Spending Christmas Day in the capital? Here’s how you can make the most of it.
Some people like to say that London goes to sleep on Christmas Day. We tend to think that depends on how you look at things. On the one hand, the quiet streets do have a sleepy feel to them (and we do love London when it’s this quiet), but on the other there are some truly wonderful restaurants and pubs open where you’ll find the mood abuzz.
It’s not all about eating and drinking at Christmas (or is it). London also boasts heaps of festive walks and opportunities for freezing swims or carol singing services in splendid cathedrals.
Here’s how we like to spend the big day in London…
Things to do on Christmas Day in London
Go for a Wintery Walk
One of the most distinguishing features of Christmas Day in London is the fact that there is no public transport. Zilch. Nada. Some people see this as a pain – we tend to think it makes for a rather strange but refreshing change.
What can you do about it? Take a wintery walk instead. Boshing through quiet streets and off to somewhere green is what it’s all about for us.
London parks will be open so even if you’re not in central London there should be some green space nearby to enjoy a bracing festive walk. We’ve got a few favourite walks too. You can discover those here.
Hop on a Boris Bike
With all the usual crowds tied up tucking into turkey and spuds, London’s roads empty out – it’s almost like a scene from a movie. What better time to go on a bike ride around the city? You’ll be king of the roads.
It’s the one day of the year where you can see the capital at its quietest. There will be some traffic though, so play it safe and do your cycling before reaching for the sherry.
Do an Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour of the Sights
There is in fact one bus that still runs, even on Christmas day. It’s the one run by Golden Tours. They do a Chritsmas day bus tour that whips you around the sites of London. You can hop on and off as you please and check out the city in all its festive glory.
London’s famous landmarks will be lit up with Christmas lights – the Tower of London, Regent Street, Piccadilly Circus, Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament, and you’ll have the bonus a live guide dishing out the London history as you go.
Go for an Outdoor Swim
If you’d rather plough through icy waters rather than a tin of Quality Street this Christmas Day, you’re in luck.
The Serpentine Swimming Club will run their famous 100-yard handicapped Peter Pan Cup in the Serpentine at Hyde Park (strictly for members only so you may have to watch from the sidelines).
There are plenty of other places for a dip should you be brave enough: Brockwell Lido is open until 11:10am, Hampton Pool is open too. Tooting Bec Lido, Parliament Hill Lido and Hampstead Heath Ponds are also open for business – but they all require booking.
Be sure to check their specific guidance on how to swim outdoors safely in winter. It could be very chilly indeed!
Hot chocolate (or a swig of whisky) can always come afterwards, of course.
Volunteer with a Charity
You could always take the moral of A Christmas Carol to heart and consider volunteering on Christmas Day (and perhaps throughout the year too).
London has plenty of options for both. Crisis is one of the biggest which operates a number of volunteering opportunities over the Christmas period.
Other places like the The Soup Kitchen, Ealing Soup Kitchen and Peckham Project are always looking for helping hands. Shelter from the Storm and The Salvation Army too. You’ll find all the information you need to get stuck in on their websites.
Go to Evensong at St. Paul’s
One of the most popular places to go on Christmas Day is St Paul’s Cathedral.
The programme for December 25th is Holy Communion 8-8.30am, Morning Prayer 8.45-9am, Sung Eucharist (carols for choir and congregation) 11-12.30pm and the famous choral service of Festal Evensong, sung by the St Paul’s Cathedral Choir 3-4pm.
Virtually all Advent and Christmas services are free and unticketed with seating allocated on a first come, first served basis.
Not everyone wants a traditional Christmas lunch on the 25th. How about Chinese for a change? If you haven’t booked a restaurant, check out some of the eateries and cafes open in Chinatown.
We find them to be particularly if you need breakfast in London on Christmas Day.
Read More: Best Restaurants in Chinatown
Indulge in Festive Afternoon Tea
Because who needs an excuse to scoff cake and mince pie on Christmas Day, right?
We love afternoon tea. But afternoon tea surrounded by twinkling lights and frosted windows sounds even more magical. Top picks include The Savoy, The Ritz, and Corinthia London – this is truly one of the best things to do in London on Christmas day.
Board a Christmas Cruise
Or, if you’ve already made dinner plans, the Christmas Day Sightseeing Cruise where you can scoff mince pies and sip mulled wine as you watch London roll by from the water wouldn’t be a bad way to celebrate.
Walk the Illuminated Streets of the Capital
London look downright incredible during the festive season. That’s largely because this city goes all out when it comes to Christmas lights. So here’s an idea: once you’ve let all that turkey and roast potato, oh and the sprouts, servings of Christmas pudding and that cheese board settle, head out into the city streets for an after-dark stroll.
The lights will no doubt give you the extra boost of Christmas spirit that’ll get you through the many rounds of board games to come. You might even burn off enough steam to have a second crack at that cheese board.
Eat, Drink and Be Merry at a Restaurant or Pub
Not all pubs are open on the 25th but some will be open for Christmas lunch and/or a festive beverage. Hotel bars may also be open for drinks on a walk-in basis but do your research to find out what the options are for each venue.
