Julie England, Itinerary, United Kingdom Leave a Comment

With Christmas lights sparkling over the city streets, ice rinks and Christmas markets popping up throughout town, Christmas themed afternoon tea, and pubs and restaurants decorated for the holidays, December is a magical time to visit London.

This London Christmas itinerary combines the most festive places in London with London’s top sights. You’ll visit Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace, enjoy views from the Shard and Sky Garden, and stroll along the River Thames.

You’ll also stroll through the Christmas markets, ooh and aah at the brilliant light displays throughout town, have afternoon tea, dine in an igloo, and have drinks at a rooftop bar.

If you aren’t in the Christmas spirit when you start this trip, you will be by the end of it.

Table of Contents

About this London Christmas Itinerary

Tim spent weeks researching the best spots to visit in London, from Christmas markets and holiday lights, to restaurants decorated for Christmas. He put together an amazing 7-day itinerary in London, which focuses on these festive spots, and he also added in must-see landmarks in London.

We did this very same itinerary in December 2022. There were five of us on this trip: me, Tim, Kara, and our mothers, Kathy and Valerie. It’s fun from start to finish and a bit indulgent…but hey, it is Christmas.

Since coming home, we made a few tweaks to the itinerary. When we did this itinerary, we skipped some major sights, such as the British Museum and the Tower of London (since we had already seen them before), but added them in to this itinerary, because they are essential places to visit if it is your first trip to London.

This London itinerary spans 7 days. That’s a long time to spend in one spot. If you don’t have that kind of time, simply pick your favorite days in this itinerary and do those, rather than trying to condense all 7 days into 3 or 4. And if you have any questions on how to make modifications, ask us in the comment section below and we’ll give you our advice.

You can also rearrange these days and do them in any order.

YOU CAN DO THIS ITINERARY ALL YEAR: This itinerary works best at Christmas but it can be done all year, with a few minor changes. You won’t see the Christmas as you stroll along Regent Street and Piccadilly and tea won’t have a Christmas theme. Skip Hyde Park Winter Wonderland and dining in an igloo, and replace these with shopping, a museum, or a walking tour of London.

London Christmas Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in London, London Eye, Dinner
Day 2: Westminster Abbey, Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, Christmas lights walking loop
Day 3: Windsor Castle day trip, Portobello Road, Churchill Arms
Day 4: Trafalgar Square, National Gallery, Afternoon Tea, Covent Garden
Day 5: Tate Modern, Borough Market, the Shard, Afternoon Tea
Day 6: Sky Garden, Tower Bridge, Christmas Market, Afternoon Tea
Day 7: Churchill War Rooms, Buckingham Palace, Dinner in an Igloo

London Christmas Itinerary Day 1

Arrive in London, London Eye, Dinner

Arriving in London

This first day is the arrival day in London. We flew from the USA on a red eye flight, arriving in London around 9 am. It took several hours to go through customs, get our luggage, and travel to the London city center, getting in around noon.

To get to your hotel from the airport, you can take a taxi or hire a private driver (expensive, about 45 minutes, but most likely will be longer depending on traffic), take the Underground (cheap, about 1 hour), or take the Heathrow Express to Paddington station and then take the Underground to your hotel (about 45 minutes but varies depending on hotel location).

Where to Stay in London

Check into your hotel. If you room isn’t ready, your hotel should hold your luggage for you. Be aware that if you book an Airbnb or a property that doesn’t have a front desk, you may be stuck with your luggage until check in time.

We stayed at the London Marriott Hotel County Hall, a hotel I highly recommend. It has a fantastic setting on the River Thames, just steps away from the London Eye and Westminster Bridge. Some rooms have views of Big Ben and Parliament. It’s near two very handy Underground stations: Westminster and Waterloo. We loved the views and strolling across Westminster Bridge on an almost daily basis while we were in London.

For more recommendations on where to stay, take a look at our London Hotel Guide. You only need to book one hotel for your time in London.

Afternoon in London

We typically don’t plan much for our first day, since we don’t know how we will feel. In this case, we all slept on the airplane, so we had some energy to do a few things in the afternoon.

After lunch at our hotel, we strolled across Westminster Bridge for views of Big Ben, Parliament, and the London Eye.

Westminster Bridge London | London Christmas Itinerary

Westminster Bridge

At 3 pm, we rode the London Eye, purchasing tickets just before boarding. Lines were relatively light so we only had a 10 minute wait. If lines are long, however, you can purchase Fast Track tickets, which cost more, but you skip the normal line.

London Eye | London Christmas Itinerary

London Eye

PRO TRAVEL TIP: In December, sunrise is at 8 am and sunset in London is 3:50 pm. The days are very short, but that gives you plenty of “evening hours” to see the Christmas lights.

From the London Eye, it is a 2-minute walk to the Southbank Centre Christmas Market. This is one of the smallest Christmas markets in London and most of the things for sale are food and drink. Warm up with a cup of mulled cider and do a little shopping.

Dinner

If you arrived on red eye flight, have dinner get to bed early. You can have dinner near your hotel or elsewhere in London.

Sabor is a highly rated Spanish restaurant that had a Michelin star in 2018. Make your reservation in advance! To get here, we walked along Regent Street, which is one of the best places to see the Christmas lights in London. However, on this London Christmas itinerary, you will be back here on another night. But we were excited to see some lights and explore more of London before going to bed.

