Here we are, approaching the end of another year. Some people find this a contemplative time, others realize they still have goals they want to accomplish before the calendar turns over. If one of your goals is to visit London this year, planning a trip to London in December is a way to accomplish it!
You might wonder: is December a good time to visit London? Is it just rainy and cold? Are there any fun things to do, or is everyone just celebrating the holidays?
December in London is certainly rainier and colder than other months, but there is plenty to do and you can join in the holiday festivities should you choose. All you need to do is bundle up properly, ensure you have a bit of coverage to avoid the rain, and head out to explore the city before the New Year. I’ll admit: I’ve been craving a London trip in December to enjoy all of the unique activities and events you can only do during this time of year.
Read on to discover everything you need to know to plan your December London trip, including daylight hours, the basics of weather, packing tips, and a huge list of fun things to do in London in December.
This post was originally published in September 2022, and was updated most recently in September 2023.
London December Sunrise & Sunset Times
If you’re planning a trip to London in December, one of the most important things to understand is that the days are short: London is far enough north that it does have a dramatic change in daylight from summer to winter. In fact, there are about half as many daylight hours in the winter (8 hours) as in the summer (over 16 hours).
You can expect the days to get noticeably shorter toward the end of the month. Also, the winter solstice takes place in December, which marks the longest night and shortest day of the year. On December 21st, the night in London lasts almost 17 hours.
Don’t let all this deter you from visiting London in December though – the city is great about coming up with ways to light up the night and filling those dark hours with incredible celebrations and activities!
Also, December’s short days actually give you a great opportunity to admire the sunrise and sunset. If seeing a sunrise or sunset sounds like an activity you’d like to include in your London itinerary, I’ve got guides to help you plan it:
- The 13 Best Places to See Sunrise in London (& Sunrise Times)
- The 16 Best Places to See Sunset in London (& Sunset Times)
London December Weather & Temperature
Winters in London are synonymous with cold and rainy weather. On the bright side, it’s very unlikely to snow in London in December – though it can happen. (The last white Christmas in London was in 1999, so they’re definitely due for one!)
The London temperature in December is quite low. You can expect the average high around 48°F (9°C) and the average low near 41°F (5°C).
Many travelers panic when they hear or read the word “rain.” There’s no need to, really. The forecast in London rarely predicts storms or torrential rains. Instead, London’s winter rains are typically steady drizzles that last through the day but can be withstood with a good raincoat or umbrella.
What to Pack for London in December
There’s no point in me painting a rosy picture: winters in London are the least enjoyable from the weather perspective. However, with the right clothes and gear, you can still look great, stay dry and warm, and have a good time. In fact, it gives you a chance to flaunt that stunning trench coat while walking down London’s streets.
Bringing the right clothes to wear in London in December will make your trip much more enjoyable and comfortable. When planning what to pack for London in December, I suggest you bring layers; this is always good packing advice but especially during the cooler months.
- Bring two pairs of jeans or other trousers.
- Bring a wool scarf and beanie. You can also pack a pair of gloves.
- Pack long-sleeved t-shirts and sweaters to layer up over undershirts or tank tops.
- Remember to bring a trench coat or water-resistant outer layer.
- Throw a pair of rain boots in your suitcase. Here are the ones I recommend.
- Last but not least, don’t forget to pack your umbrella!
Great Events in London in December 2023
Rain or shine, London has something fun going on. Below you’ll find a list of 10 events you can attend when you visit London this December.
Festive Fayre (December 1-3 & 8-10)
Sure, Christmas is all about opening presents, spending time with the family, and decorating our trees and houses. But it’s also a time to gather and indulge in delicious, warming food.
The Festive Fayre honors the culinary aspect of Christmas, filling the Hampton Court Palace’s courtyards with stalls that sell delicious artisan food and drink. The festival also invites famous chefs to do demonstrations and share cooking tips. Some courtyards have stalls offering a wide range of Christmas and seasonal goodies in case you are looking for a tasty souvenir for a loved one.
Lighting the Trafalgar Christmas Tree (December 7)
London is home to hundreds of Christmas trees, but none is as famous and important as the Trafalgar Square spruce.
Like every single year, London kicks off the festive season by lighting up the Christmas Tree at Trafalgar Square. This Christmas Tree is a present from Norway. The Scandinavian country has gifted the people of London a huge Norwegian spruce every year since 1947 as a symbol of gratitude for having helped them during WWII.
The lighting ceremony of the Christmas tree takes place at the beginning of December each year and is attended by the Lord Mayor of Westminster, the British ambassador to Norway, and the Mayor of Oslo. The 2023 lighting will take place on December 7, 2023.
The Great Christmas Pudding Race (TBA)
The Great Christmas Pudding Race has been happening for over 40 years now to raise money for Cancer Research UK.
