How to Celebrate the Christmas Season in London

London is my favorite city in which to celebrate the Christmas season!

When I was in law school, I had the privilege of spending a Fall semester studying at University College London and living in Holland Park. During this time, I experienced my first Christmas season in London. I had no idea an entire city could be so festive and enveloped in the Christmas or holiday spirit!

In the United States, most people feel that we Americans must wait until after the Thanksgiving holiday to begin our Christmas celebrations. Because the British do not have this restriction, they begin decorating and celebrating around the second week of November. This provides ample time to enjoy the city's decorations and participate in all its Christmastime activities. While the Christmas season is ending soon, if you ever have the opportunity to visit London in November or December, definitely take advantage of it and enjoy celebrating Christmas in London!

Trying to plan a trip to London? Check out this post about the best ways to get there!

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

If you only have time for one Christmas activity in London, you must go to Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland! Filled with Christmas markets, refreshments, music, and activities (including an outdoor skating rink), Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland has something for everyone. This market was the highlight of my time in London, and will be the first thing I do the next time I am in London for Christmas.

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Entrance to the Winter Wonderland Park

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Salmon filets being smoked on cedar planks over an open fire in the market

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Me posing with a wood-carved viking while holding delicious mulled wine

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The entrance to one of the rides in the carnival part of the market: my friends and I never learned why the signs were in German.

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One of the many outdoor bars in the market, this one with an apres-ski theme

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Enjoying drinks on the moving carousel bar in the center of the market

Best Christmas Decorations in London

The entire city of London is decorated for Christmas. Some of the best places to enjoy the decorations are on the streets of the city center and at the department stores, where you can enjoy both the window displays and the interior decorations.

On the Streets

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Giant birds welcoming you to the Christmas in Canarby celebration on Canarby Street

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Giant light sets over Regent Street

Department Stores

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Liberty London department store adorned with its lit Christmas trees

 

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Harrod's Christmas window display featuring a glamorous train ride

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Harrod's Christmas window display

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A window display at Selfridge's, featuring hot items among winter landscapes (here Beats by Dre)

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Play Dough spilling out over a Christmas landscape in another Selfridge's window display

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Christmas decorations are put up inside Selfridge's as well

 

London Christmas Markets

Germany may be the country best-known for its Christmas markets, but London offers over a dozen to pick from throughout the city. Each market is unique. Though I would recommend visiting as many as possible - even just to wander around with a cup of mulled wine - so long as you get to one you will have the unique London Christmas market experience.

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Wooden cabins are erected for each shop at the Southbank Centre Christmas Market along the South bank of the Thames River

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Christmas markets stretch for many blocks and each hut contains unique gifts for purchase, like Himalayan salt candles and alpaca capes.

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The Christmas celebrations extend out to other areas of London, like Portobello Market in Notting Hill. There, this Caribbean Santa and his drummer bring a tropical element to the market with carols played on a steel drum.

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Vats of mulled wine are a must at any British (and European) Christmas market.

Christmas Activities in London

Once you have had your fill of walking around London's Christmas markets and looking at the decorations, you can continue to enjoy the other activities available throughout the city. Finding an outdoor skating rink is one of the most popular activities. You may also happen upon a street party, as I did on the opening night of Carnaby Street's Christmas festivities. Westfield London helps children and families visit Santa's Grotto each year. There are always the typical London highlights to partake in as well, such as going for a ride on the London Eye or seeing a show in the West End, made extra special with a Christmastime flare at this time of the year.

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Ice skating at the outdoor rink next to the Natural History Museum is one of the most popular Christmastime events.

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A scene from the Canarby Street Christmas opening party

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Santa's Grotto, which you can find at Westfield's shopping centre in Shepherd's Bush

Christmas Dinner in London

Starting in September you will see British restaurants advertising for customers to make reservations for Christmas dinner. Many locals will celebrate Christmas in London with their friends in the weeks leading up to December 25th by going out for a proper dinner.

I was fortunate to attend two such gatherings when I lived there: a party at Little Bay Farringdon with my school program and a celebration at The Oak in Westbourne Park with my roommates. (N.B. the Farringdon location has since closed, but the restaurant still has locations in Battersea and South Croydon). Christmas dinner is something Londoners place great emphasis on. Be sure to make your reservations early and enjoy this popular tradition!

Discover more Top London Restaurants in this post!

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Pre-Christmas dinner drinks at The Oak

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My school group ready for the 4-course prix fixe Christmas dinner at Little Bay Farringdon

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The best things to see and do in London at Christmastime
The best things to see and do in London at Christmastime
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