To get to Regent Street from Southbank Centre Christmas Market, walk to the Waterloo station and ride the Bakerloo Line to Piccadilly Circus.

Regent Street Christmas Lights Photo | London Christmas Itinerary

Christmas lights on Regent Street | London Christmas Itinerary

ITINERARY MODIFICATION: If you have a full first day in London (for example, you arrived the night before or you arrived in the early morning and won’t be dealing with jet lag), you can visit one of London’s landmarks in the morning. The British Museum, Westminster Abbey, or the Tower of London are good picks.


London Christmas Itinerary Day 2

Westminster Abbey, Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, Christmas Lights Walking Loop

Overview

This is the biggest walking day of this itinerary. In total, we walked 9 miles, but that includes everything, from walking through Westminster Abbey and Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, plus the Christmas lights walking loop. Our mothers, who are in their late 60’s and early 70’s, did fine, but were tired at the end of the day.

Note: Westminster Abbey is not open on Sunday, so this day of the itinerary cannot be done on Sunday. However, you have time to do it on day 1 and will be within walking distance from Westminster Bridge, so you could add it to your first day in London.

9:30 am: Westminster Abbey
11:30 am: Natural History Museum or Victoria and Albert Museum
12:30 pm: Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
2:30 pm: 34 Mayfair for lunch
4:00 pm: Christmas lights walking loop
7:00 pm: The Rooftop for drinks and dinner

9:30 am: Westminster Abbey

With its burial sites for kings, queens, writers, and scientists, its long, rich history, and its importance as a coronation site for English and British monarchs, Westminster Abbey is one of the most important places to visit in London.

Westminster Abbey | London Christmas Itinerary

Westminster Abbey

 

Westminster Abbey Christmas | London Christmas Itinerary

Westminster Abbey

A visit here lasts between 1.5 and 2 hours. You can visit Westminster Abbey on a tour or use our Westminster Abbey Guide to see the top sights. It’s absolutely worth it to add on the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries for an extra £5, for breathtaking views of Westminster Abbey.

Book your tickets in advance for 9:30 am. Get in line at 9:15 am so you can be one of the first people inside Westminster Abbey.

11:30 am: Take Your Pick Between Two Museums

Located in Knightsbridge are two world-class museums. Take your pick between these two museums or skip them and continue on to the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland. You will have about an hour to spend in the museum, which isn’t much time, just enough to see the highlights.

The Natural History Museum contains wildlife and geological exhibits so this is a museum that is fun for the whole family. Don’t miss Dippy the Dinosaur and the T Rex that is dressed for Christmas.

Natural History Museum London | London Christmas Itinerary

Natural History Museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum is the world’s largest museum of decoration arts and design. Paintings, sculptures, medieval objects, jewelry, photographs, and costumes from around the world can be seen here.

Victoria and Albert

Victoria and Albert Museum

Getting Here: From Westminster Abbey, get on the Underground Station at Westminster and ride the District or Circle line west to the South Kensington Station. From here, it is a short walk to both museums.

12:30 pm: Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

Winter Wonderland is a massive Christmas amusement park plus Christmas market. People either love it or hate it, since it tends to be crowded and expensive.

Midday, crowds are light. In the evenings, however, this really gets to be a crowded spot in London, which is why we recommend a midday visit.

Winter Wonderland has a little bit of everything. There’s an ice rink, a small Christmas market, a Bavarian village, an ice bar (called Bar Ice), rides, shows, and a Magical Ice Kingdom. Santa Clause makes a daily appearance at Santaland.

Winter Wonderland Christmas Market | London Christmas Itinerary

Christmas market at Winter Wonderland | London Christmas Itinerary

 

London Ice Rink

Ice rink at Winter Wonderland | London Christmas Itinerary

Purchase your tickets online in advance, to make sure you get the time slot you want. We also booked our Bar Ice tickets in advance, which wasn’t absolutely necessary, since crowds were low when we were here.

To get here, ride the Underground from South Kensington to Hyde Park Corner on the Piccadilly Line. It’s a short walk to the entrance of the Winter Wonderland.

2:30 pm: Late Lunch at 34 Mayfair

34 Mayfair is one of the most festive restaurants in the city. The decorations change a little bit every year, but the restaurant is decked out in décor from floor to ceiling.

34 Mayfair Christmas | London Christmas Itinerary

34 Mayfair | London Christmas Itinerary

For this one, you definitely need to make a reservation in advance. We made our reservation for 2:30 pm

To get here, it is a 5-minute walk from Hyde Park.

4:00pm: Christmas Lights Walking Loop

This walking loop is 2 miles and takes you to some of the best Christmas lights and most festively decorated stores in London.

Here is a map of the walking loop. You can also read more about these lights in our guide to the London Christmas Lights.

How to Use This Map: Click the icons on the map to get more information about each place to go and the walking route. Click the star next to the title of the map to add this map to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.

From 34 Mayfair, walk just a few steps north to see the illuminated roses at Grosvenor Square. Called the Ever After Garden, visitors can make a donation to dedicate one of the roses in honor of a lost loved one. The money that is raised is then donated to the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity.

