Controversial… but we’re actually glad it’s not Christmas every day.
Because that would mean missing out on the flurry of events London’s got lined up for the mysterious, liminal space that is ‘twixtmas’ (between Christmas and New Year). This year there’s plenty worth rousing yourself from the sofa for – including rooftop hot cocktails and late-night roller discos; candlelit carols and raucous ceilidh dancing; risqué cabaret; bottomless cheese; virtual pianists and a T-Rex in a Christmas Jumper…
Christmas at the Museum
There’s a fine science to getting into the Christmas spirit. And you’ll find it at the Natural History Museum‘s final Late of the year; a festive extravaganza with winter themed workshops, mulled wine & mince pies, ‘seasonal science stations’, one last chance to catch the Titanosaur before he’s dismantled in the new year, after-hours access to the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition, and a best-dressed Christmas costume competition. Though be warned, the T-Rex is giving you stiff competition.
Details: 22nd December, 6.45-9.30pm | Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD | £25
What the Dickens can you expect at this concert? Well, a load of Victorian Christmas carols played by a full brass band, interspersed with snippets from A Christmas Carol presented by Kevin Whateley.
Details: 22nd December, 7pm | Cadogan Hall, 5 Sloane Terrace, London SW1X 9DQ | £30-55
In anticipation of Starlight Express (the only musical to be performed entirely on roller skates) opening here next summer, Wembley’s Troubadour Theatre has been transformed into a giant, glittering roller disco in the meantime. It’s so Christmassy, the walls are literally made out of tinsel. If you’re a Nudge Member, get along before the 21st and you can skate for free (and get half price drinks…) but if you come here on the Friday before Christmas, you can skate along to DJs till midnight…
Details: Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre, 3 Fulton Road, Wembley, HA9 0SP | £14+
Planted in the middle of Hampstead Heath, Kenwood House has some seriously impressive grounds with views all the way down to Central London. But it wasn’t until a few years ago that some bright spark realised they’d make the perfect setting for a magical 1.5km light trail starring millions of twinkling lights, dazzling projections onto the house itself, light tunnels through the forest, and something called a ‘laser garden’ which is probably the closest thing you’ll ever experience to being in a Jamiroquai video.
Details: Plenty of tickets still available until 30th Dec | £22-30 | Kenwood House, Hampstead Lane, Highgate, NW3 7JR
Pop in for a nifty hour-long carol concert in Central London, where St Martin’s Voices will serenade you with a couple of festive classics, before you jump in and show them how it’s done with smash hits like Good King Wenceslas and Silent Night. And afterwards, you can swing by the pop-up bar in the courtyard for a mulled wine sharpener.
Details: 23rd December, 2-3pm | St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square | £10-20
Depending on how much you’ve ticked off your Christmas shopping list, you can either come up to this exclusive rooftop bar to sip personalised martinis and hot cocktails, feeling incredibly smug as the masses scramble below you on Regent Street… or come here for some Dutch courage before joining them.
Details: Good availability on 23rd, 27th-31st Dec | Ham Yard Hotel, 1 Ham Yard, London, W1D 7DT | £22
Dispel any family tension that’s been brewing in the run-up to the festive period by getting everyone to strip down to their swimmers, and take a cruise around the city’s waterways in a floating hot tub. And don’t worry, you can stock it up with booze.
Details: 10-7pm | West India Quay, Off Hertsmere Road, Canary Wharf, London E14 4AL | £225 for up to 7 people (festive discounts available)
If you’ve somehow made it this far through Whamageddon, lose the game in style at Between The Bridges, where the club wizards at Guilty Pleasures will be staging a massive, super-cheesy Christmas party playing through all the anthems (and costumes are very much encouraged).
