Your Guide To Enjoying London This Holiday Season

London during the holidays is magical.

Camden Market
PHOTO Olivia Molineux

Celebrating the holidays abroad may be a departure from your family traditions, but it is a great time to explore and partake in the holiday traditions of another country.  London during the holidays is magical. The entire city is dressed for the season and full of incredible events for everyone to enjoy.  Start planning now so you can have a perfect holiday season abroad.

1. Ice Skating

From November to January, London has ice skating rinks set up around the city under some of its most famous landmarks.  There are rinks at the Tower of London, Hyde Park, the Natural History Museum, Somerset House, and more.  It is typically not a problem to get tickets at the venue, but some sites allow you to purchase tickets online to help avoid lines.  Tickets are typically £7 to £15 per session.  Check online to learn more about special skate nights.

2. Pantomimes

Going to see a holiday pantomime has been a tradition in London since the 1800s.  Pantomimes are fun, and often outrageous, shows.  Many of them are full of song and dance and usually require some audience participation.  This year you can go see Peter Pan, Snow White, The Snowman, and more.  You can get tickets online and it is usually a good idea to reserve them in advance as the most popular pantomimes sell out quickly.

3. Westminster Abbey

Throughout the holiday season you can enjoy services and concerts at Westminster Abbey, London’s famous gothic church where some of the most influential people who ever lived are buried.  No matter your religious beliefs, the church is incredible and the services are absolutely beautiful.  Buy tickets online for the Christmas Concert on December 11th by the Choir of Westminster Abbey and check out the list of events for more performances.  There are other churches throughout London that will be having Christmas services and concerts as well.

4. Holiday Markets

Still have some shopping to do?  Or maybe you just want to enjoy holiday treats, mulled wine, and winter activities.  From the Taste of Christmas food festival on December 7th to the Southbank Centre Christmas Market from November 16th to December 23rd, London’s many holiday markets have something for everyone.

London holiday market
PHOTO Olivia Molineux

5. Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court, one of Henry VIII’s homes, comes alive during the holidays.  The original kitchens are brought back to life so you can watch people prepare traditional dishes after you see King Henry VIII eat in the dining hall.  There is an iceskating rink in front of and various performances throughout the palace.  Check out the website for tickets and more information.

6. Covent Garden

Always a great place to shop, during the holidays Covent Garden goes all out.  Starting November 7th, there are lights strung everywhere and every Saturday until Christmas, there will be reindeer petting and performances by the Gay Men’s Choir.  On Thursdays, check out the food market.

7. The Shops

All of London is decorated for the holidays, with many of the big stores creating elaborate window displays.  Some of the best include Harvey Nichols, Harrods, Fortnum & Mason, and Selfridges.  These are also some of the best stores for sales, which start right after Christmas.  The markdowns get better and better so try to hold out until January to get some unbelievable steals.

8. New Years

Besides the posh parties, London has two events for everyone to enjoy together.  At midnight, there is a beautiful firework show over the London Eye.  There are tens of thousands of people gathered throughout the city to watch, so it is important to get to your viewing spot early.  The bridges in St. James Park will be crowded, but they provide a great view of the fireworks with Buckingham Palace as a backdrop.  On New Years Eve, the London Underground is free from 11:45pm – 4:30am.  The next day, come out for the New Year’s Day Parade, which features vintage cars, all kinds of performers, giant balloons, and much more.  The parade starts at the Ritz at 11:45am and ends in Parliament Square.  This year’s theme is “Hats Off To London – Celebration Capital of the World.”

New Years London
PHOTO Olivia Molineux

Olivia Molineux

Olivia grew up in Danville, CA. Her secret travel tip is indulging in street food which is often the best food. She can never travel without a pair of comfortable shoes. City bikes are her favorite travel discovery, "while living in Vienna, I loved biking around the city for hours. It was the perfect way to explore and burn off calories from all the Viennese cakes."

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