5 Things To Do in London During the Holidays

The holidays are upon us and festive activities are in full swing all around the city.

Here, the city streets are lined with extravagant light displays, shops and boutiques boast intricate window displays, and cheery Christmas markets transform areas of the city into literal winter wonderlands.

The mood around the city seems to lift with each switch on of Christmas lights across the city and each new Holiday party marked in the diary.

It may be the coldest (and darkest) time of the year, but it’s the perfect time to celebrate all things merry and bright.

Here is a list of great activities that will keep you busy over the holidays!

1. Wonder at the Christmas lights

One of the ways that the city of London gets its residents in the holiday spirit is by throwing ‘Switch On’ ceremonies in various neighbourhoods across the city.

Throughout the month of November, you can go to as many of these ceremonies as you’d like. They’re generally marked with a live band, street performers, and mulled wine stands. Similar to New Year’s Eve, there is a big countdown and then a button is pressed and all of the area lights up in one glorious display.

After that the areas stay lit each night, so you can walk underneath London’s beautiful light displays and stare in wonder at the twinkling lights any time you please.

The most popular light displays? Those can be found on Oxford Street, Carnaby Street, Regent Street, the Strand, and at Covent Garden.

2. Stroll through the Christmas markets

There are several annual Christmas markets that have made names for themselves across the city.

There’s Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland, Southbank Centre’s Winter Festival, Christmas by the River with London Bridge City, Winterville in Clapham, and Christmas in Leicester Square.

Each of these markets has its own style, but all of them have a few things in common. Most notably, they are characterised by quintessential Christmas stalls, sweet and savoury food stands, the odd theme park ride, and impressive pop up village bars with all the mulled wine that your heart desires.

They’re popular after-work and weekend destinations, when you’ll see an influx of Londoners making their way to the pop up village bars for a pint (or pints) with their friends. If you’re overwhelmed by crowded places, going on a week day is your best bet. To get the true experience though, I suggest you check at least one of them out on a popular night.

3. Ice skate in a historical place

One of the perks of being in a historical city? Some of those places get turned into ice rinks for the winter season.

You can skate under twinkling lights next to the Natural History Museum, try out your best tricks on an iced Somerset House courtyard, or glide over a medieval moat at the Tower of London. If you’re willing to venture outside the city, you can even skate with royalty at the Hampton Court Palace.

Each of these locations is important to London’s current culture and its history, and everyone has the chance to experience them in a different way during the holidays.

Not one for skating? That’s just fine. In typical London fashion, each of these places has a bar or cafe for those who prefer pints to skates.

4. Go window shopping

We’ve already established that London takes its holiday spirit very seriously, and London’s storefronts are no exception.

Each year, iconic department stores pull out all the stops to create the most extravagant holiday displays. When you’re ready to take a break from your own Christmas shopping, treat yourself to the magical storefront displays of Harrods, Selfridges, Fortnum & Mason, and Harvey Nichols.

I would be remiss to not acknowledge that many boutique shops have their own intricate, albeit smaller, holiday displays that you won’t want to miss. The shops at the Columbia Road Flower Market, for example, have gotten into the same holiday spirit. Boutique shops like this are peppered all around London and you can stumble upon them just by turning the corner.

5. See a Christmas show

When you get tired from walking up and down London’s streets in search of the best light and storefront displays, consider popping in to see a Christmas show.

If you’re a fan of the classics, you can see A Christmas Carol at the Old Vic Theatre or The Nutcracker at the London Coliseum or the Royal Opera House. If you aren’t a fan of stage shows but enjoy the cinema, check out one of London’s many Christmas film screenings and kick back with a bag of popcorn.

No matter what your fancy, you can be reasonably assured that you will find a Christmas show that is right for you.


There is an endless supply of Christmas spirit in London, with festive things to do around every corner. You can’t go wrong with whatever you choose, so just enjoy it and have a happy holiday!

Have you been to London over the holidays? What did you enjoy the most? Share it in the comment section below. I’d love to hear!