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Photograph: Royal Parks

The best things to do on Christmas Day in London

You probably have plans for Christmas Day. But apart from eating/drinking/snoozing, there are things to do in London

Chris Waywell
Written by
Chris Waywell
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The information on this page was correct at time of publication, but please check with venues before you head out.

December 25 is really the only day of the year when London well and truly grinds to a halt (in the best possible way). But if you baulk at the idea of imposed downtime, or you don't celebrate the big day, you can still get out into the city and do stuff. Yes, public transport is out of action, but you can take a wander around a city that is almost empty of people, or eat in the handful of restaurants that are open. Then you can head home and binge Quality Streets in front of the TV. Here are some of the things you can get up to on Christmas Day in London.

RECOMMENDED: Our guide to the best Christmas events in London 2022.

Christmas Day in London ideas and events

Go for a dip in Hampton Pool
  • Sport and fitness
  • Hampton

Shake off that Christmas Eve hangover and work up an appetite worthy of Christmas lunch with a morning swim in (the mercifully heated) Hampton Pool, which is open on Christmas Day (you need to book a place in advance). Waterproof Santa hat optional. 

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  • Things to do
  • Quirky events

One of London’s quirkiest Christmas traditions as well as one of the oldest, the Peter Pan Cup has been contested on Christmas Day morning since 1864. Strictly a spectator event – unless you happen to be a regular, not to mention extremely hardy, member of the Serpentine Swimming Club – the name of the 100-yard swimming race in Hyde Park’s lido derives from the 1904 edition, when author and playwright JM Barrie presented the trophy to the winner, named after his most famous character. The race commences at 9am so head along before you start opening your presents and necking Bucks Fizz.

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  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens

Yes, it’s cold out. Yes, the trees are bare. But we’re lucky to have some truly amazing parks in the capital, and walking around them (as long as you live close by) is one of the nicest things to do in London on Christmas Day. So get out there and get braced by green space. 

Volunteer your time to help other Londoners
  • Things to do
  • City Life

There are heaps of charities supporting the homeless, elderly and those with disabilities, and although they need extra hands all year round in order to support the brilliant work they do, they’re always looking for more volunteers over Christmas. 

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  • Things to do

There’s something truly spooky about the City of London over Christmas and the New Year – offices are shut, there’s the odd stalwart boozer or coffee shop, and empty, empty streets. Especially magical (appropriately, given that it stands in for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter films), Leadenhall Market is great for a stroll. Okay, its shops are shuttered (the jewellers look especially odd) but the Christmas lights are on and you can really take in the amazing ornate Victorian architecture and atmosphere.

Find more fun during the festive period

Things to do on Boxing Day in London
  • Things to do

Father Christmas may have been and gone, but the fun doesn’t end there. Boxing Day in London is a great time to visit some of London’s best attractions, many of which fire things up for the festivities. 

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