London Tower Bridge

27 Things To Do in London in December

When it’s December in London, that means that it’s time for one thing and for one thing only: it’s time to celebrate Christmas. December is one of the most magical times of year to travel to the capital, and in spite of the cold, frosty weather and dark nights you will find that locals and travellers alike revel in the festivities.

Although Christmas is just one day, in London you will see that the Christmas spirit isn’t just contained to 25th December. From the start of the month and well into January, there are Christmas markets, ice rinks and light festivals across the city. Visit the famous Winter Wonderland, watch a Christmas-inspired performance in the West End, and battle through the endless crowds trying to find the best deals in department stores. And of course, on 31st December, don’t forget to hang around for the most impressive fireworks display in the country, as Londoners bring in the New Year in style.

There’s a lot to do in London in December. Here are our favourite ways to enjoy this exciting month.

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

Winter Wonderland is the biggest Christmas-themed event in London. Located in Hyde Park, this is the place to visit to see Christmas cheer at its best in the capital. Most of the events here are free, and you can find everything from Santa’s Grottos to delicious seasonal eating and drinking. There are fairground rides and, in December, Hyde Park becomes home to the largest ice rink in the UK.

Tower of London

Of course, the iconic Tower of London can be visited any time of year. Even in the cold of December, it’s worth braving the chill to explore the ghostly tales and history of one of the most iconic castles in the country. The Tower of London though also becomes the site of a huge ice rink throughout December, and you can skate to your heart’s content in the dramatic shadow of these ancient walls.

Natural History Museum

Escape the cold streets of London by jumping into the warm corridors of the Natural History Museum, a museum that’s always free to visit. See the dinosaur skeletons, the enormous blue whale that now occupies the grand entranceway, and learn more about the natural history of the world around us. Like many of London’s most popular institutions, the Natural History Museum also becomes home to an enormous ice rink for the duration of December. Strap on some skates, and when the chill gets too much just pop back into the museum.

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol is one of Charles Dickens’ most loved works of literature. From the end of November right on through to the start of January, the Old Vic plays host to a stage performance of this festive tale of right and wrong. Over the last few years, it’s become somewhat of a staple theatre piece on the Christmas circuit. Performances are held almost every day, but make sure you book in advance still, because it is incredibly popular.

Charles Dickens Museum

If experiencing the tale of Scrooge and the Ghosts of Christmas on the stage gets you inspired to learn more about the author, Charles Dickens, then look no further than the museum that’s completely dedicated to his life and work. Located on 48 Doughty Street in London, the museum is in the home of the author himself. During December, you can pop in to find out more about not only A Christmas Carol but his other famous novels and stories too.

Hogwarts in the Snow

Another famous literary work that comes to life during December is Harry Potter. At the London Warner Bros Studio, you can experience the magic of J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world when it is quite literally covered in snow. You can see many of the film props and sets first hand, from castles to broomsticks and all of it decked out in a Christmas theme. The Great Hall of Hogwarts is home to a huge Christmas tree and the corridors are full of lights and tinsel, making it even more magical than usual.

Hogwarts Express Red Train

London Eye Frostival

The London Eye undergoes a dramatic transformation in time for the Christmas season. The distinctive Ferris wheel becomes the location of a unique Christmas festival, known simply as the London Eye Frostival. The London Eye is lit up with dazzling lights at night, while an ice skating rink is set up beneath the wheel. Enjoy the festive market stalls and sample a few glasses of warm mulled wine to keep away the chill.

Southbank Wintertime Market

Along the Southbank, where the London Eye Frostival is also found, you can enjoy the festive spirit at the Christmas market that is set up here through December. This is one of the best Christmas markets in London, and you can expect a huge variety of food and drink from across the world, anything from minced pies to German bratwurst.

Covent Garden Reindeer

Reindeer are a well-established element of the Christmas experience, and at Covent Garden you can see reindeer first hand. Throughout the Christmas season, Covent Garden is decorated in true festive fashion, with famous chandeliers, lights and of course a tree. There are also giant silver reindeer statues and, on weekends, you might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the real reindeer that are brought to the market.

English National Ballet: The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker is one of the most well-known ballet performances in the world and has become a common fixture in cities during December. London is no exception, and the English National Ballet, the top ballet company in the country, put on a wonderful performance through the Christmas season.

Santa’s Grotto at Westfields

The enormous Westfields shopping centres in London are of course the perfect places to secure all those Christmas gifts you need for friends and family. For the kids though, the shopping centres become home to some of the best Santa’s Grottos in London, and while the adults shop, the children can meet Santa and all the elves.

Hamleys

Hamleys is London’s largest dedicated toy store, and one of the oldest and most well-known toy stores anywhere in the world. Of course, Hamleys go all out during December, setting up themed displays, decking their corridors and windows in festive themes, and inspiring you to buy as many toys as you can take away with you.

