a christmas evening in london

From twinkling Christmas lights to scenic skating rinks, London comes into its own in during the winter months. (Photo: Getty Images)


How to Spend a Magical Winter in London This Year

From twinkling Christmas lights and bustling winter markets to scenic skating rinks and cozy seasonal pop-ups, there’s no shortage of fun to be in London during the colder months of the year. True Londoners would argue that the United Kingdom’s capital truly comes into its own when the nights are darker and the temperature falls.  

Scroll down for some of the top things to do in London in winter. As always, check for travel guidelines and closures before planning your trip.  

Embrace the Cold Weather with Some Icy Fun 

hyde park ice skating rink in london
Glide into the festive spirit with family fun on London’s enchanting ice rinks, where memories and laughter are shared on the shimmering ice. (Photo: Getty Images)

No festive season in London is complete without a visit to one of the many ice skating rinks that appear around the city for the winter months. From the palatial arena that takes over Somerset House’s magnificent neoclassical courtyard to the already iconic rink outside Battersea’s revitalized Power Station, there are plenty of atmospheric pop-ups to glide around on come the winter months. 

If you’d prefer to be next to the ice rather than on it, you could try your hand at another increasingly popular winter sport with a visit to The Curling Club’s winter pop-up on the South Bank. With lively après-ski vibes including Alpine-themed street food and a variety of entertainment packages on offer, it’s a great place to indulge in some friendly competition with your loved ones over the winter season. 

Indulge in Festive Foodie Treats 

From fine dining to street food, London’s vibrant and diverse food scene has something for everyone to sink their teeth into, but never more so than in the festive season, when winter food markets and indulgent seasonal menus start to appear around the city.  

Christmas shoppers can pick up the very finest festive produce at the historic Borough Market (one of the best food markets around the world), or pay a visit to the iconic Fortnum and Masons to shop for festive food hampers. 

Booking a festive afternoon tea at a five-star hotel in London’s Mayfair neighborhood is a Christmas treat to remember. At the Sheraton Grand London Park Lane, guests can sample traditional finger sandwiches and picture-perfect cakes in the sumptuous art deco surroundings of the Palm Court.  

Or opt for afternoon tea at JW Marriott Grosvenor House to sample fresh scones and decadent pastries in the Park Room while enjoying unparalleled views of the nearby Hyde Park. 

Check Out London’s Winter Festivals 

convent garden market christmas tree, london
Visit London’s winter festivals, where twinkling lights ignite romantic winter evenings. (Photo: Getty Images)

Alternatively, pay a visit to the Excel Centre to be one of the first to explore the London’s newest festive destination, the Kingdom of Winter. The Kingdom of Winter features everything from winter circus performances and a traditional fairground to an immersive ice trail and endless shopping opportunities.

With magnificent views over the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf and excellent facilities including an indoor pool and gym, Aloft London Excel is right on the doorstep of the exhibition center, making it the perfect base from which to visit this impressive indoor winter event.  

The hotel’s Docksider Restaurant and W XYZ Bar are great spots for refreshments before or after visiting the Kingdom of Winter. 

Further west along the Thames, the Southbank Centre’s Winter Festival features festive street food stalls, light installations and festive concerts. Alternatively, take a stroll further down the South Bank to Between Two Bridges for a raucous program of festive events. 

Explore Immersive Festive Scenes 

London is full of atmospheric experiences that will really get you into the Christmas spirit. The Museum of Architecture’s edible Gingerbread City, an annual collaboration between some of the city’s most impressive architecture firms, is an experience not to be missed.  

There are also charming Christmas scenes to explore at Dennis Severs’ House, a quirky Spitalfields property where each room is decorated to reflect a different historic style. 

But most Londoners will tell you that no Christmas in the city is truly complete without a visit to Hyde Park’s sprawling seasonal pop-up, Winter Wonderland. A must-visit fixture in the city’s festive calendar, the bustling carnival features everything from theme park rides and a street food village to a festive circus and a magical Ice Kingdom carved from more than 500 tons of ice and snow.  

Explore it all during a stay at The Park Tower Knightsbridge, a Luxury Collection Hotel, London in Knightsbridge. Located on the doorstep of Christmas shopping spots like Harrods and Harvey Nichols, its striking circular rooms offer magnificent views over the action in Hyde Park. 

Celebrate Christmas and New Year in London 

new year's eve fireworks in london
Usher in the New Year with a spectacular burst of fireworks over London’s iconic skyline, a celebration of shared moments and new beginnings. (Photo: Getty Images)

Christmas Day is one of the rare times when London truly grinds to a halt, with public transport reduced for the day and the usually bustling streets suddenly empty.  

Make the most of the quiet with a Christmas Day stroll around the city center to see the twinkling Christmas lights, or do some sightseeing with a guided open-top bus tour, taking in Buckingham Palace, Tower of London, St Paul’s Cathedral and many more of London’s most famous landmarks. 

Spending New Year’s Eve in the city? See it in truly unforgettable style at the W London’s glamorous celebration. Located in the heart of Soho just minutes from many of the city’s most celebrated nightlife venues, the hotel has excellent party-throwing credentials, hosting weekly DJ nights and cocktail making classes at its lively in-house bar The Perception.  

And with its fabulous views over the West End, the hotel’s state-of-the-art sixth floor gym and spa is the perfect place to detox the following morning.  

An alternative but equally enticing invitation is to the elegant, wood-paneled Gillray’s Steakhouse at London Marriott Hotel County Hall, whose New Year/s Eve Gala will sweep you off your feet.