London in the wintertime isn’t usually known for wonderful weather, but it can absolutely be known for its scenic street decorations, festive activities, and intriguing events! In addition, the drearier weather keeps tourist crowds at bay and invites London to reveal its more authentic side with locals going about their day-to-day lives. You can be part of the local crowd and experience London’s authentic side too when you choose to stay in a furnished apartment or vacation rental owned by a true Londoner! The time couldn’t be better to book a trip to London (prices often are reduced during the winter season), and spending the holidays in London gives you boundless ways to enjoy the beautiful Christmas season as well. Step, sled or skate into our winter guide!
The best seasonal sightseeing in London
When December begins, the mighty amount of holiday spirit that London puts forth in its special decorations is enough to chase away anyone’s winter chill. Keep an eye out for numerous major London attractions that receive a spirited makeover in time for the holidays! Trafalgar Square is a great place to start your holiday sightseeing, as the plaza will host a large menorah for the celebration of Hanukkah from December 2-10, and a huge Christmas tree beginning December 6. Your visit to Trafalgar Square can be made extra magical with the potential to hear some caroling at the Christmas concerts that happen periodically throughout the season.
London also has numerous popular shopping streets and markets that are known for their holiday decorations! Covent Garden Market is decorated according to a theme every year, with displays of large Christmas balls and greenery hanging from the ceiling. Leadenhall Market in City also gets a special touch of holiday cheer thanks to traditional lights and Christmas trees that complement the ornate facades of the market’s shops.
To experience the best of London’s holiday decorations in the open air, visit a famous shopping street like Carnaby Street or Regent Street. Regent Street decorates with a postcard-worthy display of light-up decorations slung overhead across the street, while Carnaby Street shakes things up with a different themed display every year that is often the most distinctive display in the city. Both streets are in the West End and are great for boutiques and department stores alike. Make the West End your holiday shopping destination and you’ll be excited for the season in no time at all thanks to all the festive touches!
Speaking of department stores, don’t miss the chance to take a peek in some of some of London’s best holiday window displays! Signature department stores like Harrod’s, Selfridges, Liberty London and Harvey Nichols are known for some of the best displays in London, though you can also find some beautiful windows at designer boutiques like Tiffany & Co.
If you prefer a break from consumerism, but still want some winter charm, why not visit one of London’s parks during their quietest season? Our top recommendation for winter is Richmond Park, which is famous for its herds of fallow deer. See if you can spot any of them in the park to add a quaint touch to the scenic area.
Sightseeing involves a lot of walking that can leave you quite exhausted at the end of the day, so a vacation rental with a super cozy bedroom like this one in Southwark is essential! Everything about this 2-bedroom vacation rental is sure to keep you snug during the winter season, particularly the trademark exposed brick and wood beams throughout the apartment. Both bedrooms have a double bed and large windows with drapes or blinds in place, so you can adjust the amount of light to your fancy and sleep as late as you’d like! Did you pick up any holiday treats on your shopping trip? One of the best parts of a vacation rental is the ability to enjoy access to a full kitchen for preparing or enjoying your own meals. The open layout of this apartment also makes it the perfect rental for a winter vacation, since you can spend plenty of time in the living area surrounded by the warmth of a good conversation with your travel companions.
Enjoy festive fun at special London holiday events
If chilly temperatures make it difficult to coax you outside, you should definitely travel to London—the city has enough activities to cure even the most severe case of winter blues! One of the biggest events is Hyde Park Winter Wonderland (November 22-January 6), a winter fair with ice skating, amusement rides, children’s activities, ice sculpture displays, a holiday market and the opportunity to meet Santa Claus. The fair also takes place in Hyde Park, one of the largest and most popular parks in London that is definitely worth a visit during your trip.
If you’re interested in exploring another winter market for some unique shopping, try the South Bank winter market at South Bank Centre. The market is one of the largest winter markets in London and features one-of-a-kind artisan gifts, fresh produce and holiday treats to browse and shop, as well as live music.
When the sun goes down, light up your night with a magical holiday experience at Kew Gardens! The Royal Kew Gardens are a 300-acre conservatory for plants and flowers, but when it gets too cold for anything to grow outdoors, the gardens transform for Christmas at Kew. There’s bound to be one sight among the fabulous light displays, decorated trees, sculptures and installations that will put you in the London holiday spirit!
Come home to your own proper winter paradise in this 1-bedroom furnished apartment in Mayfair. The space maintains a posh and airy vibe thanks to its modern interior and chic furnishings. Cozy details like plush seating and a decorative fireplace will add warmth to the space, and you can revel in the comfort of the elegant bathroom with a claw-footed tub, optimal for a spa-like retreat. Enjoy a cup of English tea in the classic parlor and recharge before you head out for more holiday fun (the neighborhood of Mayfair puts you extremely close to much of London’s best holiday shopping, as well as Hyde Park!).
