Celebrate the Holidays in True British Fashion with Our Guide to London at Christmas (2023)

From Christmas markets and ice skating to festive afternoon tea, London is the perfect place to spend your holiday vacation. Below, a few festive ideas to add to your itinerary.

Admire the Christmas Trees and Lights

Celebrate the Holidays in True British Fashion with Our Guide to London at Christmas (1)

Trafalgar Square gets a festive makeover at Christmas time.

To say London embraces holiday decor is quite the understatement. In particular, the English capital knows how to decorate a Christmas tree. Head to Trafalgar Square to see a massive spruce all decked out in lights, an annual gift from Norway given every year since 1947.

Strings of twinkling Christmas lights can be found throughout the city during the holiday season, but they shine particularly bright at Kew. The Royal Botanic Gardens boast over a million bulbs, illuminating gardens, trees, and building on a one-mile trail. While there, younger visitors can meet with Santa and his elves and toast marshmallows, while adults enjoy mulled wine and shop for stocking stuffers.

Celebrate the Holidays in True British Fashion with Our Guide to London at Christmas (2)

Other notable spots to see lights include Oxford Street, Carnaby Street, Covent Garden, Regent Street, and the South Bank.

Stay Somewhere Festive

Celebrate the Holidays in True British Fashion with Our Guide to London at Christmas (4)

Christmas morning champagne overlooking London? Don’t mind if we do at Corinthia London’s Whitehall Penthouse.

(Video) CHRISTMAS IN LONDON 2022 | London Christmas Markets, Lights & Activities That You Can't Miss!

Just around the corner from Trafalgar Square and Whitehall, Corinthia London is the coziest Christmas spot for those who like to be in the center of everything on the outside of the hotel, but away from it all as soon as they step inside. The hotel’s restaurant and library area is decked out as a lush alpine winter garden and hosting festive high tea and celebratory Christmas and New Year’s Eve dinners. Recover from all the revelry the next day at the ESPA Life spa, which offers Dr. Barbara Sturm facials, relaxation pools, and massages. For a truly memorable holiday, book one of the seven penthouses for a magical escape replete with a fireplace, Christmas tree, access to a private wine collection, and personal butler.

Celebrate the Holidays in True British Fashion with Our Guide to London at Christmas (5)

onefinestay will decorate your vacation apartment into the winter wonderland of your dreams to max out your holiday spirit.

For those traveling with a large family or who are planning to stay for several weeks (take advantage of remote work!) onefinestay, which offers luxury rental apartments and homes, is getting extra cheery by setting up fully decorated Christmas trees, garlands, and tablescapes by London florists Hayford & Rhodes upon request as well as delivering another fun British tradition: Christmas hampers.

Go Ice Skating

Celebrate the Holidays in True British Fashion with Our Guide to London at Christmas (6)

There’s no more British a way to embrace the cold weather than by lacing up your skates, and hitting Somerset House’s open-air rink (above). Zoom around the courtyard (or scoot along the edge, holding onto the rail—hey! We don’t judge) all while enjoying the beautiful Christmas tree. Then, warm up with a cocktail and a view of the ice in the Skate Lounge or pop in the Fortnum's Christmas Arcade to sneak in a little holiday shopping. Consider yourself a night owl? New last year was a program called "Skate Lates," which brought special music guests to the rink in the evenings.

Skating is also available at Hampton Court Palace and at the Natural History Museum.

(Video) How to Have a British Christmas - Anglophenia Ep 20

Or Try Curling at King's Cross

Kings Cross is a delightful newly renovated section of London that is home to loads of shops, restaurants, and activations for Christmas. This winter book a 45-minute curling session (which comes with its own Club Curling Bar for fuel), then stroll over to Coal Drops Yard for dinner at British designer Tom Dixon’s Coal Office, which offers up Mediterranean shared plates in a buzzy, yet relaxed setting created by Chef Assaf Granit—make sure to book in advance, it is a local favorite.

Shop for Gifts

Whether you prefer strolling through pop-up holiday bazaars or spending a full day at Harrod’s (complete with a trip to see Father Christmas), this shopping capital has something for everyone on your list. We recommend making a trip to Liberty London for beautiful accessories in the line’s signature prints, the latest beauty must-haves, and a gorgeous selection of stationery. Arket next door is a go-to for on-trend staples; their denim is perfect for gifting yourself. Then slide over to Savile Road and get the men in your life monogrammed handkerchiefs. If you’re searching for the perfect fashion-forward present, head to Dover Street Market, for wares from innovative brands like Comme des Garçons, Raf Simons, Erdem, and Thom Browne among many, many others.

