London in December: 12 top reasons to visit (2023 guide)

People skating on a crowded ice skating rink in Somerset House in the evening.

Visiting London in December? Here’s my full guide!

As soon as 1st December rolls around, light displays illuminate and the holiday season enters in full swing. 

Sure, the city does have somewhat of a winter chill, but you’ll be warmed by the festive events throughout the city. 

As London’s an all-season city, all of our most popular attractions (Tower of London, change of the guards at Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey to name a few) remain open – and mostly offer a welcome respite if the weather’s too cold! 

Of course, festive markets – such as Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland – pop up all over the city. 

You’ll also find outdoor ice rinks and shops are full of festive cheer!

Here are the best reasons to visit London in December. 

Reasons to visit London in December

Most of the best reasons to visit London in December involve Christmas, but other reasons to visit include enjoying its indoor attractions, ice skating and kicking back in cosy pubs. December is also the season for Hannukah, and as London’s so multicultural, there are chances to celebrate this festival too. 

Festive cheer

London winter regent street

Heading to London this December? Get ready for some festive cheer! 

The moment your boots hit the city pavement, you’ll notice a twinkle that wasn’t there before.

London’s famous Christmas lights come alive as dusk falls from November onwards.

The streets practically glow with the holiday spirit. 

Oxford Street puts on quite the spectacle.

We’re talking about a dizzying array of glittering spheres cascading down from above, bathing the shopping thoroughfare in a warm, golden light.

Regent Street is no different, blanketed in a canopy of twinkling angels.

Christmas markets

London winter wonderland rides

For a quintessential London experience in December, make a beeline for the Christmas markets sprinkled across the city.

The Southbank Centre Winter Market is a seasonal must-see.

As you wander along the Thames, you’ll find charming wooden chalets filled to the brim with handmade crafts, unique gifts, and mouth-watering food from around the world.

The air is thick with the scent of bratwurst sizzling on grills, sweet treats like churros dusted with sugar, and warm chestnuts roasting. 

Then there’s Greenwich Market, which bustles with an eclectic mix of boutique shops and stalls.

Come December, it transforms into a festive hub with a special focus on antiques and crafts – perfect for finding a one-of-a-kind gift.

And don’t forget Leicester Square.

Amidst the fairy-lit stalls offering a variety of wares, from artisanal cheeses to quirky Christmas decorations, you’ll often spot street performers and carol singers. 

In Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park (which opens mid-November) expect rows of stalls selling everything from festive food to handcrafted ornaments, along with exhilarating rides, ice skating, a full ice bar and live shows. 


In the heart of London’s December festive attractions lies an age-old tradition: the pantomime.

For those not acquainted with this thoroughly British form of theatre pantomimes feature a storyline based on a well-known fairy tale or classic story, like Cinderella or Peter Pan.

These plays include comedy, music and audience participation and are popular with families. 

The London Palladium Pantomime is known for its star-studded cast, extravagant costumes, and lavish sets, promising a theatrical spectacle that’s an absolute riot of colour and laughter. In 2023, it’s Peter Pan!

For a more modern twist on the classic pantomime, head to the Lyric Hammersmith.

Here, you can expect a fresh, innovative spin on the traditional format, with a heady mix of contemporary music, dance, and inventive storytelling.

At the Hackney Empire, they offer a pantomime with a distinctively East End charm.

Known for embracing multiculturalism in its casting and narrative, it serves up a pantomime experience that truly mirrors the vibrant diversity of London.

Ice skating 

London, United Kingdom - November 22, 2012: People skating on a crowded ice skating rink in Somerset House in the evening.

As winter graces London, shimmering ice rinks pop up all over the capital. 

At the top of the list is Somerset House, a grand neoclassical building located in the heart of London.

Every December, its spacious courtyard transforms into a spectacular ice rink.

Want a skating rink with a view? Head over to Skylight at Tobacco Dock.

