4 Free Things To Do in December in London
Christmas in London gets very colourful while maintaining its “less is more” motto. There are so many free things to do in December. The colourful lights and decorations make the city festive while persuading people to sing a long to Christmas songs everywhere you go. Enjoy the Christmas markets, visit Winter Wonderland, drink mulled wine and feel the cold breeze as you swing yourself in the ice skating rink.
When planning to visit London, make sure you plan what you’re going to see. Although London is an island, there’s just not enough time to visit everything, especially in a short time. Winter in London is as beautiful and as radiant as it is in Summer.
Visit the London Guide for First Time Visitors. This guide is suitable for all seasons.
Does it snow in London in December?
Forget looking online for snowy photos of London, it’ll just disappoint you when you arrive. Snow doesn’t come that much, even if it does, it will rain in between, so you’d only sleet, black ice and wet pavements. Snow can be up to 2 inches thick and may come every 4 years if we’re lucky.
However, London’s weather in December can be up to 9 degrees Celcius (High) and 5 degrees Celcius (low). That can be quite cold for most of us.
What can you do in London with no money?
Below is a list of free things to do in London in December. Although, you’d have to pay to buy merchandise and rides in Winter Wonderland, just being in a festive environment is enough for you to enjoy the experience. Here are some ideas:
Window shopping in Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, John Lewis, Harrods and Liberty. You don’t have to buy anything but just being in there will make you feel a million dollars. Christmas trees are sometimes scattered around the stores, Christmas music could be heard in the background and enjoy carolers singing songs asking for charity donations and seeing the sparkling angels light up in Regent Street, lights reflecting on passing vehicles below. Below are more examples of what you can do in London with no money?
In London, every year, the events are always the same, so you won’t miss out on much if you plan to go next year. So read on to find out the places you can visit in London in December during Christmas.
1. Southbank Winter Market
Southbank Winter Market is one of the markets you should visit when you come to London during Christmas. It’s free to visit (unless you want to buy food, drinks and souvenirs – can be a little expensive). Situated by the River Thames, the Winter Market, Southbank is the best one compared to Leicester Square and Trafalgar Square. In addition the markets, there are various beer gardens scattered by the River Thames as well as two quirky bars, The Circus Bar and the Bar under the Bridge.
You could see the flashing colourful lights and hear what sounds like xylophone music as children laughing and waving as the carousel spins them roung. You could see the bright lights of the Starflyer, you will be swung around in circles up to 70 feet up in the air overlooking London, best to go on at night. Darkness fills the environment, the only colourful light that came were from the rows of stalls and the fairground rides.
I went here with a group of friends, just to hang out. I only bought food from the stalls for £6. Food and drink here costs around £6 – £8. The smell of burger and mustard whiffs through my nose, it made be cough from the strong odour. You could hear it sizzle and crackle in the pan. Smoke fogs the chefs’ faces and it felt warm when you’re the first in line.
Go through the Udderbelly Festival, you will be taken into an enchanted forest, a sign “Christmas Market this way” guides you to more rows of food and drink stalls and several benches in the middle. The night at the Southbank Winter Market felt breezy yet cool. Enjoying the festivity with the community, hearing Christmas songs, smelling the different aromas of street food and window shopping for Christmas gifts are enough for you to enjoy the Southbank Winter Market for free.
2. Christmas Market Leicester Square
The free Christmas Market in Leicester Square is literally similar to the one in Southbank but it’s situated in the middle of the square and it’s much more smaller with less stalls. The surrounding area looked dark and felt as if nothing was going on as you get off the tube station. The square was boarded up and felt like it was closed, the only thing that was visually appealing was the giant oak trees surrounding the Square. It illuminates the Square more. As you reach the entrance, it looked busier than the Southbank Winter Market. Southbank Winter Market felt more intimate although larger.
The items and the food and beverage stalls are more or less the same as the Southbank Winter Market; christmas decorations, winter warmers, mulled wine, fish and chips and many more. The products can be a little expensive, but feel free to go window shopping.
A few people are still walking around Leicester Square going to different places in London. Once you reach the entrance, you’re able to see the hustle and bustle of people window shopping, drinking mulled wine, listening to Christmas music and enjoying the Christmas festivity. Even if you want to go window shopping, you’ll still enjoy the environment.
The extras that you won’t get in Southbank Winter Market are:
Santa’s Grotto – good for children as they’ll get presents each from Santa as they gather in the middle of the grotto.
La Clique circus show – enjoy cabarets, circus and comdy for adults only.
The Christmas market in Trafalgar Square only has 5 stalls.
