I was born and grew up in London, so I’ve experienced January in London for more than 30 years! It’s an interesting time of year to visit. There’s the post-Christmas lull as people let their bank accounts recover from gift shopping and sales.
Most attractions remain open in January so there is still lots to do, just bring a few extra layers if you are enjoying the outdoor attractions!
Why Visit London in January?
If you’re contemplating a visit to London, January might not immediately spring to mind as the ideal time to explore this iconic city. Yet, there are some advantages to a January visit that may not be immediately obvious.
1. Experience the Real London: January sees the departure of the festive crowds, unveiling a more authentic side of the city. Certain parts of the city such as the South Bank, Covent Garden and Oxford Street can be extremely busy in December. January offers a more relaxed experience.
2. Shorter Queues, More Enjoyment: Major attractions like the Tower of London, the London Eye, and Madame Tussauds, which are typically crowded, become more accessible in January. This means less time queuing and more time enjoying.
The quieter atmosphere allows for a more relaxed and intimate experience, whether you’re admiring art in a gallery or exploring historical treasures.
3. The January Sales: For shoppers, January in London is synonymous with sales. The city’s world-famous shopping districts, including Oxford Street and Regent Street, offer substantial discounts, making it a great time to snag deals on everything from high-end fashion to quirky souvenirs.
It’s not just the major retail chains that offer bargains; smaller boutiques and markets also join in, providing a perfect opportunity for some unique finds.
4. Cosy Indoor Activities: London’s weather in January, often crisp and cool, is ideal for enjoying London’s extensive range of indoor activities. It’s the perfect excuse to spend hours in one of London’s many museums and galleries, which are not only free but also less crowded.
Additionally, London’s theatre scene is in full swing, offering a wide array of shows, from blockbuster musicals to Shakespearean plays.
Weather in London in January
I’ll admit that January isn’t the best month for the weather. The days will be cool, and you’ll likely see some rain.
Despite that, temperatures below freezing aren’t common. On occasion, it does snow in London in January, but this is usually only a light fall and most years is not enough to settle on the ground and cause disruption. Add a coat, scarf and umbrella to your suitcase and you’ll be just fine.
Top Activities to Enjoy in January in London
Exploring London at this time of year opens up a world of activities that are particularly enjoyable during this cooler, quieter month. Here are some top activities that I recommend for making the most of your January visit:
1. Cultural Experiences
- Museum Visits: London’s museums are a treasure trove of history, art, and culture, and they’re particularly inviting in January. The British Museum, with its vast collection spanning centuries and continents, is a must-visit. Similarly, the Tate Modern and the Victoria and Albert Museum offer rich artistic experiences. Best of all, most of these museums offer free entry.
- West End Shows: January is a great time to experience London’s famed West End theatre scene. With a variety of shows ranging from timeless classics to contemporary productions, there’s something for everyone. The lesser crowds in January often mean better seat availability and sometimes even discounted tickets.
- Hogwarts in the Snow: The Warner Brothers Studio tour is a very popular London attraction, and between late November and mid-January, Christmas decorations go up. Snow is added to the Forbidden Forest and Diagon Alley sets, and surely the colder weather is the best time to indulge in a butterbeer!
2. Outdoor Adventures
- Winter Walks: For those crisp, bright winter days, a walk along the South Bank or through Hyde Park can be magical. The South Bank offers stunning views of the Thames and the city, while Hyde Park, with its winter foliage and serenity, provides a peaceful escape from the urban bustle.
Both of these places can be extremely busy in December, with Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland and markets on the South Bank. January is a much more relaxed time to visit them once those seasonal activities finish.
- Ice Skating: Embrace the winter spirit by visiting one of London’s seasonal ice rinks. Most rinks are strategically set outside some of London’s prettiest and most interesting buildings. The most famous of these temporary outdoor ice rinks is Somerset House, which runs through to mid-January.
There are also open ice rinks in Canary Wharf for the whole of January. Battersea Power Station and Hampton Court Palace both open ice rinks in December to the first week of the New Year. Just remember to book in advance as these are all very popular.
3. Shopping and Markets
- January Sales: A trip to London in January isn’t complete without taking advantage of the sales. Oxford Street and Regent Street are hotspots for discounts on high street and designer brands. It’s a shopper’s paradise with deals that are hard to find at other times of the year, and the Christmas lights are still up for the first few days of January.
I would recommend that you try to get to Oxford Street on a weekday. Saturdays in particular can be very busy all year round, whereas weekdays are much less crowded.
