London: Free and cheap things to do for Christmas


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

London Pub

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 Water Poet in Shoreditch, which gets into the Christmas spirit with seasonal ales and food, while our round-up of favorite London pubs is also a good place to start.

Related: Everything you need to know about raising a pint in a British pub

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 round Trafalgar Square’s enormous Christmas Tree (an annual gift from Norway to London). Four hours of carol singing takes place daily between 11 and 22 December from 4 to 8 pm on weekdays and 2 to 6 pm on weekends. It’s free to attend but donations are encouraged.

Related: 10 free things to do during winter in London

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

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.

Related: How to shop in London without blowing your budget

5. Welcome to Winterville

Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland has been running for years and while it is a family favorite, it’s also known for overcrowding and hefty price tags. But this year sees the launch of its edgier, trendier little sister, Winterville. Open in Hackney’s Victoria Park until January 1st (closed on 25 and 26 December), this dream-like “town” comes complete with a fairground, live entertainment, street food stalls, a hot cider bar and a bustling marketplace. Plus, there’s a full program of pantomime, comedy and free club nights and gigs so you can carry that festive feeling well into the wee hours.

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