Details: 23rd December | Between The Bridges, The Queen’s Walk, London SE1 | Free entry
Smithfield Market Meat Auction
This long-standing annual tradition has been kept going by one butcher’s stall at the famous Smithfield Market, and now it’s back for the first time since the pandemic. From 9am punters start gathering under the market’s colourful iron beams to bag a bargain – enormous hunks of top-quality meat, won by waving tenners and twenties in the air. Bring cash, and leave with a rack of ribs (and the relief that you can tell anyone you’re hosting for Christmas that you totally missed the supermarket delivery slots on purpose).
Details: 24th December, 10am | Smithfield Market, Grand Avenue, London, EC1A 9PS | Free
The Southbank Centre’s sunken ballroom will be coming to life on Christmas Eve with a free afternoon of jive, swing and lindy hop dancing. There’ll be live music from John Bayley and his band, and it all kicks off with a free dance lesson if you need to brush up or, you know, learn, any moves.
Details: 24th December, 1-4pm | Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX | Free
It’s open! So you can take a lovely crisp stroll along the Southbank past the Globe and other London icons; grab the superlative Christmas sandwich at The Black Pig and a cup of mulled wine; and explore the market’s festoon-lit alleys picking up last-minute cheese, chutneys and other delights to win the eternal affections of whoever’s hosting you the next day.
Details: Open 9am-3pm | 8 Southwark Street, London, SE1 1TL | Free entry
It’s the big kahuna of London’s Christmas carol concerts, set in one of London’s most iconic landmarks. The cathedral’s opulent marble interiors look even glitzier at this time of year, with half a dozen enormous Christmas trees added to the mix, and you’ll get to belt out all the festive classics with a full choir and organ. Plus, by some miracle, it’s totally free – just make sure you book ahead.
Details: 24th December, 4-5pm | St. Paul’s Cathedral, St Paul’s Churchyard, London, EC4M 8AD | Free, but ticketed
Watching the greatest felt-based Christmas movie of all time can only be improved by one thing: getting to sing your little heart out to ‘One More Sleep ‘Til Christmas’ and it actually being entirely accurate.
Details: 2.45pm (multiple other screenings available too) | Prince Charles Cinema, 7 Leicester Place, WC2H 7BY | £15
On Christmas Day, it’s always important to remember those less fortunate – like the people who have signed up to swim a 100-yard race along the freezing cold Serpentine. The shock of the water is so potentially heart attack-inducing that the race is only open to seasoned wild swimmers, but it makes for a great spectator sport (followed by a walk around the park) on Christmas morning.
Details: 9am | Serpentine Lido, Hyde Park | Free
This Christmas Day, a vintage 1950s Routemaster bus will be mastering its old route once again, for free. If you’re anywhere near the ol’ 430 in south-west London (it shuttles between Roehampton and Putney Bridge), you can hop on or off any time you like.
Details: 9:30am-4pm | From Roehampton Danebury Avenue & Putney Bridge Station | Free
Don’t worry. It’s heated to 25 degrees all year round. Plus, if you do happen to take a refreshing post-Crimbo dip in the London Fields Lido, you can reward yourself with the city’s flakiest, creamiest, booziest mince pie-croissants from Pophams afterwards.
Details: 6.30am-9pm | London Fields West Side, E8 3EU | £5.70
Well, you’re going to have to make room for those leftovers somehow. Seize Boxing Day by the horns and set off on a crisp, wintry walk – either through the city itself, when it’s still (weirdly) quiet and peaceful; along the riverside; or through one of London’s many parks and nature reserves. We’ve gathered the best of them here.
Because nothing will get you stomping across a heath quicker than the prospect of a cosy armchair in a wood-panelled pub somewhere, with vats of mulled wine and a crackling log fire. See the best cosy pubs here
Antic Disposition’s production of A Christmas Carol isn’t supposed to be immersive, but it ends up bring that way, mostly thanks to the location: Middle Temple Hall. If you’ve never been there, that’s not surprising – it’s typically closed to the public. Built back in 1572, it’s one of London’s four ‘Inns of Court’. Dickens himself was a member when he studied law, and even to him it would have been ancient. So it makes a particularly atmospheric setting for this critically acclaimed traditional adaptation of his festive tale… and there’s mince pies & mulled wine.
