LONDON

Free Things to do in London at Christmas (2023)

Although Christmas can be an expensive season, there are lots of activities available to enjoy in London during the festive period that don’t cost a penny.

If you are planning a low spend Christmas, or looking to squeeze in a budget trip to London, I’ve got lots of ideas to keep you busy during December in the city for free.

Free Things to do in London at Christmas
Photo credit: Canva

Free Things to do in London at Christmas

Wander the Christmas markets

London has plenty of fantastic Christmas markets to explore every year, and the majority are free to attend.

Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, the largest Christmas market in London, now charge an entry fee of up to £7.50, but there are lots of alternative market options for you to explore for free:

  • Winter by the River (my personal favourite, with beautiful views of London Bridge)
  • Southbank Christmas Market
  • Christmas in Leicester Square
  • Kings Cross Christmas Market 

Enjoy a horse and carriage ride

If you want to feel like you’ve been transported straight into a Christmas rom-com, you need to take a horse and carriage tour to soak up the festive atmosphere.

The complimentary 20 minute tours depart from the corner of Pavilion Road and Cadogan Gardens every Saturday between 12-4pm. Look out for the elf on the corner who will help you if you have any questions!

Also, the tours are dog friendly, so your pampered pooches can join in too.

Admire the Christmas lights

Christmas is one of the prettiest times to visit London, and this is mostly due to the spectacular light displays across the city!

Some of the most popular spots to see the displays are around Bond Street, Oxford Street and Covent Garden.

Annabelle’s is always a favourite, as they unveil a new Christmas facade that’s bigger and better each year, and Fortum and Mason never disappoints with it’s advent calendar display.

Carnaby Street guarantee an impressive display each year – this year’s space theme is beautiful!

Bring your camera to take some festive snaps if you are into street photography, or take a bus ride on the top deck to admire the views.

Grab a hot drink and stroll through central London to take in some of the world class, dazzling displays, and soak up the buzz of the city during December.

Go window shopping at some of London’s largest department stores

The largest department stores in London always go all out with their holiday decor, so even if you aren’t planning to shop, it’s worth stopping by to admire the window displays.

Harrods are famous for extravagant window displays which are a work of art, and their fabulous in-store decorations. Spend some time browsing the Christmas decorations on sale at the larger stores and find the most unique ornaments.

This year Fortum and Mason have this incredible dancing christmas pudding display, where the puddings bop up and down across the multiple floors of the store!

Photo credit: Saving in London City

Attend a carol singing concert

One way to get into the Christmas spirit fast is to go to your local carol singing concert!

Westminster are hosting a traditional service with carols but unfortunately it’s fully booked for 2023. Put a reminder in your diary for 2024 if you want tickets!

St Pauls host lots of free carol services, which are a mixture of ticketed and non ticketed events. There are free events during Christmas Eve and Christmas Day which require no booking, too.

All Souls, Oxford Street, are also hosting free carol services during the run up to the big day, and there are free mince pies and warm Christmas punch up for grabs after the service.

Browse the craft markets

If you are looking to support small businesses this season, take a trip to one of the Christmas craft markets. These markets are great to wander and take inspiration for gift ideas, even if you aren’t planning to spend too much.

This year the Crafty Fox Christmas Market is taking place at Kings Cross on 16th and 17th December 2023 with over 100+ designers and makers, but there are lots of markets across the city throughout November and December so make sure to keep an eye out. 

Visit the Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree

The iconic Trafalgar Square Christmas tree has been a long-standing gift from Norway to London since 1947, as a thank you for Britain’s support during the Second World War.

The 25 metre high tree is often referred to as ‘the World’s most famous Christmas tree’, so if you’re passing, it’s definitely worth a look! You might be lucky enough to be around for the lighting ceremony too, which takes place during early December.

Take some snaps in the snow at Covent Garden

London in the snow is beautiful (and a little chaotic!), but it’s not very often that we see the city looking like a winter wonderland.

Covent Garden have found a solution however, and are providing guaranteed snow flurries every hour between 12-9pm! 

Expect the (fake) snowfall in front of the Covent Garden Christmas tree to make an appearance every hour, so you might want to time your visit to get the most festive snaps.

As well as the snow, Covent Garden’s Christmas decorations are also some of the best in the city, and there are street performers, photo opportunities and more to keep you entertained.

Explore the exhibitions at one of the museum ‘Lates’

Many of the London museum’s host ‘Lates’ – free late-night openings of their exhibitions, with the opportunity to grab drinks, watch talks or participate in workshops.

Check the museums schedules for any festive events during November and December. The Bank of England museum is hosting a free evening event with carols, festive refreshments and crafts, including a bauble workshop, where you can fill your ornament with shredded bank notes.

Catch a Christmas Film Screening

There’s nothing more cosy and comforting that watching a classic Christmas film, and there are plenty of free movie screenings across the city; be sure to regularly check Eventbrite for any local events.

BoxPark Wembley are hosting their very own a Festive Film Club, showing free screenings of Christmas movies during December! Local libraries also often run free film screenings around Christmas time.

I highly recommend signing up to become a seat filler, as there are fantastic opportunities to see free theatre, music and film performances all year round.

Top tips for visiting London at Christmas

  • Have a plan! It can be overwhelming if you’re new to the city, particularly during the Christmas months. Make a plan for your day which will ensure an enjoyable visit
  • Avoid the crowds when shopping. If you plan to shop during December, arrive earlier in the day when the shops are quieter.
  • Avoid peak travel times on the tube and swerve the hugely popular tube stops if possible – Oxford Street, Leicester Square and Covent Garden can be particularly crowded with shoppers. Check to see if you are within walking distance of a quieter tube station.
  • Bring snacks and a bottle of water. In most central areas, prices for these essentials are likely to be inflated and you will pay over the odds, so be prepared!
  • Dress for the weather. Bring an umbrella, and wear suitable clothing. The weather can be unpredictable, and going from the frosty streets to the toasty tube can be difficult, so layers are key!

Final Thoughts: Free Things to do in London at Christmas

Which of these free things are you going to do in London this Christmas? The complimentary horse and carriage ride would be such a magical activity to remember!

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