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19 Brilliant Things to do in London in Winter

19 Brilliant Things to do in London in Winter

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London in the winter is a cool place to be. Whether it’s a trip to Hogwarts, a cosy pub afternoon or a classic winter walk – there are plenty of things to do. Here are the very best of ‘em. 

Think that London only comes to life in the summertime? You’re wrong. Over the years, we’ve pretty much made exploring the best things to do in London during winter into a fine art. 

From huddling around a toasty pub fire and exploring festive markets to drinks in a riverside igloo, or scoffing wine and cheese at an après ski pop-up, we’ve come to love the colder months of the year just as much as the hot ones.

That also means we’ve got tonnes of insider tips for exploring the city during the chillier months. Here they are…

Cool Things to Do in London in Winter 

Winter Warmer Films in a London Cinema

Backyard Cinema
Backyard Cinema at Christmas

Cinemas pop up all over London in the run up to Christmas with one mission – to fuel our ever-voracious appetite for festive films. Let’s face it, you can never, ever watch Elf or Home Alone too many times.

You’ll be glad to know that there are still plenty of wintery film options in that bleak period after Christmas when we all start counting down the days to summer and how few pennies we have in our wallets.

Chain cinemas in London are ten-a-penny but the Prince Charles Cinema, with its excellent roster of classic cinema, singalong film showings and movie marathons are something completely different. Similarly, The BFI has some great screens and impeccable taste in cinema. 

London’s a city of class, if you haven’t already noticed. And so there’s a million and one luxury options for film watching too. And what better way to make the most of winter than taking up an entire sofa in a cinema and enjoying whole meals while the film rolls? 

How about a singalong screening of the Rocky Horror Picture Show? That sounds like something worth dragging your carcass out into the cold for.

Get Cosy at an Alpine Ski Lodge

We may not have the mountains and the snow in London in winter is pretty much non-existent (unless the fake slope at Hemel Hempstead counts) but who says we don’t have the apres-ski?

Skip the hurtling down the mountain in the snow part and just go straight to the good stuff – namely the wine and the cheese.

One place you can find all the above is Pergola on the Piste in Paddington – an annual pop-up that delivers on the cosy vibes year after year. 

Our fav has to be Dick’s Magic T Bar though – and not just for its quirky name. The space is a lovely hangout complete with sofas and strings of fairy lights, as much a vision of your front room as it is a bar with all the festive trappings.

Read more: Romantic Things to do in London

Snuggle Up in a Riverside Igloo

Coppa Club-1

Nothing says things to do in London in winter than snuggling into a see-through plastic igloo on the bank of the Thames with views of Tower Bridge and the Tower of London right?

The Coppa Club’s winter igloos first came to the capital a few years ago and have been a key part of London’s winter warmer calendar ever since.

Like pretty much all good things in London, the igloos have been booked up well in advance but you can get lucky if you swing by on a whim and a hope.

Nothing says winter in the big city like snuggling into a see-through igloo on the bank of the Thames with views of Tower Bridge and the Tower of London right?

The Coppa Club’s winter igloos first came to the capital a few years ago and have been a key part of London’s winter warmer calendar ever since.

Like pretty much all good things in London, the igloos have been booked up well in advance but you can get lucky if you swing by on a whim and a hope.

Should you be out of luck there, you’ll find more at Skylight Tobacco Dock. They also come with a pretty spectacular view. You can also make like an inner-city Eskimo at Battersea Power Station – ideal because you can time it with an ice skate session for the ultimate winter day out. 

Ride the Santa Express 

One truly magical event that swings around for this time of the year is the return of the Santa Express. It’s an experience that melts our hearts just knowing that someone had the imagination to make this a reality. 

You can basically jump on a steam train and take a ride around London while Santa comes around and hands out presents to passengers. This year they’re running services on the 15th, 18th and 21st of December. 

The train runs several services a day so you have options but we advise you book tickets as far in advance as possible. As you can tell, this one will sell out quick. 

See Chinatown in Full Swing for Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year

Once the Christmas season dies down there’s that lull where everything seems quiet and sleepy. In our calendars, it’s usually broken by the arrival of Chinese New Year when Chinatown and London’s pan-Asian communities get together for their own festivities. 

The dates change every year and for 2024 the celebrations begin on the 10th February, and last about ten days to two weeks. There will be dragon dances through the lantern-lit streets, deals on at the local restaurants and lots of people wearing red. 

2024 will also begin the year of the dragon – a year for people with big ambitions. Could this be when you finally make it big?  

