December in London: Weather, What to Pack, and What to See

Ice skating, Somerset House, London, England, United Kingdom, Europe

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London is dreamy at pretty much any time of year, but December is especially festive. Those who don't mind the chilly, damp climate will be delighted by the city's many elaborate holiday displays, from Hyde Park's beloved Winter Wonderland event to a wild and kooky Christmas pudding race.

If you'll be visiting the city sometimes known as the "Big Smoke" during this holiday season, you'll be treated to Christmas markets, grottos, pantomimes, and more lights than perhaps you've ever seen in your life. May the mulled wine abound.

London Weather in December

Early in December, temperatures tend to fluctuate between 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) and 49 degrees Fahrenheit (9 degrees Celsius). Later in the month, the temperature drops slightly and some mornings might see freezing temperatures.

  • Average high: 48 degrees Fahrenheit (9 degrees Celsius)
  • Average low: 37 degrees Fahrenheit (3 degrees Celsius)

London skies in December are typically overcast. This time of the year typically sees just eight hours of daylight and only three hours of actual sunlight per day. There are generally around nine rainy days, but snow is rare. Most of the rainfall is light to moderate, so you won't have to worry too much about downpours spoiling your trip.

What to Pack

Like with most of Europe during winter, you should pack warm sweaters, long-sleeved shirts, pants, and a coat. On warmer days, or for formal outings, a dress with tights might suffice.

While it rarely snows in London in December, temperatures are cold enough to warrant gloves, scarves, and sturdy boots or other waterproof shoes. Don't forget to pack an umbrella or buy one when you get there.

December Events in London

London is brimming with holiday-themed events during December, so whether you enjoy shopping, eating, or admiring festive decorations, you shouldn't have trouble finding something to entertain you.

  • London Christmas Lights: From early November to January, a magnificent display of Christmas lights occupies Oxford Street. It draws crowds on the daily, but none larger than at the very beginning, when a celebrity guest flicks the "on" switch. Emma Watson, Spice Girls, Jim Carrey, and S Club 7 have done the honors in the past. The decorations at Regent Street and Covent Garden are worth seeing, too.
  • Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony: Typically held the first Thursday in December, the Trafalgar Square tree lighting includes caroling and all sorts of revelry. Every year, the massive tree is donated by Norway as a thanks for the UK's services during World War II. 
  • The Great Christmas Pudding Race: In early December, this charity event encourages contestants to complete a zany obstacle course while balancing a Christmas pudding on a plate (all while dressed as Santas, elves, and reindeer, of course). 
  • Olympia London International Horse Show: This annual event at Olympia attracts more than 80,000 people and is one of the country's biggest equestrian festivals. 
  • New Year's Eve celebrations: London has one of the most iconic New Year's Eve celebrations in the world. The fireworks dance over the London Eye as Big Ben strikes midnight. There will be a lot of parties and places to watch the pyrotechnic show, but beware of the official fireworks watch party (a ticketed event since 2014), which can get just as crowded as Times Square on New Year's Eve.
  • After-Christmas Sales: Boxing Day (December 26) is the start of sale season. Snap up a bargain at Harrods, John Lewis, or Liberty (always reliable for a post-Christmas markdown). 

December Travel Tips

  • Download the London Underground app for a free tube map. London's rail system is the oldest in the world, but also one of the largest and most efficient. It's a great way to get around the sprawling city... but it can be overwhelming. Having a map of the system on your phone can help.
  • Reserve hotel rooms and other travel arrangements early. While December leads up to London's low season for travel, the holidays are a popular time and will book up quickly.
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