Ahhh London in the winter! If you’re into twinkling lights, carolers on the streets, and delicious Christmas market cookies, we can’t think of anything better than visiting London in December. Since you clicked on this post, we’re guessing you’re looking for a list of the best winter things to do in London too? Keep reading, because we’ve got the ultimate list for you!
London in winter is full of magical surprises around every street corner. We’re sharing what to do in London during this holiday season, where to stay, and places to eat around the city. We’re sharing indoor AND outdoor activities, to accommodate the weather in London no matter good or bad!
11 Magical Things To Do In London During Winter
1. Warm Up With Coffee & Donuts At The Borough Market
Located just on the south side of the London Bridge, this area of London is a foodie lover’s paradise. The Borough Market is filled with food trucks, coffee shops, and darling little storefronts and pubs. If you’re visiting during a London winter, this is the perfect place to buy a warm cup of coffee and take in all the smells of warm food and treats under the covered market.
At the Borough Market in winter, vendors are selling fresh produce and Christmas goods like wreaths, decorations, and gifts. Berty and I were able to taste the seasonal mulled wine, holiday cookies, and other delicious Christmas treats.
Local Tip: Make sure to bring plenty of cash to the markets. Many of the mobile food carts to do in London require cash because they are commonly small and move around the city. On your way to the markets, stop by an ATM and take out small bills.
2. Visit The Tower Bridge (& Go Inside, Too!)
When you think of essential things to do in London, you probably think immediately of this iconic landmark!
Tower Bridge has long been a famous symbol of progress and history, and it has been converted into a beautiful walk-through museum for visitors to enjoy. This combination of outdoor beauty and indoor activity makes it one of the best things to do in London in winter!
Tower Bridge was built in the late 1800’s and is actually three bridges in one: 2 suspension bridges with a bascule bridge in the middle! Pedestrians and cars are free to walk across the base of the bridge and admire the structure from up close. You can also take a tour ($12) inside the bridge, learn about its history, and walk across the glass floor walkways inside.
Pro Tip: During the wintertime in London (October – March), the museum opens at 9:30 am. We recommend coming as early as possible to avoid crowds!
3. Soak In ALL The Christmas Cheer at Oxford & Piccadilly Circus
If you’re looking for fun things to do in London during Christmas, Oxford and Piccadilly Circus is a must-visit! This area of London is famous for connecting modern and historical London together in one huge and beautiful space.
This is very prominent in Piccadilly Circus (the ‘circus’ part meaning a vehicle junction or round open space) with elegant buildings sharing the same space with Times Square-styled electronic billboards. Strung Christmas lights line the streets in huge displays, and live music fills the air.
During Christmas time, the streets are decorated with elaborate holiday light displays, and it’s a hugely popular attraction to see at night.
Here are just a few things to note before you go enjoy the festive things to do in London:
- Prepare yourself for very large crowds, especially the weekend before Christmas.
- Know how to ride the Tube before visiting here. It can be very disorienting with your first time being with 500 pushy strangers!
- Be extra aware of your surroundings. We wrote a blog post about staying safe in big cities, and this is a situation where this post would come in handy!
4. See The View From The Shard
The Shard is one of the tallest buildings in Europe, and one of the best things to do in London during winter. (Hellooo indoors!)
The Shards gets its name because the top resembles a “shard of glass”. Up at the top of the tower, you can get a spectacular 360-degree view of the entire city of London from the 72nd floor. If you’re looking for things to do in London to keep warm during the cold winter months, this is a great place to defrost and see the city from a new perspective.
Our Two Cents: This is one of those places that can nickel and dime you for every little thing. Ignore the side attractions at the viewpoint (virtual reality games for like $20 each) or green screen photos of yourself in printed booklets. Just enjoy the view!
Also, if you’d rather not shell out the money for a ticket but still want a view of the city, keep scrolling to find out where to go for a fun winter activity in London without breaking the bank…
5. Get Lost In The Streets of Shoreditch + Spitalfields
The neighborhoods of Shoreditch and Spitalfields are known to be the stomping grounds for creatives, trend-setters, and young people. Berty and I spent one morning wandering around the graffiti-filled streets and grabbing a coffee at a local cafe. The streets here are filled with grungy brick row houses and Bengali-style restaurants. You’re sure to find a tasty meal around every corner!
If you’re looking for festive and fun things to do in London, stay a while and do some christmas shopping for family and friends from local vendors scattered in the neighborhood. Many of the sellers are sharing homemade crafts and clothing, which means you can choose a unique and local London gift your you loved ones!
