Crystal Palace 

Not only does the award-winning Lightopia feature lots of colourful Christmas lights, this festival light trail is home to huge lanterns, incredible installations and plenty of festive cheer. 

Dates: 17 November 2022 – 2 January 2023. Tickets on sale now 

Location: Crystal Palace Park, Canada Gate, Anerley Hill, London SE19 2BA

Website 

Winter Lights at Canary Wharf

Bringing bright lights to the city is the award-winning Winter Lights festival at Canary Wharf featuring some incredible installations. 

Dates: TBC 

Location: Canary Wharf, London 

Website

Christmas at Kenwood

Christmas at Kenwood made its debut last year and was a huge success. Set on the grounds of Kenwood House on the edge of Hampstead Heath, enjoy colourful illuminations and installations as well as festive cocktails and food. 

Dates: 2 December 2022 – 1 January 2023 

Location: Kenwood House, Hampstead Heath, Hampstead Lane, London, NW3 7JP

Website

Enchanted Woodland at Syon Park

The 600-year-old Gardens at Syon Park are being transformed for Christmas into an Enchanted Woodland. Now in its 16th year the trail winds through the arboretum, passing the sixteenth century Syon House, and ends at the spectacular Great Conservatory.

Dates: From 11 November. Tickets available now.

Location: Syon Park, London Rd, Brentford, Middlesex, TW8 8JF

Website

Ice Skating at the Natural History Museum in London
Ice skating at the Natural History Museum in London

Christmas Ice skating rinks in London

It’s time to lace up your skates and hit the ice rink this Christmas. London always delivers when it comes to ice rinks in stunning locations but if you’re wondering where to try, here are some of the best places to ice skate in London. Unfortunately the ice rink at the Natural History Museum is no longer taking place.

Somerset House Ice Rink

The ice rink at Somerset House is one of the longest-running Christmas ice rinks in London. This annual event sees the courtyard transformed into a magical winter wonderland with an ice rink and a glorious 40ft Christmas tree. This is an ice rink with someone for everyone from skating lessons with Skate School to late night Skate Lates.

Dates: TBC

Location: Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 1LA

Website

Winter Wonderland Ice Rink

Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park is making a welcome return this year and so is its ice rink. Set in the heart of the park around the iconic Victorian bandstand, the ice rink will be open from 10am to 10pm daily offering 50 minute skate sessions. Skate aids are available (for an additional £5) but can’t be booked in advance.

Dates: 18 November 2022 – 2 January 2023

Location: Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park, London

Website

Hampton Court Palace Ice Rink

The ice skating rink at Hampton Court Palace is back again this year. The location, in the grounds of Henry VIII’s historic home is hard to beat. Combine it with a visit to their new light trail (see below for details). Make sure you pre-book a skate aid for children in advance if you need one (these incurred an extra cost).

Dates: TBC

Location: Hampton Court Palace, Hampton Ct Way, Molesey, East Molesey KT8 9AU

Website

The Queen’s House Greenwich Ice Rink

Set in the grounds of the Royal Museums Greenwich, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this ice rink is simply stunning. Enjoy views of Greenwich Park to the south and the lights of Canary Wharf to the north. This is the only outdoor ice rink in South London.

Dates: 17 November 2022 – 8 January 2023. Tickets available to book now.

Location: The Queen’s Hous, Romney Rd, Greater, London SE10 9NF

Website

Ice Rink Canary Wharf

The Ice Rink at Canary Wharf will be open for 18 weeks of skating this winter opening on October 23 (just in time for half-term) and running until February 26th. Located at Canada Square Park, within Canary Wharf shopping Centre, this is a covered ice rink so the perfect option if if happens to be a rainy day in London!

Dates: 22 October 2022 – 25 February 2023. Tickets available now.

Location: Canary Wharf, London E14

Website

Tower of London Ice Rink

As far as locations go, few can beat skating in the moat of the Tower of London. This stunning open-air ice rink is a really fun place to skate with views of the historic Tudor palace. The ice rink did not open in 2021 so here’s hoping that it takes place this year although dates are yet to be announced. Watch this space!

