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Natural History Museum Ice Rink
Photograph: Natural History Museum

Get the most out of London this winter

Hibernation? No way! For the next few months, we’ll be inspiring you with awesome experiences and under-the-radar activities to jump into this winter – all in off-peak hours

Rose Johnstone
Written by
Rose Johnstone

There’s nothing quite like London in the winter. From warm, snug corners of the city to festive days out and bracing outdoor adventures, London is a glittering hub of activity all through the chillier months. The best way to discover them is through the wonderful world of off-peak. We’ve teamed up with Transport for London to find you unusual off-peak activities – and this week, we’re starting with ice skating, board-game cafés, spectacular light displays and more. The best part? TfL’s affordable off-peak fares (starting at just £1.50 for a single adult pay as you go) and free or discounted travel across London for kids with a Zip Oyster photocard mean that getting off the sofa and out into the city you love is super wallet-friendly, even when you’re saving up for festive gifts. Winner.

Remember to check TfL Journey Planner before you travel and always touch in and out with the same card or device to pay the right fare. 


Explore a cosy winter pop-up

1. Explore a cosy winter pop-up

Rooftops, riversides and secluded corners of the city transform into cosy places to while away even the coldest of nights in total comfort, from festive entertainment and street markets at Winterville on Clapham Common to the annual wigwam on the roof of Queen of Hoxton. At Skylight at Tobacco Dock, from November to January, you can snuggle up in your very own igloo. Grab a blanket, position yourself by a heater and get toasty. Entry is free.

Getting to Winterville Northern line to Clapham Common.
Local bus routes 35, 37, 50, 88, 137, 155, 249, 255, 345, 355, 417, G1.
Getting to Queen of Hoxton Overground to Shoreditch High Street.
Local bus routes 8, 26, 35, 47, 48, 67, 78, 135, 149, 205, 242, N26, N205.
Getting to Skylight Overground or DLR to Shadwell.
Local bus routes 15, 100, 115, 135, 339, D3.

Glide around outside the Natural History Museum
Jenna Foxton Fanatic

2. Glide around outside the Natural History Museum

During the winter months, ice rinks pop up all over London. One of the loveliest (and most fun for families) can be found outside the Natural History Museum, edged by trees dripping with festive lights. Wrap up warm, strap on a pair of skates and zip around, or watch from the sidelines. Adults from £12.65, children from £8.80.

Getting there Circle, District or Piccadilly line to South Kensington.
Local bus routes 14, 49, 70, 74, 345, 360, 414, 430, C1.

Watch a movie under cashmere-soft blankets

3. Watch a movie under cashmere-soft blankets

There’s no better time of year to settle down on a plush cinema seat. Better still, lie back on a red double bed in a nest of cashmere blankets at the super-sumptuous Electric Cinema in Portobello Road. Just be careful not to relax so much that you doze off. Adults from £15, children from £8.

Getting there Hammersmith & City or Circle line to Ladbroke Grove.
Local bus routes 7, 23, 28, 52, 70, 228, 295, 316, 452, N7.

Get close to nature in a park

4. Get close to nature in a park

Waterlow Park, with its pretty trails and serene ponds, has been ‘a garden for the gardenless’ in London since 1889. Embrace the chill, walking through rusty orange leaves – and make sure you take a moment to appreciate the spectacular views of London’s skyline beyond the trees. Free.

Getting there Northern line to Archway.
Local bus routes 4, 17, 41, 43, 134, 210, 263, 271, 390, C11, W5.

Curl up with a bestseller
Flickr / Ungry Young Man

5. Curl up with a bestseller

The city is full of lovely libraries and incredible independent bookshops, perfect for curling up and whiling away the hours reading. Daunt Books in Marylebone is our fave: an Edwardian, galleried shop with arched windows, quiet corners and all the books you could need to entertain yourself on a dark December afternoon. Free.