This rooftop destination offers not only a spacious ice rink but also unparalleled panoramic vistas of London’s iconic skyline.

A short trip out of central London takes you to Hampton Court Palace, the splendid Tudor residence of Henry VIII; here you can skate in the shadow of royal history.

Some ice rinks stay open until February, whereas others are for the festive season only. But they’re all in full swing in December!

Celebrate winter solstice 

Sunset at Stonehenge

Mark the winter solstice in London!

The Royal Observatory in Greenwich shines a light on the astronomical significance of the solstice.

Renowned as the location of the Prime Meridian Line, the observatory caters to celestial enthusiasts with dedicated talks and special stargazing opportunities scheduled to coincide with this astronomical event.

Do you want to experience winter solstice in a traditional way? Head to Stonehenge.

The prehistoric monument in Wiltshire has been the stage for Pagan celebrations; there are a few arguments about its prehistoric use, but it’s one is that it was a calendar as it’s famous for its alignment with the sun’s movements.

As the winter solstice unfolds, the sun sets in perfect alignment with the stones, casting an ethereal glow that has been admired for centuries.

For this special day, the inner circle of Stonehenge – typically cordoned off from visitors – is made accessible.

This rare opportunity allows you to approach the ancient stones and absorb the site up close. 

As part of this memorable experience, people gather in the pre-dawn chill, awaiting the sunrise over the mystical structure.

This moment of shared celebration and quiet reflection forms the perfect commemoration of the winter solstice.

All-weather attractions

Tower of London at night, UK

When December’s chill hits, London’s wealth of all-weather attractions comes into its own. 

The British Museum is a treasure trove of historical artefacts and best of all, it’s indoors.

Lose yourself among Egyptian mummies, the Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon in Athens, and the enigmatic Rosetta Stone, all housed in a stunning neoclassical building.

At the immersive Tate Modern, wander through room after room filled with thought-provoking works by artists such as Picasso, Warhol, and Hockney.

For a dose of royal history, head to the Tower of London.

Explore the White Tower, the medieval keep built by William the Conqueror, and view the precious Crown Jewels.

Also, don’t miss the Warner Bros. Harry Potter studio, which is located in Watford, an easy day trip destination from London. During December, it’s usually bedecked in festive decorations. 

Check out my full list of the best things to do in London in winter by clicking here.

Special exhibitions and events

December is a prime time to indulge in London’s vibrant arts and culture scene, with a roster of special exhibitions and events.

Often, these pop-up events cater for people enjoying their winter break.

If you’re an art lover, there are usually exhibitions at the main galleries. 

Tate Modern, for example, has been known to feature blockbuster retrospectives – past winters have showcased works from renowned artists like Nam June Paik and Yayoi Kusama.

The British Museum typically curates special exhibitions that traverse time and geography.

In recent years, they’ve enlightened visitors with exhibits like “Egypt’s Lost Cities” and “I am Ashurbanipal: King of the world, King of Assyria”.

London’s prestigious theatres, too, offer unique shows in December.

The Royal Opera House and Sadler’s Wells often present winter-themed ballets or operas.

While the specifics for December 2023 aren’t released yet, the city’s cultural institutions consistently curate engaging and enlightening events.

Keep an eye out for announcements closer to your trip!

Plenty of winter day trips 

One of the joys of visiting London in December is the opportunity for winter day trips to surrounding areas.

A trip to Oxford offers academic tradition and architectural grandeur.

The city’s ancient colleges are adorned with frost-dusted spires and ivy-clad walls – it’s a scene straight out of a postcard!

Click here to read more about taking a day trip from London to Oxford.

Brighton offers an alternative seaside experience in winter.

Its iconic pebble beach and the Brighton Pier have a quiet charm.

Explore the eclectic boutiques and antiques shops in the Lanes, and treat yourself to some fish and chips – they somehow taste better in the bracing sea air!

Click here to read more about a day tour from London to Brighton.

For a historical excursion, head to Windsor.