Need more shopping ideas? Here's our complete guide to the best Christmas markets in London.

Partake in Afternoon Tea

A full tea service is ideal any afternoon in London (We recommend making a reservation the first day you land, to help beat jetlag), but it’s a particularly nice way to warm up when it’s chilly outside. Kick off the holiday season at Sketch, whose pink interiors are Instagram-worthy any time of year, but at Christmas has been transformed into the Glade, a lovely wintry forest. For a classic experience, indulge at Fortnum & Mason. If hot chocolate is more your speed, stop by Knoops, a small chain of hot chocolate cafes where you order your drink with your desired percentage of cocoa, from 28 to 100 percent.

Visit Hogwarts in the Snow.

For fans of the Harry Potter series, the Warner Brothers Studio Tour really comes to life in the wintertime. In the weeks before the holidays, the attraction is transformed to include Christmas trees lining the Great Hall, and a festive-looking Gryffindor common room.

Attend Christmas Services

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Choristers at St. Paul’s rehearse for their Christmas carol service.

If going to church is part of your annual holiday tradition, St. Paul’s Cathedral is just one of many offering services.

Eat British Staples… and Then Try Omakase

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Sushi and other Japanese favorites at the Beaverbrook Townhouse Fuji Grill are the perfect break from British fare.

(Video) Christmas in London | Let's Travel

Cold weather is the best time of year to enjoy a Sunday roast and sticky toffee pudding, not to mention a pint or two. Thomas Cubitt in Belgravia deliveries all of that and then some, you’ll never dismiss traditional British meals again. Then, move onto London’s other classic cuisine: Indian. Dishoom is an all-around favorite, with Bombay comfort food and live jazz music; they don’t take reservations so stop by in the late afternoon to put your name down (be prepared for a two-hour wait) while you have a cocktail or go shopping nearby. As a grand finale, treat yourself to omakase at the Beaverbrook Townhouse Fuji Grill. Omakase chef Goemon Ishikawa has curated a two-hour experience with a seasonal menu that is perfectly on point. And, unlike other Japanese dining experiences, it is topped off with dessert from Beaverbrook’s pastry chef. It is a memorable respite from fish and chips.

Check out the Peter Pan Cup

One of London’s most unique holiday rituals is the annual Peter Pan Cup, where members of the Serpentine Swimming Club jump into lake in Hyde Park for an icy Christmas Day race. Unfortunately (...or fortunately depending on your perspective), visitors can’t partake in the festivities, but it’s almost more fun to bundle up and watch the event.

Take a Weekend Trip

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The newly renovated North Lodge at Coworth Park for those staying with friends and family.

If your itinerary allows, Coworth Park is an excursion well-worth undertaking. Located about an hour’s drive outside London (just under two hours by train), the former 18th century manor home in Ascot is now a Dorchester hotel, nestled amidst world-class polo fields (Prince William and Harry are regulars). Book the newly renovated North Lodge on the property—the former gatekeeper’s cottage turned three-bedroom residence is ideal for large families or friends and absolutely perfect for those traveling with children (make sure to book them an equestrian lesson, Coworth has great ponies for littles, and horses for yourself). Don’t skip the toffee pudding on Sundays at the Michelin-starred restaurant or chips (fries) and a martini at their more casual restaurant, the Barn.

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Afternoon tea in the drawing room, fully decorated for the holidays.

At this point you are probably bursting, but it is worth mentioning that all of Coworth Park's chocolate is handmade on the premises. Work it off with a swim at the spa, surrounded by amethyst crystals, a long stroll around the property (see if you can spy the home where John Lennon wrote and filmed the music video for Imagine), or that aforementioned horse ride. If you have trouble summoning up the motivation to return to London, we don’t blame you.

Meet Santa

Rumor has it, he'll be making appearances at both Royal Albert Hall and the Museum of London.

Celebrate the Holidays in True British Fashion with Our Guide to London at Christmas (13)

(Video) How to Holiday in London: By a Londoner - 5 Days Travel Vlog & Guide

Celebrate the Holidays in True British Fashion with Our Guide to London at Christmas (14)

Olivia Hosken

Style and Interiors Writer

Olivia Hosken is the Style & Interiors writer for Town & Country, covering all things design, architecture, fashion, and jewelry.