Getting there Hammersmith & City, Circle, Metropolitan, Jubilee or Bakerloo line to Baker Street.
Local bus routes 2, 13, 18, 27, 30, 74, 113, 139, 189, 205, 274, 453, N18, N74.

See London’s best winter lights
Photograph: Simon Hadleigh-Sparks

6. See London’s best winter lights

From November onwards, streets, parks and landmarks in London find themselves lit up with brightly coloured bulbs. One of the best places to take in such glowing finery is Syon Park’s Enchanted Woodland, where an illuminated trail leads families, couples and friends around the lake, conservatory and arboretum after hours. Adults £10-£12, children £5.

Getting there Piccadilly line to Boston Manor station then E8 bus.
Local bus routes 195, 235, 237, 267, E2, E8.

Battle over board games

7. Battle over board games

No need to save your stellar board-game skills for Boxing Day. Grab your more competitive mates and head to Draughts, London’s original board-game café, for hours of indoor fun. It has an enormous library of games that are perfect for getting seriously stuck into on wintry Sunday afternoons. Ticket to Ride, anyone? Adults £5 cover charge, children £3.50.

Getting there Overground to Haggerston.
Local bus routes 67, 149, 236, 242, 243, 394.

Remember winters past at Dennis Severs’ House
© Roelof Bakker

8. Remember winters past at Dennis Severs’ House

This ten-room time capsule is enchanting all year round, but it’s especially captivating at Christmas time. Each space in the charming Georgian house – from the sumptuous dining room to the luxurious bedrooms – has been decked out to recreate a snapshot of Huguenot family life in Spitalfields between 1724 and 1914. From November 24 to January 4 2019, on selected evenings and Sunday afternoons, you can take a fascinating tour through decades of festive ‘still life’. Tours start from £10.

Getting there Central, Circle, Hammersmith & City, Metropolitan, Overground or TfL Rail to Liverpool Street.
Local bus routes 8, 11, 26, 35, 42, 47, 48, 78, 100, 133, 135, 149, 205, 242, 344, 388.

Get there for less!
David Potter

Get there for less!

TfL’s off-peak fares mean that you’ll have more in your pocket to enjoy the festive period. Off-peak fares apply on all Tube, DLR and most London Overground services across London. You can tap into the wonderful world of off-peak every weekday before 6.30am, between 9.30am and 3.59pm, and after 7pm. They also apply all day at weekends and public holidays. Always touch in and out with the same card or device to pay the right fare.

Travel in Zones 2-6 for £1.50
Fare shown is for an adult off-peak pay as you go journey not going via Zone 1.

Travel into Zone 1 from £2.40
Fare shown is for an adult off-peak pay as you go journey from Zone 2 into Zone 1.

Travel by bus and tram for £1.50
TfL’s Hopper fare lets you take unlimited bus and tram journeys anytime, anywhere within one hour of first touching in for just £1.50. 

Got kids?
Under 11s travel free!
Up to four children under 11 can travel free at any time on bus, Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground and TfL Rail services in London when accompanied by an adult. An adult is anyone over 16 using an adult rate ticket (but not a Group Day Travelcard), pay as you go or free travel concession. 

11 to 15-year-olds travel free or at a discounted rate with a Zip Oyster photocard
With a Zip Oyster photocard, children aged 11 to 15 can travel free on buses and trams and travel at half the adult rate on most other TfL services. Getting a Zip Oyster photocard is super easy: parents or guardians just need to visit and apply online.

Your key to London adventures

The Cultural TfL Map is your key to finding more of London's family friendly hidden gems. This interactive map reveals more than 500 Time Out-recommended museums, galleries, street art and more, all within a short walk or bus ride of each station. Many of these experiences are free!


We know that affordable, convenient public transport is the key to accessing the best that London has to offer – and thanks to TfL’s affordable off-peak fares and other discounts across the network, the possibilities for adventure are wider than ever. Here, you'll find plenty more unexpected and exciting off-peak outings.

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