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5 unmissable things to do in London this Christmas 2023

It's the most wonderful time of the year!! Halloween and Bonfire Night are over which means we're now allowed to start looking forward to Christmas. London is our favourite city in the world (David and I lived there for 8 and 13 years respectively) and it's even more special at Christmas.

If you're planning a festive day trip or city break in London for Christmas 2023, here are 5 unmissable things to do :

Regent Street's magical Christmas lights 2023
Regent Street's magical Christmas lights

1. Go ice skating

Who doesn't love the scene in Muppet's Christmas Carol when Gonzo, Rizzo and Kermit go skating with a bonkers bunch of penguins? Get your Dickens on and go ice skating in front of some of London's top famous landmarks.

Our favourite London ice rinks are at Battersea Power Station, Somerset House (this year's skating is themed by Switzerland Tourism) and for romance the skating down in Greenwich at Queen's House is really beautiful. Sadly the Tower of London and the Natural History Museum's ice rinks have permenently closed.

2. Check out some MASSIVE Christmas trees

The gigantic tree in Trafalgar Square has been gifted to London from Norway since 1947, as a thank you for Britain's help during WWII. Standing at more than 20m tall and bedecked with vertical strings of white lights, you can also enjoy carol singing and the wooden chalets of the christmas market running throughout the holiday season. Depending on when you're reading this, Trafalgar Square's Christmas tree isn't hasn't arrivied yet - the lighting ceremony isn't until the 7th December 2023 - so while the market is running now, you'll need to wait another couple of weeks for the tree! The other trees on this list are all up and running now.

Trafalgar Square's Christmas tree looking towards Big Ben. London at Christmas
Trafalgar Square's Christmas tree gifted from Norway

Another colossal Christmas tree sits on the main piazza in Covent Garden, one of our favourite Christmassy locations in London. Planted in a huge wooden pot wrapped in a giant red bow, Covent Garden's 60 footer is decorated with over 30,000 lights!

Travel back in time to Leadenhall Market where a glittering Christmas tree sits in the centre of this glorious Victorian shopping arcade. This year there is a pop up alpine bar serving hot toddies like hot buttered rum, hot chocolate, mulled wine and toffee mulled cider, and you can book a spot on festive guided walks and luxury Christmas wreath making workshops.

For something a bit different but absolutely spectacular, head to St Pancras International Station where instead of a traditional fir tree, they have teamed up with Hatchards bookshop to create an enchanting wooden spiral staircase stacked with 3800 books. Seating nooks around the base have speakers where you can listen to a short audio extract from 16 classic books. Gorgeous!

St Pancras and Leadenhall Market's 2023 Christmas trees

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3. Wander beneath the Christmas Lights

All over the city, London's lights are typically switched on in the first couple of weeks of November until the start of January so you have a nice long window to see them. The switch on days are often accompanied by other fun and festive events like live music, craft workshops, special offers in surrounding shops and pop up bars. Our favourite spots are:

Carnaby Street: This year this famous 60s shopping street has embraced a universe theme, previous displays have been inspired by the Rolling Stones, the 60s, Queen (following the release of the Bohemian Rhaspody film) and an Ocean theme drawing awareness to plastic and sustainability.

Regent Street: Every year Regent Street's beautiful angels soar over the red buses and shoppers below. Officially called 'The Spirit of Christmas', these enormous golden beings with swooping trains are some of London's most photogenic Christmas lights.

Oxford Street: Easy to tie in with a stroll down Regent Street, Oxford Street's hanging threads of stars are magical. They're also environmentally friendly, using energy efficient LED light bulbs and recycled plastic. As you walk down London's most famous shopping street, take a little detour down New Bond Street to see its fabulous Royalty inspired lights (think huge bejewelled crowns and necklaces).

Covent Garden: One of the most festive spots in London, Covent Garden has finally updated its Christmas decorations! After around 10 years of silver baubles and giant mistletoe branches, for Christmas 2023, Covent Garden's main market building is bedecked with huge golden bells with red ribbons, giant red baubles and spinning disco balls.

4. Browse the sweet treats and Christmas decorations in London's most bougie shops and maybe bump into Santa!

Check out the fabulously extra Christmas shops in London's most extravagant stores - Harrods and Selfridges are famous for their themed window displays and have a huge selection of Christmas decorations available in their special holiday departments. Be sure to also head into Harrods' historic food hall to check out their Christmas hampers, and keep your eyes peeled in Selfridges for the big man himself - rather than a traditional static grotto, Father Christmas and his elves are free range, wandering the whole of the shop until around 6pm each day.

Red Harrods bauble on a Christmas tree. London Christmas 2023
Choose a special keepsake from London's amazing department stores!

Just off Regent Street, beautiful Tudor Revival shop Liberty has an entire floor dedicated to their stunning Christmas decorations, tableware, advent calenders and everything you need for the big day. The beauty department often has great deals on in the run up to Christmas and Liberty has a huge range of gifts for sale in their famous floral fabric prints.

Fortnum and Mason is the place to go for all things food. From extravagant chocolates to loose teas, coffee and biscuits in beautiful tins, swanky hampers and indulgent party food, this famous historic shop holds two Royal Warrants (which means it's an official supplier to the British Royal family) and looking around the food halls is a sure way to get yourself feeling festive!

5. Treat yourself and your loved ones to a festive Christmas themed afternoon tea!

London will spoil you for choice year round when it comes to that great British institution - afternoon tea! Be aware that all afternoon teas need to be booked well in advance as they are very popular! Our top picks would be:

For something a little different, combine your scrummy sandwiches and christmassy cakes with a ride on a traditional red London bus. Brigit's Bakery runs a sightseeing tour on a classic Routemaster bus where you can enjoy a Christmas afternoon tea, London's landmarks and from 17:30 see the city's beautiful Christmas lights!

Brigit's Bakery runs several different Christmas bus tours from Christmas Lights to Grinchmas, and even festive Peppa Pig and Paddington themed tours for the littlies. It's worth noting that all the afternoon tea bus tours are for ages 5+ except for Peppa Pig which caters to 2 years +.

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5 unmissable things to do in London Christmas 2023


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