When most people start planning their trip to London, they pick dates in the summer. Long days, warm weather, and plenty of sunshine are certainly appealing – which is why summer is peak season for visiting London and by far the most crowded time to visit one of the world’s most popular destinations.
But maybe you’re adventurous, budget-conscious, or have to be in London in the winter for some other reason. In that case, it’s important to make the best of it, and part of that means packing the right clothes and outer layers so that you can enjoy London even though it’s not sunny and warm. It’s critical to include the right items when you pack for London in the winter.
I’ve been to London in the winter many times, and naturally spent a winter there when living in the city. I’ve packed poorly and dressed poorly – and learned from my mistakes (like that time I froze my feet at Hyde Park Winter Wonderland!).
Below you’ll find some of the essential and optional items I always throw in my bag when I pack for London in the winter, which will help you stay cozy and warm while enjoying my favorite city.
Basics of London in the Winter
Winter isn’t a season travelers typically love. Still, it has its perks. In London, it means fewer crowds, holiday discounts, and plenty of things to do. The truth is that a magical city like London is stunning no matter what season you’re visiting.
When organizing your trip to London, you might wonder if it falls during the winter season. While the start and end of this cold season vary from year to year, winter in London is generally from mid-November through mid-March.
Most people don’t rave about the idea of visiting London in the winter, fearing freezing temperatures. However, the weather during winter in London isn’t as bad as most people think. While London’s winter weather is highly unpredictable (most of the year is), there are endless ways to fight off the cold days and still enjoy what the city offers.
Typical temperatures for winter are between 35°F (2°C) and 50°F (15°C); January and February are the coldest, darkest, and wettest months of winter. While temperatures don’t tend to drop below freezing, you might experience some snow and the well-known rainy days, which don’t go anywhere. The good news is that London is in the Southeast of the country, so it tends to be warmer and to have less snow, rain, and freezing temperatures than the rest of England.
7 Essentials for London in the Winter
As you pack for your London trip, there are a few items I highly recommend that are specific to visiting during the winter. Below you’ll find seven that I consider essential and four more you might want to pack if you have room and depending on the plans you have in your London itinerary.
1. Base Layers
The secret to staying comfortable in London in the winter is layers; if you pack layers, you can always take on off or add one on to stay warm without being too warm (like on the Tube, which is still sweltering during the winter!).
To accomplish this with London style, I recommend packing base layers. My go-to base layers for travel come from Unbound Merino, as merino wool is perfect for keeping you warm, looking great after a transatlantic flight, and resisting odors so you won’t have to worry about doing laundry during your trip.
2. Wool Coat
In some ways, choosing a coat for London in the winter is easier than during other seasons: you need something warm and wooly to keep you cozy.
I recommend opting for a wool coat that goes to at least mid-thigh, if not knee length. This helps keep not only your core but also your major muscle groups in your legs warm – key for saving energy if it’s especially cold during your visit.
For gents, here are a few similar options to the ones linked above for ladies from Dockers and London Fog.
3. Proper Rain Coat
Rain is a very distinct possibility when visiting London in the winter, and it’s best to be prepared for it with a proper layer that will keep you dry.
For men, I couldn’t really find a good alternative that wasn’t on Amazon (yuck!) so you might have to shop around.
4. Calf-High Rainboots
To be honest, this recommendation is more oriented toward women; people who prefer a more masculine clothing style aren’t as commonly spotted in wellies.
However, I have to include this essential London winter item because it’s what I pack, and I’m a woman. I’ve shared some of my top recommendations for tall rain boots that are perfect for London; the main goal is to find something which helps keep your legs warm in addition to keeping your feet warm and dry. I’d go for Hunters assuming you don’t have the budget for Burberry’s.
Whether or not you take the space in your luggage to pack a proper raincoat, you should absolutely tuck in a small umbrella – or snag one as a lovely London souvenir once you arrive (as my husband did on our most recent trip).
I have an entire list of umbrellas for London; Davek is a fantastic option that comes in many colors and fits in the palm of your hand. Repel is another good option and has windproof features in the event the wind comes up off the Channel during your visit.
I’ll be honest: I feel weird recommending a scarf as – to me – scarves are very personal and depend entirely on my mood, the weather, and the rest of what I’ve packed for the trip.
In any case, you absolutely need a scarf for winter in London. I typically grab my pashmina, similar to the one pictured, as I can wrap it multiple times around my neck and head as needed.
For men, J.Crew has a classic cashmere scarf that’s well worth the splurge.
7. Winter Hat
Whether you don’t pack a scarf big enough or just don’t like the style of wrapping your head like a babushka (as my parents used to say), a winter hat is well worth packing for London in the winter.
For gents, if you’re anything like my husband, you just want a classic beanie, such as this one.
Other Items You Might Also Want
In addition to the items mentioned above that I consider essential, here are some others you might want to pack if you have room in your bag – and especially if you plan to be outside sightseeing, strolling through London’s parks or markets, or attending seasonal events.
- Gloves – A good pair of lined gloves will go a long way to keep your hands warm and comfortable during any time outdoors, especially if the temps are tending toward freezing in the forecast.
- Sunglasses – Many people forget that sunglasses are a great choice for winter too; if it’s been snowing or raining, it’s extra bright on those lovely sunny winter days.
- Wool Socks – Warm socks aren’t necessary for visiting London in the winter, but if you tend toward having cold feet or aren’t packing those boots I recommended above, they are a good choice.
- Sweaters – I love chunky sweaters as much as the next gal, but they’re a pain to pack. If you decide to bring one to help stay warm, try wearing it on the plane so your luggage isn’t too full.
Did I miss any items you think travelers need to pack for London in the winter? Or have extra advice based on your own trip? Let me know in the comments below!