December is a great month to take a trip to London. There are plenty of things to do to enjoy the festive season.
Our two London residents have put together the important things to know and prepare for when you are planning your trip to London, including:
- What should wear in December?
- How about the weather? Will it snow a lot?
- What to do and what not to do?
- What are the best attractions and Christmas markets?
Is December a Good Time to Visit London?
December is a beautiful time to visit London. While the weather is colder and busier during the month, the city is bustling with Christmas celebrations and lit up with bright lights. There will be something to see everywhere you turn, and all Christmas markets are in full swing.
From the Regent Street angels to the Kew Gardens light displays and the carnival-inspired installations on Carnaby Street, it’s a beautiful atmosphere in the city.
Tourists from across the world descend to London throughout December to celebrate the holidays, so you will find that the city is much busier than in previous months. December will see the annual Winter Wonderland return in full swing. It is the ultimate Christmas activity that is open everyday throughout the month. Stations around Hyde Park, such as Hyde Park Corner, Marble Arch, and Bond Street will be really busy, especially in the evening.
Christmas shopping: There are also plenty of Christmas markets throughout the city centre and beyond to buy your Christmas gifts and warm up with some mulled wine. Famous department stores such as Liberty, Selfridges, and Harrods create wonderful Christmas displays and exhibitions to get you in the festive spirit.
December Quick Facts
- Attractions: You are never short of things to do in London, especially in December. On top of the main attractions, there are themed activities all over the city, Christmas theatre shows, and plenty of festive food and drinks to try.
- Crowds: Be prepared for a huge increase in foot traffic across the city during December. The streets, tube stations, and popular attractions will be busier than in other months, so allow more time to hit up all of the points on your agenda.
- Christmas: If you celebrate Christmas, London is alive with Christmas markets, ice skating rinks, and decorations. Main streets throughout Central London will be lit up to mark the occasion.
December marks the start of winter, and the weather will drop slightly compared to the previous month. However, if you’re hoping for a white Christmas, thick snow doesn’t usually fall until January.
December is cold, with temperatures dropping to under 10°C (50°F). There will be frosty, rainy days and also dry periods. As the month progresses, the weather will get progressively colder as it gets closer to Christmas and New Year. On average, December has 10 rainy days. Snow is typically light.
Despite this, there is something comforting and exciting about wrapping up in jumpers, coats, scarves, and gloves and walking around the Christmas markets of London with a hot cup of cocoa with your friends and family.
The average high temperatures during December usually reach 9°C (48°F) and lows of around 5°C (41°F). There can be variations in the average high temperatures, however, depending on the time of the month you go:
- Early December: 10°C (50°F)
- Mid-December: 9°C (48°F)
- Late December: 6°C (43°F)
The chance of rain gradually increases throughout the month, from 30% at the start of December to 32% towards the end. It is likely that at some point during your trip, you will experience some rainfall, so it is recommended that you take waterproofs and plan for some indoor activities if you don’t like being outdoors in the rain.
In December, you will need to be wrapped up for most of the day, especially in the mornings. They can get frosty, and temperatures can get very low. Wearing hats and scarves in the morning will be needed with a thick coat, and then in the afternoon, you may be able to take off the accessories.
Typical daily temperature progression during a day in mid-December:
- Early Morning: 5°C (41°F)
- Morning: 9°C (48°F)
- Afternoon: 10°C (50°F)
- Evening: 6°C (43°F)
Tip: If you get cold easily, walking around this busy city and going underground to use the trains will raise your body temperature.
Chances of Snow
Snow can fall during December however it is usually only light snow for a couple of days, and it doesn’t usually stick. The last big snowfall recorded in London during December was in 1999.
November weather visitor reports:
- “Shorter days and cold, wet weather. But if you’re planning to visit near Christmas, the stores will be dressed for Christmas, and there are lots of lights and trees.”
- “In December, it might be cold, or it might be unseasonably warm. Wear layers and if you feel cold, spend most of your time in museums and other indoor places.”
What to Wear and Pack
Travelling around London in December, you should wear layers. If you get cold easily, pack thermals and layer up with a t-shirt, jumper, coat, and scarf. If you get warm throughout the day, wear a long-sleeve t-shirt, coat, and a hat, so you can take off the jacket.
💡 It is important to bring enough layers or thermals to keep you warm throughout your visit in December.
A raincoat might also be another idea, along with a woolly hat and a scarf. It can be fairly mild but also damp.
