Winter is a great time to visit London. Though some attractions will be operating on restricted hours, you will enjoy fewer crowds and less queuing than in the summer months. There are many great indoor activities and experiences to be had too – winter weather is perfect for cuddling up to a pint in the pub watching football (aka soccer) with locals or exploring the many museums and galleries. Learn what to pack for London in winter with the following tips and checklist that is available for download in printable form at the end of this post.
If you’re looking for a London itinerary – check out these 3-days of highlights for first-time visitors.
General packing tips for London in winter
Overall, London has a temperate oceanic climate, meaning it experiences cool winters and mild summers. Though it has a reputation for being rainy, it averages less annual precipitation than cities such as Rome and NYC. It earns its notoriety by dragging out that precipitation over several misty, overcast days at a time, especially in the winter months. London generally averages 11-15 rainy days per month, with higher falls in November and March.
Winter temperatures are commonly between 2-10ºC (35-50ºF) and snowfall is irregular. January is the coolest month of the year and along with February is most susceptible to snow. For more London climate information, see here.
Clothing and comfort
London may be cool in winter, but buildings are amply heated. It is also a very walkable destination, so expect to work up a sweat at times. Pack lightweight clothes that can be layered to provide warmth, under outer layers that are waterproof. Down can be made less effective if it becomes wet, so ensure you pack a coat that can stand getting a little wet at times – wool is a great option.
The Pound Sterling (GBP) is the official currency of the United Kingdom. Withdrawing local currency from an ATM on the ground can be the best option for getting a favourable international currency conversion rate. Although London is a very card-friendly city, so you may very well not need any cash at all.
When using escalators it is proper to stand on the right, and keep moving if you are on the left. This particularly applies to Tube stations where escalators are prevalent and busy Londoners are rushing to and from work.
Tipping in restaurants is expected only if there is no service charge added to the bill – make sure you check before leaving anything extra. A customary tip is 12-15%, while no tips are expected in pubs and bars. Taxi drivers will expect a 10-15% tip.
If you intend to enjoy afternoon tea at an establishment such as The Ritz, you will be required to follow their dress code. It is wise to check this before you start packing to ensure you have the correct attire. No sportswear or jeans are permitted for men or women. Men are expected to wear a jacket and tie to the occasion.
Electricity in England is delivered at 230 volts, 50Hz. Depending on where you are travelling from and what kind of appliances you are bringing, you may need a voltage converter. Generally, modern phones, tablets and laptops are made for both 110-127V and 220-240V, but it is best to check. England uses a Type G plug/socket, so you will almost certainly need an international adaptor. English wall sockets also use an on/off switch which you should turn off when not in use.
Passport and visas
Ensure your passport has at least 6 months validity and plenty of pages for your new passport stamps. Check whether you require a visa for entry into the UK – it will depend on the country of your passport.
Pickpocketing and petty theft are common in the train/buses and frequently touristed areas. Keep your valuables to a minimum, secure those you must take and don’t flash them around. Ensure your bag is zipped up and within reach at all times. Cross-body styles are preferable as they can’t easily be pulled off your shoulder. Don’t leave your phone or wallet sitting visible on a tabletop, even if they are right in front of you – they are easily snatched. Check common London tourist scams here, plus get these general travel security tips.
London packing list for winter
Clothing and accessories
- Underwear, bras and socks – pack just a week’s worth and wash in the shower or bathroom sink.
- Thermal underwear – thermal base layers are essential for the coolest days, particularly those you’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors. I found a full-length bottom and singlet/short-sleeve top to be enough.
- Sleepwear – including sleep mask and earplugs
- Shirts – pack 1 long sleeve shirt for every 2-3 days of your trip.
- Sweaters – 2-3 in Merino wool or cashmere are ideal.
- Pants – pack 1-2 pair of long pants or jeans. I chose a combination of jeans for casual sightseeing and a pair tailored wool pants for dressier occasions.
- Coat – 2 coats of different weights, one lighter trench coat that provides a shield to wind and rain without a lot of bulk and a heavier wool coat for chilly days is preferable.
- Rain jacket or poncho – rain in London is often accompanied by wind, so choose a longer length rain coat.
- Shoes – depending on the activities you have planned, you need a pair of comfortable walking shoes and a nicer pair of boots or similar for evening activities, afternoon tea or the theatre. I recommend Gore-Tex (waterproof) shoes or giving your chosen pairs a waterproofing treatment before you pack them.
- Sunglasses – UV rated to protect your eyes and polarizing to cut glare.
- Accessories – jewellery (preferably costume jewellery) or other accessories to dress up an outfit in the evening.
- Scarf, gloves and warm hat – pack 1-2 scarves to vary your outfit day to day and keep you warm, along with a pair of gloves and wind-friendly hat.
- Toothpaste and toothbrush
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Face wash
- Body wash
- Hair accessories (ties and pins)
- Menstrual cup/ tampons
- Light makeup and perfume
- Laundry soap – a cake of laundry soap is great for washing your smalls in the hotel basin and doesn’t add to your liquid/powder count if you’re travelling carry-on only.
- Camera – along with accessories such as charger, spare batteries; SD cards; and tripod.
- Phone – including accessories such as a charger.
- International adaptor
- Refillable water bottle
- Waterless hand sanitizer
- Medications and prescriptions
- Sunscreen or makeup with SPF 15+ or higher
- Lip balm with SPF 15+
- Money belt – alternatively a bra pouch or other secure wallet.
Making memories and filling spare time
- Sketch pad and pencils/paint
- Tablet device
Inside my suitcase
The following items below made up the core clothing and accessories I packed for my trip to London:
- Everlane cashmere crew in navy
- Everlane cashmere crew in heathered indigo
- Patagonia Tres 3-In-1 Parka
- Everlane wool wide-leg pants in navy (no longer available)
- Levi’s 314 jeans
- Everlane oxford white shirt
- David Jones Merino wool Breton stripe top
- Woolerina Merino wool short crew sleeve
- Joyce Oh So Spotty scarf
- Colombia Arcadia II rain jacket (as I mentioned above, a longer length rain jacket would be preferable)
- Lands End leather gloves
- Rebecca Minkoff Julian backpack
- Kangol Modelaine wool beret
- Tory Burch polarised sunglasses (gifted by a friend, no longer available)
- Sole Society Cammila smoking slipper
- Salomon Gore-Tex trail runners