Like the sound of eating out? There are many fabulous restaurants open on Christmas Day in London serving up some of the finest festive lunches. More on that next…
Eating Out on Christmas Day
Wondering where to go for Christmas dinner on Christmas Day in London? Known for its stunning festive decor, Dalloway Terrace is an excellent place to chow down on turkey.
At just £95 per person (yes – that includes a glass of bubbles, you booze fiend) for five courses, this is easily worth the splurge. And with turkey, venison, and halibut to choose from as well as veggie options throughout, the entire family is guaranteed to be kept happy.
City + Battersea
Fancy and Indian twist on Christmas lunch? The Christmas Day 5-course menu at Cinnamon Kitchen boasts a wide choice of modern Indian dishes such as grilled partridge breast, tandoori spiced venison or saffron poached pear and garam masala Christmas pudding (£65pp).
Pont de la Tour
Christmas Day restaurants don’t come much more festive than Pont de la Tour.
The 5-course menu includes roast turkey with all the best bits, house-cured cured salmon, and Christmas pudding ice cream, not forgetting the finale – coffee, minced pies and truffles (£130pp).
The 5-course Christmas dinner at Spaniards Inn has a good choice of starters, mains and desserts (£91.50pp).
If not traditional turkey, salmon, beef wellington, root vegetable wellington and venison are also available as mains. A separate kids menu is available for Christmas Day.
Ham Yard Hotel
There’s roast bronze turkey with all the trimmings and roast Delica pumpkin with winter greens and artichoke chips. Dessert, artisanal cheeses, coffee, tea and mince pies – the works.
Duck and Waffle
Enjoy your Christmas lunch surrounded by breathtaking views at the top of Salesforce Tower.
In addition to turkey, you might like to sample Duck and Waffle’s lobster cocktail, mulled wine poached pear and naughty hot chocolate, plus lots of other treats (£145pp / £65 kids under 10).
Nothing quite says “Treat yourself, it’s Christmas!” like Xmas lunch at The Ritz.
Mind you, it would be quite the treat… At £600 a pop.
Still, if you’re willing to splurge on the ultimate festive experience, you won’t be disappointed. How does a six-course Michelin-starred menu, a full jazz band and a caricaturist to capture your festive likeness sound? Pretty epic, we think.
Whitcomb’s at The Londoner
For the ultimate Christmas Day dinner at Whitcomb’s is offering a decadent 5-course lunch for £195pp, with a glass of bubbles, of course.
The meal kicks off with an amuse-bouche of beetroot and balsamic tart, followed by an option of three entrées which includes a luxurious smoked-duck salad among other items.
Main dishes feature oven-roasted black cod and a seared beef fillet with caramelised apple that’s got our bellies rumbling.
Dessert brings a choice of the traditional in a good old Christmas pudding or things like a blackcurrant delice if you want to keep your Christmas dinner on the fancy side of things.
Sounds like an all-round indulgent affair, then…
Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester
If you really want to push the boat out (and we mean right far out), it’d probably be hard to top dinner at The Dorchester, specifically at The Dorchester’s three-Michelin star restaurant, Alain Ducasse.
Those three Michelin stars signify that the cooking here is some of the best in the world, not just London and the hotel itself is simply stunning – especially when they’ve got their decorations up.
For £450 per person, you can treat yourself to a Christmas dinner by one of the world’s greatest chefs and his team’s contemporary reimagining of the traditional Christmas dinner. The feast includes wine pairings and will no doubt be one to remember.
Sycamore Vino Cucina
You can celebrate Christmas in the heart of London at Sycamore Vino Cucina, a lovely Italian restaurant at the luxury Middle Eight Hotel in Covent Garden.
They’ve got a feast menu lined up for the big day that begins with a glass of bubbly on arrival and runs five-course through a mix of the English flavours in dishes like thyme-roasted venison and wild mushroom risotto, to more out-and-out Italian favourites – yes that includes pasta and pizza.
THe Sycamore do take their cooking very seriously, so although you won’t be eating the traditional classics, you will be in very safe hands.
Christmas is a special occasion and sometimes a special occasion requires a good view. Take the one at The Broadcaster for example. Perched atop the old broadcasting house in White City – once the home of the BBC, it’s a spot we love for knocking back drinks on a special occasion.
This Christmas The Broadcaster is staying open to serve up a killer Christmas dinner that features canapes of truffled cheese croquettes to begin, turkey, beef, fish and veggie options for the main course (with all the trimmings) and a spred of desserts that have got our mouths watering.
Sorry Christmas pub, we’re going for the chestnut and hazelnut fondant.
The Cadogan Arms
If you’re looking for something heart-warmingly traditional, we suggest The Cadogan Arms. This Chelsea boozer is a spot that we love to hit on a cold wintery day for its cosy vibes, so we’re certain they’ll be just the ticket for a Christmas dinner.
This year they’re serving up a traditional feast too. Turkey is in attendance, as is a beef wellington but if you want to make it a fancy festive season they’ve got a turbot with Champagne and caviar sauce.
We can already feel the temptation, but is it right to abandon the traditional dinner when you only get to eat it once a year? The decision is eating us alive.