See the best of Christmas in London including dazzling decorations, soulful musical events, world-class entertainment and neighbourhoods full of festive cheer. Here’s our guide to the best things to do in London for Christmas 2022.
Christmas in London is magical. As the temperature drops, the dark winter gloom is interrupted by the glow of dazzling lights hanging from regal streets and iconic buildings. Grand plazas drip with festive cheer and charming laneways burst with the sweet aroma of roasted chestnuts wafting from alpine stalls.
In a city this size there’s a lot to see, but our guide to the best things to do in London for Christmas 2022 takes you to all the best events and most festive locations.
Listen to the hum of familiar carols on neighbourhood streets, attend a Christmas concert in a grand hall, stroll majestic plazas with magical Christmas lights and sample seasonal fare at street food stalls and impromptu igloos.
Whether you’re looking for classical events, boozy pubs, excellent shopping, ice skating, or simply a feel-good festive meal, Christmas in London has it all.
Here’s our list of the best London Christmas events and happenings. We’ll keep this guide updated with new attractions and information, so check back regularly.
ALL BRITAIN GUIDES
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1 – THE LONDON CHRISTMAS LIGHTS
With historic architecture and iconic streets, London is the perfect canvas for festive Christmas lights. Many of the high streets are decorated with elaborate, festive displays. Some feature a different Christmas-related theme each year, while others stick to nostalgia, repeating familiar decorations.
Several are located in the central London area and are easy to collect on foot. The highlights include Oxford Street, with its masses of hanging golden stars, Regent Street with their 17-metre Christmas spirits and the fun colourful display at Carnaby Street.
Most Christmas lights are switched on from early November. Read more in our guide to the best of the London Christmas Lights.
2 – CAROLS AT THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL
Royal Albert Hall on the southern edges of Hyde Park is one of the most distinctive buildings in the UK. Throughout December, a programme of Christmas events enables you to enjoy the festive season in one of the most majestic buildings in the world.
For 2022, ham it up with a classic pantomime, enjoy a cool evening of Christmas Jazz, or participate in a dramatic rendering of A Christmas Carol, brought to life as Dickens performed it himself.
One of our favourite things to do at Christmas in London is the Carols at Royal Albert Hall. In spectacular surroundings, enjoy one of the most uplifting sing-along carols in the city. The event features an impressive line-up of musicians including the Royal Choral Society, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and the British Imperial Military Band.
Carols at the Royal Albert Hall run from mid-December to 24 December with 3 performances per day. Book tickets at: www.royalalberthall.com
3 – SHOP IN A GRAND DEPARTMENT STORE
While London is known as a shopping hub throughout the year, at Christmas the grand department stores come alive with dedications to the more commercial side of the festive season. You’ll snap up some wonderful Christmas spirit and possibly even a bargain.
Harrods is a British icon stacked with rare items, luxury fashion brands, homewares and technology in a sprawling space with over 300 departments. The food hall in a Grade-II listed building is the perfect place to pick up Christmas dinner items.
Fortnum & Mason is a regal department store with old-world charm that has been serving customers since 1707. The elegant retail space is stocked with luxury items with a famous Tea Salon on the 4th floor.
Selfridges is one of the most exclusive department stores in London with a bright modern feel and high-end designer brands. After picking up some Christmas gifts, catch the latest release in their in-house cinema.
Liberty is a London department store in a mock-Tudor building located in the west end. It’s stocked with exclusive items and top-end homewares; the perfect location for Christmas treats.
4 – LA CLIQUE AT SPIEGELTENT IN LEICESTER SQUARE
La Clique is a spectacular night of laughs and unbelievable moments featuring mind-blowing circus skills and outstanding cabaret performances. It’s on the naughty end of Christmas activities in London and it’s not for the whole family, but it’s a great night of multi-award-winning entertainment.
Expect to see comedy acts, scantily clad acrobatics, impressive displays of gymnastic ability, and plenty of entertainment.