From Grosvenor Square, you will see the lights along South Moulton Street, New and Old Bond Streets, and Piccadilly Street. On Piccadilly Street, step inside the Burlington Arcade to see more Christmas decorations and do a little shopping at Fortnum and Mason for tea and biscuits.

Mayfair London Christmas Lights | London Christmas Itinerary

South Moulton Street  | London Christmas Itinerary

 Fortnum and Mason Christmas

Fortnum and Mason | London Christmas Itinerary

Once at Piccadilly Circus, head north on Regent Street, make a detour to Carnaby Street, and end the walk on Oxford Street at Oxford Circus.

7:00 pm: Rooftop Bar: Drinks with a View

From Oxford Circus, ride the Bakerloo Line to Trafalgar Square. Photograph Trafalgar Square at night and then it is a short walk to The Rooftop, a rooftop bar on top of the Trafalgar St. James hotel.

Trafalgar Square at Christmas

The view from The Rooftop | London Christmas Itinerary

From here, you get one of the best views of Trafalgar Square. In our experience, service was very slow but the food and drinks were good. You can either have drinks here and dinner at a different restaurant, or keep things simple and make a dinner reservation, ending the day here.

Make your reservation in advance.


London Christmas Itinerary Day 3

Windsor Castle Day Trip, Portobello Road, Belgravia; Optional: Kew Gardens

Overview

Today, day trip to Windsor Castle and spend the afternoon visiting more festive spots in London. The afternoon is spent visiting some of the less touristy places in London. If you prefer, you can swap this out for an afternoon at Kew Gardens to see the Christmas lights. Or, make it a full day trip, visiting Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and Bath. 

8:30 to 9 am: Train to Windsor Castle
10:00 am: Windsor Castle
12:00 pm: Lunch in Windsor
1:00 pm: Train to London
1:45 pm: Portobello Road Market
3:45 pm: Churchill Arms
4:45 pm: Belgravia Lights
5:30 pm: Gingerbread City
6:15 pm: Dinner and Drinks

Optional Itinerary Modification:

2:00 pm: Kew Gardens
6:00 pm: Choose one or two activities from the afternoon, such as dinner at Churchill Arms or the Belgravia Lights plus dinner and drinks at The Hari Bar or the Library Bar

8:30 am: Windsor Castle Day Trip

Windsor Castle is the residence of the royal family. This castle is the longest-occupied palace in Europe and the original castle dates back to the 11th century. A day trip to Windsor Castle is easy to do and well worth the time.

Windsor Castle opens at 10 am. We recommend getting here right at opening time, so you have plenty of time this afternoon to explore more of London. Purchase your tickets in advance because the morning ticket line is very long.

You can visit Windsor Castle on a tour from London, but it’s easy visit independently. From London, take a train to Windsor Castle (about 1 hour). A visit to Windsor Castle lasts about 1.5 to 2 hours, which includes time to watch the Changing of the Guard.

Windsor Castle Changing of the Guard

Changing of the Guard at Windsor Castle

PRO TRAVEL TIP: The Changing of the Guard is only held on Thursday and Saturday, so if this is something you want to see, you may have to adjust the order of the days of this London Christmas Itinerary.

Before leaving Windsor, you can do a little shopping or grab a bite to eat along Castle Hill or Peascod Street, which is a pedestrian shopping street. On our first visit we had dinner at the Horse and Groom, a very small, cozy pub. More recently, we had lunch at the Piper Art Bar.

Windsor England

Castle Hill

To return to London, walk to the Windsor & Eton Central Station and take the Great Western Railway to Paddington. At Paddington Station, ride the Circle or Hammersmith lines on the Underground to Ladbroke Grove station in Notting Hill.

1:45 pm: Portabello Road Market

Stroll along Portobello Road, a famous shopping street in London. We loved getting holiday cocktails at The Distillery, a cocktail bar and gin distillery on Portobello Road.

Portobello Road London

Portobello Road

 

Christmas Cocktails London | London Christmas Itinerary

Cocktails at the Distillery | London Chrismtas Itinerary

3:45 pm: Churchill Arms

From the southern end of Portobello Road, it is a 10-minute walk to Churchill Arms. If you are starting to feel tired, you can hire a taxi or Uber to save a few steps.

Churchill Arms is one of the oldest pubs in London, dating back to 1750. It gets its name because Winston Churchill’s grandparents were regular visitors here.

The exterior of Churchill Arms is decorated 365 days of the year with flowers, making it also one of the most photographed pubs in London.

In December, thousands of lights are strung along the outside of Churchill Arms and the inside gets a covering of lights as well, plus some Christmas decorations here and there.

PRO TRAVEL TIP: The exterior Christmas lights do not come on until 6 pm (at least during our visit in 2022), even though it is dark by 4 pm. Keep this in mind when planning your visit. We arrived just before 4 and stayed for about an hour, so we never got to see the lights, unfortunately. But it’s a fun place to hang out and wait for them to come on.

Churchill Arms Christmas

Churchill Arms around 4 pm | London Chrismtas Itinerary

4:45 pm: Belgravia Christmas Lights

From Churchill Arms, walk to the Notting Hill Gate Station and ride the Circle Line to Sloane Square. From the Sloane Square Station, walk east on A3217 and turn right on Elizabeth Street. The street is decorated with Christmas lights but for us the highlight was tasting the decadent holiday-themed cupcakes at Peggy Porschen Belgravia.