Here, you can visit the magnificent Windsor Castle, the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world.

Explore its State Apartments and St George’s Chapel, the venue of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding!

Click here to read more about a tour from London to Windsor.

Hampton Court Palace, once the home of King Henry VIII, is another historical castle on London’s doorstep.

The palace’s striking Tudor and Baroque architecture is even more atmospheric in the winter months, and its vast gardens provide a delightful winter stroll.

Take a look at an afternoon tour from London to Hampton Court Palace.

New Year’s Celebrations 

London’s one of the best cities in the world to celebrate the New Year. 

Arguably the most renowned event is the Mayor of London’s New Year’s Eve Fireworks.

Typically set off from the London Eye and barges along the River Thames, this dazzling pyrotechnic display lights up the sky over iconic landmarks like Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.

Away from the main event, many restaurants and bars around the city host themed New Year’s Eve parties; from glamorous gala dinners at venues like The Shard to retro dance parties in trendy Shoreditch.

For a high-brow way to ring in the New Year, consider attending a classical music concert.

Venues such as the Barbican Centre, Royal Albert Hall, and Southbank Centre often host special New Year’s Eve performances.

Technically this happens in January, but the New Year’s Day Parade marches through central London on the first day of the year.

Floats, marching bands, acrobats and cheerleaders make their way from Piccadilly to Parliament Square, delighting spectators and adding a burst of energy to the first day of the year.

Most of these events may require booking in advance, so it’s worth planning ahead to secure your spot.

Cosy pub evenings 

When December’s chill descends on London, there’s no better refuge than a traditional British pub – the warmth and charm are amplified in the winter months. 

The Lamb and Flag in Covent Garden dates back to at least 1772.

Located in a small alleyway, its rich history includes a stint as a bare-knuckle boxing venue.

It was also one of Charles Dickens’ favourite watering holes!

The Prospect of Whitby in Wapping is London’s oldest riverside pub.

It dates back to 1520 and was a favourite haunt for sailors, smugglers, and even pirates.

The pub still maintains much of its original charm, with wooden beams and a flagstone floor.

The Dove in Hammersmith has views overlooking the Thames and is the perfect spot to sip on a warming winter ale.

The Grapes in Limehouse boasts literary history, having been frequented by Charles Dickens.

The 500-year-old pub offers an excellent wine list alongside traditional beers.

Finally, for a unique choice, head to The Grenadier in Belgravia.

This pub, which started life in 1720 as an officer’s mess for the Foot Guards Regiments, is reputedly haunted.

Enjoy a pint in this characterful spot, complete with a low ceiling and a warming fireplace, while keeping an eye out for the resident ghost!

Celebrate Hannukah in London

Candles in London

London’s vibrant Jewish community ensures that Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, is celebrated with gusto.

A key event during this eight-day holiday is large-scale menorahs in public spaces.

One of the most prominent is in Trafalgar Square, where London’s official menorah is ceremoniously lit.

Community leaders and local dignitaries often preside over the ceremony, and the event is usually accompanied by music, singing, and traditional foods, like doughnuts and latkes, which are potato pancakes.

In the historically Jewish area of Golders Green, you’ll find local menorah lightings and community events.

Many of the kosher bakeries and restaurants in the area also offer special Hanukkah foods during the holiday.

The Jewish Museum London, located in Camden, usually holds a special programme during Hanukkah, featuring activities for children, workshops, and events that explore the holiday’s history and traditions.

Boxing day sales

London, UK - December 30, 2015:  Christmas lights decoration at Oxford street and lots of people walking during the Christmas sale, public transport, buses and taxies

Boxing Day in London – and indeed, the whole of the UK – is synonymous with one thing: sales.

With Christmas presents exchanged and the leftover turkey stashed in the fridge, Londoners and visitors alike often turn their attention to securing a post-Christmas bargain.

Oxford Street, London’s retail heart, beats the loudest on Boxing Day.