Festive and family-friendly ways to explore London this winter
Be sure to bring the whole family along on a trip to London in the winter! Beyond the family-friendly activities like the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park and seeing dazzling lights, there’s a great way to get active: outdoor ice skating at various rinks around London! The rink at Somerset House is our top recommendation, as the rink is specially lit at night, features a stunning Christmas tree, a DJ, and you can skate around a historical building in a setting that’s distinctly “London.” Not your cup of tea? There are plenty of other ice rinks to visit around the city (at least one is sure to be near your apartment rental).
Want to do something festive and educational? Try visiting a specially-selected museum for the Christmas season! The Geffrye Museum hosts a special exhibit during the holiday season that presents living room vignettes designed to reflect the typical holiday decorating style in different eras throughout history. Also, you can visit the Charles Dickens Museum to familiarize yourself with some London literature and see how the famous author of the beloved story A Christmas Carol may have celebrated the holidays.
If your dream family vacation takes you to London this year, you can find a terrific place to stay in this 2-bedroom furnished apartment in Kensington. Everything about this rental is guaranteed to give the family enough space to spread out and stay happy: it’s a duplex, it has 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms (as well as an additional half bath), and the kids won’t even have to share a bed! Bedroom 2 comes furnished with two single beds that give every member of a family of four their own personal space. Speaking of space, gathering areas like the living room are just as spacious, with enough seating for everyone, a dining table, and a large bay window to brighten the room’s tranquil winter-white look.
Bright ways to celebrate longer nights
As a new year begins and the days get longer and colder, you might be tempted to shut yourself inside, but if you do you’ll miss the great festivals and celebrations in London during the winter season! The spectacular Magical Lantern Festival is the first thing to see, on display from November 24-January 1. The festival in Chiswick Gardens features installations of beautiful silk lanterns in the shape of animals, flowers, reindeer and more, as well as amusement rides and food. If you want to see more art in action, visit the London Art Fair from January 16-20 to experience a vast display of works of art to view or buy.
In this day and age, one of the most distinctive features of London is what an extraordinary melting pot the city has become. Take advantage of the opportunity to celebrate London’s diverse culture with two events: Burns Night on January 25, and Chinese New Year on February 10! Burns Night, a traditional Scottish celebration of the life of poet Robert Burns, is celebrated at various restaurants and bars around London with a traditional dinner of haggis and potatoes and servings of Scottish whiskey (check to see if a restaurant close to your apartment is celebrating!). In the case of Chinese (Lunar) New Year, you can head to London’s West End for a day of celebration featuring performers, traditional Chinese music and food, and a colorful parade. London’s Chinese New Year celebration is the largest in the world outside of Asia! While you’re in the West End, why not catch a live show?
If winter is putting you in a gloomy mood, brighten things up with a splash of color! Try the second run of Lumiere London from January 18-20, a nightly festival that transforms the streets of London into an illuminated art gallery! More than 50 light-based sculptures and installations will adorn the area north and south of the Thames River. Otherwise, you can head back to Kew Gardens after the holidays are over for the annual Orchid Festival from February 10-March 11. The garden will be transformed with thousands of brightly-colored orchid displays paying tribute to Thai culture. Orchids are also tropical flowers, so expect it to be a nice warm escape inside the garden’s greenhouses!
Stay in this 1-bedroom furnished apartment in Chelsea through the winter to keep your living space bright and cheery! The apartment has beautiful wood floors and neat molding in addition to a decorative fireplace to give the space a sense of modern luxury. The contemporary furniture and artwork is carefully selected to add bold purple pops of color and liven up the space, and the full kitchen is a bright and cheerful shade of yellow! You’ll also be provided with plenty of space to move around thanks to the floor plan which comfortably accommodates a queen-sized bed. Even when the late winter weather is not so nice, you’ll have the comfort of a beautifully furnished and open apartment rental to do anything your heart desires, from watching a movie to preparing a hot meal in the kitchen.
No matter what you’re expecting to find in London this winter, the city’s activities are sure to go beyond. You can marvel at the beautiful decorations and magical shop windows, find the perfect gift at a holiday market, and participate in one of the jubilant celebrations or art exhibits that spring forward even at the coldest time of year. In fact, the only thing you may struggle to do is fit it all into your schedule! Fortunately, New York Habitat has apartments to accommodate short-term and long-term visitors alike—get in touch with us and start planning your trip to London’s winter wonderland.