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London: Best Things to Do in the Winter (12 Top Activities)

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Winter in London (and the UK) is from December to early March and brings with it colder temperatures of around 5°C. Sometimes it can be colder than this too with frost and even snow. One thing that is normally for sure though is that you’ll definitely have cloudy grey skies and will be unlikely to be wanting to be outside for too long.

If you’ve decided to visit London during the winter months and are hoping to make the most of the city, such as see some of the sights, or enjoy some of the indoor highlights then here are some top ideas.

Here are some of the best things to see and do in London during the winter.

1. Ice skating

Ice skating is a top winter activity and in London you’ll find several skate rinks around the city to enjoy. These include outside the Natural History Museum, outside the Queen House in Greenwich and at Somerset House along the Strand. These are generally open from December until mid-January and you’ll normally need to book a time slot on their websites. When you go you’ll also be able to hire skates as well and sometimes grab a nice warm drink from the nearby huts.

Natural History Museum in London at Christmas with icerink
Image by @mikecleggphoto

2. Enjoy the Christmas markets and lights

The Christmas lights and decorations in London are pretty spectacular and you’ll find them all over the city. Some of the best that we’d highly recommend you see include along Regents Street (seen below), Oxford Street, Carnaby Street and along New Bond Street. For the main Christmas Tree you’ll find that in Trafalgar Square and sometimes they even have Christmas Stalls where you can grab a nice mulled wine or hot chocolate, as well as some tasty nibbles.

Also sometimes available are bus tours designed specifically for seeing the Christmas lights.

Regent Street Christmas lights in 2018
Image by @mikecleggphoto
Tour Idea

3. Explore some museums

If you like museums then you’ll love London. There are quite simply countless museums all over the city, and better yet many of them are free (but not all)! You’ll find museums are a great activity when visiting London in the winter as they’ll help you stay warm during your visit. You could also combine some of the other activities in this article with visiting a museum, such as just popping into one for a few hours to warm up.

A few of the top museums that we’d recommend you visit in London include the Natural History Museum, Tate Modern, The Transport Museum, The British Museum (seen below) and the National Portrait Gallery.

British Museum, London
Image by @mikecleggphoto

4. Relax on a bus tour

If you want to see as much of London’s landmarks and sights as possible but whilst staying warm then consider a bus tour. These will often go on routes all over the city and can come with audio guides to help you learn about what you’re seeing. You can find bus tours with different themes too, such as a ghost tour and Christmas light tours.

Find Bus Tours

Big Bus Tours, London
Image by @mikecleggphoto

5. Visit some of the indoor viewpoints

Across London you’ll find various viewpoints which offer spectacular views of the city. Some of our favourites include the ShardView where you would enjoy views such as below, The London Eye and the Sky Garden.

A great thing about visiting these viewpoints in the winter is that if you book a slot later in the afternoon towards sunset you could enjoy the view during daylight, sunset and even into the blue hour. This is great if you’re into travel photography and you’re trying to capture some incredible photographs of London.

Views from the Shangri-La At The Shard at night
Image by @mikecleggphoto
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6. Stay warm in a cosy pub

Relaxing in a pub is a must-do activity when visiting London or anywhere in the UK (especially if you’re visiting for the first time). They often have a great atmosphere with nice cosy decor and offer a range of drinks from well-known lagers and beers to lesser-known craft options. You’ll also find a selection of wine as well as hard spirits to enjoy.

Pubs are now a lot more upscale than they used to be and often serve delicious food as well as a great range of drinks. So when visiting London and especially in the winter then be sure to head to a pub, relax and grab yourself a nice “pint” during your visit.

Image by Klaus Heller from Pixabay
Pub drinks
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7. Enjoy Afternoon Tea

Afternoon Tea is another top indoor experience to enjoy in London during the winter. Typically the experience involves enjoying a selection of sandwiches, homemade cake and scones, served alongside some tea or even prosecco or champagne.

You’ll find options for Afternoon Tea available in many of the more fancy London hotels, and there are various options available as part of a river cruise too.

Afternoon Tea

8. Go on a river cruise

A great way to enjoy London during every season (and this includes the winter) is to go on a river cruise. You’ll find many types of cruises available including relaxing sightseeing cruises, cruises that include afternoon tea, other dining experiences, or even party cruises. Whatever you choose you’ll likely have some indoor space where you can stay warm whilst enjoying views of the city as you cruise along the river.

See options on GetYourGuide

Houses of Parliament from across the River Thames
Image by @mikecleggphoto
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9. Catch a show in the West End

London’s West End is a famous district in the city close to Oxford Street, Regent Street and Soho where you’ll find numerous theatres showing incredible shows and other entertainment. Some of the shows are famous around the world and mind-blowingly entertaining (such as the Book of Mormon).

We would recommend booking shows online in advance as many of them will sell out and not necessarily be available to book on the day. Or the price may also be more expensive if there is availability.

Find Theatre Tickets

London West End and theatres
Image by @mikecleggphoto
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10. Shop, shop and shop a bit more

If you like shopping then London is the place to be. You’ll find thousands and thousands of shops all over the city although some of the best places to shop would be along Oxford and Regent Street in the central zone one part of the city, as well as around Covent Garden.

Stores available throughout London including big tech names such as Apple, boutique and high-end luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton and Versace, through to very cheap budget stores such as Primark. Whatever type of shop you’re looking for, we’re sure that you’ll find it in London.

When shopping around these areas you’d generally be outside a bit as you walk between stores, so another good place to go (especially if the weather is really bad) is one of the major shopping centres. A few of these include Westfield in the west near Shepherd’s Bush or Westfield Stratford in the east.

Oxford Street London
Image by @mikecleggphoto

11. Enjoy other indoor experiences

London simply has endless things to do, including lots more indoor experiences that would be ideal for the winter. Some ideas that we would suggest include the impressive St Paul’s Cathedral, and The London Dungeon. You’ll find some great activities for the kids as well such as SEA LIFE and Harry Potter tours and experiences.

12. Explore London’s photography spots

If you’re into photography then why not explore some of the many incredible photography spots around London. You won’t necessarily get snow (it can happen but is unpredictable), but you will certainly still find stunning buildings, streets, and landmarks that are perfect for capturing photographs.

The good thing about wintertime is that sunrise and sunset isn’t quite as early or late. This means that if you’re hoping to capture images at sunrise, sunset, the blue hour or at night, then you won’t have to get up too early or stay out too late. Sometimes you may even have the luck of a beautiful winter sunset as well.

Houses of Parliament at sunset, London
Image by @mikecleggphoto
Tours and Activities

Summary

London can still be a great city to visit during the cold winter months. Home to a fantastic variety of activities from sightseeing, typical British experiences such as pubs and Afternoon Tea, to shows and other entertainment in the West End. Be sure to add some of the suggestions in this article to ensure you have the best time possible during a winter visit to London.


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Written by

Mike Clegg

Mike is a traveller, photographer, WordPress developer and the creator of TravelAndDestinations.com. He started this website so as to share his experiences and tips with travellers. He is from the UK and has travelled to many places around the world. He loves to shares his pictures and stories through Instagram and this website... [Read full bio]

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