Dates: TBC

Location: Tower of London, London EC3N 4AB

Website

things to do in London at Christmas with kids
London is a great place to spend Christmas

Other Christmas Events in London

From festive afternoon teas and Christmas events in department stores, there are lots of other ways to celebrate the holidays in London. Here are some of our favourites.

The Gingerbread City at the Museum of Architecture

Forget your traditional gingerbread house and opt for a gingerbread city instead. The Gingerbread City is an annual exhibition where architects, designers and engineers create an entire city made of gingerbread. The fun – and hugely intricate display – aims to connect the public with architecture through a creative display created for the Christmas holidays.

The exhibition raises money to support the Museum of Architecture as a charity and helps to create programming, exhibitions and events.

Dates: TBC

Location: 6-7 Motcomb Street, SW1X 8JU

Website

Hogwarts in the Snow

Wands at the ready, it’s time to visit Hogwarts at Christmas. The annual Hogwarts in the Snow opens its doors on November 12 and welcomes guests until January 15.

The Great Hall will be transformed with the ice silvers of the iconic Yule Ball scene. The Gryffindor common room will be dressed for the season and snow will cover the Forbidden Fest as well as the cobbled stone and magical shop fronts of Dragon Alley.

Dates: 12 November 2022 – 15 January 2023. Tickets are available now.

Location: Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, Studio Tour Drive, Leavesden, WD25 7LR

Website

For more Harry Potter magic, take a look at this walking tour through central London.

Winter Wonderland in London

London’s home for festive fun, Hyde’s Park Winter Wonderland offers shows, rides, an ice rink, a magical ice kingdom, Santa Land and more. A visit here is really a great way to celebrate the festive period.

Like last year, you’ll need to book your tickets in advance choosing what date and time you want to visit. Winter Wonderland does get very busy (although hopefully the ticketed entrance will keep numbers down) so you will want to take this into account when booking your tickets.

Dates: 18 November 2022 – 2 January 2023

Location: Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park, London

Website

’12 Days of Headstone’ Family Trail

Help find all the decorations hidden around the Headstone Manor & Museum so that they can decorate their Christmas Tree! Fill in your sheet as you explore the museum and win a festive prize at the end.

Dates: Throughout December

Location: Headstone Recreation Ground, Pinner View, Harrow, London, HA2 6PX

Website

The Luna Winter Cinema at Kensington Palace

Enjoy festive films from Elf and Home Alone to Love Actually and The Holiday on the big screen at Kensington Palace this Christmas season accompanied by delicious mulled wine, mince pies and hot chocolate.

Dates: TBC

Location: Kensington Palace, Kensington Gardens, London W8 4PX

Website

Christmas at the Tower of London

Enjoy a very Royal Christmas with a trip to the Tower of London where visitors can learn the history of the tower through the animals that once lived here. From majestic elephants and a winter wonderland scene were polar bears roam to a playful ravens nest. Included in palace admission.

Dates: 23 November 2022 – 3 January 2023

Location: Tower of London, London EC3N 4AB

Website

Let it snow in Covent Garden

Let is snow, let it snow! Snow flurries fell regularly in Covent Garden last year and we’re keeping gingers crossed that snow is in the forestcast for 2022.

Dates: TBC

Location: Covent Garden

Website

Christmas at the Postal Museum

The Mail Rail is getting a festive makeover. The subterranean ride which takes visitors back in time to the heyday of the postal railway will be decorated for the holidays.

Also on display are letters to Santa, which inlaces official cards from Father Christmas sent to children between 1963 and 2010. The first commercial Christmas card will also be on display in the museum’s permanent exhibitions space.

Dates: TBC

Location: Postal Museum, 15-20 Phoenix Pl, London WC1X 0DA

Website

The Homes of Christmas Past

Details and dates for this event at the Museum of the Home have yet to be announced for 2022.

Dates: TBC

Location: The Museum of the Home, 136 Kingsland Road, London, E2 8EA

Website

2 thoughts on “The very best things to do during Christmas in London”

  1. London is an amazing city. But at Christmas time it has a unique magical atmosphere! I miss visiting this city!

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