Things to do in London during winter

4 January 2021

This year is a bit different to most for reasons we don’t need to go over! But that doesn’t mean there aren’t nice things to do that are cheap and also keep you and our communities safe. Read on for some safe activities to enjoy London in one of the best times of year.

Fireworks falling over the london eye

If you’re spending time in London in winter, why not re-discover this amazing city?

Please ensure you take all safety precautions including wearing a mask if you end up in crowded spaces. Please avoid using public transport unless strictly necessary. 

(Re-)Discover London

Whether you’re a seasoned Londoner or a relative newcomer, there are sure to be nooks and crannies of this amazing city that you haven’t explored yet. Head out for a walk around your local area, or hop on a bike to go further afield! If you need a bit of encouragement, pop on your favourite playlist or a great podcast to accompany you on your way. 

Close by UCL there are plenty of spots worth exploring. Why not catch Covent Garden without the usual crowds, explore the newly redeveloped Coal Drops Yard or stroll along Regents’ Canal? 

At this time of year, parts of the city are much quieter than usual, and that is even more so the case in 2020/21. The City of London is a great area to explore, and you get to see some of the latest architecture – or the older architecture right up close. Don’t miss Leadenhall Market, the Lloyd’s building or the Barbican for some love-it-or-hate-it architecture. 

With the River Thames threading through our city, you could also enjoy a walk along the riverbank. You could start from the Tate Britain, where Chila Kumari Singh Burman’s amazing winter commission celebrates Diwali with an amazing lights installation. Then, walk on to Westminster Bridge for some great views of the Houses of Parliament. If you stroll along the south side of the river, you’ll walk past many highlights including the Southbank Centre, the Oxo Tower, Millennium Bridge (great views of St Paul’s), then Borough Market (amazing food – check ahead to see what’s open for takeaways) and finally the iconic Tower Bridge. You can also walk back on the north side. 

Read about some more great London walks.
Find out how to rent a Santander cycle. 

Visit one of London’s amazing parks

With so many green spaces in our city, there’s sure to be one near you. A breezy winter stroll never fails to lift the spirits – and you could even keep yourself warm by getting a takeaway coffee or even a mulled wine. 

Within reach of UCL in Bloomsbury, you could head up to Primrose Hill (with amazing views of the city) and Regents’ Park (make sure to look for the giraffes and zebras which you can see on the ‘Outer Circle’ road). 

There are even more amazing green spaces further out of the city centre; if you don’t live nearby, check the weather and plan to walk or cycle (it’s very easy to hire a Santander cycle!). 

If you want to explore more of East London, head towards the amazing Victoria Park, also in close reach to the lovely Victoria Park village and Hackney’s Broadway market. There’s also the Olympic park – which is worth exploring, particularly on a bike. Heading south, Greenwich Park, Burgess Park and Dulwich Park are all good bets. Further west, we have Hyde Park, Battersea Park or even Kew further out. Interested in North London? Hampstead Heath and Highgate Cemetery are always a good idea. 

Go ice skating 

There are still some outdoor ice rinks operating and they have been made bigger to make space for social distancing too. There are amazing outdoor ice rinks at Hampton Court Palace, The Tower of London, Alexandra Palace and the Queen’s House in Greenwich. 

As ever, please check the websites for up to date opening times and booking information before you leave your home. 

See the lights 

If you’re near central London, there are plenty of amazing light displays to see across town. Whether it’s Carnaby Street, Bond Street, Regent Street, Covent Garden, Southbank or Marylebone winter lights, make sure to think about going at quieter times and plan your visit. 

See friends or family 

If you’re in London, there is some form of restriction on public life and how you can socialise. Even still, within many of the restrictions you are still able to meet up with others outdoors, as long as you continue to socially distance and wear your masks otherwise. Make the most of the few hours of sunlight we get each day and go for a walk or coffee with someone. Just because we can’t see each other in exactly the ways we might like, doesn’t mean we should feel isolated and alone. 

Check the COVID-19 advice and guidelines on the GOV.UK webite. 

Most of all, make time to look after yourself and check in with how you’re feeling. If you’re feeling down or isolated, UCL is here to help. Read about how we can support you.