Harrods

Adults will perhaps appreciate the delights of Harrods at Christmas time more than Hamleys, as the historic department store gets ready to meet the seasonal rush, with great deals and great decorations to match.

Harrods Exterior with Flags

Oxford Street

London’s most popular shopping street goes all out for Christmas too, with shops setting up their festive displays and the lights being switched on early. It’s a colourful, vibrant place to visit, and in the run-up to 25th December you might find a few bargains too.

Boxing Day Sales

Of course, once Christmas Day is gone, London’s most popular shopping streets and department stalls will inevitably be swarmed come Boxing Day, as the shops put on exceptional sales to draw in the crowds. If you don’t mind a busy, hectic day out in London, you can find some low prices from 26th December onwards.

Christmas at Kew

Christmas at Kew is one of the most popular festive events in the city, and it’s held at one of London’s most popular attractions. Kew Gardens become a winter wonderland in the evenings, and to brighten up the dark nights of December, elaborate light displays become the norm throughout the Christmas season.

Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace was one of Henry VIII’s residencies and it’s one of the most historic estates to visit in the London area. As well as exploring stately rooms and delving into the royal legacy of the palace, during December, Hampton Court is home to a wonderful ice rink in beautiful surroundings.

Hampton Court Palace Gardens

Chiswick Gardens Magical Lantern Festival

The Magical Lantern Festival is a unique display that’s been held in Chiswick Gardens for the last few years. Spectacular, themed lanterns that take the shape of anything from zebras to traditional Chinese lights are found across the grounds of Chiswick, making for an illuminating and unusual place to visit during December.

Christmas in Leicester Square

Iconic Leicester Square is host to one of the best Christmas markets in London throughout December. The square becomes full of market stalls selling charming Christmas gifts and serving up some warming food and drink. There is a Santa’s Grotto and you will likely be able to catch a few festive performances and shows here too.

Somerset House

Somerset House is one of the most historic and impressive buildings in central London. The house can trace its origins back to the 16th century, in some form or another, and these days you can find many different galleries and exhibitions displayed within the grand halls and stately rooms. During the Christmas period, the huge rectangular courtyard at the front of Somerset House becomes the location for one of the city’s most popular ice skating rinks and Christmas light displays.

Christmas Carols in Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square becomes the location for one of the largest Christmas trees in the country. Every year since the end of World War II, the people of Norway have gifted a Christmas tree to London and it’s set up in the beautiful surroundings of Trafalgar Square. Over the Christmas period, you can catch a free performance of Christmas carols, usually from the 10th December up until Christmas.

Trafalgar Square Water Fountain

Christmas at Kensington Palace

Located on the edge of Hyde Park, Kensington Palace is one of the iconic royal residences in London. While you can enjoy all the usual attractions and galleries in the palace throughout December, there’s also the added bonus of festive events being held in the palace and the grounds. From light shows and Christmas trees to the traditional Victorian-themed events that are held each year.

Santa Run London

The Santa Run has fast become an important regular feature of the December events line up in London. Thousands of competitors suit up in Santa outfits and take to the streets of the city to run either 5-kilometre or 10-kilometre races. Even if you don’t fancy the run, it’s a wonderful event to see and it’s all for a good cause too, with money being raised through the run for different charities. Brave the cold to support the Santas in their bright red outfits.

Santa Claus Pub Crawl

If running isn’t your thing and you prefer to spend the day in the pub, then why not take part in the Santa Claus Pub Crawl instead? You will get your exercise travelling from pub to pub in London, but you have to be dressed up of course, as Santa Claus. The event has been going for well over 25 years now, and can claim to be the oldest continually run event of this kind in the country. Like the Santa Run, the event is used to raise money for charity too, so for once, you can drink all day at pubs across London and claim that it’s for a worthy cause!

Peter Pan Cup

The Peter Pan Cup is a unique sporting event that is held on Christmas Day, in Hyde Park. More specifically, the event is held in the freezing cold, icy waters of the Serpentine, as the local swimming club dive in and spend the morning racing for glory. It’s a great event to watch, although perhaps not one you would like to take part in.

New Years Eve Fireworks

At the end of the month, London hosts one of the biggest and most extravagant fireworks displays in the country to ring in the New Year. Of course, there are events all over the city, but the biggest and best happens right in the centre, with Big Ben and the London Eye as the backdrop.

New Years Eve Parties

And what better way to end the year than by experiencing a classic New Years Eve Party in the capital? London is one of the most exciting locations to spend 31st December, and there are countless opportunities to enjoy the New Year. Most events are ticket only, so be sure to book in advance to avoid missing out.

To find out more about the exciting things to do in London during December or to book one of our exciting London tours, contact Premium Tours today.

