London in winter! We list the best things to see, do, and eat (both indoors and outdoors). There’s more than you think!
*This article was written by Jennie Wanders*
The Best Things To Do In London In Winter
Looking for the best things to do in London in the winter? As someone who has always lived in London, I know first-hand that there’s nothing quite like experiencing the city in the colder months.
Winter in London is a magical time. You can expect London’s Royal Parks to be covered in a thin blanket of snow, with the local markets serving warm mulled wine and mince pies. You can walk along London’s most famous streets to see sparkling festive decor, accompanied by a buzz in the air of the Christmas spirit.
So, what is there to do in London during winter? In the following post, I explain the best things to do in London in winter, including the best indoor and outdoor activities. Whatever the weather, there’s something to do in London in winter!
If you enjoy this blog post and would like to stay up to date with our latest tips and destination guides, subscribe to our mailing list. We promise not to be spammy! 😉
1. Go On A Winter Walk In One Of London’s Royal Parks
London is home to eight Royal Parks, which cover a total of over 5000 acres of green space. The parks are located in different areas of London, and each has something unique to offer; such as wildlife, local events, monuments, and historical architecture.
Walking around one of London’s Royal Parks is a wholesome and fun activity to do in winter. Most have coffee shops and cafes by the entrance or amongst the trees, so you can buy a hot drink, wrap up warm and enjoy the scenery.
If you’re lucky, the park will also be covered in a thin blanket of snow. And if this is the case, you can expect a lot of Brits building snowmen, having snowball fights, and creating makeshift sleighs!
LOCAL’S TIP: Richmond Park is one of the prettiest and most underrated Royal Parks in London. Head there at any time of year to see hundreds of Red and Fallow deer that have roaming freely since 1637!
2. See The Christmas Lights On Oxford Street
One of the most iconic things to do in London in winter is see the Oxford Street lights. A tradition since 1959, the theme of the lights changes every year. One of the past themes was centered around love and sustainability, showcasing over 30,0000 recyclable lights hanging from buildings, shops, and pubs.
The Christmas lights in London are turned on at the start of November and run until mid-January.
LOCAL’S TIP: It’s not just Oxford Street that has dazzling lights – be sure to check out Covent Garden, New Bond Street, and Carnaby Street for some other creative light displays!
3. Try Ice Skating At One Of London’s Pop-Up Ice Rinks
One of the best additions in winter in London is the pop-up ice rinks. Whether you’re a Torvill or Dean impersonator or need to hold onto a trusty plastic penguin to stop you from falling over, ice skating is one of the best activities to do in London in the colder months!
London is home to over eight public, outdoor ice rinks. Most of these ice rinks are in front of London’s most iconic buildings; such as Somerset House, Hampton Court Palace, and Canary Wharf. This in itself is an experience!
The ice rinks tend to pop up around mid-November and last until mid-January.
4. Warm Up With A Mulled Wine At Borough Market
Another great thing to do in London in winter is to visit the local markets. There are markets dotted all over the city, with some of the best being Spitalfields, Borough, and Portobello Road.
Borough Market is particularly popular due to its efforts to get into the ‘Christmas spirit’. You can expect stalls selling warm mulled wine and melted Camembert, whilst live bands play Christmas carols and encourage sing-a-longs.
Borough Market is open every day of the week and all year round, but is best enjoyed in the winter months.
5. Do Your Festive Shopping In Harrods
Harrods is one of the most famous department stores and tourist attractions in England. It attracts over 15 million visitors each year, with the festive season being their busiest!
From early November, Harrods displays thousands of bright, golden lights around the front of the building. Just seeing the exterior of Harrods is an experience – not to add the winter wonderland you step into when entering the shop itself.
Expect elaborate Christmas displays, twinkling lights, hand-painted Nutcracker replicas, and over-the-top Champagne bottle displays arranged into the shape of Christmas trees.
LOCAL’S TIP: Avoid getting the tube for short journeys in London if you can. Walking around the streets is the best time to see all of the beautiful festive window and street displays. Some can be in the least expected places, and traveling by foot gives you the best chance to see them!
6. Check Out Some Of London’s Winter Art Exhibitions
During the colder months, there are many exhibitions that take place in London’s best museums. This includes photography, cultural and historical events.
If you’re looking for the best exhibitions in London in winter, check out the V&A Museum, the Natural History Museum, and the British Science Museum.
LOCAL’S TIP: Whilst London’s museums are free to enter, you often need to pre-book tickets for specific exhibitions. Be sure to check online before you visit.
7. Visit Kew Gardens For The Winter Light Show
Kew Gardens is a large botanical garden in South West London, spread over 300 acres. It’s home to some of the most diverse collections of plants in the world.
Every year, Kew Gardens transforms into a magical wonderland ready for Christmas. A “botanical world full of seasonal cheer,” you’ll wander around the site enjoying both the 50,000 plants on display and incredible, larger-than-life festive illuminations.
LOCAL’S TIP: To visit Kew Gardens in the winter months, you must pre-book online. You will be given a set time slot, and can only visit during this allocated time. Tickets for Kew Gardens at Christmas sell out fast, so be sure to book in advance!