La Clique is held in Spiegeltent, a large travelling entertainment tent, located in Leicester Square for Christmas. Performances start on 9 November 2022 and run until 7 January 2023. Tickets can be booked on their website. There’s a bar in the tent and admission is restricted to 16+.
5 – CAROLS BY CANDLELIGHT AT ST MARTIN-IN-THE-FIELDS
St Martin-in-the-Fields is a neoclassical church in Leicester Square which has featured in TV and film such as Notting Hill, Doctor Who and Sherlock thanks to its beautiful façade and central London location.
Attending a concert at St Martin-in-the-fields is a magical thing to do at Christmas. Get into the spirit with Baroque by Candlelight where the St Martin’s Voices and the St Martin’s Chamber Ensemble perform a selection of Baroque favourites.
For family festive cheer, attend one of the annual Carols by Candlelight concerts. Be enchanted by carol performances and festive readings in the beautiful setting. The programme is performed by the choir and the St Martin’s brass band. Tickets are available on the St Martin-in-the-Fields website.
6 – CHRISTMAS AT KEW GARDENS
In the south of London, during the Christmas months, Kew Gardens is transformed into a magical wonderland.
Dazzling light tunnels mark a path through the display, trees are dripping with festive colour and lakeside illuminations dance in the cold winter air. There’s plenty of street food vendors to provide tasty snacks and winter warmers.
Timed tickets must be booked in advance and cost £21.50 for off-peak times or £28 for peak times. Tickets need to be purchased for either the Elizabeth Gate or the Victoria Gate and they are non-transferable.
Christmas at Kew runs on selected dates from 16 November 2022 through to 8 January 2023. It sells out fast so book now.
7 – BRUNCH AT 34 MAYFAIR
34 Mayfair delivers old-school service in a timeless art deco interior. Complete with top-hat adorned bellmen, brisk service and mini table lamps, it harks back to an earlier era.
At Christmas, the extravagance is amped up with over-the-top decorations that fill the space with so much festive cheer you’ll not think twice before ordering that £29 glass of champagne.
The menu is steak-heavy, so for vegetarians (like us) we’d suggest going for brunch. The avocado and smoked tomato benedict was small but delicious.
8 – SOUTHBANK CENTRE WINTER FESTIVAL
From 3 November 2022 to 8 January 2023 the Southbank Centre Winter Festival comes alive with Christmas shows, pop-up bars, art exhibitions, free events and a charming Christmas market.
Don’t miss Koestler Arts: Freedom, a collection of works curated by Ai Weiwei by people in the criminal justice system who are changing their lives through art. For something more classical, Christmas with the Philharmonia Cellos are holding free performances at the Royal Festival Hall.
The full schedule of activities are available on the Southbank Centre website.
In addition to the performances, there’s the regular Christmas market along the south bank of the Thames. Enjoy pop-up bars, street food, festive treats and of course, mulled wine under sparkling winter lights.
9 – COLUMBIA ROAD CHRISTMAS WEDNESDAYS
The Sunday flower market at Colombia Road is one of our favourite things to do in the capital. But over the Christmas period, the traders remain open from 5pm to 9pm on Wednesdays to fill the east London street with some additional festive cheer.
Christmas Trees are on sale from the flower vendors and carol singing takes place on the street accompanied by the brass quintet from the Guildhall. There’s plenty of mulled wine to relax the vocal cords and street food stalls to keep you satiated.
Christmas Wednesdays takes place on Colombia Road and Ezra Streets. It’s usually every Wednesday in December but the exact start date is yet to be confirmed.
10 – ICE SKATE AT SOMERSET HOUSE
Ice skating at Somerset House is a highlight of the London Christmas season. In partnership with Moët & Chandon, the neoclassical courtyard is transformed into a magical winter wonderland complete with a 40-foot Christmas tree.
For beginners, there’s an in-house skate school where you can pick up enough skill to get yourself to the ringside Hotel Chocolat booth for a warming hot chocolate. There’s also a pop-up alpine restaurant and of course plenty of champagne cocktails to try from the Skate Lounge.