23 Family Attractions in London You Need to Visit

London, the British capital is full of fun family attractions that you really need to visit. From the waxworks of Madame Tussauds to the dizzy heights of the London Eye, there are a lot of great sites to see and attractions to visit. Take the kids to the city’s fun but educational museums, see dinosaur skeletons at the Natural History Museum or explore the dark tales of the Tower of London. Stroll through green parks or spend hours navigating the many packed floors of the giant Hamleys toy shop.

There are a lot of great family attractions waiting for you in the city of London. Here’s our travel guide to the best of them.

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace is a fantastic place to start any family day out and shouldn’t be missed in any London Sightseeing tours. The iconic palace is a breathtaking site to see, with its extravagant design and opulent grandeur. Children will love the colourful uniforms and giant hats of the red-coated soldiers, while if you time your visit right, you will be able to catch the fun sight of the Changing of the Guard ceremony. Stroll through the green gardens of St James’s Park or carry on to the wide open spaces of nearby Hyde Park.

Buckingham Palace and The Mall

Hamleys

Hamleys is the most famous toy shop in the United Kingdom, and probably the whole world too. This multi-storied shop is devoted entirely to toys, and for kids it’s pretty much heaven. Adults might tire quickly and end up spending far too much money, but for the youngsters, there are hours of fun to be had from just simply wandering around and seeing the incredible range of toys for sale. Any toy you can imagine can be found for sale in Hamleys, and even the parents might be amazed at what’s in store on the shop’s many different levels.

London Eye

The London Eye makes for a fantastic family attraction to visit. This iconic sight is essentially just one giant Ferris Wheel, but a Ferris Wheel that has been constructed on an enormous scale. The viewing pods take visitors high up above the London skyline for amazing views over the entire city. The whole family will enjoy not only the bird’s eye view of London, but the experience as a whole making it one of the top London attractions to visit – assuming no one is scared of heights, that is.

London Eye Pod

Madame Tussauds

Madame Tussauds is the world-famous waxwork museum that brings your favourite characters from history and the film screen to life. The unbelievably realistic waxwork models are detailed enough to fool almost anyone, and children and adults alike will love seeing famous celebrities in this mock environment. The displays change regularly, to keep the museum up to date with the world’s most famous celebrities and political figures, ensuring you can come back time after time and still be amazed by the realistic waxworks of Madame Tussauds.

Tower of London

The Tower of London is one of the city’s most historic sites, and these days it’s also one of London’s most popular tourist attractions. You can spend hours exploring the different towers, keeps and museums, and there is always something to be found here for kids and adults. Enjoy the sight of the unique Beefeaters in their flamboyant uniforms or the glinting views of the Royal Crown Jewels in the museum. Learn about the intriguing history of the Tower of London and all the ghostly tales that go with it. With the Tower of London having its own London Underground stop, it’s a very easy attraction to see and visit.

Thames River Cruise

The Thames is a river that’s inseparable from London, and while visiting the city it’s a wonderful place to explore. While you can stroll along the banks and enjoy the vibrant riverside culture, you might prefer to take the family out on the water for an authentic experience along the Thames. There are many great boat cruises which will take you along the length of the river, showing you all of London’s most famous sights from the unique perspective of the Thames.

Warner Bros Studios

The Warner Bros Studios in London are one of the best places to visit in the city for those who love Harry Potter, which, let’s face it, is the vast majority of both children and adults. You can see the film sets up close and really be immersed in the magical world of witches and wizards. See how they brought to life the book’s best characters and scenes, explore Diagon Alley, Hogwarts, the Forbidden Forest and much, much more at the exciting Warner Bros Studios.

Harry Potter Walking Tour

If you are a real Harry Potter fan and a trip to the Warner Bros Studios isn’t quite enough for you, then take the family on a Harry Potter Walking Tour of London. Many of the film’s best scenes were shot on the streets of London and at iconic locations throughout the city, such as the elegant Leadenhall Market, which stood in for Diagon Alley. You can explore the city and all the famous sights while entertaining the kids with tales of magic and Hogwarts.

Harry Potter Tour Store Front

Shrek’s Adventure

If you want to keep the kids entertained by bringing even more big screen characters to real life, then Shrek’s Adventure is another great experience waiting in London. Here you can meet your favourite characters from Shrek, walk through the animated world as it’s brought to life in the scenery and through 4D shows, and learn more about Shrek and the characters that make it such a popular film.

Go Ape Battersea

For a real adventure, then a great place to spend the day is at Go Ape in Battersea. This is for kids and adults, but the minimum age is 10 years old on the higher course. Younger children can take on the shorter, lower, junior course too. Get the adrenaline pumping as you traverse a high rope course in Battersea Park, with views from the top of the giant adventure playground being well worth the effort to get up. Tackle zip lines, climb ropes and take on the heights for a great family day out in London, that offers something quite different from the usual experiences in the city.

