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For those who want to spend the holidays traveling, big cities such as London tend to be a solid bet. With enough locals & visitors around, there are always plenty of activities to do, and nothing ever shuts down completely. I spent last Christmas & New Year’s in London, hanging out with friends & experiencing the festive period in the city. Here is my guide to the best things to do over the holiday period in London.
The top festive things to see and do in London during Christmas & New Year’s
Go see Christmas lights (and go shopping too)
London’s best place to see Christmas lights is also the area that’s best for shopping. It’s almost as if the store owners want to attract more people to their shops!
For the best Christmas lights in London, check out Regent Street, Oxford Street, Bond Street, Covent Garden, South Bank, or Carnaby.
If you’re looking for a quieter Christmas display, St. Katharine Docks has holiday decorations & a Christmas market.
Take a nice walk on Christmas Day
If you’re in London on Christmas Day, there’s a good chance you’re there visiting family. After a day of gifts & food, it’s nice to get out and walk some of that off. Alternatively, you can plan a nice escape if you need a break from it all.
Even with much of the city shut down (including the Tube), thousands of people still take to the streets & parks to enjoy the holiday lights, provided the weather is nice like it was when I was there for Christmas.
While most shops & restaurants are closed for Christmas, some restaurants in Central London will remain open. Generally those attached to hotels are your best bet, though I found a great Indian restaurant near a hospital.
Go ice skating at the Tower of London
Another great outdoor activity to do if you’re spending Christmas & New Year’s in London is ice skating. There are a few options, but for the most unique experience, there is an ice skating rink located in the moat surrounding the Tower of London.
Once you get over the fact that this probably isn’t a historical recreation, it’s a unique backdrop for some fun on the ice.
Go to a Premier League match on Boxing Day or New Year’s Day
While other football leagues take breaks around Christmas & the New Year, the holidays are one of the busiest times for the English Premier League. Generally, the Premier League has matches on Boxing Day & New Year’s Day, though this can change each year based on the calendar.
Last year, I was able to see Arsenal play at Emirates Stadium twice during the holiday period.
Ring in the New Year along the Thames
One of the best New Year’s Eve celebrations in the world takes place in London. As the clock strikes midnight, fireworks are shot off along the Thames. Revelers pack the city’s bridges, as well as private parties all along the river. Note that if you want to attend, you must get tickets for the bridges ahead of time. They go quickly, so be sure to make your plans early.
Alternatively, you can do what I did, which was go to a private party at Somerset House. In addition to having a great view of the New Year’s Fireworks along the Thames, there was ice skating & champagne.
Whether you’re spending Christmas & New Year’s in London because you’re on holiday or you’re there visiting friends & family, you’ll never feel like you’re trapped with nothing to do. With great activities ranging from Christmas lights to shopping to ice skating to attending football matches, you can celebrate the festive period in any way you want. These are just some of the many holiday activities in London. What others do you recommend?
Last updated on December 27, 2019
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