Christmas Cupcakes | London Christmas Itinerary

Cupcakes at Peggy Porschen Belgravia

5:30 pm: Gingerbread City

On display at Gingerbread City is a mouthwatering, whimsical village made completely of gingerbread. Over 100 architects, designers, artists and engineers work together to create an urban Christmas village made of gingerbread, icing, and candy.

Gingerbread City London

A visit to the Gingerbread City is quick, taking about a half an hour or less. It is located in Belgravia at 6-7 Motcomb Street. Get hours and pricing on the official website. 

To get here, it is a 12 minute walk from Peggy Porschen Belgravia, or you can take a taxi or Uber.

6:15 pm: Cocktails and Dinner

We had a 6:15 pm reservation for dinner and drinks at The Hari Bar, which is located inside of the The Hari hotel. This bar features eight different “Art Cocktails,” which go above and beyond your average cocktail. You can see photos here. If you are interested, make a reservation in advance.

On a different night, we had drinks at the Library Bar at the Lanesborough hotel. On the menu are more creative cocktails. If you like Manhattans, their Gaspari Manhattan is amazing.

Library Bar London

Gaspari Manhattan at the Library Bar

Both places are wonderful, and both places are pricey, but we all liked the Library Bar the most. The service is impeccable and cocktails were some of the best in London. You’ll see us back here again on a future visit to London.

Note: Both The Hari Bar and the Library Bar serve small plates of food so you can have dinner here. Make a reservation in advance for both of them.

Itinerary Modification: Christmas at Kew Gardens

From Windsor, rather than riding the train all the back to central London, visit Kew Gardens on the way.

From Windsor, walk to the Windsor & Eton Riverside Station and take the South Western Railway to Richmond. From Richmond, take the District Line to Kew Gardens. This journey takes about 50 minutes.

Kew Gardens at Christmas

Kew Gardens | Charles Bowman/shutterstock.com

Kew Gardens puts on an amazing Christmas lights display. If you have lunch in Windsor and then take the train, you will get here sometime around 2 pm, which gives you quite a bit of daylight until the lights come on. Use this time to wander through Kew Gardens or spend more time in Windsor in the morning. If you plan to do this, make your reservation online in advance.

After visiting Kew Gardens, you can have dinner at Churchill Arms, fancy cupcakes at Peggy Porschen Belgravia, or have dinner elsewhere in town.


London Christmas Itinerary Day 4

Trafalgar Square, National Gallery, Afternoon Tea, Covent Garden

We didn’t visit the British Museum on this trip to London, however, it is a must-see. Today is the perfect day to add it in. Skip the National Gallery and visit the British Museum instead. Then continue on to tea at The Dilly.

Overview

10:45 am: Trafalgar Square Christmas Market
11:15 am: The National Gallery
12:45 pm: Afternoon tea at The Dilly
2:30 pm: Leicester Square Christmas Market
3:00 pm: (Optional) SKATE at Somerset House
3:00 pm: Covent Garden and pubs
5:3o pm: Seven Dials and Neal’s Yard
6:30 pm: 8 at The Londoner

British Museum Substitution:

10:00 am: British Museum
12:45 pm: Afternoon tea at The Dilly
2:30 pm: Leicester Square Christmas Market
3:00 pm: (Optional) SKATE at Somerset House
3:00 pm: Covent Garden and pubs
5:3o pm: Seven Dials and Neal’s Yard
6:30 pm: 8 at The Londoner

10:45 am: Trafalgar Square Christmas Market

Located on the terrace in front of The National Gallery, this small market is one of our favorites in London. In the stalls are Christmas ornaments, hats and gloves, various types of street food, and unique gift ideas for friends and families.

London Christmas Markets | London Christmas Itinerary

Trafalgar Square Christmas market | London Christmas Itinerary

What we loved most about Christmas in Trafalgar Square was the setting. The view of Trafalgar Square and down Whitehall to Big Ben and Parliament is amazing.

Plan on spending about 30 minutes here before entering the museums. We were here from 10:45 to 11:15 am.

11:15 am: Take Your Pick Between Two Museums

Both The National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery are located on Trafalgar Square. On this itinerary, you have time to visit one of them.

The National Gallery is London’s most popular art gallery, with art from the 1300’s to 1900’s, featuring Monet, Picasso, Dali, Vermeer, Michelangelo, and Rafael.

The National Portrait Gallery houses portraits of famous British people.

Plan on spending about an hour in one of these museums.

National Gallery London

The National Gallery

Itinerary Modification: The British Museum

The British Museum is one of the world’s top museums. This museum contains a massive collection of historical artifacts, including a portion of the Parthenon, the Rosetta Stone, Egyptian mummies, and hieroglyphics.

If you want to visit the British Museum, visit it at opening time (and purchase your ticket in advance). Skip The National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery (in our opinion, your time is better spent at the British Museum if you have not been there yet) and then have tea at The Dilly.

12:45 pm: Afternoon Tea at The Dilly

It’s finally time for afternoon tea in London!

The Dilly is a 5-star hotel located on Piccadilly, not far from Piccadilly Circus. To get here, you can walk or take the Underground from Trafalgar Square to Piccadilly Circus.

