Best free things to do at Christmas in London in 2023

Best free things to do at Christmas in London in 2023
Written by Travel Adventures

Ah Christmas in London… the John Lewis Christmas advert, Tesco’s stuffing sandwich meal deals and, more importantly, Mariah Carey declaring it’s time are some telltale signs the festive season has officially begun. And just like how Cinderella’s carriage turns into a pumpkin at midnight, come 1 November, London transforms into a magical hub of yuletide joy. Streets twinkle under the Christmas lights, hotels and shops are in full festive bloom and carols ring out in the capital.

While we’re keeping our frosty fingers crossed for a true winter wonderland this season, in the meantime, we’ve rounded up activities to get you in the festive mood. Without further ado, these are the best free Christmas things to do in London. If you’re looking for more festive activities this season, see the best Christmas events in London.

Top tips

  1. Warm up: True to British fashion, the weather can be unpredictable, with strong winds one minute and downpours the next (sometimes both simultaneously). Put on plenty of layers, and don’t forget waterproof gear.
  2. Avoid shopping madness: Christmas crowds are inevitable but alleviate the stress by planning out the places you want to see first, skipping peak hours and doing the shopping early in the day if possible.
Christmas Angel decorations at night in Regent Street London

Regent StreetIan Macpherson London / Alamy Stock Photo

1. See the Christmas lights

When it comes to this time of year, no other city does Christmas lights like London. Every corner is enchantingly illuminated with intricate designs that make it a whole event in itself – this is why catching the first switch-on is so very special around here. When in central London, map out the evening just to leave enough time to absorb the grand spectacle of these displays truly. Start at Oxford Street, where thousands of LED stars twinkle under the night sky, then up to Regent Street to see the shimmering angels, before dipping into Carnaby Street to be mesmerised by the technicolour displays. But if you prefer to see the lights from high above while soaking in panoramic views of some of London’s best, book an open-top bus tour instead. For a unique experience outside of the city centre, check out Kew Gardens’ annual light show.

2. Wander around the Christmas markets

‘Tis the season for Christmas markets galore, where those in town are spoiled for choice regarding the finest street foods, pop-up bars and glittering trinkets. Many of these world-famous markets are returning this winter, including central London’s Leicester Square festive fair, the Covent Garden Christmas market with its legendary 60-foot tree and Southbank Centre’s festive delights along the Thames. While exploring the markets, it’ll be hard to ignore the alluring smells of fresh, sugary churros, spiced bratwurst and homemade mince pies, so we suggest just giving in and eating your way through the food stalls. Keep warm with a hot chocolate, mulled wine or cider while browsing around gift stalls selling hand-crafted festive goodies.

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