It’s 10 days until the dread day, when most of London shuts down — for Christmas Day, but a few hardy venues will open for the visitors stuck in the centre of town and with nothing else to do.

All public transport is closed, save for the Cycle Hire bikes which are in use on the day, and private taxis.

Experience the empty city

The only day of the year where there’s no public transport, and hardly anyone goes into the centre of town — so what better than to take a trip in and enjoy the eerie emptiness. Only in the very early morning though – before around 10am, as by then bewildered tourists will be wandering around wondering what’s happened.

It’s a remarkable experience though, all that silence and empty streets. If you drive in, drop the car off somewhere and grab a hire bike and pedal around. Do it at least once in your lifetime, it’s a marvellous experience.

Deserted London

Ride a vintage bus

Route 430 — which runs between Roehampton and Putney Bridge will be in operation, staffed by volunteers from a local heritage bus hire firm, and offering free rides throughout the day.

1950s Vintage Bus Hire

Go on a bus tour

Living in London means you’ve probably never been on an open top bus tour, but on Christmas Day, one bus tour will run to show off the empty sights.


Watch the International Space Station fly over London

If the skies are clear, you can watch the International Space Station fly right over London early in the morning – when it will be visible as a fast-moving star. Or you can tell the children it’s Father Christmas flying home after a busy night delivering presents.

Go to church

Even if you’re not Christian, there’s still something nice about a church service on Christmas Day. It’s also a chance to go into the big cathedrals for one of their services, as naturally, they’re open.

Watch swimmers

Every Christmas Morning in Hyde Park, from around 9am, members of the Serpentine Swimming Club gather for the Peter Pan Cup — a swimming race in the Serpentine Lake. Observe and cheer on the people brave enough to be wearing just swimming gear on a chilly morning.

Serpentine Swimming Club

Go swimming

A number of swiming pools are open on Christmas Day, although most need prebooking, and will have sold out ages ago.

However, Parliament Hill’s Lido will be open from 7am to 9:30am to just turn up and go for a dip.

Parliament Hill Lido

Nearby are the Hampstead Heath ponds, which will be open in the morning.

Hampstead Heath ponds

Go ice skating

The only ice-rink in the city that’s open on Christmas Day might not surprise you to learn is in the Jewish cultural centre, JW3 on Finchley Road.

JW3 Ice Rink


Not all, but many pubs are open on Christmas Day, mainly for pre-booked Christmas Lunch, but as ever fewer of us go to pubs these days, what better day to venture inside one.

Go for a walk

Bit obvious this one, but in our busy lives, it’s hard to find time to just wander around aimlessly for an hour or so — take the opportunity to discover all those side streets around where you live that you’d never usually walk down. And the road traffic will be minimal, so it’s a very peaceful day to go for a walk.

Go sightseeing on the Thames

The big tourist boats that ply the Thames will be operating on Christmas Day, with tours from early morning to mid-afternoon. They also have an onboard Christmas Lunch option for those with deep pockets.

City Cruises


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  1. Duncan martin says:

    It is appalling that there are no buses on Christmas Day. In Edinburgh there is quite a network to let people get to work in care homes and hospitals as well as to cater for visitors.

    • David Flett says:

      There always used to be buses on Christmas day, though only from about 0900 to 1600. These were withdrawn as an economy measure in the 80’s (staff were paid triple time apart from anything else). Later, following privatisation, some commercially registered services ran on a few trunk routes. But TfL wasn’t happy about it, as they feared this was a precedent that would force them to start running services ‘officially’. So I’m told they ‘leaned’ on operators to stop running….TfL I’m afraid are a law unto themselves and they often get strange ideas in their heads. However, in contrast, on Boxing day, when there used to reduced services, starting at about 0800-0900, on main routes only, there is now a full Sunday service. And if that means first bus at 0400, then so be it, hang the expense!

  2. Mike says:

    Any Public Lavotories open?

  3. Leon says:

    What about volunteer at a food bank or homeless shelter?

  4. Malo Harvey says:

    Thank you David. That was very interesting.

  5. M. Collett says:

    I quite agree with Duncan that it’s appalling that there’s no transport on Christmas London. After all, we’re supposed to be a major world city.
    Interesting to read David’s explanation. Many years ago, the excise was that bus drivers shouldn’t be deprived of eating their turkey, Brussel sprouts etc. Nowadays, so many drivers from different nationalities would probably be perfectly happy to work and earn a bit of extra money.

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