How to Christmas in London Without Spending A Lot

Becky Matthews
London Christmas lights
Photo by Christian Guthier used under CC

So, you’re spending the Christmas season in London? You’re in for a treat, dear readers. Once the shopping mania has calmed down, and the crowds have dispersed, you can walk at a leisurely pace and enjoy the city as it transforms to an uncharacteristically still place.

Whether you’re visiting relatives, or staying put in your own place, there are a few things you need to know to get the best out of your Skintmas holiday.

Travel the world via the London transport system
Travel the world via the London transport system | Photo by Donald Ogg used under CC

Getting about

The most essential piece of knowledge to take note of is the fact that there will be no public transport running in London on Christmas Day at all. That’s right, no tubes, no Overground, no buses, no trams or DLR.

If you’re planning on spending the day with friends or loved ones across town, plan your options in advance. Santander cycles will be available, though if you’re carrying lots or planning on a boozy day, then walking might be safer.

Black cabs will charge an additional £4 per journey, and Uber prices are likely to be steep on the day, so pre-book a licensed mini cab in advance to keep costs reasonable.

For designated drivers, there is no congestion charge. Depending on how late your celebrations run, or if you’re staying the night at your hosts’ gathering, transport will operate on a Sunday Service from 6am on Boxing Day.

Atmospheric pub at Christmas
Photo by Pavlina Jane used under CC

Christmas Dinner

When it comes to eating out for Christmas, prebook. If you turn up at your local pub expecting to be fed on December 25th without a booking, you might be faced with a pile of leftover roasties and some cold sprouts, and many pubs shut around 4pm.

So what are the options?

Traditional Dinner

If you’re looking for a full-on Christmas dinner, and don’t fancy cooking, then pubs are your best best.

Nicholson’s pubs

Eat two festive  courses for £29 or three for £35 at any of the open Nicholson’s pub across the city for the turkey and works or pescatarian and veggie options. There are several of their pubs  in the centre of London, including the Argyll Arms which has a secret tunnel connecting it to a nearby theatre.

Cost: £30-£35

Park Kitchen

If you’re in the North-West London area, The Park Kitchen in Harlesdon is serving up a festive menu at under £30 per head for meat eaters, pescatarians and veggies. You can dig into two courses for £20 or three for £24 making this one of the best value Christmas meals in the city.

Cost: £20-£24

Non-traditional dinners

For non-traditional or more veggie and vegan options, try places like the The Tower Tandoori, Bermondsey and The Famous Curry Bazaar, Brick Lane. For more options on Christmas day food and bookings, check this list.

Holland Park
Holland Park


Feeling full? Walk it off by taking a wander through eerily quiet London streets, and as many a Londoner will tell you, it’s the best way to see the city for free. Take a stroll around Bloomsbury, past the Dickens Museum and historic streets and buildings. Alternatively, for more scenic greenery, head up to Hampstead Heath for views across London, or if you’re in South East, wander across Blackheath or Telegraph Hill.

You can even follow in the footsteps of London literary icons Samuel Pepys and Charles Dickens by joining themed walks at 11am and 2pm at Trafalgar Square, no need to pre-book this time.

Tickets: £10

Partake in old traditions

Or rather watch from a safe (and warm) distance. The Peter Pan Cup is an annual event so-called because the trophy was donated by novelist J.M. Barrie in 1904 when his play Peter Pan made its London theatre debut. Every year, the hardy members of The Serpentine Swimming Club race at 9am on Christmas morning at the south bank of the lake at Hyde Park, close to the Serpentine Café. Wrap up warm, and marvel at their swimmy stamina.

serpentine club swimmers
Photo by Serpentine Swimming Club used under CC

Get your skates on

Most ice-rinks in London will be shut, but JW3 in West Hampstead will be open if you fancy a skate.

Tickets: £12

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