Celebrate the Holidays in True British Fashion with Our Guide to London at Christmas (15)

Caroline Hallemann

(Video) 5 things to avoid in London (and what to do instead) ad

Digital Director

As the digital director for Town & Country, Caroline Hallemann covers culture, entertainment, and a range of other subjects


What are Christmas traditions in London? ›

Brits typically tuck into roast turkey or a nut roast with vegetables, stuffing, and pigs in blankets, followed by a portion of Christmas pudding with custard. Families who enjoy a bit of flamboyance will douse the pudding with brandy then set it alight before serving.

Is London pretty during Christmas? ›

Christmas is a magical time of year to be visiting London. There are spectacular decorations everywhere, and people are generally in a festive mood.

What decorations would you see in England for Christmas? ›

They decorate their homes with holly, ivy, and other evergreens and hang a mistletoe "kissing bough." Throughout the holidays, carolers go from house to house at twilight ringing handbells and singing Christmas songs. "The Holly and the Ivy" and "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" are English favorites.

Is Christmas big in London? ›

Christmas Traditions in London England

Since the Victorian era, Christmas has become Britain's most popular annual holiday.

How do the British celebrate Christmas? ›

Many churches hold special services in the night before Christmas Day. Many people spend Christmas Day with family members, with whom they exchange gifts and cards. Many children wake up to find a sock or stocking filled with small gifts on their bed or somewhere else in the house.

What are some Christmas traditions in Great Britain? ›

Every Christmas, many Brits love to watch pantomimes and meet their school friends at the pub. They also eat Yorkshire puddings, mince pies, Christmas pudding, and Christmas cake.

How do people dress in London in December? ›

Winter is cold. The key is to wear lots of layers (especially if you don't fancy bringing along a heavy winter coat), drink plenty of tea, and be prepared for the possibility of snow. When planning what to pack for London, choose tights, leggings, knee-high socks, and thermals like these for extra warmth.

How do people dress in London for Christmas? ›

Anything festive is perfectly acceptable to wear anytime in December in London. If you are however having Christmas Lunch out in London then it might be wroth packing some smarter clothes as it can be a more formal affair.

What do British eat on Christmas Day? ›

We've gathered together all the fixings for a traditional British holiday feast, featuring classic dishes like holiday roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, braised red cabbage, and pureed parsnips, plus classic English Trifle and Christmas plum pudding. And for fun, don't forget the Christmas crackers for the guests!

What are Christmas colors in England? ›

Traditionally, the British decorate it in three colors: green, red and gold. The tradition to hang sweets on a Christmas tree derived from Britain. The tradition of decorating spruce came to England in 1840 from Germany thanks to Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria, a German by birth.

What do British people call Christmas ornaments? ›

A bauble is a small, cheap ornament or piece of jewelry. ... Christmas trees decorated with colored baubles.

How different is Christmas in USA and UK? ›

Duration Americans do Christmas in one day – December 25. In the UK and Ireland, it often lasts for 10 days and can sometimes go on for nearly a month. Americans have Thanksgiving in late November but also have far shorter breaks from work. The UK now combines Christmas and New Year into one big, unofficial, holiday.

What do Brits do on Christmas Eve? ›

People may attend a church service, often called midnight mass, on Christmas Eve, even if they do not regularly attend church services. Traditionally, midnight masses started at midnight, as Christmas Eve becomes Christmas Day, but now often begin earlier in the evening.

Do people say Happy Christmas in London? ›

Yes! For starters, it's important to note that "Happy Christmas" hasn't faded completely—it's still widely used in England. This is believed to be because "happy" took on a higher class connotation than "merry," which was associated with the rowdiness of the lower classes.

What are British traditions? ›

British traditions are famous worldwide. When one thinks of Britain, you imagine people drinking tea, wearing bowler hats and gorging on fish and chips. Sports, food and music, are tightly knit traditions in Britain.

Do Brits say Merry Christmas or Happy Christmas? ›

"Merry Christmas" became prevalent in the US while “Happy Christmas” tends to be the preferred phrase for many in UK, even as both words evolved and changed meanings over time.

Why do British wear crowns at Christmas? ›

The paper crown tradition can be traced back to the ancient Romans, who wore festive headgear to celebrate Saturnalia, a festival that took place around the winter solstice. The paper crowns are often brightly colored and ill-fitting—but you still have to wear yours, no matter what.

