Your Christmas Agenda | Things to do on Christmas, Boxing Day, New Years, and everything in between
A new decade is coming, which is something of a big deal.
After all, who knows when it’s going to happen again.
So as we lead into 2020, we thought we’d put together a miniature guide to the festive season and beyond, stretching from Monday the 23rd, right through until New Year’s Day, with a few thoroughly enjoyable, charitable, and occasionally enviable things to do on each and every day in between.
So here’s how to see out the 2010’s in style…
La La Land: The Soundtrack
If you were a particular fan of the ‘la la’ part of La La Land, you can hear a full orchestral rendition of the film’s music at The Jazz Café this coming Monday, courtesy of the 16-piece Rogue Orchestra. They’ll be playing through the whole soundtrack, as well as other classic show tunes from the golden era of Hollywood.
Details: 7pm | Jazz Café, 5 Parkway,Camden, NW1 7PG | £20
Circus 1903 is all about old-school spectacle. Settling into the Southbank’s Royal Festival Hall, they’ll be showcasing the kinds of feats that health and safety did away with years ago: acts like knife-throwers; trapeze artists and acrobats without safety nets; and an all-new act called the ‘Brazilian wheel of death’. Thankfully, the one tradition they haven’t revived is the use of live animals – instead, they’ve collaborated with the War Horse designers to create jaw-dropping, life-sized puppets instead… READ MORE
Details: 3pm & 7.30pm | Royal Festival Hall, Belvedere Road, South Bank, SE1 8XX | £29.50-125
The Museum of Architecture’s Gingerbread City
Building an entire city out of gingerbread may sound like a half-baked idea…
…but when it’s constructed by the architects & engineers at the Museum of Architecture, it’s actually pretty impressive, with over 100 artists and architects constructing their own sugar-dusted, fairylit gingerbread edifices… READ MORE
Details: 10am-7.30pm | Somerset House, Strand, Covent Garden, WC2R 1LA | £9
Christmas Cracker with Aled Jones
This Christmas Cracker’s got a real pull – it’s an all-rounder, with classic carols interspersed with festive readings and other Christmassy tunes, like Sleigh Ride, Walking In The Air and a little of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker.
Details: 7.30pm | Barbican Centre, Silk Street, London, EC2Y 8DS | £17.50-46
It’s a classic for a reason. Every year it seems to come back even bigger, and this year there’s London’s largest outdoor ice rink (with live music from the central bandstand); rollercoasters and rides; circus acts; street food; mulled wine; firepits and tipis; karaoke huts; and… a 70m observation wheel. Plus? It’s open on Christmas Eve.
Details: 10am-10pm | Hyde Park, W2 2UH | £9.50-£15.50
Kingston Christmas Market
They say you are what you eat.
And if you’re a fan of German sausage, that officially makes you the wurst.
But it also means you’ll have a whale of a time at the Kingston Christmas market, where German street food will be served up alongside mulled wine, live music, and a sprawling colony of market stalls, all up to Christmas Eve.
Details: 10am-6pm | Kingston Market Place, Kingston-Upon Thames, KT1 1JS
Carol Singing in Trafalgar Square
The towering Norwegian spruce in Trafalgar Square has been an annual gift to London since 1947. And every afternoon there’ll be various community choirs pitching up at its base to spread festive cheer with classic carols.
Details: 4-9pm | Trafalgar Square | Free
Harts of Smithfield Meat Auction
This is a festive tradition like no other. Like a Sothebys of sustenance, a Christies of Christmas, the auctioneers at Smithfield Market will hawk gigantic cuts of meat like works of art. They’re expecting around 1,500 people to show up, but you’ll still be able to bag something at a bargain price without worry (speaking of which, definitely bring your own bag). Carry cash, shout loudly, and always go for the coin toss: guess right, and your meat is free.
Details: 10:30am-12pm | Charterhouse St, EC1A 9PQ | Free
Carol for a Modern Miser
This Christmas Eve, the home of Charles Dickens on Holborn won’t be such a bleak house. Because you can pop inside, and become immersed in a live theatrical performance that brings A Christmas Carol to life in 2019. With mince pies. And mulled wine.
Details: Timed entry from 10am-6pm | Charles Dickens Museum, 48-49 Doughty Street, WC1N 2LX | £25
Elf Quote Along
“The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear, and also to go to the Prince Charles Cinema on Christmas Eve for a special Elf Quote Along screening at which you can shout the movie’s more famous lines out loud, assuming that you’re not grossly paraphrasing them like I am right now.”
– Buddy the Elf
Details: 3:15pm | 7 Leicester Pl, WC2H 7BY | £13.50
The Peter Pan Cup
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
Ice Skating at JW3
JW3’s piazza is transformed every year to become home to their ice rink, which is surrounded with warming seasonal food, mulled wine and hot choco. It’s also open on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
Details: 10am-9pm | 341-351 Finchley Road, NW3 6ET | £13
Free Vintage Bus Tour
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 West London (via South Kensington, Putney Bridge, etc.), you can hop on or off any time you like.