Somerset House Ice Skating is open from 16 November 2022 through to 15 January 2023. Ticket prices vary from £10 to £22 for adults and £7.50 to £11 for children. A dedicated ice marshal can be booked to help groups of 3 to 15 for an additional charge of £35. Tickets can be booked online in advance.
11 – MATTHEW BOURNE BALLET AT SADLERS WELLS
Every year the English choreographer Matthew Bourne runs a Christmas production of a classic ballet with a modern twist at Sadler’s Wells Theatre. For the 2022 season, Sleeping Beauty will return 10 years since its Saddler’s Wells premiere.
Expect a beautiful re-imaging of Tchaikovsky’s haunting gothic romance with magical fairies, vampires and a good versus evil love story told with beautiful choreography, dramatic lighting and sumptuous sets.
Performances run from 29 November 2022 through to 15 January 2023. Tickets can be purchased online via the Sadler’s Wells website.
After the ballet, walk down to the nearby Exmouth Market for a post-show dinner from one of the great restaurants lining the street. We like the relaxed vibe and Spanish/Moorish bites at Morito.
12 – ATTEND A SERVICE AT WESTMINSTER ABBEY
Westminster Abbey has been a place of history in the UK since the 1st century. Today, the mostly gothic building is one of the most notable buildings in the world.
It’s the burial place of many British monarchs and since William the Conqueror, all English and British monarchs have been coronated here.
Any time of year it’s worth a visit to the remarkable chapels, the royal tombs and the breath-taking Lady Chapel. But listening to carols resonate around the exquisite architecture, adorned with the remnants of history, is one of the best things to do in London at Christmas.
There are several services at Westminster Abbey including a Christmas Meditation on 11 December 2022 and a Carol Service on 23 & 24 December 2022. Tickets are free but they need to be booked in advance.
13 –THE CHURCHILL ARMS
The Churchill Arms is a local pub in Kensington that does Christmas in an epic way. They add a whopping 22,000 lights to their already elaborate façade, turning the pub into a box of shining cheer.
Past the crowd of onlookers snapping Instagram shots of the festively decorated façade, there’s a quaint local pub inside. Having a pint in the Churchill Arms is a soul-reviving London Christmas activity.
Nods to Britishness and Winston Churchill are crammed in under masses of hanging pots and ceilings draped with greenery. Locals chatter at the busy bar completing the delightful eccentricity of the Churchill Arms.
For 25 years, the Thai Kitchen at the Churchill Arms has been surprising guests with delicious authentic Thai food that’s easily washed down with a seasonal ale, cider or an artisan soft drink. Bookings are essential – churchillarmskensington.co.uk
14 – WINTER WONDERLAND
Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park is one of the best destinations in London for family festive fun. Part fanfare, part theme park and part German Christmas village, Winter Wonderland has energetic cheer for the whole family.
Skate on the UK’s largest ice rink, visit the Ice Kingdom, an immersive sculpted ice experience or test your nerves on one of the many adrenaline-inducing roller coasters.
There are ice sculpting workshops, a high-energy circus, plenty of bars, Christmas markets and a host of street food with a festive kick.
Winter Wonderland runs from 18 November 2022 to 2 January 2023 and tickets must be booked in advance.
15 – WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR
The Wildlife Photographer of the Year is an annual photography competition with a focus on wildlife and environmental preservation, beautifully displayed in the Natural History Museum.
The exhibition features images from the natural world in all its beautiful brutality and desperate imperfection. There are portraits from the animal kingdom, incredible action captured in a single frame and photojournalism depicting the state of the planet.
The London season runs from 14 October 2022 to 2 July 2023 making it a wonderful thing to do over the festive season when you’re looking for a change from the usual Christmas activities. Book your tickets online at nhm.ac.uk
The ice-skating rink at the Natural History Museum has now closed and the gardens have been converted into a hub for urban wildlife.
16 – THE VILLAGE, COVENT GARDEN
Covent Garden is the epicentre of Christmas in London. Home to one of the biggest trees in the city, the 60-foot icon will be decorated with 30,000 lights, bringing colourful cheer to the steps of the Royal Opera House.
