London in winter – things to do and where to stay

London in winter – things to do and where to stayThis article may contain compensated links. Please read disclaimer for more info

Are you planning to visit London in winter? When we plan travel we prefer to do our trips in spring, summer and early autumn when we can count on some sunshine. However sometimes the only opportunity is to travel during winter. I say embrace that challenge. There are plenty of things to do in London in winter even on the greyest of days.

Tips for visitors to London in winter

Holly Bush, Hampstead, NW3

Photo credit: Ewan Munro

Get cosy in a pub

Nothing says England more than a fire roaring inside a quaint pub. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese on Fleet Street, one of London’s oldest pubs,  has a coal fire burning in the bar.  For more ideas here is a list of pubs in London with an open fireplace. Enjoy!

Visit London’s museums and galleries

The ever popular Natural History Museum and V&A are always extremely busy. I recommend visiting early (before midday) to avoid the crowds.  Also try heading a little out of the main tourist traffic and heading to Greenwich where there are several fascinating museums including the Cutty Sark, Royal Observatory and Meridian Line and National Maritime Museum. All these museums have fantastic exhibits and experiences for kids of all ages if you are travelling as a family.


Things to do in London in winter - Visit London museums - the Natural History Museum is a favourite

There is a London gallery for all types art lovers – from modern art at the Tate Modern to Old Masters and Renaissance glory at the National Gallery. Here is my round up of the best art galleries in London.

For mid shopping trip culture fix try the Wallace Collection near Selfridges. This museum is free to enter and has great art and beautifully curated collections of amour, porcelain and furniture.

Take afternoon tea

This British tradition is a must do when visiting London. You can have the poshest of teas at The Ritz or take your tea mobile on a vintage London bus. Afternoon tea can be taken at many venues across London including at the iconic Houses of Parliament – a truly unique London experience.

Enjoy afternoon tea - London in winter

Related  London loves: Houses of Parliament afternoon tea and tour

We recently enjoyed a great Charlie and the Chocolate Factory themed afternoon tea at the Chesterfield hotel in Mayfair. The creative themed menu was delicious and thoughtfully adjusted for our children who were thoroughly spoilt by the staff.

This site has a great list of afternoon tea options.

Some more London afternoon tea ideas

Catch a show in London’s West End

Garrick Theatre London

Image credit: Terence Chisholm

From classics like Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera to the latest productions starring world famous actors and actresses there is always something on to appeal to the broadest of tastes. Check Time Out for up to date lists of what’s on and secure discount and last minute tickets at London Theatre Direct.

Shop till you drop on Oxford and Regent Streets

Duck in and out of the shops along Oxford and Regent Street for high street bargains. Post Christmas sales are fantastic in London and you are likely to find some great deals. Make sure your drop by Liberty and enjoy one of my favourite activities – shopping for scarves. If you like markets head to Spitalfields for a uniquely London experience.

Where to stay in London in winter

When it is cold outside it is important to stay somewhere lovely and cosy in a central location with all the creature comforts.

My pick of London’s luxury hotels

The Goring close to Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey for sightseeing and Sloane Square for shopping. This elegant hotel is a haven from the fast pace of the city and is renowned for impeccable service and hospitality.

Book The Goring hotel on and read reviews on TripAdvisor.


Across town at the Rosewood London in Holborn the atmosphere is equally tranquil. Close to the theatres of Covent Garden and shopping on Oxford Street, the hotel is in an historic building that captures the essence of London’s grandeur. I have enjoyed many meals at the Holborn Dining Room within the hotel and often recommend visitors dine there.

Book the Rosewood London on and learn what other travellers are saying on TripAdvisor.

Stay in an apartment in Shoreditch with Plum Guide

Photo credit: The Plum Guide

London apartment rental

Depending on how you travel and who you travel with, staying in a well appointed apartment may be a better accommodation option. Read my guide to finding the best apartments and houses for short term rental online and find your perfect London winter base.

If searching the listings for hidden gems seems too much hard work, try apartment rental specialists The Plum Guide. Using impressive criteria and a commitment to uncovering the best hospitality available in London, you are certain to find a cosy stay for your winter visit to London.

December is the best month to visit London in winter

London is lovely during the Christmas season and festive cheer abounds. Try ice skating at Somerset House or the Natural History Museum, shopping in central London and soaking up the atmosphere and decorations around Covent Garden and New Bond Street.