Afternoon tea at The Dilly has a Peter Rabbit theme (although in 2023 that will be changing). In December, it gets a festive twist. We made our reservation for 12:45 pm and tea lasted about an hour and a half. Learn more and make your reservation on the official website.

The Dilly Afternoon Tea

Afternoon tea at The Dilly | London Christmas Itinerary

2:30 pm: Leicester Square Christmas Market

From The Dilly, walk to Leicester Square for one of London’s best Christmas markets. It’s small, it’s beautifully decorated, and it has some unique shops that we didn’t see at other Christmas markets.

Toast marshmallows over an open fire (the smell is amazing!), shop for handmade goods (we loved the shop selling handmade hats and gloves), drink mulled wine, and try the street foods.

Toasted Marshmallows | London Christmas Itinerary

3:00 pm: Optional: SKATE at Somerset House

This is one of the best places to go ice skating in London. This large ice is surrounded by shops and restaurants. If not everyone in your group wants to go skating, they can relax at a restaurant and sip on coffee, mulled wine, or a holiday cocktail. Get pricing and hours on the official website.

SKATE at Somerset House

SKATE at Somerset House | London Christmas Itinerary

To get here, it is a 15-minute walk from Leicester Square and then you will backtrack a little bit to get to Covent Garden. However, if you want to go ice skating, it is worth it. Make sure you book your time slot in advance.

3:00 pm: Covent Garden

Covent Garden is a market that is open all year, but it becomes a magical Christmas destination in December.

With hundreds of Christmas lights, holiday decorations, street performers, and a Christmas tree that gets bigger and more brilliantly lit year after year, this is one of the most festive places in London.

Covent Garden | London Christmas Itinerary

Covent Garden | London Christmas Itinerary

Covent Garden is a wonderful mix of shops and restaurants. Most shops are small boutique shops, but you’ll also find Apple, Chanel, Free People, L’Occitane, Pandora, and Tom Ford.

For food, purchase macarons at Ladurée, have a seasonal cocktail at Frenchie’s, taste the chocolate at Neuhaus and Godiva, or have mulled wine at Chez Antoinette.

For a full listing of shops, restaurants, cafes, and bars, visit the official Covent Garden website.

Optional: The Nags Head

From Covent Garden, head north on James Street towards Seven Dials. On the way, you will pass two pubs, The Nags Head and The White Lion. Both are busy spots but we were able to find a table at The Nags Head, have a pint of Guinness, and watch part of the FIFA World Cup Semifinal match.

5:30 pm: Seven Dials and Neal’s Yard

At Seven Dials, which is located just a short walk from The Nags Head and the White Lion, seven streets converge on a roundabout. Standing within this roundabout is a pillar with six sundials. This area is covered in Christmas lights, not just the roundabout, but also the seven streets that lead off of the circle.

In the Seven Dials neighborhood, you can also stroll down Neal’s Yard, which is a colorful alleyway that is decorated for Christmas in December.

Seven Dials Christmas Lights

Seven Dials

6:30 pm: 8 at the Londoner

Finish the walking loop by circling back to Leicester Square.

Sitting on Leicester Square is The Londoner, a 5-star hotel. Sitting on top of this hotel is 8 at The Londoner, an upscale bar with rooftop views, creative cocktails, and Japanese cuisine. We recommend the Lychee Rose cocktail, the beef tataki, and the lobster tacos. It’s pricey but everything we had was phenomenal. Make your reservation in advance.

8 at the Londoner

8 at the Londoner


London Christmas Itinerary Day 5

Tate Modern, Borough Market, the Shard, Afternoon Tea

This is a relatively light day. With Borough Market and afternoon tea, I recommend having a very light breakfast, just enough to get to Borough Market. There are so many foods to try in the market that you want to be a little hungry when you get here.

Overview & Itinerary

10:00 am: Tate Modern
11:30 am: Borough Market
1:00 pm: View from the Shard
3:00 pm: Afternoon Tea
Evening: Dinner, option to watch a musical or theater show

10:00 am: Tate Modern

Tate Modern is one of the largest modern art museums in the world. It’s our favorite art museum in London and free to visit. With multiple floors of art exhibits, you can spend hours and hours here. We usually last about an hour, but if you are an art aficionado, plan on spending about two hours in Tate Modern.

Get updated hours on the official website.

Getting to Tate Modern

 
FASTEST: The quickest way to get to Tate Modern is to take the Underground to the Southwark Station and from here it is a 10-minute walk to the museum.
 
MORE SCENIC: A more scenic way to get to Tate Modern is to take the Underground to Blackfriars, walk to the Millennium Bridge (about 10 minutes), and cross the River Thames on the Millennium Bridge. Along the way, you have awesome views of St. Paul’s Cathedral and the River Thames. From the south side of the Millennium Bridge, it is a very short walk to Tate Modern. Total, it is a 1 km/0.6 mile walk that takes about 20 minutes, allowing time for photos.

Millennium Bridge London

Millennium Bridge

11:30 am: Borough Market

From Tate Modern, stroll the promenade along the River Thames, heading east in the direction of Tower Bridge. Along this walk, you will pass by the Globe Theater. A little way past Southwark Bridge, turn right on Stoney Street to get to Borough Market.

Borough Market is well worth the visit, even outside of the Christmas season. If you are a foodie, like strolling through markets, or simply like to try new foods, this just may be the highlight of your day.