London Dungeon

The London Dungeon is one of the creepiest and perhaps scariest days out you can have with the family in London. But for some strange reason, this gory, gruesome and brutal experience is one of London’s most beloved tourist attractions, and kids always seem to love it. The London Dungeon takes the worst parts of human history, the gore, prisons and all the executions, and somehow manages to turn it all into a light-hearted learning experience that is bizarrely compelling.

London Transport Museum

The London Transport Museum doesn’t exactly have the most captivating and inspiring name, and of course, children might be put off simply by the fact that this is a museum, but actually, this can be one of the most fun days out for families in the city, particularly for the kids. While tracing the history of transport in London, from horse-drawn carriages to modern Cross Rail developments, the museum gives the kids a chance to drive the trains in simulators, to sit in bus driver’s seats and many more exciting activities. This isn’t the only London we’d recommend you go visits as they are full of fantastic activities for the kids and adults alike.

Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum is one of London’s best museums, and one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. Families will love it here, and while the parents are busy learning about Charles Darwin or exploring the many different exhibits from across the world, the kids will love the enormous dinosaur skeletons and the interactive displays they can enjoy across the many floors of the museum.

Natural History Museum Interior

Crystal Palace Park

If the dinosaurs of the Natural History Museum aren’t enough for the kids, then take a trip to Crystal Palace Park for an exciting sight that will keep them entertained and out in the fresh air. It’s a lovely park in itself, but the real attraction here are the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs. These strange sculptures date back to 1852 when the Great Exhibition came to London, and ever since they’ve been the centrepiece of the park and an amusing and surreal sight for everyone that visits them.

Science Museum

The Science Museum is a great place to spend the day, and while the kids might not be so amused by displays on microbes or theoretical physics, they will love the interactive exhibitions and the areas aimed at the younger generation. There are plenty of hands-on displays, simulations and even more to keep them entertained for hours at the Science Museum. Found just next to the Natural History Museum, combine this with a trip to see the dinosaurs too.

Museum of Childhood

What better place to visit on a family day out than the Museum of Childhood? Found in Bethnal Green, this museum is run by the Victoria and Albert Museum, and you can rest assured it’s a quality establishment. The museum has great displays of toys through history, and children and adults alike will find it interesting to compare their childhoods to those of past generations.

Hackney City Farm

Also found in the Bethnal Green area, the Hackney City Farm is a wonderful place to see farmyard animals in the city. You can get up close with all the animals, from pigs and horses to rabbits and guinea pigs. On Saturdays, the farm runs more interactive sessions, when you can learn how to care for the animals who live here.

Richmond Park

Richmond Park is a fantastic place to take the family to see wildlife too. The beautiful boundaries of the park enclose huge herds of deer, and while the walking paths, trees and greenery make for a great escape from the city, the kids will love being able to see the deer in an almost natural setting. Enjoy the outdoor air and call in at the charming cafes for a break.

Richmond Park Sunset

London Zoo

The ZSL London Zoo can proudly say that it’s one of the oldest zoos in the world, dating back to 1828. It’s also one of the most popular tourist attractions in London and a great day out for the whole family. There are hundreds of different species of wildlife to be found at London Zoo and thousands of individual animals too. At London Zoo, you can find everything from prides of lions to penguins, and snakes to spiders. Get face to face with some of the world’s most fearsome creatures and learn a little bit more about them at the same time.

Sealife London Aquarium

The Sealife Aquarium is another great London attraction where you can come face to face with nature. The underwater world is a distant place, but here the whole family can see the beauty of the oceans first hand. Experience close encounters with sharks, learn more about underwater ecosystems, and discover how we can help to protect the marine world for future generations.

Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace was the home of the infamous Henry VIII in the days of the Tudor monarchy. It’s a great day out with the family and a day that will be filled not only with history but with awesome activities for everyone. Explore the palace, the grounds and of course, get lost in the expansive Hampton Court Palace Maze.

Ragged School Museum

The Ragged School Museum makes for one of the more interesting days out in London. Found in Tower Hamlets, the museum transports you back to the Victorian era and gives children the chance to see first hand what it would be like to be a school child during the 19th century. Period dress is very much encouraged.

Legoland Windsor

Legoland is guaranteed to be a hit with the kids. Found in Windsor, it makes for a great day trip from the city and offers fun activities for the adults too, after all, who doesn’t enjoy playing with Lego? There are great rides for all ages and it’s always going to be a fun-filled family day out. If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, then this is a fantastic day trip from London that’s guaranteed to get the kids excited.

A great way to see some of these sites is to purchase the London Pass. However, as London experts, we know all the best family attractions in the city – don’t forget we run an exciting range of London tours, and London Bus Tours too.

