Although it may have a lot to offer in the warmer months, winter in London is unlike anywhere else in the world and still welcomes legions of travelers during the festive season. From iconic ice skating rinks and fireworks displays to bustling markets and hundreds of cosy pubs, the city really does come alive in winter and very much has its own unique character.
However, with so much to see and do, those travelling on a budget may be worried about how much they can realistically squeeze in. This is why we’ve put together a list of 5 amazing things you can see and do in London this winter for under a tenner.
So, if you’re looking to get the very most out of your London trip without breaking the bank, check out our recommendations below.
WHAT'S COVERED IN THIS GUIDE?
1. Get your skates on at Somerset House
Somerset House is a vast, spectacular arts and cultural centre right in the heart of London between the Strand and the River Thames. Built in the 18th century to house government departments, the building now regularly hosts an eclectic array of events and exhibitions. In winter the beautiful courtyard is magically transformed into an ice rink enclosed by superb classical facades. It’s great fun for everyone, casually doing your best to remain upright in the middle of 900 square metres of ice, and there’s always an infectious Christmassy atmosphere. In fact, this iconic attraction actually featured in the opening shots of Love, Actually which makes it perfect for a romantic London outing during the wintery months. The rink is open from 17 November until 2 January, with hourly sessions between 10am and 10.15pm (sometimes earlier, sometimes later).
Price: From £7.50 when booked in advance.
2. Check out the Lord Mayor’s show and fireworks.
Because it’s such an extravagant, cosmopolitan, utterly over-the-top affair, it would be all too easy to assume that the annual Lord Mayor’s Show was a relatively modern tradition. Admittedly, back in the 13th century the parade may not have featured 7,000 international performers, 200 horses or 150 floats in an explosion of music and colour on quite this scale, but it’s always been a huge spectacle. On the morning of 12 November at 8.30am, a vast floating river pageant will set off from near Westminster Bridge, floating slowly downriver. Following this at 11am, the performers, dancers and acrobats will begin to snake in procession from Bank to Aldgate via St. Paul’s Cathedral, all returning to their starting point via Queen Victoria Street by around 2.30pm. As night draws in and to finish of the day, be sure to join the revellers congregating on the Victoria Embankment and South Bank for a spectacular free fireworks display at 5.15pm, all launched from a boat between Blackfriars Bridge and Waterloo Bridge.
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3. Grab a bite at East London’s Urban Food Fest.
While London’s reputation for international cuisine could hardly climb any higher, sometimes the delights of quality cosmopolitan cooking doesn’t come cheap at the city’s hundreds of recommended restaurants. So why not head out east on Saturday night to sample fantastic flavours and cheap eats from every corner of the globe. Situated in a wonderfully transformed Shoreditch car park, the Urban Food Fest turns out to be even better than a restaurant – this is a pop-up foodie party, with free entry, complete with entertainment and sounds from bands rising fast on the scene. Street food is served direct from stalls and vans and includes everything from Brazilian chorizo wraps and spicy Korean chicken burgers to pad thai and Belgian waffles. Urban Food Fest is open from noon ‘til midnight every Saturday at Euro Car Parks, 163-175 Shoreditch High Street, London E1 6HU.
4. Lose yourself in Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland.
There’s something about a winter fair that’s uniquely Christmassy and unmistakably London. In the coldest winters up until the early 1800s, they used to hold ‘Frost Fairs’ out on the thick ice of the frozen River Thames, moving attractions, sideshows and even roast chestnut stalls right out on to the ice. That’s the long London tradition which is continued today at Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland, where revelers gather to wander through brightly lit markets, marvel at jaw-dropping circus shows and sip on a mulled wine or two at one of the site’s hundreds of unique bars and stalls. All the old-time fairground favourites are here too as well as a huge ice rink and even a ‘Magical Ice Kingdom’ where you can go fishing with Inuits and grab a selfie with a polar bear. Entry is free so it’s very much a must-see attraction if you’re in the Hyde Park area.
5. Discover Greenwich Park and its stunning Observatory.
If you’re after a scenic winter walk in one of London’s most iconic settings, then a visit to the oldest enclosed royal park in Greenwich should not be missed. Offering unrivalled views across the Thames and over London’s ever-growing city skyline, the scenery really comes alive during the autumn and winter months as the leaves start to fall and frost begins to form. The park is also home to the Royal Observatory, where visitors can stand on either side of the Greenwich Meridian Line and discover the spot where every latitude and time zone on Earth is measured. The museum is open to the public throughout the year and a £9.50 ticket will ensure entry to the Observatory’s historic Flamsteed House, Astronomy Centre, Time Galleries, Meridian Line Courtyard and Meridian Building. If you’re looking to combine a scenic winter walk with a unique piece of British history for under ten pounds, then look no further than Greenwich Park.