With small restaurants and food shops, you can dine on everything from raw oysters to freshly baked bread to Taiwanese food to French pastries. This is the perfect place to sample some new foods or shop for gifts for family and friends, ranging from olive oils to condiments to wine and liquor to foods from around the world.

Have lunch here, either trying small plates or snacks from a few different restaurants or sitting down at a restaurant that looks interesting to you.

Christmas Borough Market

Borough Market | London Christmas Itinerary

1:00 pm: The View from the Shard

This 72-story skyscraper is the tallest building in London and the United Kingdom and the 7th tallest building in Europe.

The View from the Shard is the viewing platform is located on the top of the building, on the 68th, 69th, and 72nd floors.

If you like gazing across cities from a high vantage point, in London, it doesn’t get any better than this.

A visit here lasts 45 to 60 minutes, not counting any time you may spend in line to enter the Shard. We purchased Fast Track tickets in advance, which really came in handy and saved us time. If you don’t want to spend extra on Fast Track tickets, then we recommend booking your tickets on GetYourGuide, since they allow you to cancel your visit up to 24 hours in advance and get a full refund.

View from the Shard

View from the Shard

3:00 pm: Afternoon Tea

Today, enjoy another afternoon tea. There are options all over London, but today, we had tea at the Montagu Kitchen at the Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill. Tim picked this tea for its very festive Christmas cakes and goodies. It was a good pick (this was my favorite afternoon tea in London).

To get here, take the Underground from London City and ride the Jubilee Line to Bond Street. With times for walking, this journey takes about 40 minutes. All five of us really enjoyed this tea, but if you don’t want to travel that far, you could look for places near the Shard. You can have tea at the Shard but it will be more expensive than at the Montagu Kitchen.

Christmas Afternoon Tea London Photo

Afternoon tea at Montagu Kitchen | London Christmas Itinerary

Evening

This evening, you have free time to explore London.

On our visit, we went to a pub and watched the FIFA World Cup soccer match between England and France, which was a highlight of our week in London.

Tonight is the perfect time to watch a musical in the West End, go shopping at one of the department stores in London, or have a small, late, light dinner.


London Christmas Itinerary Day 6

Sky Garden, Tower Bridge, Christmas Market, Afternoon Tea

Overview

This is another low-key day in London and one of my favorites of the itinerary. It’s a bit indulgent, with a long, leisurely lunch and the third afternoon tea in London, but you also get to stroll across London Bridge and have the option to add on the Tower of London and/or St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Today’s itinerary is written two different ways: how we did it (low on sightseeing) and how to add on the Tower of London and St. Paul’s Cathedral (good option if it is your first time in London).

PRO TRAVEL TIP: Afternoon tea is wonderful and 2022 was the first time we had afternoon tea in London. However, having afternoon tea three days in a row was a bit much for us. It’s a lot of sugar and bread and scones, which are all delicious, but it’s better to space it out or limit it to two teas, in my opinion. If you choose to skip afternoon tea today, that gives you more time to add on the Tower of London and St. Paul’s Cathedral.

We had foggy skies all day on this day and we could see nothing from Sky Garden. However, these cloudy, foggy skies were worth it…in the evening, it began to snow, coating London in a light dusting.

Itinerary #1: What We Did

11:00 am: Monument to the Great Fire of London
11:45 am: Sky Garden
2:10 pm: Tower Bridge
3:15 pm: London Bridge City Christmas Market
4:30 pm: Afternoon Tea

Itinerary #2: With St. Paul’s Cathedral & Tower of London

9:00 am: St. Paul’s Cathedral
11:00 am: Monument to the Great Fire of London
11:45 pm: Sky Garden
2:10 pm: Tower of London
4:00 pm: Tower Bridge
5:15 pm: London Bridge City Christmas Market

Itinerary #1: What We Did

11:00 am: Monument to the Great Fire of London

On September 2, 1666, a fire started on Pudding Lane, lasted four days, and burned 86% of London to the ground. This monument commemorates that fire and how the city rebuilt from the ashes to become even grander than it was before.

Climb 311 spiral steps to the top for a view of London. You can see the Shard, Sky Garden, and other famous London landmarks. Hopefully you will have clearer skies then we did.

View of Sky Garden

View of Sky Garden from the Monument of the Great Fire

Before you go, get updated hours and pricing on the official website. There is no need to book your tickets in advance. On our visit, there were just a handle of people here at 11:00 am.

Closest Underground Station: Monument

11:45 am: Sky Garden

Sky Garden, also referred to as the Walkie Talkie, is one of the newer skyscrapers in London. On the top level is an observation deck with panoramic views of London. Some people say that the view from here is better than the Shard. We’ll have to take their word for that since all we could see is fog.

Sky Garden

Sky Garden | London Christmas Itinerary

It is free to visit Sky Garden 7 days a week at certain hours, which you can get on the official website. It’s best to book your ticket in advance because they have a limited number of spaces. On the day we did this, no walk-ins were allowed.

There are also two restaurants, Darwin Brasserie and Fenchurch Restaurant. If you have a reservation at one of these restaurants, you do not have to reserve an entrance ticket.

We had lunch at noon at Fenchurch Restaurant. The food and drinks are excellent. For Christmas, both the restaurant and the observation deck are decked out in holiday décor, making this a very festive spot.

