London roars back for a Christmas ‘Too Big to Miss’
13 December 2023
- Capital’s festive season is well underway with ridership figures to stations close to Christmas attractions exceeding pre-pandemic levels this year
- Black Friday saw entries and exits at Oxford Circus station 27 per cent higher than usual
- TfL report shows bus demand this year is eight per cent higher than in 2022
- New Christmas themed Tube map showcases festive attractions across the capital
London is continuing to roar back from the pandemic this festive season, with soaring ridership numbers at key Tube stations close to Christmas attractions, and entries and exits at Oxford Circus station 27 per cent higher on Black Friday than on average for each of the previous four Fridays.*
The run-up to Christmas, known as the ‘Golden Quarter’, is a vital period for the retail and hospitality sectors, with many businesses relying on it for a significant proportion of their annual profits – and TfL figures reveal how Londoners and visitors are using the capital’s transport network to enjoy the capital’s vast array of retail opportunities and festive events.
The Tube stop for Battersea Power Station, on the Northern line extension, saw an incredible 52,814 entries and exits on 4 November, the day of the Battersea Park fireworks – almost double the number seen on the previous Saturday.** Kew Gardens station saw a 53 per cent increase in entries and exits during the first three days of Christmas at Kew, which opened on 15 November, in comparison to the same three days the previous week.***
In addition, the Heart of London Business Alliance data revealed footfall on Saturday 25 November after Black Friday this year was 29 per cent higher compared to the previous Saturday average in November.
TfL and Visit London have launched a new Tube map titled “A Christmas Too Big to Miss,” marking the locations of the best festive attractions across London this year. Similarly, to other Tube maps, it gives guidance on accessibility, as well as advice on how far the attractions are from the stations.
A recent TfL report showed that bus demand this year is eight per cent higher than in 2022 and buses continue to be a cost-effective way to travel over the festive period, with the Hopper fare offering unlimited bus and tram journeys within an hour. The Mayor has hailed his Superloop, launched in July, as a ‘game-changer’ for bus travel, with two more routes added to the suburban network earlier this week providing another boost for those travelling from outer London. New data from TfL shows that there had been a 62 per cent increase in weekly passengers on the SL7 route (linking West Croydon to Heathrow) since it became part of the Superloop network, which saw it double in frequency to four buses an hour in each direction – and most other Superloop routes have outperformed the six per cent year-on-year passenger growth across the capital’s 700 routes.
Footfall has also risen sharply in the West End, with Shaftesbury Capital, owner of Seven Dials and Covent Garden, recently revealing footfall was up 12 per cent year-on-year. The area, which suffered a drop in visitors after the pandemic, has said its footfall is now 16 per cent above 2019 levels. Earlier this month, a new pop-up shop opened in Carnaby Street as part of the Mayor’s innovative ‘London Made Me’ retail training and shop programme, giving 12 creative entrepreneurs the opportunity to build and launch their own collective retail store for the festive period and bring their brands to life in a prime high street location.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “ We have worked really hard so that London could roar back after the pandemic, and Christmas this year in the capital is set to be one simply too big to miss. From ice skating to Winter Wonderland, there’s a vast array of festive attractions to choose from and a special Christmas Tube map to help you get there.
“London is also one of the world’s best retail destinations, and it’s great to see that promotions such as Black Friday and Small Business Saturday were huge successes. Businesses need our help now more than ever, and I continue to call on the Government to reinstate tax free shopping for international visitors, which would give a much needed boost to businesses and high streets across the country.
“Whether you’re doing some Christmas shopping, visiting a festive attraction or attending a gig, I encourage Londoners and visitors alike to get out there this Christmas and experience everything the city has to offer.”
Andy Lord, London's Transport Commissioner, said: "With London’s cultural and social calendar having truly sprung back this year, it’s set to be a Christmas you can’t miss. There’s a host of events in central London to mark the festive season and we’re also encouraging Londoners and visitors this year to look outside central London and check out events on their doorstep, as well as the wonderful range of free events. Wherever you choose to go, you can rely on TfL services to help you get there and make the most of your trip, and on our up-to-date, easy-to-access information to help you enjoy all the festive fun in London.”
