101 things to do in London in winter

Shoppers mingle among the lit huts at the Winter Market at Southbank Centre.
Winter at Southbank. Photo by Belinda Lawley. Image courtesy of Southbank Centre.
Put on your trendiest bobble hat and take your pick from these top London winter activities.

The mercury might be lower but London gets the temperature rising with all sorts of wintry treats to keep you coming back throughout the season. 

Experience the magic of Christmas in London, snap away at London’s New Year’s Eve fireworks or join the largest Chinese New Year celebrations outside Asia, just some of the many must-see winter events in London.

Don't forget to put on some extra layers to keep you warm, as London winter temperatures average between 2C and 10C (35F and 50F).

Top winter events in London

There are so many unmissable London events this winter, from the iconic to the downright quirky.

Fun London November events

  1. Enjoy London Christmas lights switch-on events featuring music, festive activities and in-store offers. Various dates
  2. Discover art and performances from artists with disabilities and hearing impairments during the Liberty festival in spaces around Walthamstow. 23-24 Nov
  3. Cutty Sark turns 150 this year. Join a whole weekend of activities celebrating this famous ship’s landmark (23-24 Nov) or visit next month to be treated to a comedy-filled evening hosted by Bill Bailey (15 Dec).
  4. Celebrate 250 years since Beethoven’s birth during Classical Season at Southbank Centre or in a range of concerts at Barbican, spanning the whole of winter.
Learn what else is on in November.

Magical London December events

  1. Smartphones at the ready... Snap away at Christmas at Kew’s mile-long trail, including incredible light displays and immersive installations. 20 Nov-5 Jan
  2. Let the kids become zoo keepers’ little helpers as part of ZSL London Zoo’s Christmas activities. 30 Nov-24 Dec
  3. Wrap up warm for one of London’s best light festivals, including an Enchanted trail at Eltham Palace (5-22 Dec) and magical displays with Woolwich Winter Warmer (7 Dec). You can also take a selfie at Eccleston Yards' new light installation Chromotherapy Christmas (from 28 Nov) or Southbank Centre's Squidsoup exhibition (6 Dec-5 Jan) and plant an illuminated rose in memory of a loved one at Grosvenor Square's beautiful Ever After Garden (30 Nov-22 Dec).
  4. See a giant menorah light up Trafalgar Square for Chanukah. From 22 Dec

Check out more December ideas.

Top London January events

  1. Catch short films from emerging filmmakers at the London Short Film Festival. 10-19 Jan
  2. Gaze in wonder at the Winter Lights Festival, which creates a trail of Insta-worthy installations at Canary Wharf. 16-25 Jan
  3. Enjoy all things Scottish during Burns Night in January, celebrating the birth of Scotland's national icon, Robert Burns – whisky bars are good starting points... 25 Jan
  4. Mark the arrival of the Year of the Rat at London’s Chinese New Year celebrations (26 Jan). Keep an eye out for events across the city, from special menus in Chinatown restaurants, to craft workshops and performances at the National Maritime Museum (25 Jan).

Find more things to do in January.

London February events for your diary

  1. Keep an eye out for talks, walks and more as part of LGBT History Month, which celebrates equality and diversity every February. 1-29 Feb
  2. Book a London winter break during February for the ultimate Valentine’s Day treat – check out our top tips for ramping up the romance in London. 14 Feb
  3. Embrace your inner fashionista with catwalk shows and expert talks during London Fashion Week. 14-18 Feb
  4. Quench your thirst at craft beer festival BrewLDN, featuring 150 of the world’s best brewers. 27-29 Feb

Discover more February activities.

Quirky London winter events

  1. Don your beard, hat and belt and pick your charity as you line up for Santa in the City (5 Dec) or join the London Santa Run in Victoria Park (8 Dec).
  2. Get in the festive spirit as challengers battle to keep a Christmas pud on a plate as they navigate obstacles, in Covent Garden’s Great Christmas Pudding Race. 7 Dec
  3. Head to Greenwich (not a galaxy far, far away) for the annual London Pantomime Horse Race. This free annual event takes on a Star Wars theme this year, with 30 pantomime horses competing for the honours. 15 Dec
  4. Watch brave swimmers in the Peter Pan Cup, as they take a dip in the chilly Serpentine Lake on Christmas Day. 25 Dec
  5. Be prepared for polar bear hugs as you take on the London Winter Run; or watch on from the sidelines. 9 Feb
  6. Join one of London’s many Pancake Day races or simply eat your way through a mound of the scrumptious treats. On and around 25 Feb

Discover more events in London this winter.