Festive decorations and mulled wine - a London Christmas - winter in London

The Southbank Christmas Markets are a fun way to spend an afternoon. Sip on mulled wine as you browse the craft stalls for gifts and ride the carousel. The market and Christmas activities stretch from outside the Tate Modern to near the London Eye.

Related  English Christmas traditions and how to celebrate them in London

Ice skating at Somerset House

London’s long winter

It can be bitterly cold in London until April. I had the dubious pleasure of walking straight into a horizontal sleet storm over Easter one year.  Londoners excitedly wait for the Spring and Summer when the blossoms are out. During those seasons the living is all about lazy days in the gorgeous parks and gardens and a long afternoon pub garden lunches. In the meantime, there much to appreciate about London in winter.

Further reading on visiting London

✪ check out this list of apps I recommend for visitors to London – updated regularly

✪ a tour and afternoon tea at the Houses of Parliament

✪ some uniquely London souvenir ideas

✪ spend the day in glorious Greenwich

This post contains affiliate links. This means I may receive a small commission meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you choose to make a purchase. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own based on personal experience

London | UK - things to do in London in winter - museums, shopping, shows and more

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  1. 10th March 2016 / 2:56 PM

    Good list! I’d also suggest some of the old-fashioned arcades for shopping, including Burlington Arcade. Even if you don’t buy, it’s fun to browse and still stay dry.

    • 11th March 2016 / 3:56 PM

      Oh yes, thanks Jennifer. I love the Burlington Arcade!

  2. 13th March 2016 / 3:40 AM

    Whenever we travel we always allow for rain days and have activities pre-planned and left on the back burner for those days. But you have given me some additional inspiration with High Teas and catching a show.

    • 14th March 2016 / 11:11 PM

      Great! glad you found it useful. I confess I don’t do enough of that preplanning for rain but I should, hence the post ?

  3. 20th July 2016 / 11:13 PM

    I visited London one time and it was in January. I got lucky the weather wasn’t too bad and it wasn’t that cold. Spent a week exploring the town and discovering all kinds of really cool things.

    • 21st July 2016 / 10:59 AM

      Lucky about the weather Bob. I must confess I find it one of the most difficult things about living in London. Glad you had a great time

  4. 26th October 2016 / 1:14 PM

    ah yes, London’s lovely in December:)

  5. Clare Thomson
    26th October 2016 / 8:38 PM

    Great ideas for winter here, Katy. Christmas is really special in London but I think January can be a great month to travel too – much less busy and lots of great indoors activities. Let’s face it, afternoon tea is a brilliant thing to do at any time of the year! #FarawayFiles

  6. 26th October 2016 / 10:42 PM

    I have fond memories of my older girl skating at the Natural History Museum during Christmas a couple of years ago. The weather was really cold and the sky was a gorgeous blue and London looked amazing!

  7. 27th October 2016 / 9:05 AM

    What a delicious post! It’s made me most enthusiastic about the season ahead. We like going to the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition. Some incredible shots in there.

  8. 27th October 2016 / 10:28 AM

    Great city in any weather. Always up for a quality afternoon tea.

  9. 27th October 2016 / 10:43 AM

    Pinning this! We are thinking of a trip to London in winter – in February. Hot chocolate, museums and cosy pubs, perfect.

  10. 27th October 2016 / 10:48 AM

    London in any season is wonderful, getting all excited about winter now, thank you!

  11. aandj8804
    27th October 2016 / 12:34 PM

    Great guide for a London visit! Next time I’m planning a trip there, I will seek out this post. 🙂 #farawayfiles

  12. 27th October 2016 / 12:44 PM

    Lots of great ideas here, particularly the Christmas markets which make the whole experience of winter in London more appealing. I used to work in Oxford St, in the John Lewis department store, so remember how busy it was with everyone shopping in December. And I love the South Bank, whatever the season.