What is Santa called in England? ›

Father Christmas is the traditional English name for the personification of Christmas. Although now known as a Christmas gift-bringer, and typically considered to be synonymous with Santa Claus, he was originally part of a much older and unrelated English folkloric tradition.

What kind of clothes do they wear in London? ›

The stereotypical dress sense for women in London could be anywhere from dark jeans and a nice blouse to a cozy, oversized sweaters, leggings and knee high boots to a cardigan and a dress with tights and flats.

What type of clothes do people wear in London? ›

London may be one of the fashion capitals of the world, but its style is defined by casual, dressed-down looks. And this is true of a night out. Going out straight from work is a common occurrence in London, so skinny jeans and trainers are a typical Friday night ensemble.

What shoes to wear in London during December? ›

Best Shoes for London Winters

London gets very little snow in the winter, so there's definitely no need to pack snow boots. What you do need, however, is something waterproof, as London is quite rainy all winter. One of the most classic shoes to wear in London in winter are wellies, aka rain boots.

What is the most popular Christmas tradition UK? ›

The British love singing, and singing is part of English life. Christmas carols are familiar to almost everyone, Christian or not. Carol-singing is a tradition that continues, groups of young or not so young stand in the street, or go from door to door, singing carols and collecting for a charity.

What do people in London eat on Christmas? ›

A traditional Christmas meal in the UK
  • Roast turkey.
  • Roast potatoes.
  • Roast parsnips.
  • Pigs in blankets (mini sausages wrapped in bacon)
  • Stuffing.
  • Red cabbage.
  • Boiled vegetables such as peas or carrots.
  • Brussel sprouts (famously very few people like these, however they are essential at a Christmas meal)
Dec 13, 2015

Why do people in London say Happy Christmas? ›

When King George V gave the first royal Christmas message in 1932, he wished his subjects a “Happy Christmas,” and Queen Elizabeth II continues to do so every year. Perhaps as a result of the royal preference, happy overtook merry in Britain during the 1930s, although merry is making a comeback there today.

What do most British people eat for Christmas dinner? ›

In the UK, the Christmas food list usually consists of:
  • Turkey.
  • Cranberry sauce.
  • Brussels sprouts.
  • Stuffing.
  • Gravy.
  • Roast potatoes.
  • Braised red cabbage.
  • Roast carrots and parsnips.

What does Queen eat on Christmas Day? ›

It's your modern-day Downton Abbey." The family would dine on "turkey, different stuffings – sage and onion, chestnut – and the traditional sides like roast potatoes, mash potatoes, parsnips and Brussels sprouts," added Darren, and then Christmas pudding for dessert.

What time do British people eat Christmas dinner? ›

Yes really, as according to new research, the majority of Christmas Dinner diners in the UK sit down to scoff turkey at 2pm – in fact more than one in four of us (28%) opt for early afternoon festive scran.

What are the 3 main Christmas colors? ›

The top 3 Christmas colors are red, green, and white. But there are many other colors that you can add to bring sparkle to your Christmas decorations. Each color has a special meaning and plays an important role in representing what this holiday is all about.

What are the 4 main Christmas colors? ›

The four most popular Christmas colors are red, green, gold and silver, respectively.

What is the most famous Christmas color? ›

Red. Red is one of the most prominent Christmas colors, especially because red holly berries symbolize the blood that Jesus Christ shed on the cross, while it represents love, romance, and courage for the remainder of the year.

What is the traditional British Christmas tree? ›

Whilst the fir tree was the most commonly used, others were used such hawthorn or even just a few branches. Much of the festivities were dependent on what people were able to afford, with some replicating the tree with a pyramid shaped out of wood and decorated with apples and other available items.

Is it a white Christmas in England? ›

An "official" white Christmas is defined by the Met Office as "one snowflake to be observed falling in the 24 hours of 25 December somewhere in the UK", but formerly the snow had to be observed at the Met Office building in London.
United Kingdom.
5 more rows

What makes a white Christmas in UK? ›

The definition that the Met Office uses to define a white Christmas is for one snowflake to be observed falling in the 24 hours of 25 December somewhere in the UK. Traditionally we used to use a single location in the country to define a white Christmas, which was the Met Office building in London.

Is Christmas a big deal in England? ›

Christmas in Britain, and most particularly in England, is the biggest party season of the year. Christmas Day itself, the start of the great holiday period, is the one day in the year on which the head of state - the Queen - speaks to the nation.

