Things to do in London in Winter: Bookshops, jazz nights and mulled wine
If you’ve booked your trip during the cold months and are looking for some inspiration on things to do during winter in London, we have good news for you! Even in the cold temperatures, the city is still buzzing and you’re going to have plenty of options of amazing things to do. From discovering quirky bookshops to participating in wholesome community events, you’re going to love our top things to do in London in winter. Grab your gloves, scarf and a hot chocolate and come with us on a cold (but warm-hearted) adventure!
1. Visit amazing (and free!) museums and art galleries
Imagine the scene. It’s very cold outside. It’s drizzling on your face and there is absolutely no point in trying to pretend an umbrella will do you any good. As limiting as it might seem, this is the perfect day for you to enjoy one of London’s many free museums and galleries and have some serious soul inspiration for your winter days.
Get out of your hostel bed early and spend the day enjoying the Natural History Museum, Science Museum and Victoria and Albert, on Exhibition Road in South Kensington. If you want to go off the beaten track, we recommend you explore what it means to be human at Wellcome Collection, see a giant stuffed walrus at Horniman Museum and feel both claustrophobic and amazed by the many statues at London architect, Sir John Soane’s house.
As we want to make sure we are helping you to maximise the winter fun in London, we made a list of the best free museums in London and the best free art galleries.
2. Embrace the tacky tourist in you and visit all the Christmas Markets
If you are visiting London starting from mid-November, you’re going to find many amazing Christmas markets to stuff your face with mince pies and get into the festive mood!
When visiting other attractions in Central London, make sure you stop at Leicester Square for food, gift stalls and many performances. Then Covent Garden for a MASSIVE Christmas tree that will turn your Instagram Feed into pure Christmas joy. If you’re lucky enough to be in London at the right time, you could even see the big switch-on of the Christmas tree!
South Bank, London Bridge and Greenwich also have beautiful Christmas markets where you can buy presents for your loved ones back home, drink some mulled wine and do some people watching spotting many happy Londoners!
If you want to go full on into the Christmas Spirit, make sure you visit Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. This is a place where Christmas is taken VERY seriously and you could easily spend a full day and night exploring all the activities they offer, like ice-skating, circus shows, the market, live music, food stalls and their very own amusement park.
3. Get all the community vibes in charity events
What’s better than visiting a new city, getting to know the locals and being part of a wholesome project that fights food waste? People’s Kitchen is a project that aims to bring people together turning food that would be wasted into MASSIVE meals for the community. The location varies depending on the month, but you can expect to meet loads of locals from different backgrounds, eat delicious veggie food and contribute to a great project.
If you are visiting London during winter, this is a great opportunity to have a break from the city in a cosy space. You will leave your dinner with loads of new friends!
4. Enjoy all the beautiful colours of the Chinese NYE celebrations
Marking the turn of the lunar year, these celebrations have been happening in China for thousands of years. The good news is that you can take part of these beautiful celebrations in London in January this year. The celebrations will happen in China Town, The West End and Trafalgar Square on 25 January. You can expect to see a super colourful New Year parade, lion dances and stage shows. After experiencing the best side of London (its multicultural beauty), try one of many Chinese restaurants in China Town.
5. Feel like you’re in a Disney film on one of London’s ice rinks
If you are visiting London around Christmas, you will not only see Londoners in their best spirit, but you’ll also have the opportunity to live your life like you’re in a Disney film. The city will be full of people singing and wishing Merry Christmas to everyone, wearing their most, let’s say… unique Christmas jumpers. This is the perfect time to wear all your winter clothes, get warm and go to one of the ice rinks in London.
You can choose to live your Christmas dream at Winter Wonderland and skate on their beautiful ice rink. There is normally someone playing cheesy songs with a guitar right in the centre, so choose this one if you want a full Christmas experience.
The Tower Bridge Ice Rink is the perfect place to get warm while skating with great views of the Tower and the River Thames. After you’re done, food and drinks will be waiting for you, right next to the rink.
The Natural History Museum has one of the most magical set-ups for ice skating and it’s open for the whole winter, which is perfect if you are not visiting at Christmas time. In the same magical vibe, Somerset House has an ice rink in an 18th century courtyard. Can it get more enchanting than this?
6. Feel wholesome walking around central London with all the Christmas lights
Christmas is quite special for Londoners. It’s the event we look forward to the most during winter and we clearly use it to cope with the beginning of the cold. Central London during this season is absolutely beautiful and you should save a night just to walk around and feel the Christmas spirit. Oxford Circus, Regent Street, Seven Dials, Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden and many other places have Christmas lights on, decorations and a big Christmas tree.
Carnaby street is our favourite (and probably every Londoner’s as well)! Last year they had a neon decoration inspired by the lyrics of bohemian rhapsody and we couldn’t have loved it more!
7. Sit with a pint in front of an open fire in a London pub
On a cold day, there is nothing better than finding a very cosy place to sit and just do some people watching. Luckily, you’re going to find many pubs in London with comfy sofas, beautiful decoration and an open fire.
Chesham Arms, The Pineapple and Pride of Spitalfields are great options for you to get cosy and have a pint with your new travel buddies.