From Selfridges, known for its extensive range of luxury goods, to popular high street brands such as Zara and H&M, there are deals to be had at every turn.

However, for those who’d prefer all their shopping under one roof, Westfield shopping centres – with locations in both White City and Stratford – are the places to be.

Offering a mix of high street and designer brands, these sprawling retail hubs become a magnet for savvy shoppers hunting for discounted clothing, electronics, and more.

But don’t fret if you can’t face the crowds – many retailers launch their sales online, allowing you to bag a bargain from the comfort of your own home (or hotel room!).

So whether you’re braving the bustle of Oxford Street or scrolling through sales in your slippers, London’s Boxing Day sales offer plenty of opportunities to snap up some post-Christmas bargains.

What is the Weather Like in London in December?

Girl with heart shaped umbrella on Tower Bridge, London without traffic.

When it comes to weather, December in London is certainly on the chillier side.

But it’s usually far from the arctic freeze that you might expect from Northern Europe – Tromsø in winter it is not! 

Temperatures vary, with averages ranging from somewhat bracing to properly wintry. In general, you can expect temperatures to fall between 4°C and 8°C (39°F and 46°F).

There’s also a fair bit of rain to consider.

December typically sees around 15 days of rainfall.

But this is London – rainfall’s always a possibility.

Make sure that you pack an umbrella or take it as an excuse to duck into one of those cosy pubs we talked about earlier.

Average Low Temperature (°C)4
Average High Temperature (°C)8
Average Days of Rain15

Does it snow in London in December?

View to the Tower Bridge of London on a cold winter evening with snow

Not so much.

While it’s not unheard of for it to snow in London in December, it’s relatively rare and typically not substantial.

London’s winter temperatures usually hover above the freezing point, so any snow that does fall tends to melt quickly, often before it even hits the ground.

It did snow in London and all around Southern England in December 2022, but this is rare.

However, don’t let that douse your festive spirit!

Even without a blanket of snow, frosty London in December is a treat for all the senses. 

The city is draped in twinkling Christmas lights, its streets bustling with seasonal cheer, and the air is filled with the crisp bite of winter.

What to Pack for London in December

London’s December weather calls for smart packing.

And no, we’re not talking IQ levels here, but rather a clever combination of warmth, style, and practicality.

Firstly, it’s essential to pack layers.

Think thermal undergarments, lightweight sweaters, and comfortable trousers or jeans.

Over these, you’ll want a warm, waterproof coat, preferably one that protects you from those nippy winds without making you look like a bundled-up marshmallow.

Footwear should be both warm and waterproof.

Remember, cobblestones can be slippery when wet, and nothing ruins a holiday quicker than cold, damp feet.

Waterproof boots are ideal. Adding thermal socks to your luggage won’t hurt either.

Gloves, scarves, and hats are must-haves on colder days. 

Finally, pack an umbrella or a raincoat – this is London after all!

Things to Consider for Visiting London in December

London, UK - January 27, 2015: City of London, business and banking area. London's panorama at sun set. View from the St. Paul cathedral

While London is December is mesmerising, here are some things to consider if you’re visiting London in December! 

  1. Shorter Daylight Hours: One of the biggest shifts you’ll notice in December is the early sunset. With the sun often setting around 4pm, you’ll have fewer daylight hours. But London is a city that totally comes alive at night – especially during the festive season!
  2. Frosty Weather and Icy Pavements: Snow may be rare but frost is not. Early mornings and late nights can be particularly chilly, and pavements might get slippery. Keep this in mind when planning your itinerary and ensure you have appropriate footwear.
  3. Pricier Flights and Accommodation: Being a popular time to visit, you might notice a spike in the prices of flights and accommodations, especially around Christmas and New Year. Book well in advance to snag the best deals. 
  4. Public Transport: While London has a well-connected public transport system, there can be changes to services around Christmas and New Year – there are often strikes as well. Be sure to check schedules in advance.
  5. Packed Pubs: Those cosy pub evenings we mentioned earlier? Well, it seems everyone else had the same idea. While this adds to the atmosphere, do be prepared for busy crowds and longer waits at your favourite watering holes.