- Markets: Explore London’s vibrant markets for a more eclectic shopping experience. Borough Market is ideal for foodies, offering a range of gourmet foods and hot dishes, while Camden Market is perfect for those looking for unique clothing, artwork, and gifts. Covent Garden is always fun for street performers, as well as stalls selling festive drinks.
4. Food and Drink
- Cafes and Pubs: Warm up in one of London’s many cozy cafes or historic pubs. These establishments are not just about good food and drink; they’re about experiencing a part of London’s culture.
The atmosphere in these places is especially comforting during the colder months. There are plenty of pubs dotted around the city, and some like The Mayflower and The Holly Bush even have open fires.
- Afternoon Tea: Indulge in a classic British tradition with afternoon tea. The Ritz or Fortnum & Mason offer luxurious experiences, but there are numerous other options across the city that cater to a range of tastes and budgets.
5. Day Trips from London
- If you fancy a change of scenery, consider a day trip from London to nearby cities like Oxford or Bath. Both are easily accessible by train and offer a wealth of history and charm. Oxford, with its prestigious university and quaint streets, and Bath, known for its Roman Baths and Georgian architecture, provide delightful contrasts to London’s hustle.
In my years exploring London, these activities have consistently stood out as some of the best things to do to enjoy the city in January. Whether you’re a culture enthusiast, a foodie, or just love to wander and explore, London in January has something special to offer.
Practical Travel Tips for January in London
Travelling to London in January is an experience filled with its own set of considerations. Based on my years living in this vibrant city, here are some practical tips to help you navigate London during this chilly month comfortably and enjoyably:
1. Dressing for the Weather
- Layer Up: January in London can be quite cold, with average temperatures ranging from 2°C to 6°C (35°F to 43°F). It’s essential to dress warmly in layers, which you can add or remove as needed. Think warm socks, sweaters, and a good quality coat. If you are planning on doing a lot of walking and find that you overheat when out and about, make sure you have a bag that you can use to add or remove layers as needed.
- Waterproof and Warm Footwear: Given the likelihood of rain or even snow, waterproof boots or shoes with good grip are advisable. Keeping your feet warm and dry is key to enjoying your outdoor explorations. Wet feet when you are out for several hours is one of my most hated feelings!
- Accessories: Don’t forget a scarf, gloves, and a hat. These can make a huge difference in staying warm while you’re out and about.
2. Transportation Tips
- Oyster Card or Contactless Payment: For using London public transport (Tube, buses, trams), an Oyster card or a contactless payment card is the most convenient and cost-effective option. These allow you to tap in and out across the network and automatically charge you the best fare for your journeys.
- Travel Off-Peak: Consider travelling during off-peak hours to save money and avoid crowds. Off-peak times are typically after 9:30 am on weekdays and all day on weekends and public holidays.
- Walking and Cycling: London is a walkable city, and many central locations are closer to each other than you might think. Cycling is another great option, with many bike hire schemes available across the city.
3. Be Aware of Shorter Opening Hours
- Some attractions may have shorter opening hours in January, so it’s a good idea to check the timings online before you visit. This is especially true for outdoor attractions, which might close earlier due to reduced daylight hours.
4. Health and Safety
- Always have travel insurance in case of any unforeseen circumstances. Additionally, keep emergency numbers handy and be aware of the location of the nearest hospital or clinic.
- London is a very safe city, but you should always be aware of your surroundings and belongings.
5. Enjoying London’s Indoors
- January is a great month to explore London’s indoor attractions. Plan some indoor activities like museum visits, theatre shows, or dining experiences for those particularly cold or rainy days.
With these practical tips, your January visit to London can be both comfortable and memorable. Remember, the city has a unique charm during the winter months, and with a little preparation, you can fully embrace and enjoy all that it offers.
Where To Stay In London
London is quite an expensive city, but you can adjust your costs by picking accommodation that suits your budget.
This hotel is very central and reasonably priced. That does mean that the rooms are not very big, but as you’ll be exploring the city you don’t need more than a comfortable place to stay in a great location.
Visiting London in January offers a different experience from the typical hustle and busyness associated with other times of the year. This month provides an opportunity to see the city in a more relaxed state, where the beauty of quieter streets and the warmth of cozy cafes come to the forefront.
In my years living in London, January has always been a time for discovering the city’s hidden charms, from peaceful walks in frost-laden parks to enjoying cultural treasures without the crowds. Chinese New Year occasionally takes place in January, so there are more events to look out for when planning your January London visit.
As you plan your journey to London this winter, I hope this guide has given you a glimpse into the unique joys that January holds. Embrace the slower pace, prepare for the cool weather, and immerse yourself in the city’s experiences.
London in January is a testament to the city’s year-round appeal, offering a serene yet equally captivating side that’s waiting to be explored.