When it comes to Christmas celebrations, few cities do it better than London, with its breath-taking seasonal illuminations, iconic department stores and winter markets.
Spend a day or two in the UK’s capital and you could net those final few gifts, wet your whistle with a festive cocktail on a Ferris wheel, and enjoy an alfresco ice-skate outside one of the country’s leading museums.
Christmas 2021 is set to be a big one, and after last year’s hiatus, we all deserve to let our hair down. Here’s our guide to a festive, fun Christmas in London.
Kew Gardens, Richmond, London TW9
Until 9 January 2022
Every winter, Kew Gardens, the world's largest and most diverse botanical and mycological collections, transforms into a spectacular night-time attraction. Explore the magical winter trail, full of sparkling light tunnels and colour-drenched trees. Don’t miss the grand finale: the impressive Palm House lights display, which is certain to blow your mind.
Christmas doesn’t get much bolder and brasher than Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, with its hair-raising funfair rides, ice-skating rink, circus acts and Christmas market. After a year out, the 350-acre, family-friendly attraction is back with renewed fervour, ready to entertain kids of all ages. Watch out, tickets are selling fast!
There’s nothing like a little open-air ice skating to get you in the mood for Christmas. And what better place to get your skates on than outside one of London’s finest museums, the Natural History Museum? Running for its final year, take family and friends and make sure you get a picture of the gang next to the decorated tree at the centre of the rink – it’s an ideal Christmas thing to do in London. Adult tickets from £12.65, children from £8.80.
The Southbank Centre’s Winter Festival returns this year, bringing with it a whole host of fun, seasonal activities. From circus performances to extravagant light shows, and from remarkable musicals to carol singalongs, there’s plenty to see and do during the cold months. Start by exploring the Thames-side Christmas market, browsing for last-minute gifts, followed by the spectacular Winter Light exhibition. For more about what’s on, including ticket info, visit Southbank Centre.
If you’re looking for fun things to do in London for Christmas, then look no further than ZSL London Zoo and its festive makeover. Play elf for the day by following the special trail past brightly decorated Christmas trees and twinkly light sculptures to discover what the zoo creatures want for Christmas. There’s also the chance to meet Santa, and to visit the brand-new Sensory Sweetshop, including a giant gingerbread house and a forest of candy canes.
Few shops do Christmas better than Liberty, and this year, the specially selected gifts and decorations perfectly reflect our lives over the last 18 months, including baubles in the shape of working-from-home laptops. Head on over and bag yourself a little piece of Christmas magic to take home with you.
Lastminute.com London Eye
Booking until 9 January 2022
This winter, one of the 32 pods on the iconic lastminute.com London Eye has been converted into a Christmas-themed pop-up bar. Guests can quaff specially created vodka cocktails (gingerbread espresso and cinnamon passion fruit martinis) while enjoying a turn on the 135-metre-high Ferris wheel. Tickets cost £57.50pp, including two drinks and fast-track entry.
King’s Cross is full of festive fun and activities this season. First up, check out Club Curling, where visitors can try their hand at the cold-weather Olympic sport (until 30 December). Throughout the season, King’s Cross will host a variety of festive markets, including a Mexican-themed market (10 – 12 December) and a craft fair (19 December), where visitors can pick up handmade jewellery and more. At the centre of it all is a specially designed ‘Christmas tree’ installation in Coal Drops Yard, the inside of which is like a huge kaleidoscope.
A visit to London wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the iconic Knightsbridge department store Harrods. Browse the Christmas section at this luxury outlet to pick up some last-minute stocking fillers, decorations and those special finishing touches for the Christmas dinner table.
Kensington Palace Pavilion, London W2, and Battersea Arts Centre, London SW11
12 – 23 December
The good people at the Luna Cinema – producers of open-air, drive-in and indoor cinema events – have launched their winter season, and it’s full of Christmas crackers! Visit the festive-themed pop-up picture house at Kensington Palace (12 – 23 December) and you could enjoy seasonal favourites like Home Alone, Elf and Love Actually. Likewise, don’t miss It’s a Wonderful Life, The Snowman and Die Hard at Battersea Arts Centre (14 – 23 December).