Christmas in London: one-day itinerary

Plan a magical Christmas day out to London with our handy guide taking in shopping hotspots and a sack-load of festive fun.

Revel in the city’s seasonal atmosphere and discover some of the top things to do in London at Christmas with our magical day out.

Go Christmas shopping, explore seasonal markets, show off your skills with ice skating or see a Christmas show in London.

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 Bond StreetOxford StreetRegent Street and Piccadilly while picking up Christmas gifts.

Top displays in this part of town include Fortnum & Mason, Liberty London and Selfridges, which all house dedicated Christmas shops: Selfridges is the go-to store for Union Jack baubles and quirky ornaments, Liberty is known for its glass-blown decorations and gorgeous crackers; while Fortnum & Mason has lots of foodie Christmas treats.

Also keep an eye out for Cartier's iconic "wrapped present" decorations, on Bond Street.

If you’re looking for something a little different, the independent boutiques in historic Burlington Arcade, stylish Jermyn Street, charming South Molton Street and pretty Connaught Village are the perfect places for eclectic luxury items, and are just a short stroll away.

Hamleys on Regent Street sells an amazing variety of toys, while Topshop’s flagship store on Oxford Street offers bold-but-affordable fashion pieces ideal for teens – not to mention plenty of festive glitter and sequins!

Enjoy a pre-Christmas lunch in London  

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.

If you are looking for an array of world cuisine, try the eclectic eateries in St James’s Market and Heddon Street, or visit the food hall at Seven Dials Market to find plenty of food and drink traders.

For a sumptuous treat, break up the day with an elegant afternoon tea in London at a luxury restaurant or hotel, some of which offer Christmas afternoon tea filled with seasonal treats. 

Afternoon: wander London's Christmas markets

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 along the South Bank.

Here, you'll find the annual Winter festival at Southbank Centre. Look for gifts among the traditional wooden chalets at the Christmas market while enjoying a seasonal cocktail, snuggle up in a wintery snow globe in Jimmy’s Lodge and enjoy a savoury meal. Or venture further along the river to Christmas by the River for festive views of Tower Bridge. 

Alternatively, Leicester Square is usually given a festive makeover during Christmas in Leicester Square. From there, stroll over to nearby Trafalgar Square, where you can enjoy Christmas carols around the world-famous Christmas tree, an annual gift from Norway since 1947.

Find more buzzing London Christmas markets

Prefer to rest your legs? Take a break and enjoy some of the best Christmas lights in London, plus other famous illuminated sights, from the comfort of a hop-on-hop-off bus tour.

If you’re here on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or Boxing Day, you can even enjoy a special Christmas lights bus tour!

Evening: Christmas shows in London

As darkness falls, visit picture-pretty Covent Garden, which is transformed into a winter haven. Pick up some gifts for fashion and beauty lovers, see the giant Christmas tree in the famous piazza and watch the Covent Garden Christmas lights sparkle.

There are plenty of places to try for dinner, including quick bites in the market building and trendy eateries surrounding the piazza. Nearby, The Opera Quarter and St Martin's Courtyard are also packed with a diverse mix of restaurants. 

Before heading to an evening show, treat yourself to a pint in one of London's cosy pubs, check out a luxury cocktail bar or champagne bar, or admire the city’s sparkling lights from above at winter rooftop bar.

Then head to the theatre and enjoy one of the spellbinding shows in London this Christmas. Some top theatre shows and London’s top 10 musicals have recently reopened and there are plenty of seasonal shows to enjoy.

Enjoy a classic performance such as The Nutcracker, reserve a spot for slapstick comedy The Play That Goes Wrong at the Duchess Theatre, or step into the Roaring Twenties with interactive show The Great Gatsby

If you’re looking for something more active to do during Christmas in London with kids, wrap up warm and get your skates on at one of London's gorgeous open-air ice-skating rinks. The ice rink at the Tower of London gives you spectacular views of the historic landmark or skate in the shadow of the Natural History Museum

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