Wonderful Things To Do in London in Winter
London is a vibrant city all year round, but it’s exceptionally charming in the winter. While hot weather in the summertime usually brings crowds to the capital, in the winter you can expect cool temperatures, fewer people, and plenty of festive cheer.
Because London’s weather is quite unpredictable, most of its attractions are open year-round. But it rarely gets too cold here. Usually, it’s mild enough to explore with an extra layer or two. Plus there are a few indoor options if the cold really bites. Visiting London in winter, you may find cheaper flights and hotel deals, fewer lines at attractions, and a more local feel to the whole city.
Here are a few of the best things to do in London in winter.
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See history come to life at the Tower of London, and explore the Crown Jewels exhibition
There are few buildings in the world as historically significant as the Tower of London. Built over 900 years ago, it’s had a long history and many uses since then. It’s been used as a prison, the royal mint, and a zoo, and is now one of London’s most popular attractions.
Book a Tower of London experience that includes the Crown Jewels exhibition to see these wonderful pieces as you learn about the tower’s fascinating history.
See the festive makeover at the Warner Bros Studio Tour London — The Making of Harry Potter
This is one of the more contemporary attractions in London, but it’s undoubtedly one of the best places to visit for any Harry Potter fans — and one of the best things to do in London in winter. The Warner Bros Studio Tour takes place in the filming studios of the popular franchise. The sets get a festive makeover every winter, so you can expect to see Diagon Alley dusted with snow, and the Hogwarts dining hall filled with Christmas trees. Even if you’ve visited before, it’s a whole new world during the holidays.
Tickets are booked up months in advance, so make sure to book your “Harry Potter” experience early to avoid disappointment.
Get a bird’s-eye view of London from The Shard
The Shard is the tallest building in the UK, designed by Renzo Piano and resembling an enormous shard of glass. It is 310 meters (1,017 feet) tall.
The lines are often very long, which is where buying a skip-the-line ticket ahead of your visit comes in handy. You’ll whizz straight past the ticket line and head to the 72nd floor, where you can catch an incredible view over the city. London’s short winter days mean you can catch the sunset at around 4:00 PM in winter and see the city light up. The perfect pre-dinner activity.
Take a full-day tour of the Cotswolds
While London is an incredible place to visit, there’s so much more to the UK than just its capital. To make the most of your time here, take a full-day tour from London to the Cotswolds.
Famous for its chocolate-box villages with charming thatched-roof cottages, the Cotswolds is a hilly area in the west of England that looks like it’s straight out of all those charming British movies. It’s the perfect winter day trip from London, with pretty houses and cozy pubs where you can enjoy a pint and a roast dinner by the fire.
Take a full-day Cotswolds tour and explore this area with a knowledgeable local guide, who will explain the history and take you to the best photo spots. The Cotswolds is packed in the summer months, but its quaint vibe makes it one of the best places to visit in England in winter, and tours run year-round.
Visit Windsor and its 1,000-year-old castle
Windsor Castle is certainly one for the bucket list, and if you’re interested in British history or the royal family it’s a must-see. Windsor Castle is the oldest residential castle in the world, built in 1070, and is the final resting place of Queen Elizabeth II.
It’s an ideal winter day trip from London, with the State Apartments featuring statuesque Christmas trees, and the 20-foot tall Christmas tree in St George’s Hall.
You can easily reach Windsor Castle by public transport; just take a train from Waterloo to Windsor (which takes about 45 minutes). However, once you’ve traveled to get there, you won’t want to stand in line to get tickets. Luckily, you can purchase your tickets in advance and skip the line completely.
Take a spin in the London Eye
The London Eye was originally meant to be in its position on the South Bank temporarily, but it was loved so much that it was granted a permanent license. It is the tallest observation wheel in Europe, and was the tallest in the world when it was built.
Rides take 30 minutes, and you can see sights like Big Ben, Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace, and even all the way to Windsor Castle on a clear day.
Like London’s other attractions, lines can be long for the London Eye. So I recommend securing your tickets beforehand.
Learn about the city’s gruesome past at the London Dungeon
One of the scarier attractions in the city, the London Dungeon is a jumpy experience that immerses you in some of the more gruesome parts of the capital’s story. Expect actors jumping out at you and gory tales of the Great Fire of London, the Gunpowder Plot, and Jack the Ripper.
You can purchase your tickets to the London Dungeon online so you’ll have them ahead of time and don’t need to stress about securing your place on the day.
Indulge in a cozy afternoon tea: the perfect thing to do in London in winter
There’s nothing quite as British as afternoon tea. It’s a meal that consists of tea, scones, cakes, and sandwiches and is served mid-afternoon, between lunch and dinner.
If the weather isn’t so kind during your winter trip to London, afternoon tea is a must. There are plenty of establishments all over the capital that serve afternoon tea, from small tearooms to five-star hotels.
One of the best is the afternoon tea experience at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. With glittering chandeliers and marble decor, this is one of the most glamorous spots to enjoy this British tradition. Food-wise, expect a handcrafted menu created by famous baker Lily Vanilli.
Explore St Paul’s Cathedral
One of the most impressive religious buildings in the UK, St Paul’s Cathedral in its current form was designed by Christopher Wren in the 17th century. There are plenty of interesting spots inside, including the 528 steps to reach the top of the dome for spectacular views both inside and out.
Like many other attractions in London, it pays to plan in advance and book your tickets ahead of time. You can reserve your tickets online to avoid any lines to ascend the dome.
Go back in time at Westminster Abbey
Dating back to 1245, Westminster Abbey is the other main religious site in London. It’s worth seeing the grand structure of Westminster Abbey; it’s an architectural marvel and has a pivotal place in UK history.
In fact, some of the country’s most cherished people, such as Geoffery Chaucer, Isaac Newton, and Elizabeth I, are buried here. You can walk around the abbey and see memorials to each of these British characters and hundreds more.
Visiting Westminster Abbey in December is even more of a quintessential London winter experience. You’ll be greeted by a huge, glittering pine tree before you even enter, with the famous nativity scene and another majestic Christmas tree inside.
Another point of interest in Westminster Abbey is the coronation chair. Every British king and queen since 1399 has sat in this chair to be crowned. It will next be used for the coronation of King Charles III.