Christmas Tree

A Guide to the Best London Christmas Markets

When it comes to the festive period, Londoners go all out to impress. The Christmas season is one of the most exciting times to visit the capital, when locals and tourists alike can be found revelling in the holiday spirit at the many events held across the city. The streets are lit up with bright and colourful lights, the shops and department stores are decked out in festive designs, and Christmas carols can be heard throughout the city. Most importantly though, the festive period is when the many Christmas markets are open for business.

London has a multitude of markets that open over Christmas, many starting as early as the end of November and carrying on right through to the New Year. Deciding which ones are actually worth visiting can be a challenge, especially when you might only have a few spare days to visit during the busy holidays leading up to 25th December. To help you out, we’ve put together this guide to the best London Christmas markets, from the classic stalls of Winter Wonderland and Leicester Square to a few unusual and lesser-known events happening across the city.

Here are the best London Christmas markets.

Winter Wonderland Christmas Market

Winter Wonderland takes place in Hyde Park and becomes London’s premier tourist attraction over the Christmas period. Hyde Park is quite literally transformed into a playground of Christmas-themed fairground rides, winter events and festive decorations that few other attractions in the capital can match. As well as all these exciting shows, demonstrations and of course the classic ice skating rink, Winter Wonderland is also home to one of London’s best Christmas markets.

Alongside wooden cabins and market stalls serving up warm mulled wine and mince pies, Winter Wonderland puts on an extensive German-themed market where you can try Bratwurst and sample a few beers from the continent. The markets at Winter Wonderland are free to enter, although certain attractions – such as ice skating for instance – will cost extra, and might even need to be booked in advance. Winter Wonderland opens in the last week of November and stays open all the way through to January.

Ice Skaters on an Ice Rink in Hyde Park, London‘Winter Wonderland 2011’ by Gary Knight – https://flic.kr/p/mjMHp

Christmas by the River at London Bridge

London Bridge is one of the capital’s most iconic locations, so what better place could there be to hold a Christmas market when the festive season rolls on by? The stalls here are numerous and are in the charming log cabin style that Londoners have come to expect from their festive markets. You can find all the usual seasonal delights, from mulled wine, warm apple cider and hearty English or German ales to handmade mince pies, hog roasts and turkey sandwiches. Alongside the food, there are always stalls selling some handcrafted or unique items that make great options for those much-needed stocking fillers or gifts for friends or work colleagues.

Alongside the varied food, drink and gifts for sale, the real attraction of Christmas by the River at London Bridge, is the very fact that the event is held by London Bridge. This is one of the most historic places in the city, the centre of life in London for many locals, and a must-visit location for tourists. From the market stalls, you can sip on a mulled wine in the cold evening air while you look out across the bright skyline of central London. Along the river, you can see the silhouettes of Tower Bridge’s famous archways and of course the illuminated shape of the Tower of London itself. Nearby, you can explore the City of London, visit the top of the Shard and much, much more.

Christmas by the River at London Bridge is free to enter and is open from the end of November until the start of January.

Southbank Centre Winter Market

Also found along the banks of the River Thames is the excellent Southbank Centre Winter Market. Located next to the London Eye, which is turned into a glittering, glitzy Ferris wheel of Christmas lights through December, the Southbank Centre Winter Market offers you market stalls galore alongside cuisine from across the world.

Along the river, you have chalet after chalet offering you the chance to find those much-needed gifts and to take part in a little bit of Christmas shopping in lively surroundings. Enjoy the smell of festive eats, with all the classics on offer here, but save room for some of the more unique offerings you always find here, as the food market tends to attract vendors from far afield, looking to show off international dishes to Londoners.

Throughout the Christmas period, the Southbank Centre also hosts many interesting performances, many of which are free to attend. Watch Rumpelstiltskin or enjoy the famous circus that has been performing here since 1903. The events are on at different times throughout December and into early January and are, for the most part, all free to attend.

Covent Garden Christmas

Covent Garden is one of London’s most popular shopping areas, and these days is full of luxury shops, boutique retailers and upmarket cafes. Covent Garden has more humble beginnings than you may realise, as this was one of London’s original marketplaces, where farmers and vendors would buy and sell fruit and vegetables on the cobbled stones. Although this is no longer a market in the traditional sense, at Christmas time the shops and retail outlets still go all out to ensure they are exuding a real sense of the Christmas spirit to everyone who walks along the redesigned cobbles of Covent Garden. You can shop in the boutique stores for quirky Christmas gifts, source out some unique presents or enjoy a festive-themed drink in a bar or cafe, while pondering how this old fruit and veg market grew into the designer marketplace you see today. Amongst the glittering Christmas lights, you will even find the famous reindeer statue, which keeps returning to Covent Garden year after year.