Experience Christmas in London

London takes on a magical feel over Christmas, with lights, markets, trees and lots of fun events across the capital. Shop till you drop or enjoy festive food and drink.

Insta-worthy Christmas festivals

  1. Grab a drink from the pop-up bar, indulge in seasonal food and enjoy winter-themed activities along the river at Winter at Southbank Centre. 8 Nov-5 Jan
  2. Snuggle under the spiegeltent as you watch mind-blowing shows, such as La Clique, as part of Christmas in Leicester Square. 8 Nov-5 Jan
  3. Ride high up on the observation wheel and enter the Magical Ice Kingdom at Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. 21 Nov-5 Jan
  4. Pick up stocking fillers and seasonal treats at Christmas by the River overlooking Tower Bridge. 26 Nov-5 Jan

Fill your stocking with more Christmas in London ideas.

Magical Christmas shows in London

  1. Take a seat for one of London’s top Christmas shows, including classics such as White Christmas (16 Nov-4 Jan) and A Christmas Carol (23 Nov-18 Jan).
  2. Christmas isn’t the same without a pantomime (oh yes it is… oh no it isn’t…). Top pantos this year include Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Sleeping Beauty, and Dick Whittington.
  3. Experience a different take on much-loved stories with Nativity! The Musical (11-29 Dec) and Peter Pan Goes Wrong (13 Dec-5 Jan).
  4. Marvel at the moves in beautiful ballet The Nutcracker. 11 Dec-5 Jan
  5. Don’t miss Raymond Briggs’ timeless wintry tale of The Snowman. 21 Dec-5 Jan
  6. Sing along to Disney tunes and see silky skills across the ice during Disney on Ice Celebrates 100 Years of Magic. 13 Nov-5 Jan

See more Christmas shows in London.

Enchanting Christmas activities

  1. Watch London’s best Christmas trees sparkle, as they pop up in every corner of the city.
  2. Marvel at the capital’s famous twinkling Christmas lights and decorations in shopping areas such as Oxford Street, Regent Street, Piccadilly and South Molton Street.
  3. Join a special Christmas carol service or concert, including recitals under the tree in Trafalgar Square or Raymond Gubbay’s annual Christmas festival.
  4. Don’t miss the chance to take a Super Santa Selfie at the London Transport Museum – how many of your friends can say they've had a selfie with the big man?
  5. Join in a Christmas party with food, music and more during one of City Cruises' festive river tours.
  6. Take a special Christmas Day tour to make the most of quieter streets on the special day, or soak up the festive excitement on a Christmas Eve tour.

Find more festive ideas with these 101 Christmas activities.

Feast on festive food and drink

  1. Munch on seasonal sarnies and sweet treats with a festive take on afternoon tea.
  2. Christmas and cocktails go hand-in-hand, so keep an eye out for festive creations at London’s top bars.
  3. Book ahead for Christmas Day lunch or dinner to make use of special Christmas dining offers.

Spend New Year in London

  1. Secure a ticket for the London New Year’s Eve Fireworks. Or if you can’t get your hands on one, watch it on TV. 31 Dec
  2. Book onto one of the many memorable New Year’s Eve cruises. 31 Dec
  3. Start 2020 with the iconic New Year’s Day Parade in central London, full of floats, bands and performers. 1 Jan

Plan your New Year’s Eve in London.

What's new this winter?

Have your finger on the pulse with new shows and exhibitions this winter.

