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…
BEST 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.
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).
BEST 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.
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 clever way to dodge theChristmas shopping crowds is to get all your gifts at the gallery shop.
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.