Convent Garden Christmas Deer‘Covent Garden Deer’ by Gary Knight – https://flic.kr/p/mjMHp

Greenwich Christmas Market

Greenwich is one of the most historic parts of the city. This is where Greenwich Mean Time is defined, it’s the home of the iconic Cutty Sark ship and it’s where you can find the Greenwich markets. This traditional marketplace has been in business since 1737 and is open all year round. The market has a reputation for unique food and arts and crafts, with inspirations for the market stalls coming from across the world and helping to add to the unique multicultural vibe that’s found here.

At Christmas time, the Greenwich Market becomes one giant Christmas market, as the usual stalls and vendors bring out their festive-themed goods and start cooking up Christmas treats. The marketplace is decked out in an extravagant light display, while every Wednesday from the start of December right up until Christmas Day, the market stays open 8 pm every evening. You can enjoy Christmas carols, send the kids to Santa’s Grotto and try all sorts of wonderful food and drink.

Winterville on Clapham Common

Winterville has become one of London’s much-loved Christmas events in recent years. Located on Clapham Common on the south side of the River Thames, it’s a bit further away from the central areas more frequented by tourists, and not exactly as well known or as well advertised as bigger events like Winter Wonderland. This Christmas market is a more local affair, but every bit as exciting as anywhere else in London.

Winterville is more than just a market too. On Clapham common throughout December you can find an ice-skating rink, fairground attractions, a roller disco and even the Backyard Cinema. The event bills itself as London’s Alternative Festive Experience and it’s perfect for anyone who is looking for something a little bit different this Christmas. Delve into the huge array of street food, have a few drinks, and stay into the evening for live DJs and music too. Winterville has a small entrance charge and some of the events are ticketed, but it’s well worth the admission costs to experience one of London’s more unusual Christmas markets.

Christmas in Leicester Square

Leicester Square hosts a more traditional Christmas market over the festive season, and it’s the perfect place to find gifts and to try some great food in a central location in London. This is a free event to attend and Christmas in Leicester Square begins early too, with the market stalls opening for business right at the start of November and carrying on into the first week of January. You can find some great gifts and festive treats to purchase while the large tent in the centre of the square hosts some great events, from circus performances to Christmas shows.

You could even hang around to catch a few performances at the nearby theatres too. Through December, there are plenty of pantomimes and Christmas-themed shows on throughout the month, and they make the perfect complement to a day at the markets.

Crafty Fox Christmas Market

The Crafty Fox Market is one of the newest markets to be found in London, having only been established in 2010. This isn’t your traditional marketplace either and from the start, they’ve been shaking things up in the city. The Crafty Fox for starters moves around and they hold events across London rather than having established locations.

In December, they host specialist Christmas markets, and the emphasis, as it always is, is on independent traders selling handcrafted goods. Everything here is quality and unique, and the Crafty Fox Christmas Market makes for a fantastic place to find some personalised presents for friends and family that you will struggle to find elsewhere.

Christmas Wednesdays on Columbia Road

Columbia Road is one of East London’s most famous market streets, being the home of spectacular flower markets and being full of small, independent shops and cafes offering quirky goods and great products.

The popular flower market is only open on Sundays. However, during the festive holidays from the last week in November up until Christmas Day, Columbia Road plays host to one of the best Christmas markets of the week every Wednesday evening from 5 pm until 9 pm. The cold streets of the East End are lit up by Christmas lights while carol singers fill the air with music and singing. It’s a wonderful atmosphere and, year on year, Christmas Wednesdays on Columbia Road are becoming enduringly popular.

Tate Modern Christmas Market

A little-known fact about the iconic Tate Modern Art Gallery is that this famous London institution hosts a Christmas market throughout the festivities. Overlooking the Thames, along the front of the gallery you can find a huge array of wooden chalets that are selling all sorts of Christmassy themed gifts. There’s plenty of mulled wine, a few craft beers and of course, a lot of food being cooked up too.

Shop for a few Christmas gifts, have a drink or two and of course, enjoy the visual delights of the Tate Modern after you’ve finished pursing the market stalls. From here, you can easily carry on along the river towards Southbank and Central London, where you can find even more markets waiting for you too.

Tate Modern Christmas Fair‘Tate Modern Christmas Fair’ by Chas B – https://flic.kr/p/mjMHp

Borough Market at Christmas

Borough Market is always one of the busiest and most bustling marketplaces in central London. Found right by London Bridge, this the perfect place for foodies, with endless stalls selling produce from around the United Kingdom and from the rest of the world. Although a visit to Borough Market is sure to leave your food cravings satisfied at the best of times, visiting in December becomes a more spectacular experience than usual.

The market gears up for Christmas in style and the brick archways and iconic alleyways become covered in bright lights and mistletoe for all of December. You can hear carol singers between the food stalls and all the traders will be sure to bring out their own festive specialities to try. Just for the Christmas period, Borough Market is open every single day of the week, including Christmas Eve.