The square puts on a charm offensive with the Covent Garden Christmas Village. Festive igloos shaped like giant baubles are set among a pop-up pine forest for a magical dining experience.
The festive food market is back again in 2022 with a selection of artisanal producers feeding the crowds with Christmas specialities.
Don’t miss the oversized baubles hanging in the market square.
17 – WINTERLAND AT NEVERLAND, FULHAM
Winterland at Neverland in Fulham is a Christmas-themed, pop-up alpine paradise where you can enjoy a prosecco or mulled wine around a fire pit while gazing at the stars.
General entry tickets can be purchased to use the spaces on a first-come-first-served basis. Alternatively, groups of 2 to 16 people can book a table or sofa in the Alpine Lodge. Amp up the festivities with a Ski Lift Bubble (3 people) or a Forest Igloo (8 people).
Larger groups can book the Winter Chalet (35 people) or one of the heated outdoor cabins.
There’s a cocktail bar, gin bar and restaurant where you can feast on fondue or wood-fired pizzas. Winterland commences 4 November 2022 on various dates through to the end of January 2023.
Book your event at neverlandlondon.com
18 – CATCH A LONDON PANTOMIME
London takes the frivolity of pantomime very seriously and it’s back in 2022 with the same stories and the same faces and the same lines that we keep coming back for.
This year, the big pantomime is Jack & The Beanstalk with an all-star cast including Dawn French, Julian Clary and Alexandra Burke. Held at the London Palladium you can expect lavish sets, spectacle and magic, along with plenty of ham. Jack and the Beanstalk opens on 10 December 2022 and runs until 15 January 2023.
The other pantomime to keep an eye out for is Goldilocks and the Three Bears at the Richmond Theatre. The cast includes Matt Baker, Jessica Martin and Nigel Ellacott. We’re told to expect riotous comedy and extraordinary special effects. The show runs from 3 December 2022 to 31 December 2022. Book your tickets here.
19 – THE SIXTEEN AT CHRISTMAS
The Sixteen is one of the world’s leading choral ensembles. Their goal is to allow everyone to experience top-quality choral music from the Renaissance to today.
They do two performances over Christmas at Cadogan Hall in Chelsea, one of London’s leading concert venues. The programme includes a cappella versions of modern classics and haunting traditional Renaissance pieces. It’s a beautiful experience with the rich sounds of the Sixteen wafting over the sublime space.
Performances take place on 15 December 2022 and 21 December 2022. Tickets range from £19 to £48. Book online here.
20 – CHRISTMAS MARKETS
It wouldn’t be Christmas in London without a visit to one of the cities charming Christmas markets.
There are several markets along the south bank including the Southbank Centre Winter Market which showcases global cuisine and artisanal trinkets in charming wooden huts. Christmas by the River at London Bridge has a small craft stall and plenty of pop-up bars and street food.
The Old Spitalfields Christmas Market features independent fashion, accessories and homewares with great sustainability credentials.
Read more in our guide to the London Christmas markets (coming soon).
21 –THE SELFRIDGES’ CHRISTMAS WINDOW DISPLAYS
The Selfridges windows have been a tradition of London Christmas since 1909 when the first window displays entertained Oxford Street foot traffic with what was at the time, an American way of celebrating Christmas.
Over the years we’ve become so accustomed to the anticipation of the big reveal that the Christmas window feels like a homegrown tradition.
This year, tradition has been left in the past with a very modern interpretation of a loved Christmas theme occupying the Selfridges Christmas windows.
The power of Christmas food is celebrated across the 15 windows with surreal and quirky displays. There’s a dedication to “Grandma’s Gold Standard Gravy,” a giant post-modern cheese board, toasty roasties in their nightcaps and even a shrine to the washing up.
Despite the often gloomy weather, there are plenty of great things to do in the UK over the winter months, including plenty of great walks from London to get you out in the fresh country air.
Here are a few more suggestions from us that are well worth rugging up for.
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