Celebrate Burns Night in a Whisky Bar

Whisky Bars

Every year on the 25th January we like to honour Burns Night, the traditional Scottish festival in honour of one the country’s finest poets, Robbie Burns. 

In January you’ll start to hear more about deals they put on and whisky tastings that become more common in the build-up. There are a multitude of great whisky bars that will partake in the celebrations (it is a good excuse to crack open a bottle of good scotch). They’re a good starting point for getting stuck into the action. 

Visit the Deer in Richmond Park 

Richmond Park
Richmond Park

One of our favourite things to do in London is take a wintery walk (you’ll hear more about those later), but there’s a special place in our hearts for Richmond Park and its families of deer. 

They roam wild across land that was once the hunting ground of English royalty. Seeing them in winter, perhaps with a light dusting of snow on the ground, and the promise of a cosy pint in a Richmond Pub to warm you up after is about as wholesome as it gets in our humble opinions. 

Hit Up a Christmas Market

Kings Cross Markets

Christmas in London is a magical time of the year. The Christmas lights, the Christmas carols, the Christmas trees festooned with all kinds of gorgeous baubles and perhaps our favourite of all, the Christmas markets.

Christmas is a magical time in this city and part of the fun of the festive season is exploring London’s Christmas markets

From the all-out (and slightly manic) Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park to the more relaxed affairs in King’s Cross and Kingston, there are plenty of spots to do a spot of pre-Christmas shopping, slurp up mulled wine and eat all the Christmassy sweet treats that you could ask for.

Our top picks? We adore Southbank Centre’s Winter Festival and Peckham’s cool Pexmas offering. 

That said, you can’t beat the festive feelings at the Finnish Church – the gorgeous building gets kitted out with all sorts of Nordic treats and trinkets. We probably don’t need to remind you that Finland is said to be the home of Santa himself, so surely this Xmas market is as authentic as they come. 

Drink a Ridiculously OTT Cup of Hot Chocolate

Chin Chin

Hot cocoa has thrown off its fuddy-duddy vibe and has totally tarted itself up into the kind of irresistible drink that a) warms your cockles b) looks great on Instagram

Want to know what we mean? Take a look at that cuppa above.

You can see why settling in for one of these bad boys is such a cosy thing to do in London on a cold day. Forget measly concoctions of cocoa and water (maybe with a splash of milk if your mum was feeling generous), these hot chocolates are seriously flossed.

Chin Chin’s comes with a huge dollop of melted marshmallow that is blow-torched and looks (and tastes) like something straight out of Willy Wonka’s factory.

Alternatively, why not opt for one of the indulgent offerings at Dark Sugars (there’s even a vegan drink don’t you know) – then round it off with a mound of chocolate shavings. Because it’s winter and you can.

Mamasons Dirty Ice-Cream also do a very naughty cup topped with whipped cream and lined with the crumb of cookies. It’s to die for. 

Read More: The Best Hot Chocolates in London For The Ultimate Indulgent Sips

Visit London’s Cool Museums

London Transport Legacies

We often say that London does two free things very well: its parks for the summer, and its museums for the winter. London genuinely has some of the best museums in the world. What’s more? Most of them are free.

Start with favourites such as the Natural History Museum, V&A and Science Museum in South Kensington’s Museum Mile – that will keep you out of the cold and entertained for a few days.

Or, if you’re already a museum aficionado, try out some of the more obscure places. The Soane Museum is excellent for lovers of antiquity. If you want to freak yourself out a bit check out the Hunterian Museum, a fascinating look at the history of surgery, grizzly test subjects ‘n’ all…

London Transport Museum is another favourite of ours. There you’ll be able to learn all about the history of transport in London. London pioneered in the days before tube strikes and bus breakdowns (would you believe it) and the LTM documents it all through a back collection of literally thousands of artefacts, including old tube trains, buses and more.  

Read More: Free London Museums You Need to Visit

Settle in for a Decadent Afternoon Tea

Sri Lankan Afternoon Tea at Lyaness_2023_04_19_Lyaness_©Ben-Carpenter_v6
© Ben Carpenter

London’s afternoon tea roster is poppin’ at any time of the year but it makes so much sense during the winter when the idea of cramming yourself with warm and crumbly scones and drinking vats of tea sounds like heaven.

You can never go wrong with high tea at a London institution like The Ritz, The Dorchester or Claridges (the latter is our fave). 

However, it gets better with themed afternoon teas like the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory one at One Aldwych or the Festive Afternoon Tea at Biscuiteers.

Another great, not so stuffy and traditional option comes from one of our favourite cocktail bars, Lyaness. The vibe is super relaxed and they take as much care with the tea and cake as they do with their cocktails. 

