Thinking of heading to London this winter? Congratulations, you’ve picked a wonderful time to visit.
Sure, it’ll be a little chilly but with average temperatures of around 37 to 50 degree Fahrenheit, it’s nothing a good coat, gloves and a few warm layers won’t cope with.
For budget travelers, there’s also the advantage of securing cheaper airfares and hotel rooms (if you avoid the holidays). Once you’ve made it over here, try these suggestions for enjoying London in winter on a budget.
1. Take in one of the Winter Festivals
A whole array of mini festivals pop up in the weeks before Christmas and generally stay open until the first week of January. Entrance is free, although you’ll probably pay a premium for the mulled wine. Try the South Bank or Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland.
Or head down to Trafalgar Square in the evening to take in the impressive Christmas tree—a gift from Norway each year, in gratitude for Britain’s support in the Second World War. There are carols in the Square too, performed by charity groups to raise money, which never fail to raise the festive spirits.
The ice rink at Somerset House. Photo: Uri Baruchin
2. Head to festive Somerset House
This impressive neoclassical building on the Strand is at its most picturesque in the run-up to Christmas, partly because of the hugely popular courtyard ice rink. But Somerset House has a whole range of run activities. Skating is quite pricey, but the surrounding buildings are full of free treasures to be explored. There are often free photography exhibitions, while the Courtauld Gallery, housed within Somerset House is renowned for its collection of Impressionist and Post-impressionist artworks.
If you do fancy a skate, London has several rinks to choose from— book your tickets online in advance for the best discounts.
3. Make the most of a quieter city
London is a lot quieter than usual between Christmas and New Year when lots of its residents leave the city for the holiday, or simply don’t leave their houses. Now is the time to check out the major attractions, such as the British Museum, without the crowds. Or else to simply enjoy having a bit of breathing space on the Tube.
Holiday lights along Oxford Street. Photo: Magnus D
4. Check out the Christmas lights
The main shopping streets, Oxford Street and Regent Street, are transformed with elaborate lighting schemes for Christmas, while the window displays in department stores, the likes of Selfridges, are always spectacular. It can get extremely busy with shoppers however, so come prepared.
And, if you really like a challenge, head down this way for spectacular discounts in the January sales: although you’ll really need to get your elbows out to make your way through the bargain-hunting masses.
5. Dig into some hearty grub
Traditional British food tastes at its finest in the winter months. Tuck into a bargain roast or a full English Breakfast, knowing that you’re bound to burn off the calories in the cold. Probably.
And fish and chips definitely taste at their finest when eaten straight out of their paper on a wintery evening. Then you’ll need to walk it off…
A snowy scene in Regent’s Park. Photo: smokeghost
6. Go for a beautiful winter walk
Whether a stroll by the Serpentine, in Regent’s Park, or admiring the deer in Richmond Park, bright blue skies and a layer of frost can make London’s many parks look at their prettiest. For a walk in a real winter wonderland, head out to Epping Forest. It feels like the English countryside but is accessible on the tube. Plus there are pubs and restaurants close by for refueling your energy after a vigorous walk.
7. Get active outdoors
If it’s a bit too chilly to walk around, and you don’t fancy getting onto a stuffy tube train, why not get the circulation moving with a quick ride on a Boris Bike? We’ve got a guide to getting around town on this very reasonable option here. Many Londoners will be on a fitness kick after the excesses of the holiday season, so why not join us on a Park Run? It’s a free 5k run that takes places in parks all over London and the UK.
8. Shop at a local market
While London is known for its street markets, an indoor market can be easier to explore in the winter months. Alfie’s Antique Market is set over several floors and has an amazing array of antiques and collectables, available at all price points. Or the covered Brixton Market Row and Brixton Village in south London combines a long-established market with bargain eateries and vintage stores.
Pubs in London are a cozy place to spend an evening in wintertime. Photo: Lludo
9. Make like a Londoner and head indoors
If we’re not at home, we’re probably in the cinema or the theatre. We’ve got a guide to bargain cinema tickets here, and how to sample London’s theatre on the cheap here.
Or perhaps we’ll be enjoying a pint in a cozy pub. Before you drink all your traveling money away, check out our guide to budget pub going.
10. Or head out for deals or a night on the town
Shops and restaurants are usually so eager to woo customers in the January slump that there are often discounts to be had. Check out Moneysavingexpert.com for the latest money-off deals, or pick up a free copy of Time Out on a Wednesday for the latest listings.