Visitor opinion: Layers are the way to go. You should be warm and toasty with a base layer of a cotton long sleeve top, then a thicker wool jumper. For walking outdoors, add a windproof and waterproof long jacket.
Although the temperatures in December dip, it is still not freezing, so you may feel warmer throughout the day. This is the ideal time to walk around the Christmas markets, absorbing all the aromas and browsing the stalls. It is not extremely cold, so you will be able to relax and spend enough time outside.
For going out, bring a purse or small bag. For longer city explorations during the day, we always use a larger bag for water, wallet, phone, and hand sanitizer. Tip: London is one of the world’s hot spots where tourists are getting pickpocketed! That’s why we highly recommend a bag with anti-theft features (see our two tips above!).
- T-shirts/ long-sleeve tops
- Long-sleeve Shirts
- Thick coat
- Rainproof jacket
- Trainers/walking boots
- Long-sleeve dresses
- Backpack or shoulder bag
- Warm hat, gloves, scarf
- Hand sanitiser
- Antibacterial wipes
- UK travel adapter (3 pin plug)
Crowds and Rates – Is it Busy?
December is renowned for being one of the busiest months in London. The capital city attracts visitors from all over the country and all over the world during the festive season. The atmosphere is incredible with busy shops, bustling streets, and fun attractions.
You will find that Oxford Street, Bond Street, Covent Garden, and Knightsbridge are busier than usual with everyone enjoying Christmas shopping. Restaurants and bars get booked far in advance with Christmas meals and work events, so it is important to remember to make reservations at the restaurants you want to try.
As well as Christmas, New Year’s Eve is one of the busiest days of the year in the city. Thousands of people gather on the South Bank to watch the firework display at the London Eye and celebrate the New Year. Be prepared for tube stations, buses, and taxis to be extra busy after midnight.
Rates: Hotels and airfare in December will be considerably more expensive throughout December, with the last week of the month being even more expensive as people spend Christmas Day and New Year in the city. Book as far in advance as you can to try and get some better deals.
Things to Do
December is a fun time to visit London. Although the temperatures have dropped slightly compared to previous months, the city is packed full of things to do to keep you busy. Stroll around Trafalgar Square or the South Bank Christmas markets. Head over to Liberty on Oxford Street for the best Christmas department and buy decorations to fill your tree.
Popular attractions such as The Tower of London and St Pauls are still open for tours throughout the month. You can see Buckingham Palace and the changing of the Guards from the outside, but the tours only run until October. There are various other indoor activities as well that we have listed below.
Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland
Although it is outdoors, no trip to London in December is complete without a visit to Winter Wonderland. Set across Hyde Park, the attraction is open from November to January and consists of exciting rides, market stalls, bars, games and food stalls. It is the perfect activity for friends and families alike with something there for everyone to enjoy. Be prepared for queues however. At peak times, the queues could be up to 30 minutes, so try avoiding weekends if you want to skip the wait.
There are also plenty of pop-up ice rinks across the city to enjoy. Hampton Court Palace, Winter Wonderland, Somerset House, and Skylight to name a few. Similar to the restaurants, it is recommended that you book your time slot in advance, as this is one of the most popular winter activities in the city.
Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio Tour
Do you love the film Harry Potter? Step into the magic by visiting the Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio Tour and experience authentic sets, real costumes and behind-the-scenes secrets. Walk the streets of Diagon Alley, sit at the table of the Great Hall, wander around Dumbledoor’s office and take your own ride on a magical broom. This is the perfect activity for December when the weather is turning cooler and you are looking for a fun, indoor activity.
London’s SEA LIFE is home to more than 500 species of marine life from green turtles to seahorses and 10 different species of sharks. Watch as they swim below your feet and above your head in the glass tunnel and suspended glass platform, getting closer to the animals than you ever have before. Set across three floors and 14 themed zones, SEA LIFE is a fun day out for kids and adults alike.
Get up close and personal with international celebrities at London’s wax figure museum. Stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Beyonce, Rihanna, Ed Sheeran and even the Royal Family! December is the ideal time to go when it is cold or raining outside and you want to be in the warmth of the indoors. With the magic of Christmas around the corner, what better way to celebrate than enjoying the magic of ‘meeting’ your favourite celebrity.
Westminster Abbey and Houses of Parliament Tour
Within one tour, you can visit two of London’s most famous spots, Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament. Begin your day touring the Westminster Abbey, the royal church which has been the site for coronations since 1066 and the place where Prince William and Kate Middleton wed. Then, explore the Houses of Parliament, the centre of British politics where you can see the Houses of Commons, House of Lords and Westminster Hall.