Christmas is here, and London has transformed into a winter wonderland, with swathes of festive lights, decorations and events. With all the Christmassy hype, it might seem like everything is geared towards families and friends getting their yuletide on, but that’s not the case.
If you find yourself spending Christmas solo, you’re not the only one. There are plenty of ways to spend the big day, whether you want to see the best sights of London on a walking tour, or help others by volunteering. Here are the best ways to spend Christmas alone – or in the company of others – in London.
1. Cheer people on at a Christmas swim
Don’t fancy taking a dip yourself? You can cheer on the participants in the annual Peter Pan Cup swimming race in Hyde Park instead. Held every year by the Serpentine Swimming Club since 1864, it starts at 9am sharp, and sees members plunging into the chilly water for a 100-yard dash. Find out more here.
2. Join a walking tour group
Whether you’re getting to know London or want to get reacquainted with the big smoke, there’s a Christmas Day tour led by Ed Glinert, which covers all historical and cultural bases from Victorian landmarks to rock music haunts. It leaves from Trafalgar Square at 11am. Check out the Eventbrite page here to book your place.
Volunteering is a great idea any time of the year, and Christmas is no exception. Soup kitchens are a great place to pitch in and help. Reach out to your nearest, or check out this one in West Croydon, which is looking for people to help out. Elsewhere, Rumi Mosque in Edmonton is hosting an intercultural Christmas dinner for free for those who need it, and you can apply to help out. Find more details at their Eventbrite here.
4. Take a Christmas lights tour
London’s Christmas lights are one of the most magical things about being in the city on December 25. How about booking an open-topped bus tour of them after dark? Golden Tours are offering 6pm, 7pm and 8pm tours taking in Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, Marble Arch and Tower Bridge, plus Park Lane and Hyde Park. Book your spot at the Golden Tours website.
5. Go for an alfresco swim
Don’t worry, you won’t be freezing your baubles off: this one in Hampton is a heated outdoor pool, where the water is a balmy 28 degrees all year round. Open from 8am to midday on Christmas Day, it’s a guaranteed slice of watery escapism.
6. Enjoy a feast in Chinatown
Swap turkey and stuffing for roast duck and dim sum: although most London restaurants are closed on Christmas Day itself, a good number of Chinatown favourites will be open. Try Far East’s bakery counter for sweet red bean fritters and roast pork buns, Hung’s for barbecued meats, or fusion dishes with a side of karaoke at Plum Valley. Check opening times here.
7. Tuck into a pub lunch
Every year The Alexandra (known to its many friends as The Alex) in Wimbledon hosts a free Christmas dinner of turkey with all the trimmings for anyone who happens to be spending the day by themselves. There’s no catch: just turn up and owners Mick and Sarah Dore will do the rest. They’re tweeting updates here.
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8. Get your skates on
You might be on your own but that doesn’t mean you can’t take to the ice. JW3, the Jewish community centre on Finchley Road, has a 200-metre square rink that’s open on Christmas Day, and they even stock those cute penguins if you’re a bit wobbly. Plus, if you go on your own, no one will be there to see you fall over. Get some practice skates in now, impress your mates later. Find out more here.
Still got some present shopping to do? Check out our guide to London’s best Christmas stores