Top Things to Do in London at Christmas

01 of 10

West End Christmas Lights

People shopping on Carnaby Street at Christmas
Scott E. Barbour / Getty Images

London lights up at Christmas. It's definitely worth visiting the big stores on Oxford Street and Regent Street in London's West End, where window shopping under the lights won't cost you a penny. The display comes on nightly beginning in early November.

02 of 10

Ice Skating Rinks

People Ice Skating Outside Somerset House London
Roger Cracknell Photography / Getty Images

Every winter, outdoor ice skating rinks appear all over London, including the UK's largest at Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. Most rinks operate from mid-November to mid-January and most stay open late into the evening. A number of rinks host special events throughout the holiday season. And you can rent skates at many of them.

03 of 10

Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree

England, London, National Portrait Gallery and Trafalgar Square at Christmas
Jon Arnold / Getty Images

Norway gifts London with a huge Christmas tree for Trafalgar Square each year as a thank you for the country's help during World War II. The tree typically reaches more than 20 meters high and averages between 50 and 60 years old.

The lights come on in the evening on the first Thursday in December. The tree usually stays put until the Twelfth Night of Christmas on January 6, when it gets dismantled and carted off to be chipped and composted.

04 of 10

Meet Father Christmas

Harrod's at Christmas, London
John Harper / Getty Images

You can meet Santa in London's department stores. Sit on Santa's knee and tell him what you want him to bring you for Christmas. Of course, he prefers to meet small children, but Santa welcomes everyone from early November through Christmas Eve.

Continue to 5 of 10 below.
05 of 10

Christmas Markets and Fairs

UK, England, London, The Southbank, Christmas Market
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Shopping becomes a national sport throughout December, and Christmas markets and fairs pop up throughout the city during the holiday season.

06 of 10

English National Ballet

English National Ballet Swan Lake
scillystuff / Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Theaters & Performances

The English National Ballet Christmas season has included The Nutcracker since 1950. Set in a world of frosty Edwardian elegance designed by Peter Farmer, this captivating production takes audiences on an enchanting journey with Clara, her Nutcracker doll, and the magician Drosselmeyer. From December 13, 2017 to January 6, 2018, the English National Ballet's dancers will bring to life Tchaikovsky's eternally popular score.

07 of 10


Behind The Scenes At The Hackney Empire Pantomime
Leon Neal / Getty Images

A long English tradition of pantomime theater has men dressing as fat ugly women and women starring as the lead "boy." With great audience participation and shouts of "He's behind you!" when the protagonists can't see the antagonists, it promises to be a fun time for the whole family. The Hackney Empire presents Cinderella for Christmas season 2017, with performances from November 18 through December 31.

08 of 10

Great Christmas Pudding Race

Great Christmas Pudding Race
Will Conran / Getty Images

On a Saturday morning in December, about 150 race contestants wear fancy dress and run around Covent Garden while trying to balance a Christmas pudding on a plate. Obstacles such as balloons full of flour make it even more fun to watch. Logging its 37th year in 2017, it's a charity event to raise money for Cancer Research UK.

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09 of 10

Geffrye Museum's Christmas Past

Geffrye Museum
Neil Setchfield / Getty Images

Each year, the Geffrye Museum's 12 period rooms are decorated in authentic festive style, providing a magical glimpse into Christmases of auld lang syne. From mid-November to early January, the Christmas Past exhibit explores the origins and meanings of some of the more common Christmas customs, from kissing under the mistletoe to decorating the tree and throwing cocktail parties.

10 of 10

Christmas Carols

England, London, Whitehall. Passers by enjoy Christmas carols in Trafalgar Square
Julian Love / Getty Images

Christmas carol singers from around the country come to​ Trafalgar Square to raise money for charity for two weeks in mid-December.