A Guide to London in Wintertime

The Giant Wheel in Winter Wonderland is the tallest transportable wheel in the world
The Giant Wheel in Winter Wonderland is the tallest transportable wheel in the world | © Roger Cracknell 01 / classic / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Josephine Platt
Commissioning Editor16 December 2019

Culture Trip has teamed up with Hyde Park Winter Wonderland to chart the very best winter sights and attractions in London. To celebrate these highlights, a limited-edition map will be handed out at the Giant Wheel in Hyde Park Wonderland – click here for more details and to book tickets to this ultimate Christmas destination.

London is a city of icons – from the Royal Albert Hall to St Paul’s Cathedral, its landmarks are among the most recognised in the world.

In its snowy parks, festively decorated streets and cosy pubs, London at Christmas is a wonderful place to be. Discover what to do and where to go in our guide to London over the Christmas period.

Winter Wonderland

Park, Museum
Map View
Winter Wonderland
London's Winter Wonderland returns every year for two months | © amer ghazzal / Alamy Stock Photo

Popping up in Hyde Park, the largest of London’s four Royal Parks, Winter Wonderland signals that the festive season is well and truly under way. Something of a mini city within the city, this annual event is home to a number of Christmas-themed activities. Kick off your Christmas shopping at fairy-lit, Bavarian-style wooden chalets, which sell handmade crafts, culinary treats and more; skate around the UK’s largest outdoor ice rink; and take to the world’s tallest transportable wheel for great skyline views. This year’s Winter Wonderland runs until 5 January 2020, so be quick to make it down.

Saatchi Gallery

Art Gallery, Market, Museum
Map View
Saatchi Gallery
Some 1.5 million people visit the Saatchi Gallery every year | © Ros Drinkwater / Alamy Stock Photo

When scoping out King’s Road, the Saatchi Gallery is the place to go if you have a penchant for up-and-coming art talent. Its raison d’être is showcasing contemporary artworks by emerging artists or international artists who are little known on the London circuit, meaning you’ll be among the first to see these works. Best of all, it’s free to enter!

Portobello Market

Market
Map View
Portobello Road Market, London.
© Gregory Wrona / Alamy Stock Photo
The largest antiques market in the world, Notting Hill’s Portobello Road is frequented by over 1,000 dealers, all selling one-of-a-kind pieces. But it doesn’t stop at antiques: vintage clothes, vinyl records, books and food render this half-mile-long market a treasure trove. It runs every day apart from Sunday, with Friday and Saturday the best days to find great antiques.

Borough Market

Market, American, Asian, European, South American, Caribbean, Street Food, Gluten-free, Vegan, Vegetarian
Map View
An array of vendors sell their goods at Borough Market
© PjrTravel / Alamy Stock Photo

Borough Market is London’s original foodie destination. The first record of a market on this site is from the 12th century, and Borough Market officially opened in 1851. Over 100 stalls stocked with local and international produce make this market a must-visit. Travel light with an empty tote bag so you can stock up on cheeses, pastries, jams and all kinds of culinary delights.

Shakespeare’s Globe, London

Building, Theatre
Map View
Shakespeare's Globe theatre at Bankside, London. Shakespeare’s Globe is a reconstruction of the Globe Theatre
© UrbanImages / Alamy Stock Photo
A reconstruction of the Globe Theatre of Shakespeare’s time, this Globe, on the South Bank, brings the Bard’s works to life for a new generation. Much like the original venue, where Shakespeare’s plays were first produced, this cultural attraction is a renowned performing-arts institution. Plan your visit around its upcoming shows, and book a guided tour to learn more about the past of the legendary Globe Theatre.

St Paul’s Cathedral, London

Building, Cathedral, Church
Map View
St Pauls cathedral, London.
St Paul’s Cathedral sits on Ludgate Hill at the highest point of the City of London | © Philip Sayer / Alamy Stock Photo
Having stood in London for 1,400 years, St Paul’s Cathedral has seen it all. A Grade I-listed building that sits on one of the highest points in the city, this landmark inspires awe in many visitors. Opt for a tour to uncover its fascinating history before enjoying the art in its galleries.

Natural History Museum

Building, Museum
Map View
A blue whale skeleton greets visitors to the Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum is one of three major museums on Exhibition Road in South Kensington | © Ian Thraves / Alamy Stock Photo

If human evolution and the history of prehistoric reptiles fascinate you, a trip to the Natural History Museum should be on your London agenda. Over 80 million specimens, stretching back billions of years, come together under its gargantuan roof. Among these fossils are part of the first Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton to have been discovered and the skull of a plant-eating Triceratops.

The Royal Academy of Arts

Museum, School, Art Gallery
Map View
The Royal Academy of Arts hosts a number of exhibitions
For 250 years, the Royal Academy of Arts has championed art and artists | © Steve Vidler / Alamy Stock Photo

Going strong for 250 years, the Royal Academy of Arts has served as an incubator of talent, showcasing art from visionaries in its many exhibitions. Multiple exhibitions run parallel at any given time, so hours can be spent getting lost here.

Royal Albert Hall

Building, Concert Hall, School
Map View
Royal Albert Hall
The Royal Albert Hall is held in trust for the nation and managed by a registered charity | © Simon Hart / Alamy Stock Photo
The stage of this world-famous auditorium has been graced by some of the biggest names in arts, culture and politics. Sir Winston Churchill and Albert Einstein both took to the stage to speak, while the hall has also hosted the BBC Proms since 1941. Retrace this rich history with a venue tour or plan your visit around one of its upcoming events.

Barbican Centre

Museum, Music Venue
Map View
The Barbican Centre in London.
The Barbican Centre pushes the boundaries of all major art forms | © Nicola Ferrari RF / Alamy Stock Photo
A bastion of Brutalist architecture, the exterior of the Barbican Centre is iconic in its own right. Inside, its roster of contemporary arts – like theatre performances, exhibitions and cinema screenings – pushes the boundaries of creativity. Leave a good few hours to explore all that this East London destination has to offer.

Regent’s Park

Park
Map View
Regents Park in Winter
Regent’s Park contains Regent’s University London and the London Zoo | © Ian Mears / Alamy Stock Photo
On a par with the cultural attractions of the city is northwest London’s Regent’s Park. Trace it through numerous gardens that are unique for their wildlife, fountains and statues, before heading to London Zoo to get up close and personal with 755 species of animals.
These recommendations were updated on December 16, 2019 to keep your travel plans fresh.