Who says London is dark and dreary in the winter? There are plenty of reasons to celebrate Christmas across the pond (hello, mince pies, Christmas crackers and another excuse to eat roast turkey). From rooftop ice-skating to candlelit carols, there's a right way to do London in the festive season, and this is it.
Take a Christmas Lights Bike Tour
Meet at The London Bicycle Tour Company's Southbank HQ for a twilight tour of the city's best lights, through a lively Christmas market and past some of the most iconic buildings and bridges. Bikes, helmets and lights are provided (along with Santa hats and a boombox blasting Christmas carols). Just bring your festive cheer—and warmest athleisure wear.
Join a Christmas Carol Sing-Along at the Royal Albert Hall
Nothing gets us in the mood quicker than a jolly carol concert—and this one is certainly something special. Sing your heart out to your favorite festive hits and hymns accompanied by The London Concert Orchestra, a 120-person choir, and, oh, just about 5,000 other concertgoers in the historic South Kensington concert hall.
Take a Spin (or a Tumble) on a Rooftop Ice Skating Rink
Set on the tenth floor of a former car park in east London is the city's first rooftop ice rink, a charming outdoor space with twinkling lights and unobstructed views of the skyline. Entry is free and tickets for skating are available as you enter the ice. When you're done, glide over to the heated rooftop bar for fondue, street food and some much-needed restorative mulled wine.
Brave the Rides at Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland
Visit a fairyland of winter fun right in the middle of central London. There's something for everyone: Thrill-seekers will love the roller coasters while romantics can skate under the stars on Europe's biggest ice rink, and foodies can head to the traditional German market with Bavarian-style bars and cafés. There's also a live music venue, circus, ice bar and bustling market stalls selling trinkets and toys. (Top tip: Go after dark to see the neon lights illuminate the winter sky.)
Watch the Light Show at Kew Gardens
The incredible gardens at Kew (with the largest and most diverse collection of living plants in the world) get an after-dark makeover for Christmas with a million twinkling lights, giant baubles, laser beams, kaleidoscopic projections and fire lanterns. When you're done clogging everyone's Instagram feed with your sparkly snaps, you can toast marshmallows on an open fire and warm up with hot chocolate and mulled wine.
Eat, Drink and Be Merry at Borough Market
The popular food market is London's oldest (it's been around for 1,000 years) and largest. Browse stalls of seasonal produce and top quality street food—don't miss the best cheese toastie in town—with the sound of carols and the smell of mulled wine and roasted chestnuts in the air. It's a true Christmas feast for your senses.
Go Back in Time at the Charles Dickens Museum
The author of A Christmas Carol is often credited with inventing Christmas as we know it. So what better place to learn about the history of so many British festive traditions than at Dickens’s family home? Events throughout December include carol concerts, readings and performances as well as Dickensian walking tours of London and a Christmas Eve gathering complete with mulled cider, mince pies and traditional Victorian decorations. How much more British can you get?
Pick Up Last-Minute Gifts at the London Bridge Christmas Market
While there are plenty of Christmas markets around town, this one is picture perfect. It’s set on the banks of the River Thames with views of the Tower and London and London Bridge. Find something unusual to take home among the handmade crafts, and then fill up on Christmas cocktails and snacks at chalet-style stalls. Cheers.