January can be a cold and dreary affair. The excitement of Christmas has long since passed and the celebrations of New Year’s Eve are over. But in London, despite the grey skies and persistent fog, there’s actually a lot going on to keep your spirits up and to make January an exciting month, rather than a slow month.
If you don’t want to leave the Christmas cheer behind then luckily London clings onto the festive spirit throughout January, with many markets and ice skating rinks still very much in full swing for the first few weeks of the month. The famous January sales will give you endless shopping opportunities across the city, while there are plenty of fantastic exhibitions and shows to experience. Explore the warm interiors of the many museums or palaces and enjoy London at a time of year when most other visitors tend to stay away.
To inspire you to visit the capital at the start of the year, here are the best things to see and do in London in January.
1. New Year’s Day
Start the New Year in style by witnessing the iconic London New Year’s Day Parade. Held without fail on 1st January each year – no matter how long the city has stayed up for the previous night – this is a colourful and lively experience to get your year off to a great start. With thousands of performers and floats descending onto the streets, it’s a real spectacle not to be missed, and it’s completely free to watch.
2. Shop at the January Sales
The January sales are, for many, a highlight of the month and London’s many shops go all out to bring in the customers. You can find some incredible bargains along the high streets with many retail outlets offering exceptional deals. Of course, with the cold streets outside not being too inviting, who wouldn’t want to head into the warmth for a little retail therapy? For the true January sales experience, head to Oxford Street, as long as you don’t mind pushing your way through the crowds for the best deals.
3. The Last Christmas Markets
Although Christmas has long gone by the time January rolls around, many of London’s Christmas markets don’t seem to ever want to acknowledge that fact, and they stay open for as long as they can, making it a wonderful opportunity to relive that festive spirit. Many of the best, such as Christmas in Leicester Square and Winter Wonderland, stay open until the end of the first week of January and many stay open even longer.
4. Hogwarts in the Snow
Harry Potter fans can rejoice in the fact that Hogwarts in the Snow also stays open well into the New Year. The popular Warner Brothers Studio keep its Harry Potter world covered in snow, ice and festive decorations right up until the end of January, giving you plenty of time to explore the delights of the wizarding phenomenon in all its glory.
5. Buckingham Palace and the Changing of the Guard
For many iconic tourist attractions, life in January continues on as it does through the rest of year, with the cold weather and dreary skies being no hindrance to the stoic London spirit. At the world famous Buckingham Palace, you can brave the chilly outside air to experience the Changing of the Guard Ceremony, without fail, every day of the week. Get there early for a good spot, because this is a sight that is always popular, no matter the time of year.
6. Kensington Palace
Nearby Kensington Palace will also give you a chance to escape the cold, with its warm interiors being a delight to explore during January. You can learn all about the Royals that have called this beautiful palace home over the years, but perhaps more so than this, January is the time to visit because the exceptional Princess Diana Exhibition will only be open until February 2019.
7. Catch a Pantomime
Pantomimes are a much-loved British institution, providing families with fun and entertainment during the cold months of the year. London’s theatres play host to some of the best pantomime performances in the country, with many stars and celebrities taking to the stage to entertain the crowds in famous productions. Many pantomimes go on well into January.
8. Enjoy West End Theatre Production
Of course, it’s not just pantomimes being performed at London’s many theatres, as many venues continue to put on dramatic shows of classics, musicals and comedies. For an authentic London theatre performance, head to the West End, but remember to book in advance if there is a particular show you are looking to see.
9. London Short Film Festival
In January each year, film lovers can enjoy the delights of the London Short Film Festival. This 10-day event sees short films from across the country and internationally being shown in historic and iconic cinemas across London. You can watch some of the best up-and-coming directors and producers showcasing their finest work alongside like-minded film lovers.
10. Cruise the Thames
Even in cold January, the many boats that ply the Thames never stop operating and you might like to enjoy a cruise along London’s iconic river to see the city in all its glory. Although you might find the fog obscures the view every now and then, in its own way, the Thames and the city in January look remarkably beautiful. Rather than standing out on the open deck though, you might prefer to wrap up warm inside.
11. London International Mime Festival
One of London’s more unusual, but resoundingly popular events, is the London International Mime Festival. Held in January, this festival has been running every year since 1977 and is quite unlike anything else you might attend in the city. In venues across London, incredible mime performances and shows are held throughout the month.