Details: 21st-30th December | Middle Temple Hall, Temple, EC4Y 9AT | £45
A dazzling patchwork of cabaret, burlesque, circus and vaudeville, La Clique’s a raucous, risqué and fun-filled night featuring, amongst others, a powerhouse clown; an aerial silks act (performed entirely in heels); cabaret chanteuse Chastity Belt; and some award-winning hula hooping…
Details: 7.30pm (running until 6th January) | The Spiegeltent, Leicester Square, WC2H 7NA | From £22.50
Wisley’s usually quaint and peaceful botanic gardens are being set alight with fire sculptures, fountain displays, colourful lights bathing their trees and shrubs, and a display that makes their conservatory look like a horticultural nightclub. And when your retinas have been sufficiently dazzled, you can stop off at the Christmas market for roasted chestnuts, toasted marshmallows and mulled wine served from festive chalets.
Details: Tickets still available 27th December – 2nd January 2024 | Wisley Lane, Wisley, Woking GU23 6QB | £19.95
Technically, ice skating is a water-sport. Only, everyone has knives strapped to their feet, and gravity is playing tag with everyone’s bottom.
But all of that aside, they’re also one of the best places to be on a crisp & chilly day, with a mulled drink in hand, and some festive cheer still lingering in the air. See all the best ice rinks in London here
You’ve got to feel for Edward Scissorhands, the mechanical mutant with blades on his fingers who tries to settle into 50s American suburbia by getting into ice sculpting. He certainly had his work cut out. And if you fancy something different to the usual festive entertainment, you can see Matthew Bourne’s adventurous dance adaptation of the cult 90s film at Sadler’s Wells over the next few weeks.
Details: Until 20th January | Sadler’s Wells, Rosebery Avenue, London EC1R 4TN | £15+
It’s the last few days of the Serbian performance artist’s landmark retrospective at the Royal Academy, which recounts some of her most daring and physically challenging work over the past half century. There’s a few interactive pieces – like the moment you have to squeeze between two nude artists in a doorway – and some of her most famous works recreated live, like the time she lived cooped up in a gallery for 12 days on end. All told, it’s a pretty good reason to interrupt your own endurance artwork, ‘Lying On The Sofa For 4 Days In A Quality Street-Induced Stupor’.
Details: Until 1st January | Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BD | £25.50
As always, London’s magicians have got something up their sleeves. The elusive Magic Circle are throwing open the doors to their HQ, where you can explore their museum (full of all kinds of fascinating, mysterious artefacts) with a drink in hand before going in to the theatre for a festive show full of tricks, illusions and slapstick performed by some of the country’s best magicians.
Details: 20th-29th December | 12 Stephenson Way, London, NW1 2HD | £16.50
On the off-chance that you haven’t already eaten your weight in cheese by this point, you can make up for lost time at Fire & Fromage. This twinkly riverside pop-up features tables with built-in fire pits, which you’ll use to toast your own marshmallows… after an hour and a half of unlimited raclette.
Details: Until 31st December | Fire & Fromage, Queens Walk, Waterloo Bridge, SE1 8XX | £35pp
As festive shows go, the Nutcracker is absolutely cracking. And you can see a very upbeat, playful adaptation at The Tuff Nut, a pop up jazz club underneath the Southbank Centre. Expect the full Tchaikovsky score, all re-worked & re-choreographed with a live contemporary jazz band… dressed in pyjamas.
Details: Until 6th January | Tuff Nutt Jazz Club, Level 1, Royal Festival Hall | £15-£160
This glorious lights trail has been going for a couple of years now, and the team have got it down to a tee. You’ll stroll round the grounds of Eltham Palace – which is basically a medieval castle hiding out in Greenwich – taking in the colourfully illuminated moat, animated projections onto the walls of the Great Hall, and dozens of other spectacular installations. Plus there’s mulled wine stands, marshmallows for toasting and a mini fairground to boot.