If you’re a vintage or artisan lover, you’re definitely going to want to check out Old Spitalfields Market. (It really reminded us of this grand one in Cleveland, Ohio!) This market has everything from hand-made fashion to food trucks, art, and jewelry. We visited on a weekend and it was PACKED, but I believe it’s open daily during the week for fewer crowds.
6. Experience Things To Do In London In December (Christmas Time!)
There are many things to do in London in December where you can find the holiday spirit alive. We were impressed with how festive this city gets this time of year!
Streets and storefronts are decorated with lights and garlands, and Christmas markets sell delicious food and great gifts. You can even find pop-up ice rinks around the city to parktake in the quintessential season ice skating! Here are some notable London Christmas markets around the city…
- Southbank Center Christmas Market
- Christmas By The River (London Bridge neighborhood)
- Leicester Square
- Greenwich Market
- Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland
- Kingston Christmas Market
Want More Christmas Markets? Read All About The Festive Ones In Prague, Czech Republic
7. Visit London’s Free Museums
One reason to visit London in the winter is the sheer amount of attractions you can see indoors. Many museums around the city are free and open to the public. If you get cold wandering the streets, just pop into one of these!
Listed as free admission museums in London are:
- The British Museum
- National History Museum
- National Portrait Museum
- National Gallery
- Tate Modern
- …but you can find the full list of free museums here.
Notable mention: We visited the Tate Modern on the Thames River and it’s got some pretty weird and interesting displays…like a giant paperclip made of paperclips!
*The photo below was taken from The Tate Modern Museum’s top floor viewing deck – completely free!*
8. Explore The Tower Of London
Yes, this is one of the more touristy things to do. But in the wintertime, you pretty much have the entire Tower of London to yourself! We came early to beat the line – turns out we were the ONLY ones in line!
Here at the Tower you can explore the armory, see the Crown Jewels, and hear shocking and gruesome stories from the past. You will also find that the entire staff is dressed as yeomen, which serve as costumes for the servants or workers of the Tower back in history. It’s like a blast from the past!
9. Find Hidden Gems In The City Of London
We love visiting in the winter because you can get places in London all to yourself! Berty and I found this abandoned church in the center of the business district and decided to explore around inside. There were only a few others there which seemed to help preserve this place’s quiet nature. Sometimes just by allowing yourself to wander, you’ll stumble across the most beautiful hidden gems!
Read More: Our Complete Travel Photography Gear List
10. Have a Local Show You Around
One thing we love about social media is the friendships we create! Berty has been following Dan Carter (@dancartertc) for quite some time and we were lucky to meet up with him in his hometown. All three of us spent time walking around London talking about life, and Dan showed us a quiet, hidden coffee shop off the beaten tourist path. These are the times that make traveling sweet – having a local show you their favorite spots gives a little more life to the places we visit.
Read More: 8 Vital Reasons To Travel With Friends
11. Take A Walking Tour Of Westminster
Sometimes the best way to stay warm is to keep moving! Stop by Westminster Abbey for a quick visit to see a historical place that is still used today. Many royal weddings and coronations happened here, most recently Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding (Will Harry and Meghan wed here too??). After warming up inside, continue on your way to Buckingham Palace to catch the changing of the guards. You can also walk through Green Park and St. James Park as you roam around pretending to be royal. 🙂
Read More: Our 20 + Favorite Rain Jackets (In case of bad weather)
12. Other Indoor Activities To Do In London During Winter
It’s no surprise that the winter weather in London can be rainy, cold, and gross. Thankfully, there are plenty of indoor attractions in London when there is bad weather outside! Here are some places to discover:
- Kew Gardens Glasshouse (Beautiful botanical gardens) or Barbican Conservatory
- Somerset House
- Greenwich Market
- Watch a show or take a tour at The National Theatre.
- Wander around the London Aquarium
How To Get Around London During Wintertime
We only had four days here in London so we tried to squeeze in as much as we could see. If you have at least 3-4 days in the city, we recommend trying out The London Pass. It’s a one-time fee card that allows you free admission to the top attractions in the city.
The London Pass also give you tips and sometimes even tickets to riding public transit, which was a huge help! Because we saw so much during our stay, we saved so much money in admission tickets alone by buying this pass.
They have these passes for many large European cities (Paris, Budapest, Prague, Berlin, etc) and they are honestly really helpful in making the most of your time. We used another pass when we went to Paris last year, and both times were totally worth it!
Map of Winter Activities In London, England
What are some of your favorite things to do in London? Do you know of a place we didn’t cover? Let us know in the comments below!
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