Things to Do in London at Christmas

Here are 15 of the best things to do in London over Christmas! 

  1. Marvel at the Regent Street Christmas Lights
  2. Visit the Santa’s Grotto at Selfridges
  3. Experience the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park
  4. Attend the Christmas Eve service at St. Paul’s Cathedral
  5. Enjoy a festive afternoon tea at The Ritz
  6. Explore the Victorian Christmas at Kensington Palace
  7. Go ice skating at Somerset House
  8. Visit the Christmas Tree in Trafalgar Square
  9. Embark on a Christmas Lights Bike Tour
  10. Indulge in a Festive Feast at one of London’s historic pubs
  11. Shop at the Southbank Centre Winter Market
  12. Attend the Nutcracker Ballet at the Royal Opera House
  13. Take a Thames Clippers river cruise to Greenwich and visit the Old Royal Naval College and Greenwich Market
  14. Take in the traditional window displays at Fortnum & Mason
  15. Join in the carolling at the Royal Albert Hall

Want to dive deeper into the Christmas magic of London?

Click here to check out my comprehensive guide to spending Christmas in London.

FAQs about visiting London in December

London winter christmas lightsI

Is December a good time to visit London?

Absolutely! London is especially magical in December with a festive atmosphere, Christmas lights, holiday markets, and special winter activities.

But do prepare for shorter days and cold weather.

Is it too cold to visit London in December?

It can be quite cold in December with average temperatures ranging from 3°C to 8°C.

But proper layering with warm clothing can ensure that you have a comfortable time.

Many indoor activities and festive events make the city enjoyable despite the cold!

What to expect in London on December?

December in London is festive and vibrant.

Expect Christmas markets, sparkling lights, ice-skating rinks, and special holiday exhibits.

The weather is typically cold and it gets dark early, so warm clothing and an appreciation for winter evenings are essential.

Does it snow in London in December?

Snow in December in London is not very common.

If it does snow, it’s usually light and doesn’t stay on the ground for long. However, the possibility adds a touch of extra magic to the city’s festive look.

Will it snow at Christmas in London?

A white Christmas in London is quite rare, with the last noteworthy one occurring in 1999.

Typically, London experiences chilly, but not freezing, temperatures over the holiday period, making snow unlikely but not impossible.

Which winter month is best for London?

This is subjective and depends on what you’re looking for!

December is ideal for Christmas festivities and New Year celebrations, while January offers a more relaxed atmosphere and excellent sales.

How do you keep warm in London in December?

Dressing in layers is key.

An underlayer, a warm sweater, a waterproof and windproof outer layer, a scarf, gloves, and a hat are essential.

Warm footwear is also important.

Taking breaks in cosy pubs or cafés can help too!

Is London fun in the winter?

Definitely! London offers a host of indoor and outdoor activities during winter.

From exploring museums and galleries, ice skating, attending a theatre show, to savouring a hot drink in a cosy café, there’s something for everyone.

What does London December weather feel like?

December in London typically feels chilly, with temperatures ranging between 3°C to 8°C.

It can occasionally get frosty and there’s a chance of rain.

The days are short with around 8 hours of daylight.

Is it sunny in London in December?

December is one of the cloudier months in London, and it has the shortest days of the year.

While sunny days can happen, they are less frequent.

However, this also adds to the cosy, festive atmosphere of the city in winter.

Are you ready to check out London in December?

London winter WW rides

Whether you’re day-tripping to Warner Bros. Studios to see Diagon Alley in festive cheer or sticking around in Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland, the festive vibes are strong in London in December. 

The capital city is illuminated with millions of fairy lights before 25th December, and post Christmas Day the winter festivals continue up to New Year’s Eve. 

Don’t miss the buzzing British capital in the festive month!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *