Are you thinking of visiting London in the winter? This blog post has all of the best things to do, places to stay, food to eat and more. It’s the only London winter guide that you’ll need!
London’s a city like no other. With fascinating historical attractions, plenty of modern museums and a diverse culinary scene, it has so much on offer. And winter is a wonderful time to see it all.
Sure, the weather might be a little grey and rainy, but you’re never really guaranteed nice weather in summer either! Plus, we can get some nice, crisp winters days, and there are plenty of indoor activities.
Plus, London comes alive in the festive season. With beautiful fairy lights, fun ice skating rinks and festive food markets serving delicious food, there is nowhere better. There are also special events that are made just for Christmas.
What’s London like in winter?
While London is glorious during the summertime, it’s really quite lovely during winter as well.
One of the main things to remember about the UK is that you can never rely on the weather. As a result, virtually none of our attractions are weather-dependent!
This makes it just as easy to visit London in the winter months as in the summertime.
Sure, you won’t be basking in Hyde Park or stand-up paddleboarding on the River Thames, but most of London’s stand-out attractions, like Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London, are open year-round.
London in November
Festive cheer begins in London in November, with most Christmassy decorations going up after Bonfire Night (which is on the 5th November).
Bonfire Night is worth being in the UK for – it’s essentially a celebration of Guy Fawkes trying to blow up the Houses of Parliament (yes, really!) and there are fireworks displays all over the country. In London, the best fireworks displays are in the suburbs, in places like Wimbledon, Alexandra Palace and Bromley.
The atmosphere gets progressively more festive throughout November, making the end of the month a great time to be in London!
London in December
London in December is nothing short of magical. There are so many Christmassy things to do and everyone is full of festive cheer – it’s one of my favourite times to be in the city.
It is also one of the busiest, so do bear that in mind when you’re booking hotels and restaurants (reservations are essential in December).
Most businesses close on 25th December, and others may close in the days around as well.
London in January
London in January can be a bit dismal and bleak. Most people are on a strict budget after Christmas, so there aren’t as many people out as normal!
However, this doesn’t mean that London’s not worth visiting in January. Hotel prices are usually cheaper, there are often deals in restaurants and you’ll find far fewer crowds for London’s main tourist attractions.
London in February
February can be a bit similar to January, in that a lot of people are hibernating over winter and London doesn’t have as much of an atmosphere as the rest of the year!
However, Valentines’ Day (February 14th) is quite a popular holiday, and as the evenings start getting lighter and the weather a little warmer, London gets a bit busier.
London in March
March is a bit hit and miss – it can be lovely and sunny, or it can snow!
It starts getting a bit lighter each evening, and at the end of the month, the clocks go forward.
Generally, this is the month that London gets a bit busier and has more of a springtime atmosphere.
The best things to do in London in winter
Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park
With glittering lights and Christmas music filling the air, Hyde Park Winter Wonderland is a fantastic place to visit to enjoy the holiday spirit.
Hyde Park is essentially a giant Christmas funfair, with rides, hot drink stalls, Bavarian Christmas food, live music, an ice rink and places to purchase Christmas presents.
It runs throughout December and into January – so it’s a lovely place to hold onto that festive spirit!
You can book tickets to Winter Wonderland on their website.
Somerset House Ice Rink
Somerset House Ice Rink is one of the best winter attractions.
With festive lights and the beautiful building of Somerset House in the background, it’s one of the most famous places to take to the ice in the capital.
The ice rink is open from November to January every year; it’s one of the best things to do in London at Christmas.
Christmas at Kew Gardens
With over 50,000 plants and a history dating back to 1840, Kew Gardens is the country’s most famous botanical garden. In the festive season, it becomes a glorious light display.
You can walk through the display and take in the beautiful winter trail, which is home to different lights and illuminations, and even the opportunity to meet Santa!
You can buy tickets for Kew Gardens on their website.
Christmas lights in London
During the holiday season, get in the festive spirit by touring the best Christmas lights in London!
Some of the most beautiful lights in London are in Regent Street
It’s also worth popping into Covent Garden in winter, so you can take a look at the lights there and the Christmas tree.
See a play on the West End
The West End is London’s broadway, and you can enjoy merry musicals here throughout the year, including during winter.
These are especially popular over Christmas, but if you’re visiting London in January or February, you might get some great theatre deals.
- Mamma Mia: This is a fantastic musical based on ABBA music and set on a Greek Island. If you want a feel-good classic, there’s nothing better than Mamma Mia!
- Wicked: A Wizard of Oz spin-off, this play is all about what happened before Dorothy arrived in the land of Oz.
- The Lion King: An absolute classic, this is the stage adaptation of a long-time favourite Disney film. Sing it with me now “oh I just can’t wait to be king!”
- Six: Every single British student learns the story of Henry VIII, the king who had six wives, but this musical tells the tale from their perspective – with some excellent music.
London Dungeon is one of the best indoor attractions in the capital.
It’s a thrilling, immersive experience detailing the darker parts of London’s history.
Learn about Guy Fawkes’ Gunpowder Plot, take a trip on the Tyrant Boat Ride and feel Henry VIII’s wrath and escape both the Plague and Great Fire of London. After that, you’ll deserve a drink!
It’s recommended that no children under age 12 visit the London Dungeon – although it’s up to the accompanying adult’s discretion.
You can purchase your London Dungeon tickets on Get Your Guide.
London’s Best Museums
- Natural History Museum: this is one of the best places to learn about animal and human history
- The British Museum: This is one of the best places to learn about British history; although it does have a lot of products that have been stolen from other countries, so bear this in mind as you walk around.
- Victoria and Albert Museum: The largest museum of art and design in the country, the V&A museum is an impressive collection of
- The TATE: This is the largest art gallery in London and subsequently in the county, the TATE showcases all forms of artwork.
The best thing is, all of these museums are free!
Tower of London
The Tower of London is one of the best indoor attractions in the city. A stone’s throw from London Bridge station, this is where key events of the nation’s history, like the execution of Anne Boleyn, and currently holds the crown jewels.
Dating back over 900 years, it’s operated as a prison, a zoo, the royal mint and more. If you want to learn about British history, there’s nowhere better.
You can buy skip-the-line tickets for the Tower of London on Get Your Guide.
Tower Bridge is also a great place to visit, even during the winter months.
Dating back to 1886, this bridge is one of London’s most important landmarks, and it’s the only bridge that can be raised.
In fact, tourists often mistake it for London Bridge – which is a short walk away and isn’t quite as glitzy!
You can easily combine seeing Tower Bridge with a visit to the Tower of London. They’re both close to London Bridge station.
If you’re looking for indoor attractions, look no further than the London Eye!
This huge ferris wheel was launched on New Years’ Eve 1999, ready for the turn of the millennium – although it didn’t open to the public until February.
It was originally supposed to be a temporary structure but proved to be so popular amongst both tourists and locals that it gained a permanent licence in 2002.
When you ride the London Eye, you’ll have a whole 30 minutes to take in mesmerising views of the British capital. You can see all the main sights of London, including Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament, and even all the way to Windsor Castle if it’s a clear day!
You can buy London Eye tickets by clicking here or at the box office. If the weather is looking clear, it’s best to buy them in advance, as this will help you to skip the line.
Tours of London
Doing a walking tour of London is a great winter activity, as long as you bundle up and maybe take a hot chocolate to help you keep warm!
You’ll go past sights like Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, 10 Downing Street and Big Ben, learning about this city’s dynamic history as you go. I particularly like SANDEMANs free walking tours, which run on a “pay as you feel” model – you decide how much the tour is worth at the end.
There are also a few more specific tours that you can do in London.
Here are just a few (click through to learn more about them!):
- Magical London: Harry Potter walking tour
- Jack the Ripper: learn about London’s most notorious Victorian criminal
- You can even do a private pub tour to see some of London’s best watering holes!
Westminster Abbey is another top attraction in London.
The city’s (and country’s) main cathedral, this looming edifice dates back to 1245.
Many of Britain’s most notable characters, including Elizabeth I, Charles Darwin and Charles Dickens have been buried here.
Plus, it’s home to the coronation chair, where every king and queen has been crowned since 1399. It’s still the site of coronations, royal weddings and memorials to this day.