2:10 pm: Tower Bridge

From Sky Garden, walk out to the River Thames and stroll along the promenade that runs along the north bank of the river. You will walk past the Tower of London before arriving at Tower Bridge.

Strolling across this iconic bridge is a must-do while in London. For the full experience, climb the towers of the London Bridge to learn more about the history of this bridge and for unique views of the River Thames.

Book your time slot in advance on the official website. A visit here lasts about one hour.

Tower Bridge London

Tower Bridge

 

Tower Bridge Walkway

Upper walkway on Tower Bridge

3:15 pm: London Bridge City Christmas Market

Christmas By the River at London Bridge City is a pop-up market that is located on the south bank of the River Thames, between London Bridge and the Scoop. For sale are the usual goodies, such as Christmas ornaments, sweet treats, and handmade gifts.

The views from here, as you gaze along the River Thames to Tower Bridge, are amazing, but in our experience, this was the most crowded Christmas market we visited in London. It’s worth a quick visit, but don’t linger long…another afternoon tea awaits!

4:30 pm: Afternoon Tea

4:30 is a bit late for afternoon tea but it worked well with this schedule. For our third and final tea, we visited the Wellington Lounge at the InterContinental London Park Lane. Again, afternoon tea was wonderful, and here we could order cocktails to have along with our treats.

Christmas Afternoon Tea

Afternoon tea at the Wellington Lounge

Itinerary with St. Paul’s Cathedral & Tower of London

On this itinerary, we added in St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London and took out afternoon tea.

9:00 am: St. Paul’s Cathedral

St. Pauls’ Cathedral is another very famous landmark. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren, the present-day cathedral was consecrated in 1697 after the Great Fire of London in 1666 destroyed the old St. Paul’s Cathedral. The funerals of Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill were held here, as was the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

On a visit here, you will see the interior of the cathedral, the crypt, and climb the 528 steps to the dome for panoramic views of London.

View from St Paul Cathedral

The view from St. Paul’s Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral opens at 8:30 am most days of the week. On Wednesdays it does not open until 10 am and Sundays it is closed to visitors. Keep this in mind while planning your trip. I also recommend getting updated hours before you go because these can change.

Purchase your tickets in advance on the official website. A visit here will last an hour to an hour and a half.

11:00 am: Monument to the Great Fire of London

See the itinerary above for more information.

11:45 am: Sky Garden

See the itinerary above for more information.

2:10 pm: Tower of London

The Tower of London dates back to 1066. It was used as both a prison and a royal residence and now houses the crown jewels. For an educational, slightly gory look at British history, don’t miss the Yeoman Warder tours held daily.

A visit here can last between 1 to 2 hours. I recommend taking a Yeoman Warder tour since it is very entertaining and you learn a lot about the Tower of London. This was one of Tyler and Kara’s favorite London experiences when they were 8 and 10 years old and well worth it whether or not you have kids. Once at the Tower of London, you will join the next available tour (no need to book it in advance).

For hours and pricing, visit the official website.

Tower of London

Tower of London | London Christmas Itinerary

4:00 pm: Tower Bridge

See the itinerary above for more information.

5:15 pm: London Bridge City Christmas Market

See the itinerary above for more information.

Once finished at the Christmas market, have dinner.


London Christmas Itinerary Day 7

Churchill War Rooms, Buckingham Palace, Dinner in an Igloo

Overview

Our itinerary ended up being much different than what we had planned.

The snow the night before cancelled the Up at the O2 experience we had planned to do, so instead, we ended up visiting the Churchill War Rooms, walking through St. James’ Park to Buckingham Palace in the snow, shopping on Regent Street, and ending the day with dinner in an igloo.

It was wonderful, and you can do it too, even without the snow. It ended up being another low key, enjoyable day in London without a ton of sightseeing.

If you prefer to be busier, you can schedule the Up at the O2 experience in the morning (you will climb onto the O2 roof) and visit Greenwich.

11:00 am: Churchill War Rooms
12:00 pm: Stroll along the Mall to Buckingham Palace
1:00 pm: Shopping on Regent Street
3:00 pm: Early dinner at the Aviary Rooftop Restaurant
6:00 pm: Drinks at the Library Bar, Lanesborough hotel

11:00 am: Churchill War Rooms

This is one of my personal favorite museums in the world. This museum has two parts to it: a section about the life of Winston Churchill and a section where you tour the underground rooms where Churchill and his staff lived and worked during a portion of WWII.

Churchill War Rooms

For pricing, hours, and to book your tickets in advance, visit the official website.

The closest Underground station is Westminster.

12:00 pm: Stroll along the Mall to Buckingham Palace

From the Churchill War Rooms, stroll along Horse Guards Road, past Horse Guards Parade, and then walk up The Mall towards Buckingham Palace.

Buckingham Palace Snow

Buckingham Palace in the snow | London Christmas Itinerary

1:00 pm: Shopping on Regent Street

After visiting Buckingham Palace, we took a taxi to Regent Street and spent some time shopping. You could also visit one of the department stores that are decorated for Christmas, such as Harrod’s, Selfridges, or Liberty London.

