The weather has turned cold, the lights are up on Oxford Street and shops are marketing with festive window displays. Are you feeling Christmassy yet? We look at what’s on in London to immerse you in the yuletide spirit ahead of the big day.
Get the whole family in the twinkly, magical mood at Kew Gardens’ light trail. The glorious surroundings are made even more bewitching with a sprinkling of sparkling penlights and thousands of laser beams. Explore the moonlit woods, the sculptural fire garden, walk under a canopy of tiny bulbs, and pause by the glowing festive flotilla of boats. The Palm House water-and-light finale is an unmissable spectacle. Instagram-tastic!
Ice, Ice, Baby
Ice skating is an annual classic – not only does it make you feel truly festive, but it’s also a lovely way to spend a few hours with friends or family. Somerset House is the daddy of rinks (and you can catch the venue’s incredible Charlie Brown exhibition afterwards). Or try somewhere with a historical backdrop; Hampton Court, The Natural History Museum or the Tower of London are all spectacular to look at, even if its from a prone position. Alternatively, go more modern; skate looking out across London on the roof of Skylight in Tobacco dock, or between the skyscrapers at Canary Wharf. Or head to Winterville in Clapham for the ultimate immersive Christmas experience. Don’t forget the post-glide hot chocolate or mulled wine.
Gone are the days when you need to travel to Germany to experience the sights and (most importantly) smells of a winter market. Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland is a popular choice, but if you fancy something less full-on, try the Pear Tree Christmas Market in Battersea Park, Chelsea Physic Garden, the Southbank Centre’s Nordic wonderland, Christmas by the River in More London at London Bridge, Greenwich Wintertime Festival or The Ally Pally Christmas Carnival.
We’re all about the Christmas stuffings. Eat and drink in Scandinavian-style surroundings at one of the city’s pop-up igloos. The Coppa Club, Tower Bridge igloos, alongside the Thames, are back for another year running with twinkling lights, snuggly fur blankets for warmth and festive gin-based drinks. Or have a swiss-perience in Skylight’s igloos and mountain huts; drink mulled wine, eat roasted chestnuts and eat super-oozy raclette. The Montcalm Royal London Hotel, is a glamorous proposition with city skyline views from the rooftop bar restaurant. Or get a group of friends together for fun fondue (there are vegan options) and steaks in one of the prettiest settings for dinner; the glassy domes on the South Bank.
The main Geffrye Museum is closed for refurbishment this year, and we are going to miss its annual display of decorations from days gone by – but, to make up for it, the venue is holding a festive market on December 8. Browse carefully curated stalls, make Christmas decorations, wreaths, and winter wellness survival kits, and listen to pop epics and English madrigals courtesy of Owl Parliament.
A trip to the V&A will melt even the most Scrooge-like of attitudes. The museum postively glows at Christmas, and lays on the most gorgeous events. See its annual, avant-garde Christmas tree, this year designed by London architects Studio Weave. Also on display is The Museum of Architecture’s Gingerbread City – a biscuit metropolis, designed and made by architects invited to pick a plot each, on which to design part of a sustainable and inclusive “Future City”. Children are incredibly well catered for; join in drop-in design workshops, enjoy Christmas choirs, watch Victorian-themed performances, or join in multi-sensory play sessions. Plus, of course, there’s the gift shop to browse for seasonal presents and the prettiest museum cafe in London.
Image credit @farmgirlflowers