Details: 9:30am-4pm | From Roehampton & Putney Bridge Station | Free
London Fields Lido
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 on Boxing Day, you’ll be rewarded with a mince pie and some mulled wine.
Details: 10am-2pm | London Fields West Side, E8 3EU | £5.10
Head to the labyrinthine tunnels beneath Waterloo station, and you’ll happen upon a night of theatrical revelry full of dark, beguiling characters ripped out of a gothic fairy story. On your interactive journey through the palace, you’ll eat dishes by a Masterchef finalist, sip unusual cocktails, and watch performances by ballerinas, contortionists, and a very talented ghost orchestra… READ MORE
Details: 7.30pm | The Vaults, Leake Street, SE1 7NN | £15-70
Describing itself as “an inspired melange of cabaret, new burlesque, circus and contemporary vaudeville”, La Clique’s a raucous, risqué and fun-filled night featuring, amongst others, a debonaire juggler; a tattooed, sword-swallowing fire-eater; and a lady who swings around the famous spiegeltent while hanging by her hair… READ MORE
Details: 7pm & 10pm | The Spiegeltent, Leicester Square,WC2H 7LU | From £26
The Travelling Circus
The Travelling Circus is going to be staying put for the near future at Elephant & Castle’s sprawling street food marketplace, Mercato Metropolitano, which is putting on a very different kind of festive shindig. It’s all being curated by Josie and Rob da Bank, the co-founders of Bestival, who are essentially staging a fully-fledged festival inside the market, and it’ll be playing on the 28th.
Details: 7.30pm | Mercato Metropolitano, 42 Newington Causeway, London SE1 6DR | £30
It’s the perfect ballet for the snowflake generation. A festive classic, The English National Ballet’s glittering production involves over 100 dancers, a hot air balloon and cascades of snowy blizzards, set in one of the most beautiful, grandiose theatres in London. And they still have tickets available between Christmas and New Year’s…
Details: 7.30pm | London Coliseum, St Martin’s Lane, London WC2N 4ES | £14-80
The Island that Disappeared
Typically, islands don’t just disappear. They’re not exactly a set of car keys. But in 1831, the universe decided to briefly suspend logic, and allow exactly that to happen. This is the story of how, as well as the island’s fiery creation, and the international disputes that it all caused. It takes place in the Natural History Museum, and it’s completely free.
Details: 12.30pm-1pm, 2.30pm-3pm | The Attenborough Studio, The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, SW7 5BD | Free
Dennis Severs’ Christmas
For those who don’t know, Denis 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 with a different historical style, 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’ll be a Christmas frozen in time, complete with mince pies, mulled wine, and more.
Details: 12-4pm (last admission at 3:15pm)| 18 Folgate St, Spitalfields, E1 6BX | £10, no booking required
Hampton Pool’s opening its doors for a midnight dip in their heated outdoor lido. Understandably, these events tend to sell out almost instantly – which makes it good news that they’ve just released an extra date for you to get in the water beneath their Christmas lights and snack on a minced pie or two. READ MORE
Details: Midnight | Hampton Pool, High Street, Hampton, TW12 2ST | £8.50
Music of Zimmer vs Williams
In the blue corner: Hans Zimmer’s Lion King, Dark Knight, Inception, Pirates of the Caribbean. In the red corner: John Williams’ Jurassic Park, Star Wars, Harry Potter. Finally settling the question of which two venerated film composers would win in a fight are the London Concert Orchestra, who’ll be playing through some of the pair’s smash hits on the Barbican stage.
Details: 7.30pm | Barbican Centre, Silk Street, London, EC2Y 8DS | £16.50-42.50
See the Christmas lights
You know one thing that doesn’t close over Christmas? The power station. Which is pretty much the only thing necessary to keep the ol’ Christmas lights on, for you to marvel at. And London’s got a whole lot of them…
Details: Across London | Free
Rooftop fireworks, masked balls, ball pits and boat parties – it’s all in your dedicated New Year’s Eve Agenda.
New Year’s Day
New Year’s Day Parade
Nothing cures a hangover like seeing 10,000 people pull off a spectacularly large parade packed with musicians, performers, floats, marching bands, Chinese dragons, cheerleaders, vintage car convoys, donkeys, horses, and dance troupes as they make their way through the city.
Details: Mercifully, from 12 noon | Starting at Piccadilly | Free
New Year’s Day Celidh
If you have a keen urge to actually do something active to ring in the New Year, and not to pay a penny for it, then make your way to the Southbank Centre. Vaunted Celidh band Cut a Shine (Bestival, Port Eliot Festival, etc.) will be leading three & a half hours of willow-stripping fun, for free.
Details: From 1pm | The Clore Ballroom, Royal Festival Hall, SE1 8XX | Free
Want to make someone else’s Christmas? The Met’s Christmas Appeal is a cause worth supporting…