Details: Tickets still available until 30th December | Eltham Palace, Greenwich, SE9 5QE | £20.50
In The Mood for a little old-school swing? The Barbican’s midcentury concert hall will be rippling with the strains of the Glenn Miller Orchestra just before New Year’s, as they play through Big Band classics like Moonlight Serenade and Chattanooga Choo Choo.
Details: 30th December, 2.30pm | Barbican Centre, Silk Street, London, EC2Y 8DS | £16.50-46
The Moonwalkers | NUDGE MEMBER PERK
We often get goosebumps in exhibitions, but it’s usually down to the air con. The Moonwalkers, however, is something else entirely – it’s an absolutely fascinating and unexpectedly moving ‘immersive documentary’ which unfolds in 360º on four-storey screens all around you. If your family’s starting to climb the walls at home, this’ll keep everyone from the kids to grandpa amused for a good few hours – and you could always hit the curling lanes in Coal Drops Yard after.
Details: 6th December 2023 – 21st April 2024 | Lightroom, 12 Lewis Cubitt Square, N1C 4DY | £25
Christmas: a time for treasuring old traditions, and for crafting new ones. Like going to see a virtual concert performed by the late composer Ryuichi Sakamoto in a converted tramshed. After critically acclaimed performances in Manchester and New York, KAGAMI’s coming to the Roundhouse – and you’ll get to wear ‘optically transparent devices’ to see Sakamoto perform in a scented, mixed reality setting.
Details: 29th December – 21st January | Roundhouse, Chalk Farm Road, NW1 8EH | £15
New Year’s Eve
Reminder: New Years is coming, so we’re all going to celebrate what is, essentially, the earth’s birthday. If you’re looking for a party idea, then there are obviously hundreds going on. Here are just a few…
Details: 31st December | Everywhere
Yes, we know. If you did anything other than get tucked up in bed at 8pm with a Horlicks last night, this is probably the last thing you feel like doing. But there’s nothing better than a ceilidh to blow any hangover cobwebs away – especially when it’s in the Southbank Centre‘s ballroom, it’s led by the Ceilidh Liberation Front’s rambunctious live band, and it’s free.
Details: 1st January, 1-4pm | Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX | Free
Starting at a very respectable 12pm, London’s annual New Year’s Day parade will wend its way through 2 miles of Central London in a vibrant, becostumed display of music, dance, inflatables, and general razzle dazzle. There’ll be over 8,000 international performers in the procession, headlined by Chesney Hawkes, Westlife’s Brian McFadden and Boyzone’s Keith Duffy.
Details: 1st January, 12pm | Starts at Green Park tube | Free
Building an entire city out of gingerbread may sound like a half-baked idea…
…but when it’s constructed by over fifty architects & engineers gathered together by the Museum of Architecture, it’s actually pretty impressive. A new one is created every year (for obvious reasons) and the ideas behind it are actually pretty practical, as well as downright adorable…
Details: Until 7th January 2024 | Westfield White City | £18.50
A couple of big hitters from the last year close in January, like the Sarah Lucas retrospective at Tate Britain; Hockney’s portraits at the NPG; and the survey of African photography at Tate Modern. So as the crowds start slowly filtering back to the office, take this opportunity to osmose some culture at the best exhibitions on in London.
Details: Tickets still available 2nd – 4th January 2024 | Royal Botanic Gardens, TW9 3AE | £22.50-29
For those who don’t know, Dennis Severs’ House is a bit like a historical time capsule. In fact, it’s like ten time capsules in one. Because each of the ten rooms in this Georgian-era Spitalfields townhouse have been decorated so as to evoke the sensation that the occupants just left. There’s food on the table. Embers in the fireplace. And this month, there’s a Christmas frozen in time, complete with mince pies, mulled wine, and more.
Details: Timeslots still available 2nd-5th January | 18 Folgate St, Spitalfields, E1 6BX | £21, book ahead
Want MORE? Check out our whole round-up of festive things to do in London.