Be the first to see new shows in London

  1. Be mesmerised by daredevil stunts with La Clique, Circus 1903 and Cirque du Soleil's Luzia.
  2. Book ahead to be among the first to see the best new shows in London, such as & Juliet, Magic Goes Wrong, Be More Chill and The Prince of Egypt.
  3. Treat your loved one to tickets for Pretty Woman around Valentine’s Day. From 13 Feb
  4. Go barmy for ballroom as Strictly Come Dancing Live Tour comes to The O2. 7-9 Feb
  5. See the return of one of the West End’s most iconic shows, Les Misérables, as it opens at the Sondheim Theatre. From 23 Dec
  6. Be introduced to opera with free Live at Lunch performances at the Royal Opera House. Or see Britten’s Peter Grimes at the Southbank Centre, Verdi’s La Traviata at the Royal Opera House and Bizet’s Carmen at the London Coliseum this winter.

Find more theatre shows in London.

Must-see new exhibitions in London

  1. Grab the last chance to see 150 treasures from Tutankhamun’s tomb before they return to Egypt. 2 Nov-3 May
  2. Separate myth from reality at The British Museum, which takes you back 3,000 years with Troy: Myth and Reality. 21 Nov-8 Mar
  3. Chart the careers of Sweden’s most famous band as you delve into the lives of its members with ABBA: Super Troupers: The Exhibition at The O2. 6 Dec-31 Aug
  4. Gain a snapshot of south London life with large-scale London is Love projections across Royal Festival Hall and Queen Elizabeth Hall. 7 Dec-7 Jan
  5. Cafe tablecloths, newspapers, collages… You name it, Picasso has worked with it! Explore the artist’s relationship with paper in Royal Academy’s Picasso and Paper exhibition. 25 Jan-13 Apr
  6. Become immersed in video works and installations by 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen, at Tate Modern. 13 Feb-11 May
  7. Study portraits in pencil from David Hockney, as the first major exhibition devoted to his drawings in more than 20 years opens at the National Portrait Gallery. 27 Feb-28 Jun

See more museum and gallery exhibitions in London.

Top London winter activities

From mid-November through December, January and into February, it’s a true winter wonderland in London. So get out and explore with a walk over frosty leaves or snuggle up in a cosy pub in front of a crackling fire.

Family fun this winter

  1. Treat the kids to London’s top family attractions and follow our 101 FOMO-inducing tips for teenagers.
  2. Go ice skating in the shadow of some of London’s most famous landmarks at an open-air ice rink. 
  3. If you’re mad about Harry Potter, head to Hogwarts in the Snow to see the famous movie sets festively dressed for winter in London. 16 Nov-26 Jan
  4. Celebrate London’s long lost frost fairs with free family fun during the Winter Frost Fair Festival at Museum of London Docklands. 21-22 Dec
  5. Enjoy 12 days of culture for kids aged 11 and under during the annual Imagine children’s festival at the Southbank Centre. 12-23 Feb 
  6. Make memories with fun activities during the February half-term holiday. 15-23 Feb

Find more family activities.

Pick up gifts and bargains

  1. Keep an eye out for special in-store activations and offers during Black Friday. 29 Nov 
  2. Bag yourself a bargain during the London winter sales
  3. Find gifts for all the special people in your life at London’s Christmas shopping hotspots, from high street brands on Oxford Street, to upscale boutiques in Bond Street and St James’s, or beauty and fashion at Covent Garden, Carnaby and Belgravia.  
  4. Browse the stalls overflowing with handmade goods and quirky knick-knacks at London’s Christmas markets
  5. Mingle with locals at pop-up winter fairs, including the Spirit of Christmas Fair and Hampton Court Palace Festive Fayre.
  6. Check out London’s coolest department stores, full of trendy threads and quirky homewares.
  7. Work your way through our pick of 101 best shops in London and the city’s top shopping destinations – the perfect excuse to keep coming back on regular shopping sprees.

Delve into more London shopping inspiration.

See the sights

  1. Make sure to visit London’s top attractions, many of which host special wintry events and activities throughout the season.
  2. Pick up a London Pass for access to more than 80 attractions and fast-track entry, opt for a London Explorer Pass to use in a 30-day period, or visit some of London’s most popular family attractions with a Merlin attractions pass.
  3. Discover London in its wintry coat from the comfort of a bus tour or river tour.
  4. On a clear winter's day, marvel at views of the city from one of its many viewpoints. The View from The Shard, Sky Garden, Emirates Air Line or the Coca-Cola London Eye are perfect for 360-degree shots.
  5. If you’re stuck for Christmas Day ideas, quirky Body Worlds is one of the few attractions open on Christmas Day – gaze at the inner workings of humans with real preserved bodies.
  6. Go on new adventures in neighbourhoods outside central London, including Brent, which takes over the reins from Waltham Forest as the Mayor’s London Borough of Culture in 2020.