12. London Art Fair
The London Art Festival returns year after year at the end of January to showcase some of the world’s best and most innovative modern art. This is an exhibition that will leave you enthralled and mesmerised, and not only can you peruse the artwork itself, if you have the cash, you can even buy something.
13. Winter Lights Festival at Canary Wharf
Canary Wharf’s incredible Winter Lights Festival brightens up the dark January skies like no other event in London. Held in the last two weeks of January, the festival sees huge installations that are more art than simply lights being brought to the docks of Canary Wharf. Modern art mixes with bright illuminations, to create a unique festival that will instantly cure any winter blues that you might be enduring.
14. The Canary Wharf Ice Rink
As well as the impressive light display put on by Canary Wharf in January, this famous area of London also hosts one of the city’s most popular ice rinks, which is set up amongst the glittering skyscrapers and high rises of this business district. This is one of the longest-running ice rinks of the year, as it begins in November and doesn’t end until February. Strap on your skates and enjoy the pleasure of cruising across the ice at Canary Wharf.
15. Ice Skating at the Natural History Museum
The iconic Natural History Museum also plays host to one of London’s most popular ice skating rinks during the winter months, and their installations remain very much open during January too. You can skate away in the shadow of one of the city’s most elegant and historic buildings, enjoying a warm cup of hot chocolate, coffee or even mulled wine before seeking the even warmer interiors of the museum itself to experience the many wonderful attractions and exhibits that showcase the diversity of our natural world.
16. National Geographic Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition
Also held in the Natural History Museum is the world-famous National Geographic Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition. This temporary exhibition returns each year to display the best work of photographers from across the world, and has been running for well over 50 years now. A panel of expert judges pick the best photographs of the natural world that have been taken over the previous year, and the winners and runners-up from the many different categories are all showcased at the Natural History Museum. While entrance to the permanent museum is free, this exhibition does incur an extra charge, but it’s well worth it to view the most dramatic photographs of the world we live in.
17. Astronomy Photographer of the Year Exhibition
Photography lovers may also want to enjoy the visual delights of the Astronomy Photographer of the Year Exhibition, which is held at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. The event actually continues until May, so you have plenty of time to visit, but a visit in January is sure to inspire you for the rest of the year. This is an exceptional exhibition, showcasing the best of the spectacular universe that we are part of.
18. Getty Images Gallery
If you are looking for even more visual stimuli, then head to the renowned Getty Images Gallery in January too, because this is one of the premier locations to enjoy incredible photography. The galleries are open all through the year, but in January, they showcase the best work of Getty photographers from the previous year in one place, and there are sure to be some exceptional pieces on display from across the world.
19. Museum of London
The Museum of London is a free museum that tells the always-intriguing history of the City of London. From its humble beginnings to Roman development and through to the turbulent medieval and modern eras, you can discover all that it means to be a Londoner here. You can easily spend hours escaping the cold outside, and in January they usually host some temporary exhibitions showcasing particular details of London’s history, such as the Suffragettes fight to earn the vote for women.
20. London Adventure Travel Show
If the dreary weather is getting you down, then get inspired for an adventure abroad by visiting London’s excellent Adventure Travel Show. Held in January at Earl’s Court, this event sees speakers, writers, adventurers and photographers from across the world descending on London to give talks and to showcase their latest expeditions to the public. You can even find many tour companies at the show, and you might leave having booked a tour to somewhere more unusual, or perhaps somewhere nice and warm!
21. London Acappella Festival
Musical lovers will revel in the opportunity to hear some of the best acappella acts from around the world as they descend upon London in January to be part of this unique festival. Held at the end of the month at the Kings Place concert hall, you can enjoy acappella music at its best, from some of the most talented singers and exceptional artists who have made the genre their own.
22. Enjoy London’s Pubs
When all else fails and you still find yourself with the January blues despite London’s many events, then do as the locals do and seek solace in the warming, homely environments of some of the city’s best pubs. Enjoy some hearty English food, warming roast dinners or stodgy pies alongside a few drinks too of course.
23. Burns Night
Held on the 25th January, Burns Night is one of Scotland’s most famous national holidays. While London may seem like a long way south to be celebrating this event, actually, the city hosts some of the best Burns Night festivities outside of Scotland. This is the celebration of the poet Robert Burns and you can expect plenty of whisky, haggis and singing at any Burns Night event. Head to the Scottish pubs for the best atmosphere in the evening and be prepared for a long night of merriment, drinking and eating.
To find out more about the exciting things to do in London during January or to book one of our exciting London tours, contact Premium Tours today.