London: Free and cheap things to do for Christmas
Trafalgar Square during the holidays. Photo: Jim Crossley
The Christmas lights are sparkling, the temperature has dropped and London town is starting to feel oh so very festive.
While there are tons of “official” Christmas activities to partake in over the next few weeks, you’ll find that many (like the plethora of ice rinks that have popped up in all corners of the capital) don’t really fit within a Cheapo’s budget. From raising a pint at a cheery pub to taking in the view of the famous Christmas lights on Oxford Street, London is a good place to be for Cheapos.
So here are some foolproof ways to embrace the festive spirit without frittering away your Christmas present budget!
Read more about visiting London:
• Here are the 5 best cheap hotels in Central London
• 10 Free things that will make you fall in love with London
• Follow these 25 tips for a much better trip to London
Christmas in London: Fun activities for less
A cozy pub is always a good idea during the holiday season! Photo: chas.
1. The London pub
A favorite retreat at all times of the year, London’s traditional pubs come into their own at Christmas time. Serving up warming mugs of mulled wine and cider while offering some cozy relief from the bitter cold, make the pub your first port of call. Of particular note is the Churchill Arms in Kensington, which gets into the Christmas spirit with holiday decorations everywhere you look, while our round-up of favorite London pubs is also a good place to start.
2. Carolers are caroling
Belting out some carols to your heart’s content is a fun way to feel festive and there’s no better place to do it than around Trafalgar Square’s enormous Christmas Tree (an annual gift from Norway to London). Four hours of carol singing takes place daily from December 9 to 24 (except 14 and 22) from 4 to 9 pm on weekdays and 2 to 7 pm on weekends. It’s free to attend but donations are encouraged.
3. Release your inner child
Whether you have children or not, a trip to Hamleys is a sure-fire way to get into the Christmas spirit. This wonderful toy store, the oldest in the world, buzzes with life and excitement every day of the week but never more so than at Christmas. It has been a Regent Street institution since 1881 but actually started life even earlier, back in 1760. Containing 50,000 toys across seven floors, after a mulled wine in the pub it’s another great pit stop to get some welcome respite from the cold.
Harrods all lit up for the holiday season. Photo:
4. Light up London
Another free and festive activity is to take in London’s best illuminations and decorations, which you’ll find all over the city. Oxford Street and Regent Street have the biggest light displays, but nearby Carnaby and South Molten Streets, as well as St Christopher’s Place, always boast some truly magical creations. The Christmas tree and decorations in Covent Garden piazza are another must-sees, while you can enjoy the fantastic window displays at classy shops like Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Fortnum & Mason, and Selfridges without having to fork out any cash at all.
5. Welcome to Winter Wonderland
Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland has been running for years and while it is a family favorite, it’s also known for big crowds and hefty price tags. The fun runs daily through January 5th, 10 am to 10 pm (closed on December 25th). A few other Christmas activities to take note of are Winter at Southbank Centre and Christmas in Leicester Square with a lively market and shows inside a 1920s spiegeltent.
Have you been to London during the holidays? Let us know your favorite cheap and free things to do at Christmas time!