Find more tips for sightseeing in London.

Unmissable experiences

  1. Be transported into the lives of the Shelby family in thrilling dining experience Peaky Blinded, inspired by hit show Peaky Blinders, at R.S. Hispaniola. 28 Nov and 19 Dec
  2. Get crafty this Christmas with a cracker joke workshop at Museum of London (28 and 29 Dec), Christmas cooking classes at The Cookery School at Little Portland Street (various dates) or Christmas baking at Bread Ahead (various dates).
  3. Hit up your feed at one of London’s quirky bars this winter, many of which serve seasonal tipples – wrap up warm at Icebar London or enjoy a tipsy tea at festively decorated Mr. Fogg’s Residence.
  4. Grab some friends and hatch a plan at one of London’s top escape rooms, or go on a quest for crystals at the Crystal Maze LIVE Experience.

Winter walks in London

  1. Work off those extra Christmas calories with a walk on a crisp winter's day in London’s parks and gardens.
  2. Join one of the Museum of London’s winter walks, spanning gruesome history, Roman remains and London’s relationship with gin. Various dates
  3. Go all botanical this winter with a stroll through Kew Gardens. A Woodland Walk, Log Trail and vertigo-inducing Treetop Walkway await.
  4. Delve into secret spots, historic tales, street art and more on one of London’s best walking tours.

Fuel up on comfort food

  1. Get a winter pick-me-up with an afternoon tea. Indulge in a traditional afternoon tea, go quirky with an unusual tea, celebrate with bubbles, or enjoy the treat for less with cheaper options.
  2. The winter chill is the perfect excuse to tuck into warming Sunday roasts
  3. Raclette, toasties, fondue… Whatever your cheesy craving, London’s best cheese hotspots are oozing with delicious bites.
  4. It’s National Pie Day on 23 Jan (who knew that was a thing?). Bite into tasty pastry from London’s top pie shops.

Munch on more foodie treats.

Find a new you

  1. Stick to those New Year’s resolutions by visiting healthy eateries across the city. 
  2. Whether you’re a vegan, vegetarian or just dabbling, Veganuary is the perfect excuse to enjoy vegan and vegetarian delights this January.
  3. Get on yer bike, as you hire a Santander Cycle for endless exploring, all for just £2 a day. Visit parks, ride along the Thames or explore Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Budget London ideas

  1. Strapped for cash after Christmas and New Year? We have 101 free ideas to explore, from attractions to ticket-free events.  
  2. Make use of top offers on shows, restaurants and more.
  3. See shows for less by picking up cheap theatre tickets.
  4. Refuel at the city’s best budget lunch spots or cheap restaurants.

Save more with our tips on budget London activities.

Enjoy cosy London winter evenings

  1. Defrost in front of a roaring fire at a snug London pub with a mug of mulled wine.
  2. Scale the heights to a heated rooftop bar, where you can soak up sunset views across London and enjoy winter pop-up activities and music.
  3. Experience culture after dark with immersive experiences, DJ sets and more at a late-night London museum opening.
  4. Head to London’s West End to catch a spectacular theatre show, such as smash-hits The Lion King, Thriller or The Book of Mormon.
  5. Pick a film fit for the whole family, including Home Alone, Elf and Love Actually, at Southbank Centre’s Winter Pop-up Cinema (11 Nov-29 Dec) or see a screening of Elf during a free night of cabaret, workshops and festive fun with Miracle on Leake Street (17 Dec).
  6. Tuck into brunch or a three-course meal after a cult festive film at One Aldwych’s own cinema with Festive Film & Fizz. 22 Nov-23 Dec

Check out our events calendar for more special events in winter in London. Plan your winter break in London with our pick of things to do in London each month, guide to what's on in London and pick of what's on every weekend.

You can’t to London in winter and miss the Christmas fun, so follow these 101 things to do over the festive season.