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A Guide to Christmas in London for Expats and Visiting Groups

By September 1, 2018March 7th, 2019One Comment

In London at Christmastime, You can’t go a couple of feet without being bombarded by twinkling lights, animatronic holiday cartoon characters or joyous Christmas carols. London is a showstopper during the holiday season, with deep rooted traditions and the perfect mildly chilly weather. Although I love my holidays in the northeast of the U.S., there is something wildly special about London decked out for celebrating the turn of the year. So grab your group, travel across the pond and consider holiday time in one of Europe’s cheeriest Christmas destinations.

(Check out some Christmas-y themed tours with Viator in London this year!)


London street while snowing at christmasLights!

It’s amazing the grid in London at Christmas doesn’t blackout. I’ve never seen a city so covered in every type of lighted decoration for the season. But I do appreciate the extravagance, from towering Christmas trees to the entire Harrods department store draped in ‘fairy lights’. The displays along Bond Street are some of my favorites, and I also adore walking through Covent Garden to see live reindeer alongside a lit Santa’s sleigh.

tree lights in london at christmasCamera!

Get that perfect holiday group shot under the Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square, which can be more than 80 feet tall. Or, look up and gather together for the ultimate selfie along Oxford Street. Just watch for the throngs of shopping crowds and traffic! But the magic is alive all over London and provides the perfect backdrop for incredible holiday photos with your loved ones. If you’re on the hunt for the perfect gift as well as ideal Instagram backdrops, have a look at Brixton’s Christmas markets or along Southbank. Stop in the Tate Modern museum too, which is free all year and has an artist-themed Christmas market on the river.


Union Jack in lights in London at Christmas by Eileen Cotter Wiright


If your squad can’t sit still, there’s more than enough London activities to go around during Christmastime. Thousands flock to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park for some old fashioned carnival rides and ice skating. The novelty of being outside and enjoying all things Christmas-y can be a thrill, especially if you’re from a snow-covered location! There is also an ice bar, Christmas ‘circus’ show and more in this giant pop-up village that’s free to enter.

I haven’t had the chance to see it firsthand yet, but the Pantomime shows in London during the holidays are supposed to be a hoot, especially the adult ones. Who knew a whole stage performance with silent actors and dancers would be so popular? Audience members shout out ridiculous cues to ‘help’ the characters and everyone has a raucous time. Check the Visit London site for the best times and shows.

London skyline with Thames River and ParliamentEat!

London already goes all out on the weekends with their famous Sunday Roasts. People of all ages tuck into giant heaps of veggies, oven cooked meats and plenty of Yorkshire puddings (like a savory light roll) to cure hangovers and get the crew together. These roasts are simply expanded upon for Christmas and often include several courses of hearty dishes. Depending on your time and budget, everywhere for lavish five-star hotels to neighborhood pubs will be serving Christmas meals to the masses. Cinnamon Soho is having some funky food on the menu like Rajasthani spiced red deer and crab cakes, or have your fill of mince pies and smoked haddock at Duck & Waffle. Definitely make plans well in advance if you are on a group travel trip, as it’s more common to eat out on Christmas in London than in the U.S., so spots fill very fast.

Have a wonderful holiday everyone! Where will you be celebrating this year?

London holiday traditions in the UK, pin with purple tree decorations of glass

Eileen Cotter Wright

Author Eileen Cotter Wright

Eileen Cotter is a freelance travel journalist and owner of Pure Wander. She's our resident expat extraordinaire and falls down a lot in yoga class. Follow her on Instagram @Pure_Wander.

More posts by Eileen Cotter Wright

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