It’s a dream to photograph from the outside, but it’s also worth venturing inside to get a sense of its history.
You can purchase a skip-the-line ticket in advance or buy on the door on the day. Click here to buy your ticket.
St Paul’s Cathedral
If you head over to the City of London, the world’s second-largest cathedral dome will greet your eye.
This is St Paul’s Cathedral, another important site to visit in London.
The current building dates back to 1675, but there’s been a religious building on this site since 604 AD. However, invasions, damage and the Great Fire of London caused the cathedral to be destroyed four times!
You can visit and explore its majestic interior and even climb up 528 steps to reach the top of the dome.
You can purchase your ticket for St Paul’s Cathedral here.
Warner Bros Studio London Tour
The Warner Bros Studio Tour London is an immersive experience all about Harry Potter.
Taking place in the actual studios where the famous franchise was filmed, the tours will take you on an incredible journey through many of the rooms at Hogwarts, the Forbidden Forest, the Weasley’s House and Draco Manor and into Diagon Alley and Gringotts.
If you have any Potter fans in your midst, it’s a must-do!
The studios are open all year round, and are an especially lovely place to visit during Christmas when they host “Hogwarts in the snow”. However, if you visit in November, January or February, they always have another theme going on!
You can buy tickets for the Warner Bros Studio London Tour here. Tickets must be booked in advance (and they sell out early on, so buy them a few months before your trip!).
If there aren’t any tickets for sale on the actual website, you can purchase packages on Get Your Guide.
Drinks at Sky Garden
One of the best views in London is actually completely free!
Sky Garden sits at the top of the walkie-talkie building and is, as the name suggests, a vivacious indoor garden.
It doesn’t cost a penny to come up here – although most people purchase drinks. These are around the same price as most beverages in London bars – and it’s worth spending the money to have a view!
Queues to Sky Garden can be long, so it’s best to allow plenty of time or visit during quieter hours.
The queen’s residence, Windsor Castle is a little way out of Central London, but it’s easily accessible by public transport and is well worth the trip.
It’s the oldest continuously used castle in the world, dating back all the way to 1070.
Nowadays, parts of the castle are open for tourists, including the State Apartments and St George’s Chapel, which is where Harry and Megan got married.
To get to Windsor Castle, you can take a train from Waterloo to Windsor & Eton Central. It will take around 45 minutes.
You can purchase tickets here.
London Dinner Cruise on the Thames
If you want to see the city from another perspective, why not enjoy a dinner cruise on the Thames?
See the sights of the city while enjoying afternoon tea or a three-course meal. Depending on the time of day, you might see the London lights twinkling by night or enjoy attractions by day.
If you don’t want to eat, you can also do a sightseeing cruise on the River Thames. You can book it here.
Hop on hop off bus tour
Another great way to see the city is by a hop-on hop-off bus tour!
These buses traverse around London’s main sights, and you can disembark at any of the attractions.
One ticket will enable you to use the bus service for a 24 or 48 hour period.
These buses are open-topped, but you can also take a seat downstairs if it’s chilly.
Click here to book your open-topped bus ticket!
Madame Tussauds is a world-famous chain of wax museums, featuring very lifelike wax models.
There are Madame Tussauds all over the world, but the London branch has 150 figures, with some decidedly British characters such as Henry VIII and his six wives.
If you’re looking for things to do in London in the rain, Madame Tussauds is a great option!
You can buy your Madame Thussauds ticket here.
What is the weather like in London in winter?
- London in November: November can be a hit-and-miss month; occasional nice weather at the start of the month can lead to near-zero temperatures at the end. Highs are typically around 10°C/ 50°F and lows are 4°C/ 10°F.
- London in December: It usually starts to get chillier in December, but snow is rare. Highs are generally 7°C/ 44°F and lows are 2°/ 36°F.
- London in January: January is one of the coldest months, and snow can happen (although there are months when it never snows in London!). Temperatures are around the same as December: highs of 7°C/ 44°F and lows of 2°/ 36°F.
- London in February: This can be the coldest month, with temperatures often below zero. However, by the end of the month, it can get substantially water, sitting nicely in the teens.
What to eat in London in winter
There are so, so many places to eat in London – and of course, all of these restaurants stay open year-round!
