Southbank Centre Christmas Market

Festive fun in London: a Christmas to-do list

What’s that you say? It’s nearly Christmas? Cue cold sweats, mild panic buying and a belated urge to sling on some knitted accessories, sing a merry tune and stock up on seasonal good cheer. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up a festive assortment of great London activities that will sate yuletide appetites, scent your world with roasting chestnuts and soothe frazzled nerves, from romantic candlelit carols to traditional Christmas markets…

Tower of London ice-skatingBEST FOR BURNING OFF MINCE PIES:
Ice-skating at the Tower of London

A rosy-cheeked falling-down session is a Christmastime must (and we don’t mean after too many sherries): the traditional spots are Somerset House and the Natural History Museum, but this year we fancy a change of scenery: get your skates on at the Tower of London for some fresh-air fun in front of one of London’s most iconic sights. Reserve your spot ahead; less confident skaters can even enlist the services of an Ice Guide to steer them round the rink.

Don’t go home without… A recovery session: book a night at Shoreditch House and you’ll get access to the members’ club and bar.

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Southbank Centre Christmas MarketBEST FOR THOSE IN NEED OF FESTIVE CHEER:
The Southbank Centre Christmas Market

Still not got into the spirit yet? Dose up on all the Yuletide classics (Glühwein, gingerbread, Bratwurst, Peruvian woolly hat, wooden tree trinkets) at the Southbank Centre’s Christmas market, plus on 14–16 December, there’s a designers and makers market for stylish last-minute stocking fillers.

Don’t go home without… Catching one of Voicelab’s carol choirs (1.30pm/7pm daily).

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Everyman's Enchanted Forest cinemaBEST FOR THE NON-CONFORMISTS:
Everyman’s Enchanted Forest 

For an immersive, edgy take on festivities, go underground to watch a feelgood flick at the Old Vic Tunnels, where the cavern-like space has been transfomed into a winter wonderland: make your way over the volcanic lake, past the Northern Lights installation and through falling snow to a snow-capped cinema set among the trees of an alpine forest. Upcoming films include Ghostbusters, Edward Scissorhands and (what else?) It’s a Wonderful Life. Afterwards, prop up one of the intimate log cabin bars or fill your boots at an après-film food stalls.

Don’t go home without… having a DJ duel-fuelled night of fun at the silent disco next-door: Silent Night, Unholy Night promises and evening of (relatively quiet) decadence.

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Paul Noble's 'Villa Joe' (Front View) 2005–6; courtesy the Gagosian GalleryBEST FOR PANIC-STRICKEN SHOPPERS:
Shop smart, with portion of art on the side

Hate the heaving high street? Loathe the bustling malls and department stores? Us too. Here’s a suggestion: just avoid them completely, and lap up some soothing art courtesy of the Tate Modern or the V&A. Why? Well, for starters you’ll see some amazing art (current shows include the Turner Prize 2012 shortlist and ‘Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avante-Garde‘); and for seconds, the cleverBarbara Wiggins satchel at the Tate Modern shop way to dodge theChristmas shopping crowds is to get all your gifts at the gallery shop.

Don’t go home without… a beautiful Barbara Wiggins satchel in lemon yellow or cobalt, or a Grayson Perry scarf (both for Mrs Smith, hint hint).

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Berry Bros & Rudd bar at the Royal Albert HallBEST FOR REKINDLING ROMANCE:
Cocktails and carols by candlelight

Wow someone special (or soothe festivity-frayed nerves) with pre-concert drinks and dinner at the chic new Berry Bros & Rudd No 3 Bar at the Royal Albert Hall; aside from top-flight wines and tasty gin cocktails, the menu features nicely seasonal nibbles such as roasted chestnuts and venison carpaccio. Progress onto a grown-up Christmas concert – we suggest Handel’s Messiah or Carols by Candlelight.

Don’t go home without… overnighting somewhere suitably glamorous: the Baglioni Hotel, Number Sixteen and the Kensington Hotel London are all but a waltz away.

Find more places to stay in London, or check out last year’s guide to festive fun in London.

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This article was written by

As well as wordsmithing online, in print, in the press and for Smith TV, Lucy Fennings has been a driving force in making the Smith Travel Blog an award-winner. Mr & Mrs Smith's Group Editor cut her travel teeth early; as daughter of a hotel PR, she visited far-flung flophouses from French châteaux to Ethiopian tukuls. After a year in Dubai (working on Emirates Woman magazine and enjoying the kind of dives that require a wetsuit), Lucy went to Glasgow University to study art, literature and whisky. A stint as production editor at Legalease publishing was spent discovering how to be creative with copy about tax, followed quickly by a stint discovering more interesting things across south-east Asia. When Mr & Mrs Smith found her, Lucy was at Harper’s Bazaar, keeping her finger on fashion’s pulse and sharpening her editorial knife on hapless hotel PR copy.

There are 3 comments for this article
  1. Davide at 7:21 pm

    I’ve been to London for Xmas and New Years. It was wonderful.
    I brought my nephew to skate at the Natural History Museum.

  2. Davide at 4:30 pm

    One of the best things to do in London is going to see Musical or Exhibitions.
    I was in London last Christmas and I saw Billy Elliot the musical and Hollywood Costums exhibition at V&A museum.

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