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Are you planning a trip to London in winter? Get your woolly hat and gloves ready, it’s a lot of fun.
Having lived in the city for many years we can assure you that London is a city that embraces its cold and brisk weather patterns. So there are plenty of things to do in London in winter even on the greyest of days.
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Things to do in London in winter
We wont lie, visiting London in December, January and February provides some unique challenges.
The days are cold and darkness sets in early and you will probably want to spend a lot of time indoors. But you might be surprised to learn there are some fun outdoor attractions too.
So get creative and plan out a London winter itinerary with these activities.
Catch a show in London’s West End
In winter, Londoners head to the theater and so should you. Apart from being a classic British tradition, many new shows are launched in winter. From classics like Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera to the latest productions starring world famous actors there is a show for everyone playing in London’s West End.
Top London theatre shows 2019 / 2020
- Mary Poppins – what better way to celebrate London than joining in a rousing chorus of Supercalifragilistic! The much loved classic book and movie have recently been brought to the stage to widespread acclaim > click for ticket info
- Les Miserables – London’s longest running show (since 1985) and favourite tale of love, loss and redemption set in the Paris commune – click for ticket info
- School of Rock – this is a fun stage version of the Hollywood blockbuster by musical great Andrew Lloyd-Webber that gets rave reviews – click for ticket info
- Matilda – a clever musical version of the Roald Dahl classic perfect if you want to treat your kids and make them laugh out loud – click for ticket info
Find a cosy London pub
Nothing could be cosier and more English than an open fire roaring inside a quaint pub. Stay warm and cosy with a pint of ale or glass of wine by the fire.
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese at 145 Fleet Street is one of London’s oldest pubs, dating from just after the Great Fire of London. This pub has a coal fire burning in the bar and a fascinating history. Apparently Charles Dickens and Mark Twain once drank there.
If you like the sound of that, here is a list of pubs in London with an open fireplace or if you’d prefer a guided experience you might like to join a fabulous walking tour of the city’s historic pubs where you uncover the hidden stories behind each watering hole > click here for tour information
Looking for more activities to do at night in London?
Read our guide to London after dark
Visit London’s museums and galleries
Many of the city’s museums and galleries are free to visit, so they are always a popular winter activity in London. We love visiting the British Museum in all seasons but this visitor favourite can fill a whole rainy London day.
The ever popular Natural History Museum, Science Museum and V&A in Kensington are always extremely busy. And for good reason. They are a treasure trove of interactive exhibits suitable for all ages and interests. We recommend visiting these museums early (before midday) to avoid the crowds.
Tip: We often go to South Kensington tube station and have breakfast so we can enter as soon as they open at 10:00am. Here is a list of popular London eateries that can be found nearby.
In Covent Garden, the London Transport Museum takes you on a journey through London’s fascinating transport history – from double decker buses to the first underground lines. There are some useful play spaces there if you are visiting with kids and need a more active indoor activity.
To avoid the main tourist traffic go to Greenwich where there are several fascinating museums including the Cutty Sark, Royal Observatory and Meridian Line and National Maritime Museum. You could easily spend a day in Greenwich enjoying the museums with a break for lunch in the famous covered market.
There is a London gallery for all art lovers – from modern art at the Tate Modern to Old Masters and Renaissance glory at the National Gallery. Many of the galleries offer free admission to their permanent collections and have cosy cafes to warm up in with a hot chocolate after your dose of culture.
Enjoy a mid shopping trip culture fix at the Wallace Collection near Selfridges. This museum is free to enter and has severam impressive galleries including paintings by Dutch Masters and beautifully curated collections of armour, porcelain and furniture.
For our round up of the best art galleries in London click here.
Afternoon tea indulgence
The British tradition of afternoon tea is a must do each time you visit London. You can have the poshest of teas at The Ritz or take your tea on a vintage London bus as you tour the sights of the city.
If you fancy a stylish and modern tea, we recently enjoyed an indulgent afternoon tea with a spectacular view of the Tower of London at Aqua Shard
Now afternoon tea can be taken at many unique venues across London but I think the most fabulous tea is at the iconic Houses of Parliament – a truly unique London activity.
Tip – join a VIP tour of the Houses of Parliament followed by afternoon tea on the House of Lords terraces with TakeWalks – one of our favorite tour companies. They’ll tell you stories of one of the most famous buildings in London and you’ll sip your tea as Big Ben tolls close by.
