Browse traditional Christmas markets, enjoy outdoor ice-skating, witness glittering festive lights and catch seasonal events and shows. Start your countdown to Christmas with our suggestions for a magical weekend in London.
Friday in London
Evening: enjoy a Christmas show
Kick-start your Christmas weekend in London with a magical seasonal show to spark that festive feeling. There’s always plenty to choose from, including Christmas pantomimes and seasonal ballet performances.
To round off the night, get cosy in a private igloo as you wrap up in a sheepskin blanket and order a festive cocktail at Coppa Club, near Tower Bridge. Or step inside Christmas in Leicester Square's 1920s Spiegeltent for an alternative Christmas show from La Clique, mixing circus, cabaret and comedy.
Saturday in London
Morning: Christmas shopping hotspots
Get up early to beat the crowds at famous London Christmas shopping destinations such as Oxford Street, Bond Street and Regent Street. Here, you can visit some of the capital’s most popular department stores, including John Lewis, Selfridges, Fenwick and Liberty, or high-street stores such as Topshop and Primark.
Afterwards, pay a festive visit to Harrods in Knightsbridge, an Instagrammer's haven with food halls, luxury goods and impressive window displays. Or head to Covent Garden to pick up unique gifts from luxury fashion and beauty boutiques, including Charlotte Tilbury and Chanel – don't miss the Huda Beauty Pop-up, an interactive experience full of beauty products and limited-edition items.
Take the short trip to Greenwich's exciting shopping destination ICON Outlet at The O2. Featuring more than 80 stores from top brands, it's the perfect spot to tick most Christmas shopping items off your list.
Alternatively, grab fashionable seasonal bargains at Hackney Walk in east London, where discount outlet stores include Joseph and Aquascutum.
Afternoon: wizarding wonders at Hogwarts in the Snow or ice skating
You’ll have worked up an appetite – savour international delights from the countless food stalls at Borough Market; indulge in a quintessentially British afternoon tea with a festive twist; or head east to Skylight or Dinerama for tasty street food treats.
Harry Potter fans won’t want to miss Hogwarts in the Snow at Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter. Get a behind-the-scenes look at how the movies were made and see Hogwarts covered in snow for Christmas.
Alternatively, get your skates on at one of London's top ice skating rinks. The Natural History Museum ice rink fills the grounds of the beautiful museum with wintry fun, the seasonal rink housed within the iconic courtyard at Somerset House holds Skate Lates: late-night sessions with rink-side DJs; while the Tower of London's ice rink is illuminated by hundreds of twinkling lights. And new this year, Covent Garden welcomes a Tiffany Fragrance-inspired pop-up rink.
Evening: festive food and Christmas lights
Treat yourself to a Saturday-night dinner in central London, where Chinatown restaurants dish up food from Asia and beyond; while quirky courtyard Kingly Court offers eclectic eateries in trendy Soho.
As darkness falls, it's time to seek out London's best festive lights. Start with Carnaby Street, which always has some of the coolest Christmas lights in town, before venturing to the famous Christmas lights on Oxford Street and Regent Street, or the charming streets of Seven Dials and St Christopher’s Place. Nearby South Molton Street and Jermyn Street are also worth seeking out for sparkling displays.
For more festive entertainment, don't miss traditional carols sung under the giant tree on Trafalgar Square.
Sunday in London
Morning: Sunday brunch
Get your Sunday in London off to a good start with a hearty brunch – that’s what Sunday mornings are made for, after all!
Brunch at The Wolseley is legendary, as are the quirky yet delicious flavour combinations at Duck & Waffle, 40 floors above the City of London. Or head to Balthazar in Covent Garden for eggs every which way, accompanied by heavenly French pastries.
Once refuelled, enjoy some seasonal sightseeing with a hop-on-hop-off bus tour to catch the capital’s famous landmarks in all their festive glory.
Afternoon: time to hit the Christmas markets
A visit to one of London’s Christmas markets is the best way to spend a festive Sunday afternoon. Christmas by the River at London Bridge features a variety of stalls, set against iconic landmarks such as Tower Bridge and The Shard; while the Southbank Centre’s Christmas market is perfect for unique Christmas gifts and festive food and drink.
For the ultimate Christmas experience in London, head to Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland. Browse the alpine chalets for handcrafted gifts, hit the fairground rides, glide around the ice rink, enjoy the circus and comedy shows, or feast on German sausages in the Bavarian Village.
Evening: exciting illuminations
Round off a Christmas weekend in London at Christmas at Kew: London’s beautiful botanical gardens are illuminated by thousands of festive lights, set to a soundtrack of seasonal classics.
There's just enough time to end your Christmas weekend in London with a classic British experience: a visit to a cosy London pub. Snuggle up in front of a crackling fire and enjoy pub grub and a drink or two.
More Christmas in London inspiration
Video by @mossonyi (Instagram)