It’s hard to write a list of the best restaurants in London, because there really is such a huge amount of options.
But here are a few that come to mind:
- I love Mildred’s, which is a chain of vegetarian restaurants that have been active for years.
- Recently, I went to Caphe House, which was an incredible Vietnamese eatery.
- Wahaca is a chain with branches all over the UK. They have a few London locations, and they serve pretty authentic Mexican street food.
- Duck and Waffle is the highest 24-hour restaurant in London.
- The Sun at Camberwell serves great traditional roast dinners with veggie and vegan options.
From fine dining restaurants in Covent Garden to small family-run eateries, there is literally everything your heart could ever desire in London when it comes to food!
Can’t decide what you want to eat? Food tours run regularly and are a great way to sample London’s diverse culinary scene.
What to eat in London at Christmas
If you’re visiting during Christmas, festive food includes mince pies, Christmas pudding, cheese and of course, a full roast dinner with turkey, roast potatoes and seasonal vegetables.
How to travel around London in the winter months
London has excellent public transportation options, and you can easily use these to travel around in the winter months.
I’d highly recommend the London underground which connects most of the city effortlessly. Locate your nearest tube station when you check into your hotel.
London runs on zone one to six, and the more zones you go through, the more you pay. Central London and stations like London Bridge and Charing Cross are in zone one; as a tourist, you’ll probably stick to zones one and two depending on where you’re staying!
Top tip: Get yourself a visitor oyster card as soon as you hop off that plane or Eurostar. You then load money onto it, and fares are much, much cheaper than buying individual tickets.
Where to stay in London in the winter season
- If you’re a backpacker, Wombats Hostel is a fun place to stay! With huge dorms that permit a lot of natural light, a big bar and a hangout area, it’s potentially the most social hostel in London. Click here to read more.
- 72QT Notting Hill is a popular bed and breakfast in London. It’s located a little out of the city centre, but it has affordable rates and friendly staff. Click here to read more.
- Z Hotel Victoria is a great mid-range hotel, with small but efficient en-suite rooms and fast WiFi. Click here for more information.
- The London EDITION is a five-star establishment with luxury rooms; the whole place is decorated with opulence in mind and some have incredible views of the city. There’s a fitness centre and restaurant on-site. Click here to read more.
What to pack for winter in London
As I’ve mentioned, winter in London is cold, but not as freezing as in other European destinations.
However, I’d still recommend packing a thick coat, scarf and gloves – most Brits wear these throughout the colder months.
Closed-toe shoes are also essential. I usually wear my Timberland boots throughout the cooler months. And don’t forget thick socks!
The general dress code in London for sightseeing is jeans and a jumper or similar outfit. If you’re going for fancy dinners, you might want to wear a dress and tights or smart trousers and shirt. We aren’t as trendy as Europeans from the continent!
Don’t forget to pack a camera and all of your personal items too!
Don’t worry if you forget anything – you can literally buy anything you’ll ever need in London. Boots and Superdrug are popular places to purchase toiletries, or you can just pop into any Sainsburys Local or Tesco Metro – there are loads of these in central London!
Last tips for visiting London in the wintertime
If the weather’s particularly bad when you’re in London, feel free to strike up a conversation about the weather with a local. Moaning about the weather is just something we like to do – it’s in our genes…
If you’re visiting during shoulder season (i.e. the start of November or March) and there is a day that’s above 15 degrees and sunny, don’t be surprised at all if you see people walking around wearing shorts. We tend to bare skin for as much of the year as possible – even if the weather seems freezing compared to other places!
I recommend that you use Citymapper to get around – it’s like a more elaborate version of Google Maps.
When you’re in London, you’ll notice a lot of British-isms – we have rather a lot of slang! The most common is saying “you alright?” as a greeting. We don’t literally mean “are you ok”, we mean “hello!”.
That’s about all you need to know about visiting London in winter! It’s a magical city any time of year, winter and the rest!
Whether you’re walking around the Tower of London, learning about Harry Potter at the Warner Bros Studio London Tour, or eating delicious snacks and tasty meals at London’s best restaurant, you’ll love visiting the capital in the winter months!