8. Take part in the Burns Night celebrations
If you happen to be in London on January 25th, you should definitely get involved in Burns Night , a celebration of the life and poetry of the Scottish poet Robert Burns. You’re going to find many options available in London and if you’re attending one you should expect poetry readings, amazing Scottish food and, of course, loads of dancing. St Thomas Church, in Balham, is a great (and affordable) place to celebrate with an authentic Burn’s Ceilidh night and supper. If you are veggie and worried about the amount of meat involved, don’t worry, they have veggie and vegetarian options for dinner as well!
9. Beat the cold by drinking all the hot chocolate and eating all the donuts in a food market
The cold is no excuse to stay in, so get out and explore one of London many food markets! During the cold months, the food markets are still buzzing with life and full of Londoners enjoying the best of the season with amazing hot chocolate, mulled wine and donuts.
The city is full of options for you to explore but we highly recommend you visit Borough Market, Shoreditch (especially good for vegans), Camden Town, London Fields Sunday Market, Leather Lane Market and Portobello Road Market. You’re going to find plenty of options from all around the world, hear the many languages spoken daily in London and have a real feel of what it is to be a Londoner.
10. Have a magical night at Kew Gardens
If you’re feeling like treating yourself to a truly magical Christmas experience, Kew Gardens is the place for you! During the festive season, the botanical garden transforms in the most magical place with loads of beautiful lights (are one million sparkling lights good enough for you?), art and sound installations. Tickets are a bit pricey (18 pounds) but could be the perfect treat if you are spending Christmas away from home, or you are just looking for a bit of magic for your holidays.
11. Get spooky at the Pumpkin Lantern Festival in Dalston Eastern Curve Garden
We know that October is not officially winter in the UK but the temperatures are already quite chilly and all the cosy things you can do during winter in London start to sound like a dream. Dalston Eastern Curve Garden is a beautiful garden with a café/bar that operates as a social enterprise, so by buying drinks and food you’ll be helping them to keep running their amazing community activities.
During the month of October, to celebrate Halloween, they organise a Pumpkin Lantern Festival with over 1,000 pumpkin lanterns carved by the community lit up in every corner of the garden! During your visit, you can also enjoy some mulled wine and spice cider.
During the rest of the winter, you can also visit and have a coffee or tea enjoying the community vibes of this place that bring east Londoners together. Don’t worry about the cold, they offer blankets, hot water bottles and, if you arrive early, you can also get a place in the sofa in the green house, just in front of an open fire!
12. Get cosy at independent cinemas
If you need a break between exploring places on a cold day, soak up the world culture in one of London’s many independent cinemas. If you’re around East London, check the programme for Rio Cinema, Castle Cinema and Number 10. In South, spend a night with a glass of wine enjoying an independent film in Deptford Cinema, a community run cinema at Deptford . In Central London, ICA offers a great programme, a bookshop and a café for you to hide from the cold and mingle with the artsy locals.
13. Spend the day in a bookshop
It’s raining and cold and you’re seated in front of an open fire, with a dog by your side, reading a good book inside a boat. Sound good? At Word on Water, you can fulfil your 18th century poet dream and enjoy the best of the winter in London. If you are in London at the right time, you can also enjoy a jazz performance here.
After visiting Pop Brixton and eating all the cheese at Alpes (we talk about it on our London neighbourhood guide), make sure to spend a wholesome day sitting on the couch at Bookmongers, an independent bookshop full of world-famous titles and beautiful memories of their beloved dog.
London is full of amazing independent bookshops, so we are sure you’re going to find your favourite for the perfect winter day.
14. Enjoy some free Jazz in a former industrial estate
Photo by Grow Hackney
Hackney Wick, a former industrial area, is a must-see when visiting London. There you’re going to find amazing cafes, breweries, parties, restaurants and a buzzing night life. Make sure to check out Grow and their FREE jazz night on Wednesdays. Apart from the good music, they also serve amazing food and beers!
15. Walk around London parks
London parks are always beautiful and have their own magic depending on the season. During winter, London parks are in their most bucolic and nostalgic self and just walking around is a very peaceful experience.
You have plenty of options to choose from: Hyde Park, Green Park, Victoria Park, Richmond Park, Hampstead Heath, Regent’s Park & Primrose Hill are all beautiful green spaces. So just grab your hot drink and enjoy the winter vibes!
16. Have a unique Christmas at Colours Hoxton
If you are looking to do something a bit different this Christmas, put all the events that Colours Hoxton is organising in your calendar. For NYE, you can take part in a NYE Deaf Rave, an amazing and inspiring event that will bring people together from all over the world.
Are you are looking for, let’s say, a more unique present for your loved ones? Visit the Sex Positive Christmas Market, happening at the venue on 9th December.
Are you ready for the best part? You can take part in a workshop and make your own vulva Christmas tree decoration. It costs 7 pounds and all the money donated will go to Bloody Good Period, a charity which supports refugees and asylum seekers living in period poverty.
Can it get more wholesome than this?
Looking for somewhere to stay on the cheap? Check out our hostels in London.
We hope this article brings you some inspiration for your London snowy adventure! Did we forget something amazing to do in London during winter? Tell us in the comments!
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