What does Santa drink on Christmas Eve UK? ›

Christmas drinks

Santa drinks milk on Christmas Eve. After all he does have a lot of driving to do and alcohol would not help. Once home and relaxing at the North Pole, he does have a traditional drink awaiting him in the form of Glogg, a heavily spiced hot drink common in Nordic countries.

Why can't we say Merry Christmas anymore? ›

On one side are the politically correct who think that the expression “Merry Christmas” is too exclusionary. They believe we should not say “Merry Christmas” because it might offend those of different faiths, like Muslims or Jews or Hindus. We are called upon to say “Happy holiday” or “Season's greetings”.

What is a London greeting? ›

A handshake is the most common greeting, and should be firm yet not too strong. When greeting each other, close friends may hug or kiss one another on the cheek, while others may simply offer a nod. In some casual settings, your name may be announced to the group at large.

What do they eat in London for Christmas? ›

Beyond turkey, traditional British Christmas food usually consists of stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, roast potatoes, Brussels sprouts, carrots, and parsnips. What is this? Redcurrant jelly, Yorkshire pudding, pigs in blankets, and other sides and condiments figure in as well.

What food does London eat on Christmas? ›

A traditional Christmas meal in the UK
  • Roast turkey.
  • Roast potatoes.
  • Roast parsnips.
  • Pigs in blankets (mini sausages wrapped in bacon)
  • Stuffing.
  • Red cabbage.
  • Boiled vegetables such as peas or carrots.
  • Brussel sprouts (famously very few people like these, however they are essential at a Christmas meal)
Dec 13, 2015

Why do they say Happy Christmas in London? ›

When King George V gave the first royal Christmas message in 1932, he wished his subjects a “Happy Christmas,” and Queen Elizabeth II continues to do so every year. Perhaps as a result of the royal preference, happy overtook merry in Britain during the 1930s, although merry is making a comeback there today.

What makes London so special? ›

London is home to a veritable plethora of landmarks. Some signature sights are Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Madame Tussauds, and Westminster Abbey, for example. There are also a number of modern attractions in London, such as the London Eye, The Tate Modern, and the multi-purpose London Stadium.

What is the traditional dress of England? ›

What is England's national costume? England, unlike Wales and Scotland, has no official national dress. Some people think men in England wear suits and bowler hats, but it is very unusual these days to see anyone wearing a bowler hat.

What are the manners in London? ›

Brits can be a passive aggressive bunch, but they also enjoy politeness. Some of the key things to remember are basic manners, such as always saying 'please' and 'thank you'. This applies to everything from asking for an item in a shop, to interacting with staff in local bars and restaurants.

What is the most popular meal for Christmas in Great Britain? ›

Turkey. This one is probably one of the most popular dishes at Christmas because it is usually the main course! Other popular dishes include ham or roast beef, but in the UK, turkey is definitely the main course of choice.

What is the most popular Christmas food in England? ›

Turkey is the Yuletide centerpiece in most British households. But besides the big bird, you can also look forward to appetizing treats such as Yorkshire pudding (which is a savory side dish) and mincemeat tart (which is a sweet dessert).

How do you say Merry Christmas in England? ›

Q: Why do our British cousins say “happy Christmas” while we say “merry Christmas”? A: You can find “merry Christmas” and “happy Christmas” in both the US and the UK, though Christmas is more often “merry” in American English and “happy” in British English.

What is London's favorite food? ›

1. Fish & Chips. There's nothing that says 'British Food' like Fish & Chips. Known the world over, this traditional British dish is at the top of any foodie list for visitors to London and the U.K.

What is London's National food? ›

As well as there is no single official National Day in the UK, there is not one single national dish of Britain, mainly because the UK is made up of four separate countries, each of which have their own national dishes: Chicken Tikka Masala in England; Haggis in Scotland; Welsh Cawl in Wales; and Irish Stew in Ireland.

What do they call Santa in London? ›

1. English: Santa Claus / Father Christmas. In the UK, US and Canada, “Santa Claus” or “Father Christmas” is believed to travel around the world sporting a red suit on his sleigh, pulled by reindeer.


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3. Diana and Roma open the Advent Calendar with a Christmas to-do list
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4. 7 Things to do in London this Christmas - London Christmas Lights & more
5. CHRISTMAS IN LONDON | Things To Do In 3-4 Days (A Suggested Itinerary From Our Trip)
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6. Christmas in London! Festive Tea at The Dorchester, trying on WEDDING DRESSES, Winter Wonderland! ✨
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