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10 Things to do in London at Christmas

10 Things to do in London at Christmas main image

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and while London, the current number one in the QS Best Student Cities index, is known for being expensive, it’s also packed full of things to do. London at Christmas is no exception, as the city comes alive with a huge array of activities guaranteed to make you feel festive. To help you find your way in this sprawling city, Urbanest has helpfully produced a special Christmas tube map showing you the locations of the city’s best markets and events. 

Read on for some relatively affordable – the student budget only goes so far – things to do in London at Christmas…

1. Marvel at the Christmas lights

The Christmas lights in London are sure to make you go “ooh”, and immediately whip out your phone for that Instagram-worthy shot. Best of all, enjoying them is completely free - perfect if you’re feeling strapped for cash. This year, world-famous shopping district Oxford Street is lit up by the words ‘Christmas is calling’ and 1,778 baubles, while the lyrics of the iconic Queen song ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ adorn Carnaby Street in neon this festive season.

Nearby, Regent Street stuns with more than 300,000 stunning Christmas lights and 16 glowing spirits, while Bond Street boasts beautiful illuminated peacock feathers. Other top spots for Christmas lights include Duke of York Square, Covent Garden and by the riverside along the South Bank.  

2. Go to Winter Wonderland

Winter Wonderland

A must-visit in our list of things to do in London at Christmas, Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland is free to enter and boasts a number of winter- and Christmas-themed attractions, including a Magical Ice Kingdom, ice-skating rink and Zippo’s Christmas Circus. Open 10am to 10pm every day until January 6 (excluding Christmas Day), Winter Wonderland also has a large range of mouth-watering food options (pretzels, crepes, churros, bratwurst etc.), fairground rides and Christmas markets. You can warm yourself up with a festive mulled wine while enjoying free live music, or dare yourself and your friends to go on a big ride. The food and ticket prices are not cheap, but flash your student card for discounts on attractions.

3. Volunteer to help others

Christmas donations

It is, of course, the season of goodwill, and at Christmas in London there are plenty of things you can do to support those less fortunate. Helping others has also been proven to be beneficial for your own wellbeing and happiness as well - ideal if you’re spending Christmas away from home.

A range of opportunities have been arranged by Royal Holloway University, such as carol singing to raise money for charity. You could also volunteer with the national homeless charity Crisis, helping to run their activities and services, or simply volunteer to be a good listener for those in need.

Another great way to help others is to invite one or two international students, who may overwise have been lonely on their empty university campus during the Christmas break, into your home for a few days, enabling you to learn more about each other’s cultures. Find out more here.

To find more volunteering opportunities, you could use the London.gov website or put in your postcode on Buzzfeed’s search tool to find opportunities near you. If you’re unable to volunteer, and have £28 to spare, you could reserve a place for a homeless person at Crisis at Christmas.

4. See in the New Year on Primrose Hill

New Year's Eve Primrose Hill

Image credit: Michael Camilleri (Flickr)

If you’re sticking around after Christmas for NYE, you won’t want to miss those spectacular fireworks. Tickets for the display on the riverfront are now sold out, but you can view them (and other displays around the city) from Primrose Hill, completely free. Get the tube to Chalk Farm, Camden Town, Mornington Crescent or St John’s Wood. Other great viewing spots include Hampstead Heath and Millennium Bridge.

5. Explore London’s Christmas markets

London Bridge City Christmas Market

The Christmas markets don’t end at Winter Wonderland. You can also stroll along the festive chalets by the riverside at London Bridge, explore Greenwich Market, or head to Leicester Square (which also has a Santa’s Grotto, if any of your younger relatives are interested). If you’re a foodie, you’ll feel right at home at the Real Food Christmas Market at King’s Cross.

6. Sing Christmas carols

Christmas carols

Next in our list of things to do at Christmas in London, why not come and sing along to Christmas carols at Trafalgar Square where over 40 choir groups will be raising money for charity? You’ll also get to see the square’s famous Christmas tree, an impressive specimen that has been donated by Norway each year since 1947 in gratitude for Britain’s support during World War Two.

7. Explore Christmas past at the Charles Dickens museum

Charles Dickens museum

If you’re interested in finding out about the history of Christmas in the UK, you might like to head to the Charles Dickens Museum, the former home of the famous Victorian author, for a glimpse at fascinating yuletide traditions. You can discover the inspiration behind A Christmas Carol and attend performances of this and other Christmas ghost stories.

Tickets are £7.50 with a valid student ID (£9.50 without), while event tickets are £22 and include museum entry. 

8. Go ice skating

Ice skating in London

London offers many opportunities to hit the ice with a famous or historical backdrop, such as the Natural History Museum, Canary Wharf, Somerset House, Hampton Court Palace and even the Tower of London. Some of these are open long after Christmas as well. Prices vary, so check online first.

9. Cozy up by the fire in a London pub

London pub

While we can’t promise they’ll be cheap, many London pubs offer relaxation and warmth by the fireplace, with a mulled wine or cider in your hand and a newspaper on your lap. In short, they’re perfect for unwinding after those end-of-semester assignments have been handed in. Time Out has some great suggestions.

10. See a Christmas play or pantomime

Our final suggestion of things to do in London at Christmas is undoubtedly the priciest option, but if your budget allows it, it’s well worth treating yourself to seeing one of the many theater and pantomime shows on offer across the capital in December. Highlights include A Christmas Carol at The Old Vic, Snow White at the London Palladium, and the multi award-winning Swan Lake at Sadler's Wells Theatre, unique for its all-male ensemble.

Merry Christmas and Happy 2019 from all of us here at TopUniversities.com!

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This blog post was originally published in December 2016, and is updated every December.

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Sabrina Collier's profile image
Written by Sabrina Collier
The Assistant Editor of TopUniversities.com, Sabrina edits and publishes articles which guide students from around the world on a wide range of topics. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature and Creative Writing from Aberystwyth University and grew up in Staffordshire, UK. 

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2 Comments

great information.Merry Christmas in advance.

HEllo World!!
happy new year for all ::
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