I love tea so much I made my own round up of favourite places in London for afternoon tea > click here to view
Shop till you drop
Shopping in London in winter is lots of fun. You can stay warm in the famous Burlington, Piccadilly and Royal arcades you’ll find on Piccadilly. The historic malls are the perfect spot to browse luxury treats from iconic British and international brands. At Christmas time they are decorated in classic style and are a great place for photos.
While you’re in the area pop into Fortnum and Mason and browse their range of high end food stuffs – perfect for souvenirs or treats.
If you’ve come to shop at some of the biggest flagship stores in the world, duck in and out of the stores along Oxford and Regent Street for high street bargains and luxury finds.
Make sure you drop by Liberty of London at and enjoy one of my favourite activities > shopping for scarves! At Christmastime you must go to the top floor where there are all the tree baubles you could dream of in Liberty of London’s Christmas shop.
If you like markets and artisan made goods head to Spitalfields for a uniquely London experience and fun offerings from small designers.
Tip – Post Christmas sales are fantastic in London and you are likely to find some great deals. Even the lead up to Christmas can uncover some very tempting bargains
Take a stroll in a park
Before you settle in for a cosy afternoon at a pub or enjoy your afternoon tea, take a brisk walk in one of London’s famous parks and gardens. Though the leaves have dropped, you can still appreciate the grandeur of these open spaces.
Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park are popular choices close to the main attractions. Admire the Albert Memorial and say hello to the ducks and swans on the Serpentine. If you’re visiting in December, Hyde Park is transformed into a winter playground known as Winter Wonderland with Christmas activities, rides and stalls. And of course Santa!
Visiting London in December
December is the best month to visit London in winter. The city is magical and decorated beautifully during the Christmas season.
There is nothing more festive than shopping in central London at Christmastime soaking up the atmosphere, and enjoying Christmas windows and decorations around Covent Garden and New Bond Street.
Christmas Markets 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.
Right in the heart of Soho, there is a lovely Christmas market at Leicester Square. This one gets very busy with shoppers and visitors so visit earlier in the day if you want to avoid the crowds.
London winter ice skating rinks
Try ice skating at Somerset House or the Natural History Museum. You can even skate in front of the Tower of London.
This is one of our favourite Christmas traditions. For some reason the ice skating rinks close after the Christmas season which is a real shame – it’s so much fun!
Tip – book tickets early for ice skating especially if you are visiting closer to Christmas. It is a very popular activity with both Londoners and tourists.
Don’t forget to visit London’s famous fun fair Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. Open from November to January, there are fairground rides, a market to browse and an opportunity to meet Santa of course.
Where to stay in London in winter
When it is cold outside, we think it is important to stay somewhere lovely and cosy. Find a hotel in a central location with all the creature comforts and you have the ultimate mid winter treat.
Our pick of London’s luxury hotels
The Goring is 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. Staying here is such a treat > click here for latest prices
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 always recommend visitors dine there when in London > click here for the latest prices
Cosy London hotels
Right in the heart of London, the Piccadilly London West End is the perfect base for theatre lovers and shoppers.
Guests enjoy complimentary luxury toiletries and fluffy bathrobes at this modern and stylish hotel > click here to check latest prices
Close to the Tate Modern, Borough Market and action on the Southbank, citizenM London Bankside is a modern hip hotel in a great location. Guests love the artwork and modern style > click here for latest prices
London apartment rental
We recommend you choose areas that are close to transport and activities to make the most of your trip:
- Soho, Oxford Street, West End
Read my guide to finding the best apartments and houses for short term rental online and find your perfect London winter base.
London winter weather
Winter runs December to January in London. Days are short and nights are long – the sun sets around 4pm and rises again after 8am.
Temperatures in winter stay well below 10°C / 50°F but rarely dip below freezing. Snow is rare in London but it is a magical sight to behold. There’s nothing quite like seeing the city’s iconic monuments blanketed in snow.
Make sure to bring a warm coat, hat and gloves so you can enjoy your trip to London outdoors as well as inside.
How long is winter in London?
It can be bitterly cold in London until April. We 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 is much to appreciate about London in winter.
Further reading for your winter trip to London
If you want to hit all the classic sights and only have limited time in London, you might like to check out our 3 day London itinerary. Over three days you can visit everything you love about London – the history, pubs, parks and shopping – even in winter!
More useful posts for your trip to London:
- what to pack for your trip to London
- our favourite list of apps I recommend for visitors to London – updated regularly
- afternoon tea at the Houses of Parliament
- some uniquely London souvenir ideas
- spend the day in glorious Greenwich
- our guide to visiting London with kids
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