3:00 pm: Early dinner at the Aviary Rooftop Restaurant

3:00 pm may sound early for dinner, and it is, but we had a reason for it. Since sunset is at 4 pm, we could sit in our cozy rooftop igloo and watch as the sunset over London.

Aviary London

Aviary Rooftop Restaurant

Dining in an igloo is a very cool experience (and warmer than it might sound). You sit inside a glass igloo with a heater, so it’s nice and toasty. We drank mulled wine and dined on cheese and chocolate fondue. It’s another must-have experience in London in the winter.

Definitely make a reservation in advance!

6:00 pm: Drinks at the Library Bar, Lanesborough Hotel

We ended the day with drinks at the Library Bar, which we all loved. However, it’s nowhere near the Aviary Rooftop, so it takes quite a bit of travel time to get here. I recommend finding a bar closer to the Aviary Hotel and visiting the Library Bar on the evening of day 3.


London Christmas Itinerary Day 8

Fly Home

Today, fly home or continue to your next destination.


Getting Around London

To get around London, we predominantly used the Underground, which is fast, efficient, and easy to use. Towards the end of the day, when some people in our group were tired, we hired a taxi or Uber to take us back to our hotel.

The Oyster Card is a smartcard that you use to pay for transportation in London, including the Tube, trams, buses, and more. Before you travel to London, you can purchase an Oyster Card online and have it shipped to your home. Or, you can buy an Oyster Card at Underground Stations, Gatwick Airport, and Heathrow Airport. There is a one-time £5 fee to purchase the card. We purchase our Oyster Card at the first Underground station we visit.

For an article that explains the Oyster Card in great detail, click here.

For this itinerary, purchase an Oyster Card and load a 7-day Travelcard onto it. This will cover your transportation in London for the entire week, with the exception of the day trip to Windsor Castle. Each time you enter an Underground station, you scan the card. There is no need to continually purchase day tickets or tickets for single journeys.

For the day trip to Windsor Castle, we purchased our train tickets at the Waterloo station (to travel to Windsor) and at Windsor & Eton Central Station (to travel to London).

London Pass…Is It Worth It?

As this itinerary is written, it is not worth purchasing the London Pass, since it will not save you any money. Instead, we recommend booking your tickets online in advance (see the links below), to get the time slots you want.

Big Ben London

Make Your Reservations in Advance

Below we list the places in London we recommend having advance reservations for and provide the links to make your planning a little bit easier.

Landmarks & Places to Visit

Restaurants & Cocktail Bars

Afternoon Tea

More Helpful Links

Here are links to London content on our website.

CHRISTMAS IN LONDON: Get information on the best London Christmas markets, the best places to see the Christmas lights, and a list of the best things to do in London at Christmas.

WHERE TO STAY: Take the guesswork out of where to stay in our article Best Places to Stay in London.

BEST OF LONDON: For a list of the top experiences in London, read our article Best Things to Do in London. Tour Westminster Abbey in photos and plan your visit in our Guide to Westminster Abbey.

LONDON ITINERARY: In our article 5 Days in London, we include detailed daily itineraries for exploring London. You can do all five days or follow just a day or two, if you have less time in the city.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is open in London on Christmas day?

On Christmas day, public transportation is not running. That means you can’t use the Underground, trams, buses, or trains. You can walk or hire a taxi, but these may be limited. Many cafes and pubs close, but not all of them (ask your hotel for suggestions on where to eat…or eat at your hotel, if they have a restaurant). Museums and the main landmarks will also be closed on Christmas day. This is the perfect time to stroll the quieter streets, see the Christmas lights, and take a tour that is running on Christmas day.

Is it worth visiting London at Christmas?

Absolutely! London is a magical place to visit during the Christmas season, with its dazzling light displays, markets, ice skating rinks, Christmas-themed teas, and unique dining experiences.

What are the best things to do in London at Christmas with kids?

If you will be visiting London during the Christmas holiday season, there is plenty to do here with kids. Visit Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, have Christmas-themed afternoon tea, go ice skating, visit Hamley’s, see the Christmas lights, and watch a holiday musical.

What kind of weather should I expect in London?

For the month of December, the average high is 9°C/49°F and the average low is 5°C/41°F. December is one of the cloudiest and rainiest months of the year in London, with rain falling about 9 days during the month. The days are short, with sunrise is at 8 am and sunset at 3:50 pm. Snowfall is rare, but magical when it happens. During our visit, London got a dusting of snow which really added to the beauty of the city.


If you have any questions about this London Christmas itinerary, let us know in the comment section below.

More Information for Your Trip to London

ITINERARIES WITH LONDON: London and Paris can be combined into a wonderful 7 or 10 day trip. With 10 days, you can also visit London, Amsterdam, and Paris.

EUROPE ITINERARIES: If you have 10 days for a trip to Europe, check out our 10 Days in Europe Itinerary, which lists 10 itineraries for your next trip to Europe. If you have less time, we also have an article that lists 25 different ways to spend one week in Europe.

TRAVEL ITINERARIES: For more travel itineraries for destinations around the world, take a look at our Travel Itineraries page.

TRAVEL INSPIRATION: For more travel ideas, here are 10 unique destinations to put on your travel wish list and 10 destinations to visit during the winter holiday season.

To read all of our London articles, check out our United Kingdom Travel Guide.

London Christmas Itinerary December

header photo credit: Sven Hansche/shutterstock.com

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