While you’re in London browsing the very best Christmas markets the city has to offer, don’t forget to check our exciting range of London tours.

 

Featured image: ‘Leadenhall’ by Jack Torcello – https://flic.kr/p/mjMHp

Royal Albert Hall

Here Are the Best Museums To Visit in South Kensington

South Kensington is one of London’s wealthiest and most recognisable districts. As well as being the haunt of the rich and famous, the district is home to a wealth of notable British institutions and to some of the city’s best museums. Being centrally located in one of London’s most important areas, with Westminster, St James’s Park and Buckingham Palace on one side and Hyde Park to the north, South Kensington became home to many notable figures in British society during London’s great expansion in the Victorian era.

The legacy they built is most pronounced, as London’s most iconic museums can now be found in South Kensington. Here, you can visit the world-famous Natural History Museum, which houses an extensive collection of natural exhibits from across the globe, the ever-informative Science Museum charts the history of innovation in the United Kingdom, while the Victoria and Albert Museum holds the largest collection of art and design in the world. Aside from these well-known institutes, there are some hidden museums around South Kensington that will give you an insight into some niche wonders, from the Clockmakers Museum to the nearby National Army Museum.

To help you to plan an intriguing day out, here are the best museums to visit in South Kensington.

Natural History Museum

Located on the great Exhibition Road, which is home to South Kensington’s other most famous museums, the Natural History Museum is a must-see attraction for anyone visiting London. The Natural History Museum is home to an incredible array of exhibits that chart the evolution of the natural world, while at the same time it’s a leading research facility and educational centre.

The Natural History Museum can trace its origins far back to the mid 18th century when the first specimens were purchased and curated in 1753. As the specimens grew in quantity, the curators found that they needed much more space. The current building is a work of architectural genius, a distinctive and lavish piece of work that’s as interesting and enthralling as the exhibits themselves. The current home of the museum dates to 1881, when the grand entrance was first opened to the public. The huge archways and vast space inside allows the museum to show off enormous exhibits of dinosaurs within its walls, making the Natural History Museum one of the most exceptional dedications to the natural world that can be found anywhere. For decades, a huge dinosaur greeted visitors at the entrance hall, but with a recent redevelopment, visitors are now welcomed by the sight of a blue whale specimen, in an effort to raise awareness about the oceans.

The Natural History Museum might well be famous for its dinosaurs, but there are a great many more sections to explore too. Be sure to visit the Darwin Centre, a prominent section of the museum that’s home to a vast collection of preserved specimens, some of which date back hundreds of years, and pay a visit to the interesting collections of insects and bugs collected from across the world.

Entrance to the permanent museum is entirely free, although special, temporary exhibitions may incur a fee.

Inside the Natural History Museum, Kensington, London

The Science Museum

The Science Museum is the third of South Kensington’s most iconic museums, and is found in a historic Victorian building between the Imperial College and the Natural History Museum on Exhibition Road. First opened in 1857 after the Great Exhibition, the Science Museum was first known as the Patents Museum. Its popularity grew in the 19th century and has continued until today. In the 21st century, the Science Museum is one of the most visited attractions in London.

The Science Museum displays exhibits and stories from across the centuries, attempting to showcase the history of the human relationship with the scientific world, and study as well as showcase what the future of different fields could look like. The museum houses exhibits from broad-ranging subjects, tackling human anatomy, medicine, and the study of microbes and disease, through to astronomy, physics and space travel. Even if you have little interest in science itself, you are likely to find the museum compelling and intriguing, as they do a fantastic job of making complex history and theories accessible to anyone, which is one of the reasons for its enduring popularity.

The Science Museum, like the rest of the museums on Exhibition Road, is free to enter and you will find that there is much on display to keep you returning time after time.

The Clockmakers Museum

The Clockmakers Museum can date its origins back to 1814 when the extravagantly sounding Worshipful Company of Clockmakers began to assemble an extensive collection of watches and timepieces. Since then they’ve grown the collection into one of the most impressive in the world, and can even claim to be the oldest and most extensive clock museum to be found in any city, anywhere.

Although a museum of clocks and watches may not sound so exciting, it’s the stories behind the timepieces that are really the compelling factor in a visit to the Clockmakers Museum. The museum is home to some of the most important clocks in the history of timekeeping, including the famous marine chronometer built by John Harrison in 1770, which changed the history of nautical exploration and allowed British ships to so successfully chart and navigate much of the world, which ultimately led to Britain becoming such a world power.

The museum keeps over 1,000 different exhibits on display. Although for decades it was located in the Guildhall in the City of London, in 2015 it was moved into a dedicated gallery next to the Science Museum. It’s well worth a visit, even more so because entrance is free.

