Christmas in London: One-day itinerary

Whether you’re planning a day trip to London or need some festive inspiration, tick off some of the best things to do at Christmas in London with our merry guide.

Soak up London's festive atmosphere with our magical day-out itinerary which includes Christmas shopping, traditional markets, ice skating, twinkling lights and Christmas shows.

Morning: Christmas shopping in London

Head out early and beat the crowds for a spot of Christmas shopping in London's fabulously festive West End. Marvel at the seasonal shop window displays and Christmas decorations on and around Oxford StreetRegent Street and Bond Street, while picking up Christmas gifts. If you’re looking for something extra-special, the independent boutiques in Connaught Village are the perfect place to search for eclectic luxury items.

Top department stores Selfridges and Liberty London both house dedicated Christmas shops: Selfridges is the go-to store for Union Jack baubles and quirky ornaments, while Liberty is known for its traditional wreaths and gorgeous crackers. Hamleys on Regent Street sells an amazing variety of toys, while Topshop’s flagship store on Oxford Street offers bold, but affordable, fashion pieces – not to mention plenty of festive glitter and sequins! Note that large shops in London have reduced opening times on Sundays.

Lunch: Eat, drink and be merry  

Ready for lunch? Refuel at St Christopher's Place, a hidden dining gem just off Oxford Street, which boasts more than 20 restaurants and cafes. Alternatively, head to vibrant Kingly Court in Carnaby to eat delicious food from around the world.

For a sumptuous treat, break up the day with a delicious afternoon tea at one of London's luxury restaurants or hotels; some of which offer special Christmas-themed teas with seasonal treats.

If you prefer something on the go, cross the river to grab something hot and delicious from one of the many tempting stalls at Borough Market before heading to the South Bank.

Afternoon: Christmas markets and grottos

After a bite to eat, it’s time for a picturesque walk along the river Thames, where you can tuck into roasted chestnuts and enjoy the festive decorations. Drop by Wintertime at Southbank Centre to look for gifts among the traditional wooden chalets at the Christmas market, while enjoying some warming mulled wine.

If you’re visiting the city with little ones, you can meet Father Christmas and his helpers at one of Santa’s grottos in London. Kids can send letters to the North Pole when meeting Father Christmas at Hamleys toy store, or delve through a tropical world to find Santa at the Rainforest Cafe. 

Prefer to rest your legs? Take a break and enjoy seeing some of the best Christmas lights in London and other famous sights from the comfort of a hop on hop off bus tour. You can also admire iconic landmarks from the river Thames aboard a festive cruise with City Cruises, where you’ll have Santa Claus for company on your voyage.

Evening: A Christmas show or ice skating

As darkness falls, hop on the Tube to picture-pretty Covent Garden, an area transformed into a winter haven during the festive season. See the giant Christmas tree in the famous Piazza and watch the Covent Garden Christmas lights sparkle before grabbing a bite to eat. There are plenty of places to try for dinner: The Opera Quarter and St Martin's Courtyard are packed with a diverse mix of restaurants.

After dinner, sit back and enjoy a Christmas show, such as the English National Ballet's Nutcracker at the London Coliseum, or a family pantomime, such as Dick Whittington at the London Palladium. Alternatively, stroll over to buzzing Trafalgar Square, where you can enjoy Christmas carols around the world-famous Christmas tree, an annual gift from Norway since 1947.

If you’re looking for something more active, wrap up warm and get your skates on at one of London's gorgeous open-air ice skating rinks. Stand-out rinks include Skate at Somerset House, the Natural History Museum and the Tower of London.

For a full-on festive experience, take a spin on the ice rink at Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland before trying some bratwurst in the Bavarian Village and having a wander through the Christmas market. Afterwards, defrost with a pint in one of London's cosy pubs or treat yourself to a tipple at a luxury cocktail bar or champagne bar.

For more seasonal events and festive things to do in London, take a look at our guide to Christmas in London.