3. Winter Wonderland London 2020
When you think of Christmas in London, Winter Wonderland is, in my opinion, the best thing about Christmas for all the family. You basically get a huge fun fair in the middle of Hyde Park, the largest in Europe in fact, plus stalls selling mulled wine, fish and chips, burgers and every other hot food and beverage you can think of under the sun.
What can you do for free in Winter Wonderland?
The entrance is free but going on the fair rides, you’d have to pay. The picture above is what it looks like in real life but a bigger version. Just by being there and experiencing the Bavarian themed Winter Wonderland is enough for you to say it’s memorable.
Like the Southbank Winter Market, you could see different coloured Christmas lights and lights from the stalls. Every year, they have a Bavarian Village where you can smell the fresh hot dogs and beef burgers sizzling in the pan from the hundreds of street food stalls. Of course, you’d have to pay for them but at least it’ll keep you warm. Food prices here are between £8 – £10 for burger and chips.
In my opinion, it’s quite expensive and at times, there’s no seating so you’d have to stand up to eat. I must say, the smell is tempting to buy and the juicy taste from the oil coming out of the burger makes you want to have another round.
Compared to 2018, in 2019, Winter Wonderland’s Bavarian theme really stands out. The checked red and white curtains from the various wooden stalls make you feel you’re actually in Bavaria. Chefs and waitresses dressed up in traditional Bavarian costumes. There is also a large seating area enough for 200 people to enjoy hot street food.
“Bavarian Suasages” were written above most of the stalls, some in English and some in German. Statues of Bavarian children in their traditional costumes could be found scattered around Winter Wonderland. You could see several people linking arms and dancing in circles, switching partners as they listen to Christmas music. Another large seating area could be found, this time seating around 400+ people. A man on stage sang classic British music along with some Christmas songs.
Santa’s Grotto and Santa Land were available for the children to enjoy fairground rides. The Big Wheel is bigger than ever in 2019. From the top, you will see crowds of people at the bottom and colourful lights from the rides. You’d assume you’d see the London lights from the top, but beyond Winter Wonderland, it’s all dark.
In my opinion, this is the complete, bigger and better version of all the Christmas markets in London and everyone seems to be in festive spirits even if they weren’t buying anything. It’s the environment that makes it memorable. Check out Winter Wonderland’s website here for more detail.
4. London Christmas Lights 2020
Your trip to London wouldn’t be complete if you haven’ seen the Christmas lights in Regent Street and Oxford Stree. When you want to see Christmas lights in London, there’s so many places to visit during the evening that you just don’t know where to start. First of all, Carnaby Street and Covent Garden Christmas lights are the best spots to visit but start your journey from Oxford Circus.
These are the best routes to see the best Christmas lights.
Start in Oxford Circus, turn right until you see Oxford Circus Station, you will be in Regent Street. The photo you see above is in Regent Street and several angels hang above the street as vehicles pass by, lights reflecting on the car windows and store windows. In one of the alleyways, you will see Carnaby Street Christmas Lights. Carnaby Street worked together with The Project Zero Charity to use eco-friendly materials to make animal and environmental themed Christmas lights.
The Project Zero Charity aims to raise awareness to save the environment.
Go back to Regent Street, walk further up, you will end up in Piccadilly Circus, spend some time here, once you see the Lillywhites, turn right again towards Piccadilly (Street), you will see people gathering in front of a Christmas tree. Go back to Piccadilly Circus and head over to Tottenham Court Road tube and head over to Covent Garden. Covent Garden doesn’t really have that many christmas lights but there’s a large Christmas tree worth checking out.
In 2019, Oxford Street Christmas lights are quite simple but for first time visitors, it can be very festive. Don’t forget to check out the Christmas lights in the side roads. It’s just as beautiful and there’d be less people walking.
Other Christmas lights worth checking are in Kew Gardens and The Enchanted Woodlands and Syon Park. You will walk through different coloured lights in different shapes and sizes. You can also enjoy the tall Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square. These are my favourite picks for next year 2020.
So, is London a good place to visit in December?
I’ve been living here for 20+ years and I would say yes, London is a good place to visit in December. With so many things to do with so little time, you may have to spend at least 7 days to experience Christmas in London. It’s also cheaper to come in December than it is in Summer.
I enjoy watching people go Christmas shopping, the colourful decorations, green, yellow, blue, red and everything in between, twinkling lights at the top of major London streets, window shopping in Christmas markets, screaming your heads off at Winter Wonderland and ice skating in front of London’s major tourist attractions will tempt you to come back to London in December once again. Christmas in London will make your trip memorable.