Londoners, are you bored of carols? Sick of Santa? Want to punch a reindeer? Calm down! You can have festive fun in the capital – you just need to know how. Here’s our mini-guide to alternative Christmas activities in London, whether you’re a city-dweller or just passing through…
BEST FOR TRADITIONALISTS:
Skating at Somerset House
In our mind’s eye, we’re whooshing around the rink, carving up the ice with our glittering silver boots, pirouetting and twirling, and leaping up into the air like some kind of ice-queen ballerina. In reality, we’re grey-faced and flailing, clinging on to the rails and watching as nimble 11-year-olds unleash triple axels. However, there’s always hope, so this year we’re heading to the Somerset House skating rink and putting those severed-thumb fears firmly aside. Go on New Year’s Eve and you’ll have DJs to dance to as well as access to picture-perfect terrace views of the Lord Mayor’s fireworks.
Get a room! Hang up your skates at the Covent Garden Hotel afterwards.
BEST FOR PARTY ANIMALS:
A pre-cocktail pampering party
Get primped up and party-ready with a trip to Soho styling secret, Hair & Make-up Dept. Hidden away under Lucy in Disguise (Lily Allen’s vintage treasure trove) on Lexington Street, this basement beauty parlour is as bright and white as a sugarcube; it boasts a clutch of cutting-edge (sorry) hair stylists led by Michael Price, as well as war-paint princess Natasha Devedlaka’s team, including Becca make-up artist Nikki Marriott. Take your guaranteed ‘get lucky’ look for a night on the tiles; we suggest the Experimental Cocktail Club in Chinatown for some seriously delicious drinks.
Get a room! Alternatively, debut your ‘come to bed’ eyes at Dean Street Townhouse (we recommend the G&Ts, which come in silver tankards).
BEST FOR SOCIABLE SHOPPERS:
An all-in-one Christmas combo
Like shopping, dinner and parties? Combine all three in east London, at Too Much is Never Enough, a boutique event at 123 Bethnal Green Road that’s currently hosting a pop-up buffet with the Disappearing Dining Club. Each course is served on a different floor of the shop’s characterful Victorian building: welcome cocktails amid the retro homeware and vintage jewellery; starters in menswear; the main meal in the ladies’ section; and finally, descend for desserts in the basement bar.
Get a room! Bed down in Town Hall Hotel & Apartments when you’re done (and read our Christmas gift guide for ideas first).
BEST FOR BOOKWORMS:
A Dickensian dawdle
Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, turkeys, presents – Dickens goes with Christmas like brandy butter with pudding. We tried out Courvoisier‘s Dickensian walking tour of London, which culminated in a trip to the Old Curiosity Shop, a cognac cocktail and a singalong with Bob Cratchit and his crabby master. Go on your own Dickens-themed walk based on A Christmas Carol, or take a Christmas Day walking tour with London Walks (meet at the big Christmas tree in Trafalgar square at 2pm). If you’re not a herd animal, tailor-make a literary, legend-based itinerary with private guiding company Coutours.
Get a room! Continue the historic, literary theme with a night at Hazlitt’s hotel, where William Hazlitt once lived.
BEST FOR DIE-HARD FESTIVE FANS:
A wander through Winter Wonderland
Bratwurst and beer, Christmas markets, mulled cider, cinamon-dusted churros, genuine Germans, extortionately priced rides (£8 a pop), ghost trains and D-list celebrities: what’s not to love about Winter Wonderland? All jokes aside, Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park will bring out your Yuletide Peter Pan with its effervescent celebration of seasonal cheer (and tinsel). Visit Mr Claus at Santa Land then ride the big wheel for a bird’s eye view of London’s most famous park.
Get a room! If it all gets a bit much, escape to the civilised environs of The Arch London nearby for a soul-soothing martini (and an eclair on the side).