Members of the public gather in teams of four to face the number one challenge: balancing a Christmas Pudding on a tray while dodging inflatable obstacles and solving puzzles. The team members dress up in festive costumes – think Santas, elves, turkeys, and reindeer – and their attempts to keep Christmas Pudding always bring a smile to the attendants’ faces.
Christmas Lights (All Month)
Experiencing the Christmas lights in London is arguably the best thing about visiting London in December. The city’s most famous streets, stores, and neighborhoods put on fabulous light decorations that make London more beautiful (if that’s even possible).
Some of the most famous seasonal lights are Oxford and Regent Streets’ shimmery angels hovering above or Bond Street’s spectacular peacock-inspired lights. But, to be honest, it’s worth visiting as many locations as you can.
Most Christmas lights in London switch on in early November and stay on through the December holidays until the New Year.
Christmas Shows (All Month)
In December, the West End updates its program to showcase the top Christmas productions; there are shows for every artistic style and age.
If you’re coming with your family, a pantomime is a uniquely London style of show and will surely entertain both kids and adults with its slapstick humor and dances.
If you want to see a classic, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol will be running across numerous London theaters.
Christmas Markets (All Month)
Christmas markets are another staple of the festive season in London. With over 10 Christmas markets in the city, you’ll be spoiled for choice. There’s Winter Wonderland, Covent Garden Christmas Village, Kingston Christmas Market, Selfridges Christmas Market, Greenwich Christmas Market… you get the idea.
Venture over to one of the markets, and stroll down the beautifully decorated wooded stalls while sipping on a glass of mulled wine. You can also browse among the handmade goods made by local artisans and find a cool souvenir to bring back home.
Ice Skating Rinks (All Month)
Ice skating in London is a memory you’ll treasure forever. Most ice-skating rinks in the city have fabulous backgrounds. Some are set in historic Victorian locations, while others are on modern rooftops; my favorite one is outside the Natural History Museum and is truly picturesque with its giant Christmas tree in the center.
Here’s a list of other ice-skating rinks in London you can visit:
- Hampton Court Palace Ice RInk
- Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park
- Somerset House Ice Rink
- Skylight Ice Rink
At most of the rinks, there’s live music throughout the day and night, and cafés where you can sit to take a break.
Hogwarts in the Snow (All Month)
Winter is already a magical season in its own right. However, there’s always room for more magic. How can you do that? By visiting the Harry Potter Studio Tour!
During the festive season, the Harry Potter Studio Tour gets a festive makeover, called Hogwarts in the Snow. This means everything, the Great Hall, Hogwarts, and the Gryffindor Common Room is covered with Christmas decorations.
Visiting the studio is a magical, fun experience and it’s not just for kids. You’ll get to learn about some of the behind-the-scenes tricks and see some of the sets and props used for filming.
Christmas at Kew (All Month)
Christmas at Kew is a good alternative to traditional Christmas lights, with some very innovative decorations and excellent light shows performed in time with music.
This after-dark Christmas event is hosted at the Royal Botanic Gardens. Over 100 people work to transform the botanic gardens into a whimsical Christmas fairytale, decorating the place with impressive light installations and spectacular projections. An illuminated path winds through the grounds, guiding you to all the installations. There are also food outlets, selling warm dishes and drinks in case you start feeling peckish.
Christmas at Kew tends to sell out quickly so make sure you get your tickets well in advance.
Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park (All Month)
Hyde Park has been hosting Winter Wonderland for over 15 years. This event has become one of the most important activities in London’s festive calendar, drawing crowds from all over the UK. It combines several of the activities I’ve already mentioned into one, making Winter Wonderland the #1 must-do if you can only squeeze in one holiday-themed activity.
Winter Wonderland is home to the UK’s largest outdoor ice rink, but there are tons of other attractions. There’s an open-air Christmas market, street-food stalls, high-adrenaline rides, and immersive VR experiences. Little ones can venture into Santa Land, a re-creation of the North Pole, and even get the chance to meet Santa himself!
8 Other Things to Do in London in December
Depending on how long you’re staying in London, you may have time to include more activities in your itinerary. So here’s a list of other things to do in London in December.
- Enjoy carols and concerts across the city.
- Sail along the Thames on a Christmas Day Lunch Cruise and Guided City Tour.
- Visiting before Christmas? Take advantage of Christmas sales and go shopping in London’s famous department stores.
- Visiting after Christmas? Take advantage of Boxing Day and January sales to get some great deals on all the gifts you didn’t get.
- Indulge in a cozy dinner in a fancy restaurant.
- Warm up with afternoon tea at one of London’s best hotels.
- Bundle up and have a drink at one of London’s rooftop bars.
- Take a spin on the London Eye and enjoy the Christmas lights from above.
And with that, you have all the info you need to plan your trip to London in December. Have any other questions about visiting at this time of year? Let me know in the comments!