    • 27th October 2016 / 9:27 PM

      Now I really want to hear about what it’s like to work at John Lewis in Oxford Street at Christmas Trish. I am sure you witnessed the full scope of human behaviour! I usually avoid Oxford Street but it is so pretty lit up for Christmas

  13. 27th October 2016 / 2:08 PM

    Lots of great ideas! We live in Chicago where the winters are brutal so our winter traveling always involves somewhere warm to break up the cold. But our anniversary is in April and my husband and I have talked about going to London for our 10th anniversary in a few years so I’ll keep these in mind for then since you say it’s still pretty cold that time of year.#farawayfiles

    • 27th October 2016 / 9:25 PM

      Allison I can tell you I will not be visiting Chicago in winter. I have heard it is beyond brutal! In April London can be so lovely with all the blossom out and daffodils blooming. Spring is a lovely time to visit but also good to have indoors back up plans too

  14. 27th October 2016 / 6:14 PM

    This is going to be my first Christmas outside of the Middle East and I’m oh so excited! I can’t wait to see all the Christmas lights around the city and the markets as well. 🙂

    • 27th October 2016 / 9:23 PM

      It’s coming soon! Just booked the kids into Santa’s grotto today and we are doing ice skating at the Natural History Museum. If you want to go shopping for Christmas decorations Liberty’s Christmas shop is open for business! I had to restrain myself!

  15. 27th October 2016 / 9:16 PM

    I never realized London had Christmas markets, too. I guess I’m just so used to them being here in Germany that I never really think about having a cup of mulled wine somewhere else. Although now that I think about it, I do remember seeing one in Bucharest last November. 🙂

    • 27th October 2016 / 9:30 PM

      To be fair they are bit lower key than the huge German ones and also borrow a lot of food ideas from them too. Which is not such a bad thing!

  16. 27th October 2016 / 10:34 PM

    I love London at Christmas time! All the holiday lights look so beautiful even on a rainy night! Can’t wait to get back…

  17. 28th October 2016 / 9:12 AM

    This is actually making me look forward to winter in London- there are some great museums but I do love the South Bank and the Iceland rinks. Which reminds me, I promised to take my daughter to the Natural History Museum rink this year! #farawayfiles

  18. 28th October 2016 / 9:32 AM

    Loved this! We visited London last March and spent way too much time o the Tube trying to get from place to place. Your suggestions in this post sound so much better! Saving for our next visit! 🙂 #farawayfiles

  19. 28th October 2016 / 11:07 AM

    The theatre was my go-to place, when experiencing the London winter but afternoon tea is always fun.

  20. 28th October 2016 / 11:09 PM

    As a figure skater, I would be at that outdoor rink the whole time! I have really only skated in indoor rinks except one artificial outside one in Auckland, NZ but it’s just not the same as what it looks like in London!

    • 29th October 2016 / 12:39 PM

      Oh Juliette! I love watching people with skills on the ice. As a child of the 80s I loved watching Torville and Dean. So beautiful and graceful. I love to try it but I’m more concerned with not getting my fingers crushed or falling over than looking graceful. Hope you can skate in London soon. Central Park in New York is also pretty special

  21. 29th October 2016 / 8:40 PM

    All good tips! We’re not quite brave enough to tackle London with four kids and a dog yet, but we dearly wish to show our kids some of the museums and parks. The girls would love the outdoors ice rink. #FarawayFiles

    • 29th October 2016 / 9:07 PM

      I think summer would be a much better option! There are some great dog friendly places to stay too. The Brits love dogs as a general rule

  22. 31st October 2016 / 10:04 AM

    Katy, you’ve made me miss living in London SOOOOO MUCH! There’s something so magical about getting caught up in the wintery Christmas cheer. Going Christmas shopping in the snow, watching the sun set at 4pm, enjoying a quiet drink by the fire in a pub (I love the Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese for the pies too!). #FarawayFiles

  23. 31st October 2016 / 2:16 PM

    Last time we were in London was in January (years ago) and it was fabulous. We went to museums, pubs, tea time, saw Les Mis and ate a ton of Indian food. It was cozy and fun..we had a great time in winter. #farawayfiles

  24. 31st October 2016 / 3:05 PM

    Danke für den schönen Beitrag.
    London im Winter ist toll.
    Mir gefällt am besten die weihnachtliche Dekoration in den Straßen.

    • 31st October 2016 / 6:31 PM

      Danke schön! Christmas in London is very pretty I agree

  25. 2nd November 2016 / 5:16 PM

    All my friends tell me not to visit London in winter as the winter there is bleak and depressing. But you have painted an entirely different picture! I guess if I was there for high tea, natural history museum and Kidzania, it doesn’t really matter whether it’s winter or summer. And with Christmas markets on top of that, I guess I see why you say December is the best month to visit. #FarawayFiles

    • 2nd November 2016 / 5:23 PM

      I don’t think it would be my first choice of season to visit but there are many wonderful things to do when it is cold and wet. Hope to see you in London soon ???

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