London Design Museum

The London Design Museum is found on Kensington High Street and makes for a very complementary visit after you’ve thoroughly explored the similar design ethos of the Victoria and Albert Museum. The London Design Museum is much more contemporary than the V & A, having only opened its doors in 1989 when it was initially set up in an old banana warehouse that was completely renovated to accommodate exhibitions and displays focusing on design in industry, fashion and commercial sectors, to name a few.

Due to its growth and popularity, the museum moved from the warehouse to a new location in Kensington in 2016, where it is continuing to go from strength to strength, even being named European Museum of the Year in 2018. The museum’s main exhibition focuses on contemporary design in the modern setting, and there are many wonderful temporary exhibitions offering unique insights into niche areas of design, past and present. The museum also helps to host workshops and presentations, ensuring that it’s a fundamental part of London’s modern and future design scene. Entrance to the permanent exhibition, entitled ‘Designer Maker User’ is entirely free. Although the museum doesn’t necessarily have the history of the Victoria and Albert Museum, it’s of much more interest to those looking for an insight into more modern developments in design, rather than history.

Victoria and Albert Museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum – usually referred to by Londoners as the V & A – is found opposite the Natural History Museum, also on Exhibition Road. This is one of London’s most historic and popular museums, housing over 2 million different objects of art covering thousands of years of human history, and displayed over hundreds of galleries.

In 1851, the Great Exhibition was held in London, with huge input from Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria. The Victoria and Albert Museum was opened the following year using some of the displays from the Great Exhibition. A few years later, the museum was permanently moved to its current location where it has expanded ever since.

The museum’s sole focus is on art and design, and within its walls you can find exhibits ranging from classic paintings and ancient artwork to contemporary photography and artistic design. The museum aims to showcase human talent and creativity, and to chart the evolution of art through the centuries. It’s an incredibly varied space and it would be impossible to explore everything on display in one day, perhaps even in a lifetime – there this is that much to see. Entrance is free to the permanent exhibits, ensuring that you can return time after time to explore, while on site there is a fantastic selection of cafes to keep you fuelled during your trip to the V & A.

Victoria and Albert Museum Entrance

Leighton House Museum

Next to the Design Museum, also on Kensington High Street, you can find the Leighton House Museum, a lesser-known museum that is dedicated to the Victorian painter Frederic Leighton. The museum is a great example of the art scene that swept through Kensington in the 19th century as the area became an integral part of central London and began to be developed by the rich, the wealthy and intellectuals. The museum is found in the painter’s home and personal studio, and is a heritage building that is a wonderful example of Kensington’s Victorian architecture.

The museum tells the story of Frederic Leighton, who became famous for his work that portrayed a mixture of biblical scenes and classical scenes from the ancient world. He was knighted for his efforts in the art world, and then later became a Baron. He died though, just one day after he was given this title, an unfortunate end to his illustrious life. The museum displays much of his work and, although these days he may not be so well known, it’s a wonderful opportunity to explore the life and work of a man who in his day was top of the game.

Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum

If you are looking for an intriguing and offbeat museum to visit, or if you have an interest in Polish history, then an excellent place to visit is the Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum which is found at the northern end of Exhibition Road, opposite Hyde Park. The institution was established after World War II when many of the thousands of Polish soldiers and airmen who had fought from Britain after the fall of Poland were left in exile when the Soviets then occupied their country. As a memorial to their fallen comrades and as a way to continue their culture in London, the Polish Institute was established as a place of study and research. A museum was established too and dedicated to Polish General Wladyslaw Sikorski, who acted as the Polish Prime Minister in exile and who was then killed during the war.

The museum tells the tale of an almost forgotten part of British history, through the showcasing of Polish history, and is a reminder that many nationalities fought against both German and communism during the war. The museum is only open Tuesdays to Fridays and only from 2-4pm. When it is open, there are free tours available of this intriguing and unique museum.

National Army Museum

Found on the outskirts of South Kensington, in Chelsea, an area that has long been associated with army veterans due to the famous military hospital here, the National Army Museum is an interesting place to learn more about Britain’s military history. The museum charts the history of British armed forces, primarily focusing on the evolution of the army through the centuries.

The museum tells the stories of individual soldiers through its extensive displays, alongside an overall vision of the army itself, from its early days through to modern Special Forces. On display, you can find many historical artefacts, including equipment, medals and uniforms as well as displays of weaponry through the ages, generally from the English Civil War era through the modern conflicts around the world today. It’s a great look at the role the military has played in British history.

The museum is free to enter with several permanent galleries, as well as frequent temporary exhibitions. The temporary exhibitions explore unique aspects of military history, from the SAS through to the history of cavalry in the British military. It’s best to check ahead to see what is currently on at the museum.

Feeling inspired to check out London’s museums? While you’re in town, check out our range of fabulous London tours, or contact one of our experienced team to help plan your trip.