In addition to world-leading shops and festive attractions, the capital’s nightlife has been named a top strength compared to competitor cities, and, despite some changes in work patterns, Friday and Saturday nights remain the most popular nights of the week in central London with people travelling in for evenings out. Ridership on the Night Tube and Night Overground services shows that around 60,000 journeys take place on a Friday night between 00:30 and 04:30, and close to 70,000 journeys on a Saturday night between 00:30 and 04:30 - showing that people across London are now enjoying all the night life that the capital has to offer, while others are continuing to travel for work through the night.
The Mayor’s Night Time Enterprise Zones have helped support the capital’s high streets with Bromley High Street seeing a significant increase in visitors after 21:00 during its range of events. Vauxhall has seen visitor numbers increase by 28 per cent for events, and Woolwich has seen footfall increase by 23 per cent across 10 events.
Amy Lamé, London’s Night Czar, said: “London’s nightlife is the best in the world and this festive season there’s more than ever on offer to enjoy- and the Night Tube, Night Overground and Night buses will help you get home! It’s fantastic to see London roaring back from the pandemic with so many people visiting Christmas attractions and our world-class shops. The ‘Golden Quarter’ is a vital time for our hospitality businesses and I urge Londoners and visitors to try out somewhere new this Christmas, whether it be a pop-up shop, a new restaurant or a festive club night.”
Laura Citron, CEO at London & Partners, which runs Visit London, said: “London’s iconic festive season is already in full swing, with countless ice rinks, light displays, shows, and events across the city to get visitors in the Christmas spirit. With all-new attractions like Kingdom of Winter, the biggest indoor festive experience in the city and Wishmas, a unique immersive walkthrough experience, it’s set to be a London Christmas too big to miss this year. We’re delighted to be welcoming more visitors this year as people flock to the city to experience London at one of its most popular and exciting seasons.
“We’re excited to be launching our ‘A Christmas Too Big To Miss’ campaign and Tube map, highlighting the biggest, brightest, and boldest things to do in London in celebration of the festive season.”
Hannah Essex, Co-CEO of SOLT & UK Theatre, said: “After a difficult few years for establishments that rely on tourism, it is encouraging to see the city bustling with visitors this Christmas. London theatre is a key driver for tourism in the capital, and its audiences boost local economies. For every £1 spent on a theatre ticket, an additional spend of £1.40 is generated in surrounding businesses, adding up to £1.94bn per annum of extra value added to local economies by theatre audiences.
“The West End has shown a robust recovery since the pandemic, helped by the incredible re-invention and resilience of our members, but it is a mixed picture. There are challenges that still face the sector, not least continually rising production costs, but despite this we are seeing the green shoots of recovery, thanks to the amazing range of world class productions hosted in London and across the country.”
Dee Corsi, Chief Executive, New West End Company, said: “The festive season is well and truly underway in the West End, with the Black Friday weekend driving the period’s first significant peak in footfall. We forecast a marginal year-on-year boost in consumer spending this year, reflecting the West End’s reputation, particularly at Christmastime, of facilitating unique experiences which simply cannot be found online.
“HMV, the latest addition to Oxford Street, is itself a symbol of the transformation of physical retail in recent years. The new store, which opened to much fanfare on Black Friday, is designed to offer the very best of experiential retail, promising a programme of live gigs and signings throughout the year.
“The continued draw of physical retail was evident across the Black Friday weekend, which saw queues of shoppers waiting in line to snap up the best deals. Little wonder then that the Saturday was the West End’s busiest day of 2023 so far. In what is a milestone for the district, the Saturday was also able to reach pre-pandemic footfall levels – coming in slightly higher than the Saturday after Black Friday in 2019.
“The buzz of Black Friday weekend sets a positive tone for the rest of the festive trading period, welcome news for businesses across the West End for whom the next few weeks are absolutely critical. We know that the sheer breadth of the West End’s offering is the reason for its enduring appeal, and visitors to the district this Christmas will also be able to enjoy a plethora of festive experiences as they do their shopping, from the dazzling Christmas lights to the West End’s very first ice-rink.”
Ros Morgan, Chief Executive of Heart of London Business Alliance, said: “Visitors are returning to the West End ahead of the festive period, with businesses, theatres and other attractions in the heart of London working hard to deliver for them.
