Christmas in London

Christmas in London has always been a special time, especially in the East End.
The area is well known for that tightknit community feel and no season shows this more than Christmas.
Famous for it’s Dickensian cobbled streets the area takes on a character of its own at this time of year.
Here we take a look at what Christmas was like in Victorian times here in the East End.

In the 19th century, London embraced the Christmas season with a blend of nostalgia, elaborate decorations, and heartwarming traditions that have left an indelible mark on the way we celebrate Christmas today.

Carol Singing

In Victorian London, the air on Christmas Eve was filled with the harmonious voices of carol singers. Groups would traverse cobblestone streets, spreading holiday cheer with timeless carols like “Silent Night” and “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.” The tradition of caroling was not only a form of entertainment but also a way to foster a sense of community and unity during the festive season.

Christmas decorations by gaslight

Though Christmas trees had been introduced to England by Queen Victoria’s German husband, Prince Albert, it was during the Victorian era that they became a popular feature in London households. Streets were adorned with festive greenery, and shop windows were meticulously decorated to create a magical atmosphere. The soft glow of gas lamps added an ethereal quality to the city, casting a warm light on the snowy streets and contributing to the enchanting ambiance.

Christmas food and drink

Christmas feasting in Victorian London was a lavish affair. Families would gather around tables laden with roast meats, mince pies, and plum puddings. The aroma of spices, roasted chestnuts, and mulled wine wafted through the air, creating a sensory delight. Wassailing, a traditional practice of toasting to the health and prosperity of the household, was a common occurrence, bringing together friends and family in shared celebration.

Christmas Gifting

The Victorian era witnessed the popularization of gift-giving as a central Christmas tradition. Exchanging handmade gifts and small tokens of affection became customary. However, the spirit of Christmas extended beyond personal exchanges, as Victorians embraced charitable acts during the festive season. Inspired by the charitable themes in Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” many Londoners took this time to support local causes and extend a helping hand to those less fortunate.


Theaters in Victorian London flourished during the Christmas season, offering a variety of festive performances. One of the most enduring traditions was the Christmas pantomime – a lively and often humorous stage show that blended fairy tales, music, and audience participation. The pantomime became a cherished part of the holiday experience, providing entertainment for families and adding a touch of whimsy to the Christmas celebrations. If you have never been to one we would higjly recommend you do, they’re great fun. This year at the Palladium Jennifer Saunders and Julian Clary star in Peter Pan. You can get your tickets here.

Victorian London set the stage for many of the beloved Christmas traditions we hold dear today. From the timeless melodies of carol singers to the festive decorations adorning the streets, the Victorian era shaped the way we celebrate the holiday season. As we bask in the warmth of our own Christmas traditions, it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on the nostalgia and charm of a Dickensian Christmas, where the spirit of generosity, community, and festive joy took center stage in the heart of Victorian London.
Come and explore Christmas in the East end of London on our Eat the East End food tour.

You can even gift a loved one a food tour voucher this Christmas. Click here to buy a gift voucher.

Christas decorations in London

Christmas in London

Christmas in London is a magical time. The shops are all decorated with colourful lights. The bars and restaurant are full of revellers and the mood across the city is one of excitement and fun. We always say that there’s no bad time to visit London but really one of our favourite seasons is the run up to Christmas.
So what can you do in London at Christmas. Well a festive food tour of course. But apart from that here’s a list of some of our favourite activites.

Christmas Markets.

All across the UK November brings the arrival of Christmas markets. Cities across the country are flooded with small stalls selling all sorts of wierd and wonderful things. From unique gifts for family and friends to some amazing food selections. Mulled wine and traditional german sausages are always high on the menu. London is no different. You can explore the christmas markets in Covent Garden, Leicester square and the Southbank centre as well as many other sites across the capital. Be warned though, they are a bit expensive.

A trip to the theatre.

One of everyone’s favourite christmas films comes to the west end this year. Elf the musical runs from 14th November to 7th January at the Dominion theatre and promises to be a treat for all the family. You could also try and catch the always popular Lion King which is on at the Lyceum theatre or Frozen at the Theatre Royal on Drury lane.

Christmas Lights tour.

You can take a tour of the Christmas lights with our friends at Visit London Taxi tours. You’ll explore Oxford street, Regent street and Mayfair just to name a few. And all from the comofrt of your own private London black cab. If you want to stop off at some Christmas markets along the way, no problem.

Try your hand at Ice Skating.

Whenever the temperature drops in the UK we like to challenge ourselves to a bit of ice skating. This probably dates back to the 1984 winter olympics when Torvill and Dean won gold at figure skating. Ever since then we’ve been a nation of wannabe ice skaters. Most of us fail miserably and to see this in action, or evben to join us in our falling and sliding about you can visit any of the pop up ice skating rings that appear over the christmas months. One of our favourites is at Hampton Court where you can skate away in Henry the 8th’s back garden.

Whatever you decide to do, London is an amazing city to visit at Christmas. We’d of course love to show you some of our favourite spots as well as food stalls this December. So if you’re visiting London get in touch and join our food tours.

Christmas lights in London