It’s been an unseasonably warm start to winter in Britain. The balmiest November weather on record occurred earlier this month in Wales, and if not for the gray skies I might think I was back home in California. But I’ve been living in London long enough to know that winter will come eventually, and I’m actually looking forward to it. Why? Because Christmas is one of the best times of year in London. In anticipation, today I bring you A Lady in London’s guide to the 9 highlights of Christmas in London.

Winter Wonderland, London

Christmas Markets in London
One of my favorite things about the Christmas season in London is the markets. The city’s Christmas markets get bigger and more impressive each year, drawing locals and visitors from all over the world. Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland extravaganza will open on Friday, filling the area by Hyde Park Corner with chalets, carnival rides, and ice skating. And over in east London, Winterville in Victoria Park will have a new mini golf course and night garden with festive film screenings starting on the 26th.

Ferris Wheel at Winter Wonderland in London

The Southbank Centre’s Winter also opens on Friday, offering visitors everything from a traditional Christmas market to a cider lodge and roller disco. Festive performances, concerts, and entertainment will take place throughout the season, including a candlelit performance of Handel’s Messiah on the 12th of December.

Winter Wonderland in London

Christmas Lights in London
Britain gets dark early in the winter, but the bright Christmas lights in London offer shiny substitutes for those of us that miss the sun. The famous lights on Carnaby Street and Regent Street have been lit, but if you want to be there for one of the city’s many switching on celebrations, don’t miss the ceremonies in Hatton Garden tomorrow at 5pm or Shepherd Market on December 3rd at 6pm. For a local neighborhood celebration, head to Hampstead High Street on November 29th, when the annual Christmas festival takes place.

Christmas Lights in London

Ice Skating in London
London’s ice skating rinks are a winter tradition, and while the unusually warm weather has been challenging for some this year, winter will sort that out in time. The famous ice skating rink at Somerset House is one of the most beautiful, and the ice skating rink at the Natural History Museum is another favorite. More rinks pop up every year, so there’s no shortage of choice…just a shortage of ice for now!

Ice Skating in London

Christmas Theatre in London
Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is an integral part of the winter season in London. It’s on in the West End from November 30th at the Noel Coward Theatre. For those that want something a little different, a pantomime is just the thing. All across the city, comedy fun will take to the stage in a British tradition that I still don’t really understand…

Kingly Court at Christmas

Christmas Afternoon Teas in London
I’m a big fan of afternoon tea, and there are some lovely Christmas afternoon teas in London this year. In Knightsbridge, there’s a special Christmas afternoon tea at the Mandarin Oriental featuring seasonal sweet treats. Over on Park Lane, the annual Christmas Carols Afternoon Tea at The Dorchester offers festive decor and live children’s choirs performing. Near Trafalgar Square, the Christmas afternoon tea at The Corinthia, called Festivi-tea, will include traditional roast turkey and cranberry compote.

Christmas Afternoon Tea

Carol Concerts in London
Traditional carols are as much a part of Christmas in London as the Queen’s annual speech, and London has no shortage of places to hear and sing them. From the historic Royal Albert Hall to the holy walls of St Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey, many of the city’s most beautiful venues will hold carol concerts during the Christmas season. And for a concert with a charitable angle, head to St Stephen Walbrook church in the City on December 3rd at 6:30pm for carols in aid of International Animal Rescue.

Carousel at the Natural History Museum in London

Christmas Events at London Bars, Hotels, and Museums
Many of London’s famous hotels and bars will be sheltering us from the cold (if it comes) this Christmas. In Bloomsbury, The Montague on the Gardens’ Ski Lodge is back tomorrow for another year of Christmas cocktails and nibbles, complete with a new Log Cabin. And in Rotherhithe, chef Tom Hunt’s alternative Christmas Feast will return to the Brunel Museum from December 10-12th.

Snowman in London

Christmas Wreaths in London
One of my favorite unofficial highlights of the Christmas season in London is the wreaths that decorate doors across the city. Nowhere else in the world have I seen such creative and elaborate designs on Christmas wreaths, and every winter I make sure to look out for the best of them while walking through London’s neighborhoods.

Christmas Wreath in London

Santa in London
If you believe in Santa, you’re in luck this year. Santa’s Grotto returns to Chelsea’s Duke of York Square this month, and children of all ages can meet the big bearded man in the flesh. Elsewhere, Santa will be on hand at the ZSL London Zoo. A special VIP Meet Santa experience that runs from December 21-24 allows guests to meet the elves, feed the reindeer, and receive a gift directly from Santa.

Conran Shop at Christmas

Do you know of any other Christmas events in London? Please comment and share!

38 Comments on Lady’s 9 Highlights of Christmas in London

  1. Last year I was in London on the weekend that Winter Wonderland opened; I went there and had an anxiety attack – WAAAAAAAY too many people in one place. I cured myself with a lot of extra strong mulled wine 🙂

    My favorite part of Christmas London is all the lights on Oxford street’s shopping stretch and the smaller streets just off of it. Especially the shiny peacocks!

    I also want to say a general thanks to your blog – I just came back from yet another week in London, and, having been there before as a tourist for 10 days and then for several work trips since and thus having checked off most touristy musts, I now rely on your blog for ideas on what to do, see and eat in London. This time around I got inspiration from your lists of markets (went to Portabello Rd on Saturday), parks (ran into a pack of deer in Richmond) and waterfront pubs (crawled a few in the Southwark area). And I already cant wait to go back!

  2. Wonderful post! I was in London last year for the Christmas season and beyond…and have been there for four other Xmas seasons. It is killing me not being there this year…London does the season so well. I especially love the concerts – one at Royal Albert Hall last year brought me to tears it was so beautiful and St Martins in the Field has some lovely ones as well. I always have to go and see the Nutcracker too. I haven’t had a Christmas tea though – just a lovely Christmas dinner at the Cafe in the Crypt at ST Martin’s. Thanks for bringing back some wonderful memories…already dreaming of Christmas in London next year!

  3. Take me back to London now!
    Last week when I was still there I got to see the preparations: Carnaby and Oxford Streets were ready, and even Christmas songs were already playing at the stores, it already felt like Christmas.
    I hope to be in London for Christmas one of these years! For now, I am getting excited about the Christmas Markets here in Germany 🙂
    Lovely pictures as always!

  4. England does Christmas SO well, I love it all. I got to go to a Christmas themed afternoon tea last year in London and it was amazing, I wish I was there to go to more!

  5. We have experienced a very mild Autumn in Germany too. And as much as I love this season, I’m so looking forward to Christmas! Sadly, this year I won’t make it to London and I’m reallly sad about it because I think London is one of the best places to enjoy the Christmas spirit!

  6. I love some properly good Christmas themed posts – always gets me in the festive mood! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Sam K. Francis

  7. I love Marlybone christmas lights turning on and even the Leadenhall Market, simple but nice. And I’ll be taking my son to meet with Santa at the Duke of York Square this year again, lovely santa last year

  8. This post made me so excited for the holiday season! I’m currently studying abroad in London and I’m really enjoying all of the decorations that have popped up within the month of November. Unfortunately, I leave about five days before Christmas, so I don’t get to fully experience the holidays in London. I guess my fellow classmates and I will have to make the most out of the holiday season while we’re here!

    Great Post!!

  9. I love to spend winters in London. The Marlybone Christmas lights, Ice Skating at Somerset House, Christmas Market all these activities make me excited for the coming Christmas. Thanks for sharing such a lovely post with us & Merry Christmas.

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