8. Get Cozy In A Traditional English Pub
There’s nothing quite as wholesome as a traditional English pub in winter. Pubs in London go the extra mile when it comes to decorating for the festive season, and they’re the perfect activity to wrap up a day of exploring.
Expect cozy indoor log fires, thick woolen blankets to shelter from the cold, festive tunes on the jukebox, and locals catching up with friends over a heart-warming glass of red wine. There’s nothing quite like it – and it’s by far one of the best things to do in London in winter!
9. Book Tickets For A West End Show
Eager to get out of the rain? Seeing a West End show in London is one of the best activities to do all year round, but it’s even better when it’s cold and wet outside.
There are plenty of West End shows to choose from, including the classic ‘Les Miserables’, the Wizard of Oz’s ‘Wicked’ and Roald Dahl’s ‘Matilda’. Tickets can be bought right up until showtime. In fact, you can get them cheaper depending on how last minute you can buy them!
Either buy your tickets online or with one of the official ticket sellers in Leicester Square. You can buy tickets for most shows in the West End 30 minutes before the show begins.
10. Be A Big Kid At Hamley’s Toy Store
Another famous store in London is Hamleys, located on Regent Street. Hamleys is the largest children’s toy store in the country. Visiting in winter is more of a big-kid experience than a trip to a toy shop!
Expect over-the-top displays, with hundreds of giant Christmas teddy bears, Christmas trees, sparkling lights, and even a chance to visit Santa’s Grotto (as long as you’re between the ages of 2 and 8). But even if you don’t have young children, walking around Hamleys and soaking in the festive cheer is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in London in winter!
11. Dine In A Riverside Igloo
Another great thing to do in London in winter is to book a unique dining experience in a riverside igloo. Restaurant food chain Coppa Club allows you to book an evening in an igloo that sits alongside the River Thames.
In the winter months, they provide you with warm blankets and pillows, as you sit in your private igloo with some of the best views of the city. Note that the igloos in winter book out fast, so you will need to book a few months in advance.
LOCAL’S TIP: The two best Coppa Club venues in London are in Putney and Tower Hill. They both have iconic views of the city and have beautifully decorated igloos.
Pro Tip: Check out these other amazing views of London, without a reservation!
12. Treat Yourself To An Afternoon Tea At One Of London’s Best Hotels
If you’re visiting London for the first time, treating yourself to a traditional English afternoon tea is one of the best things to do. There are five-star hotels across London that run daily afternoon tea sessions, where you can drink tea (or champagne) and eat mini sandwiches and scones until your heart’s content.
Most afternoon teas in London have live jazz music, local singers, and entertainment. It’s the perfect activity to shield from the cold winter weather!
LOCAL’S TIP: Pick a themed afternoon tea for an elaborate, once-in-a-lifetime experience. From a Peter Pan theme in The Shard to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at One Aldwych, and even a ‘science experiment’ theme at Ampersand Hotel – there’s an afternoon tea for everyone!
Where To Eat And Drink In London In Winter
There are plenty of restaurants and bars to choose from when visiting London, and you’ll truly be spoilt for choice. From a roast dinner in a traditional English pub, to a hearty homemade Italian, a spicy street food Indian, or an authentic Mexican, the choice is endless!
For a wide range of international street food, head to either Borough Market, Seven Dials, or Mercato Metropolitano. All three have foods from all over the world, and every dish is incredible. Plus, you can visit in a group, and convince everyone to try a different dish from a different stall. Then you get to try a little bit of everything!
For an Indian restaurant (that has queues down the street because of how good it tastes), check out Dishoom. Serving high-quality, Indian-inspired dishes, it’s a firm favorite for most local Londoners. Heads up – it gets busy, so pre-book online!
And finally, if you’d like to try a traditional roast dinner (with all the trimmings), head to The Gun. The Gun is near Liverpool Street station and serves one of the best Sunday roast dinners in all of London. Expect giant Yorkshire puddings, lashings of gravy, and creamy cauliflower cheese. It’s unbeatable!
Weather In London In Winter
London’s winters begin at the start of November, and last until the end of February. With the global changing temperatures, snow and sleet can now be expected until the end of March.
January is the coldest month in London, with temperatures regularly dropping to as low as 33°F (1°C). Snow is common in England, with snow most likely to happen in January and February (although we have been blessed with a ‘white’ Christmas before).
And of course, it rains a lot in London. If you’re visiting London in winter, be sure to wrap up warm, and don’t forget your umbrella!
Pro Tip: If you have time, be sure to also check out these day trips from London!
Final Thoughts On Visiting London In Winter
While winter in London may be cold, I truly believe it is one of the best times to visit. From the festive cheer and the elaborate Christmas displays, the cozy pub decor, and the excitable atmosphere on the streets; there’s no other time like it. If you can, visit London in the winter. You won’t regret it!
About The Author: I’m Jennie, a London-based travel blogger who left the 9-5 to pursue a lifelong dream of full-time travel. I now live a life of writing, drinking coffee, and adventuring!
Like this post? Pin it for later!