Take A Wintery Walk 

Hampstead Heath

There are plenty of places to take a stunning walk in the capital – from the grassy Hampstead Heath to the charming South Bank. Our favourite, however, has to be a good old National Trust walk – Richmond’s 17th-century Ham House in particular.

Set on the banks of the Thames 10 miles out of the centre of London, Ham House is the perfect spot for a wintery walk along the river and in the house’s extensive formal gardens. 

Unlike most other gardens, Ham House’s garden is at its best during the winter months, when the geometric lines and topiary look their best.

You could also explore new parts of South London via the Green Chain Walk – a snaking path through what remains of London’s ancient woodland and through some of its historic boroughs. 

Striking out into the country might be a nice idea too, but make sure you bring your wellies. 

Read Next: Visiting Richmond Park – Everything You Need to Know

Check Out London’s Cool Street Art Scene

Mr Cenz, Brixton
Mr Cenz

Free things to do in London in winter are few and far between, but this is one of our favourites. Bundle yourself in layers and set out to see some of London’s cool street art. 

The only question is where to start?

The street art in Shoreditch is diverse and has the added benefit of being in a relatively small area, perfect for an afternoon stroll. Though the pieces change, there are hundreds of street art spots boasting pieces by familiar names such as Mr Cenz and Dale Grimshaw.

Camden has a thriving street art scene, as does Brixton, but our favourite street art spot is in Croydon – home to some of the coolest murals to pop up in the city this year, which is why we featured it in our piece on quirky and unusual things to do in London.  

Penge is another new hot spot for street art, with plenty of big international names such as Zabou and Mr Cenz flexing their skills.

Or if you’re not so up for walking, head down to Leake Street Graffiti Tunnel where you can catch an ever-changing array of murals on London’s legal graffiti walls. You can also find a slew of nice restaurants and bars down there too. Just sayin’. 

Read more: The Ultimate London Bucket List

Marvel at London’s Christmas Lights

Carnaby Lights

London never looks better than when it’s festooned with Christmas lights casting their glow on its streets. 

Start with the biggies at Oxford Street, which are in close competition with the super-pretty ones on Regents Street – but we’ll let you in on a secret. Neither were our favourites… that title goes to the cool neon Christmas lights on Carnaby Street. See why?

Also well worth a visit: Seven Dials and Bond Street. Or if you’d like a little action (and those mental crowds of punters) Winter Wonderland does look pretty incredible all lit up. 

Read More: Totally Magical Christmas Lights in London: The 2023 Guide

Hang out at one of London’s Winter Pop-Up Ice Rinks

Hampton Court Ice Rink
(c) Adobe

It’s no secret that the ice rinks that pop up all over the city are some of the best winter attractions in London. Set in a number of cool locations, the ice rinks are the perfect opportunity to show your ice-skating skills (or stack it on the ice and make a fool of yourself).  

We really don’t get ice skating – you put on shoes with blunt knives on them, get onto a cold and slippery surface and somehow manage to glide gracefully like a swan. Every time we step on the ice, it’s like Bambi taking her first steps.

There are so many pop-up ice skating rinks in the city that you’re not going to struggle for choice. The biggest and the best known are the ones at the Hampton Court Palace (yes you can ice skate at Henry VIII’s old haunt), and in Somerset House

A recent newcomer to the scene includes one at the revamped Battersea Power Station which has one hell of a backdrop, but if it’s backdrops you’re after then make yourself known at the rink in Canary Wharf where you’ll be gliding among the twinkling lights of London’s skyscrapers. 

Read More: Everything You Need to Know about Visiting Somerset House

Visit Hogwarts at Christmas 

OK, so technically the Harry Potter Warner Bros Studios are in Watford, a short train ride outside of London. But you simply HAVE to visit the show-stopping Hogwarts at Christmas… that is if you can get the tickets. 

We’ll be honest, the Harry Potter Studios are totally magical at any time of year, but in the runup to Christmas it goes into winter-wonderland overdrive. You’ll love it.

Read More: Planning Your Visit to London’s Harry Potter Studios

Snuggle in a Pub (Preferably in Front of a Fire)

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese

There’s nothing like a British pub for all the cosy winter feels but not all pubs are created equal – you need to be very particular about the kind of pub you want to head to in London during the winter months.

First of all there must be a fire, second, it must pull a decent pint (and have nice wine too – blasphemous but true), and finally it must serve great food. There are some gorgeously quaint little old pubs in London: The Jerusalem Tavern in Clerkenwell fits the bill nicely, as does the Holly Bush in Hampstead (with the added bonus that it’s perfectly located for post-Hampstead Heath walk drinks too).

The Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is one of our favs for its seriously long history and the fact that several members of the team here have worked within walking distance of it before and used its great selection of ales to wash away long days on the job. 

Anywhere in Wapping will serve you nicely for the same historic tones – one of the pubs, the Prospect of Whitby, still has a hanging noose from the days when pirates would be strung up outside it. 

See the Christmas Tree at Trafalgar Square 

Christmas Tree Trafalgar Square

The Christmas tree at Trafalgar Square is a London icon. Each year since 1947, Norway has gifted the tree to London in remembrance of our alliance during World War II. 

Swing by while you’re visiting central London and enjoy a bit of Christmas cheer. 

Psst… Covent Garden’s Christmas Tree is rather impressive too. And the rest of the market area gets glammed right up for the festive season, making it the perfect place to pick up some last-minute Christmas shopping while you’re in the area. Win-Win.

Fuel Up on Some Warming Food at Borough Market 

Borough Market

Borough Market is London’s best-known food market, thanks to a wide selection of traders serving all sorts of delicious foodie treats. Where better to go and enjoy a nice warming dish to help ward off the winter chills? 

We highly recommend the insanely good cheese raclette at Kappacasein… maybe with a glass of mulled wine to wash it down. 

2023 saw a new entry in the Borough Market scene too. Kolae is a Thai restaurant from two very respected names in the local biz, Mark Dobbie and Andy Oliver. They’re serving up zingy curries and hot soups that’ll not just warm you up but maybe even make you break a sweat. 

In a rush? Swing by the Ginger Pig for one of their famous hot sausage rolls. They hold a special place in our hearts. 

Go Shopping During London’s Winter Sales 

Tempting as it may be to do all your winter sale shopping online, there’s nothing quite like the fun frenzy of shopping in London’s winter sales. 

The sales, which traditionally started on Boxing Day or the 27th December, now seem to start earlier and earlier every year. Great news if you’re in the market for picking up a bargain or two. 

Strutting down Oxford Street (with the Xmas lights up) is one way you’ll find a heap of discounts. We do, however, know that the high street isn’t for everyone. If you prefer your fashion vintage, be sure to check out Portobello Road and Brick Lane.  

Read More: The 14 Best Shopping Areas in London

Indulge in a Blissful Spa Day 

K Spa

Spending a day in a spa is always an appealing prospect, but particularly so when it’s cold and rainy outside. 

London has no shortage of fabulous spas, but our absolute favourite is the K Spa at K West Hotel – a chic, award-winning spa with a sauna, sanarium, hot tubs and ice room. Book a day ticket (and a treatment if you want) and escape the outside chill. 

You could also try Rena Spa at Leonardo Royal City Hotel. It’s another favourite of Londoners who like to dip in and out for a day without breaking the bank. 

NYX Hotel London Holborn offers a more boutique experience with great options on massages and therapies. We defy you to spend an afternoon at any of the above spots and not feel totally relaxed. 

Indulge Your Inner Child with a Trip to the Pantomime

Cinderella at The Lyric

Indulge your inner child with a trip to one of London’s pantos. Did you know that most pantos run well into January? So if you haven’t caught one of the fabulously OTT affairs this winter in London, there’s still time. 

What’s more, theatres tend to quieten down after Christmas so it’s easier to get tickets in the quiet period between then and New Year while some of the pantos keep running. 

The Palladium is the hot ticket every year. They do the biggest shows and bring in the biggest stars. This year Jennifer Saunders is taking to the stage in their production of Peter Pan 

Paul Merton is also hitting the stage at the Richmond theatre for a bit of he’s behind you in a production of Dick Whittington. 

If you fancy something a bit different, JW3 Jewish Community Centre are holding London’s first-ever Jewish panto, blending traditional storytelling and festivals to create something entirely new. 

Don’t even get us started on the adult pantomimes like Jack and His Giant Bigstalk. Pure filth… but we love it. 

Most Importantly – What’s the Weather Like in London Over the Winter Months? 

London in Winter

Winter in London lasts from December to February, with January and February normally being the coldest months. 

Contrary to popular belief, London’s winters aren’t actually that cold. Average winter temperatures vary between 5℃ and 10℃ (January is the coldest month with an average temperature of 6.7℃ ). 

That said, the wind chill can make it feel like it’s about -50℃ (OK, maybe we’re exaggerating slightly), so you should wrap up warm. A thick jumper and a coat will see you right.

MonthAverage High (℃)Average Low (℃)Average Days of Rain

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