London is bustling with people in summer as well as in winter. Of course, it’s more agreeable to stroll through parks on a beautiful summer day but London is more known for its rain. That’s why I thought why not go during winter time and therefore have more reason to go warm up in one of London’s many pubs?
Three more reasons why London on Christmas and New Year’s Eve is a hot spot
- It’s supposed to have the best NYE fireworks of Europe
- There are many cute outdoor Christmas decorations
- All the outdoor markets are busy with people even in wintertime. But it’s just more romantic with a few mistletoes and the smell of mulled wine in the air
Things to do in London on Christmas or New Year’s Eve
- Watch the fireworks
Duh, of course. But bear in mind that they sell out very quickly each year. If you decide to go to London on New Year’s Eve, mark the date in the calendar on which the tickets start selling on this website in November. The fireworks are amazing with an additional music and laser show.
As an alternative, go to Primrose Hill in Regents park. You can walk there from Camden town and enjoy a nice dinner at the lovely market or in one of the many restaurants there. We even easily found a space in a pub to bridge the time until midnight. I heard that this can be quite a difficult task in other parts of town.
- Take a stroll through different markets
In wintertime, London’s outdoor markets are not only open but they are decorated with Christmas trees and other ornaments. Since the markets are still crowded with people, it’s not as cold as on the other streets. I loved Borough Market and Camden market. They are both covered and you can even enjoy the different cuisines in snow and rain. Of course, I had to try some famous fish and chips and while typing this it makes my mouth water and I wished I could have some more.
- Watch a Broadway show
A few years ago I watched Billie Elliot in London, which was absolutely amazing. This time, we watched Aladin. The show was very colorful and the Genie very entertaining and definitely worth seeing. However, on the night we saw the play, I found that Jasmin’s voice couldn’t match the one I know from the songs from the movie. Plus, our visit to the theater involved some excitement because during the break, the fire alarm went off and the whole theater had to be evacuated. My boyfriend heroically went back into the theater to get our jackets (he had left his passport in there :S), but while we had to wait outside in the subzero temperatures and I looked at the other girls in their short dresses, I was glad nevertheless that we didn’t have to freeze. 10 minutes later, we could all go back inside and they continued the show without mentioning what of if anything had happened.
- Try different ales in the pubs
In this cold and from all the walking around it’s good to sit down in a cozy place once in a while and London’s pubs are good places to do this. We also liked the coffee shop chain “Pret a manger” because they had good coffees and teas but only cost half as much as Starbucks.
- Visit a free museum
This is one of the best things in London because there are several free museums in town!! You can donate whatever you want and get to enter these nice buildings and look at masterful art or learn about history. Last time I was in London, I went to the National Gallery. It was such a big museum that we couldn’t look at everything. This time, we took a bus to St. Paul’s Cathedral and then walked over the millennium bridge, which is a sight on its own. On the other side we landed right in front of the Tate Modern and it wasn’t even crowded! There were several pictures of Picasso and Monet and from the balcony you can have a nice view over the city (if it’s not as foggy as it was when we were there).
- Do a free walking tour
I love Sandman’s new Europe walking tours and have already joined one in several cities. They are always very entertaining and at the same time informative. The one in London was one of the best ones because London is so rich in history and has so many beautiful buildings. Here again, you just pay whatever you think is appropriate in the end.
3 Tips for London on Christmas or NYE
- Bring all the warm clothes you possess They don’t seem to know heating in London and all the restaurants, pubs and other rooms will feel almost the same as outside. Even in the apartment we stayed they only heated up the living room because that’s where most people spend time together.
- Change the money or withdraw it somewhere in the city center. There really is a difference to the airport prices
- Buy an Oyster Card for public transport as soon as you arrive. If you want to explore the city you will use public transport and the Oyster Card will definitely be worth it.
Where to stay in London
Frankly, I’ve only heard negative stories about London hostels. The one I stayed at a few years ago felt like a mass processing factory and hotels are horrendously expensive but they don’t even have good reviews. Obviously they are able to afford this because despite that, thousands of visitors come to London each day. Perhaps the best option for a normal budget is to go with an Airbnb. There are some places with quite good reviews. The one I picked had good reviews as well but unfortunately, the apartment was tiny and crammed full with their friends who came to London for NYE as well. Plus, our bedroom was freezing cold. To end on a good note; it did give us 30min of sightseeing on a red double decker bus, every time we rode to or from the city center and these iconic busses are a fun experience on their own.
What’s your tip for London on New Year’s Eve or during Christmas time? Have you found a good and affordable place to stay in London?