“However, visitor numbers are yet to reach pre-pandemic levels. That is why we continue to push for policies to encourage people to visit London, such as tax-free shopping for international visitors and long-term strategic funding for TfL to improve transport infrastructure.”
Notes to editors
*Entries and exits (Oyster, contactless and paper tickets) at Oxford Circus station:–
Friday 24 November 2023
Friday 17 November 2023
Friday 10 November 2023
Friday 3 November 2023
Friday 27 October 2023
**Entries and exits (Oyster, contactless and paper tickets) at Battersea Power Station station:-
Saturday 4 November 2023
Saturday 28 October 2023
**Entries and exits at Kew Gardens station:-
Friday 17 November 2023
Thursday 16 November 2023
Wednesday 15 November 2023
Friday 10 November 2023
Thursday 9 November 2023
Wednesday 8 November 2023
- TfL publishes public transport figures via the TfL Network Demand Dashboard. These show recorded entries and exits made using Oyster cards, contactless payments or paper tickets. They are not an absolute measure of journeys made and TfL does not account for customers who did not tap in or out
- The new Tube map promoting festive attractions across the capital is available to view here
- For more inspiration on the best things to do this Christmas in London, head to VisitLondon.com: A Christmas Too Big To Miss - Christmas - visitlondon.com
- Over the last three years, the Mayor’s ‘Let’s Do London’ campaign – which encouraged tourists to visit the capital following the pandemic – has attracted over 850,000 additional visitors, who in turn contributed £360m to London’s economy. For more information on the campaign, visit https://www.london.gov.uk/programmes-strategies/arts-and-culture/lets-do-london
- Routes with double decker buses provide an elevated view of the many spectacular Christmas light displays across London, including the 139, which takes in the displays on Oxford Street and Regent Street
- Staff at stations across the network continue to be on hand to guide customers and spread festive cheer. A Santa’s Grotto can be found at Tower Gateway DLR station until 24 December, with the opportunity to explore Santa’s home, make reindeer food and receive a festive goody bag
- The IFS Cable Car are running a Mrs Claus’ Wondrous Workshop giving children a mission to help save Christmas, with a percentage of ticket sales donated to the Railway Children charity
- Winter Wonderland, one of the main festive events in central London, is open until 2 January. For a quieter journey, customers can travel to and from Bond Street, which is now served by the Elizabeth line as well Central line services and is within a 15-minute walk of Hyde Park, or Victoria and Paddington, which are within a 20-minute walk of Hyde Park. A new Christmas festival has opened at ExCel London and Kingdom of Winter can easily be reached by the Elizabeth line at Custom House and the Jubilee line at Canning Town
- London Transport Museum in Covent Garden is hosting a range of events for all ages. Visitors can enjoy festive crafts, screenings and a digital story trail – plus the chance to meet Santa and his Routemaster-inspired sleigh. Tickets include all activities and kids go free. Shoppers can also tick a few items off their Christmas list in the Museum Shop, which is packed full of inspiration for transport-themed gifts, including Christmas knitwear, a London Underground themed Scrabble and an Elizabeth line travel bag
For those looking for a more cost-effective festive season, there are plenty of free events taking place across London to enjoy:
- Christmas Carols at St Paul's Cathedral, London until 24 December. Nearest Tube is St Paul’s, with the cathedral served by several bus routes including the 4, 26 and 242
- Children and adults alike will love the Snowman Walking Trail, London, which started in November and runs right through the festive period and into the New Year. The trail is a short walk from Temple station
A host of other festive activities are taking place across the city, with many events and attractions in outer London boroughs and all easily accessible by public transport:
- Christmas at Kew, with its never-seen-before installations, will continue until 7 January – travel to Kew Gardens on the London Overground
- Free festive Sunday events continue to take place at Crystal Palace Park, with children’s activities and workshops, music performances and a bar serving mulled wine and warming drinks. Take the London Overground to Crystal Palace, or bus routes such as the 157, 322 or 358
- Hampton Court Palace Ice Rink is open throughout the festive season and is served by bus routes including the 111 and R68
The TfL website and the TfL Go app are the easiest way to plan a journeys and work out the best way to travel to and from events by public transport.