Just like 2020, 2021 had its fair share of ups and downs, and we can’t believe we’re coming to the end of it. But it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas around town, and we are so ready to embrace the best time of the year! So press play on Bublé and have a jolly festive time with our guide to the best things to do in London in December 2021:
The best things to do in London in December 2021
The folks at Barrio have put on a festive line-up of events to properly toast to the most wonderful time of the year! Even better, they’re combining Christmas parties with everyone’s favourite weekend activity: bottomless drinks. The result is a sleigh-bell-ringing, carol-singing night out with free-flowing beer, wine, prosecco, and cocktails to keep the spirits high. So grab your santa hats, enjoy some cracking live performances, challenge your mates to a friendly Christmas lip sync battle, and dance the night away to the Jingle Bell Rock. Get your tickets for Barrio Shoreditch, Brixton, Soho or Angel here.
Is there any better way to ring in the holiday season than with a cosy Christmas film? To make our dark winter evenings a bit more magical, The Luna Cinema are launching a series of festive movie nights at some of London’s most beautiful venues! Settle in at the stunning Kensington Palace or Battersea Arts Centre and enjoy your all-time favourite Xmas flicks including Home Alone, It’s A Wonderful Life, Love Actually, and Last Christmas — all surrounded by fairy lights and Christmas trees. Festive food and cups of cocoa or mulled wine will keep you warm and snug, providing everything needed for an unforgettable night of Christmas fun! Find your tickets here.
Backyard Cinema are taking over the famed Troxy with their Christmas Movie Spectacular show, adding a little extra sparkle (and tinsel) to the Art Deco theatre. Alongside viewings of Love Actually, Elf and Home Alone, you’ll be able to sing along to performances from a live choir — experience the golden age of cinema with a modern twist! Find out more and book your tickets here.
An immersive experience based on Netflix’s hit show, Money Heist, is taking London by storm. The infamous masked bandits are looking for new recruits for their latest mission and they think you could be the one for the job. Expect high-stakes action, special effects, interaction with actors, and plenty of unexpected surprises. The challenge will put your heist skills to the test, but if all goes well you’ll be sipping tasty cocktails at a glamorous Havana Club bar with your pockets full of bills! Get tickets here.
This festive season, travel through your taste buds without leaving the heart of London by visiting Bloomberg Arcade in the Square Mile! Host to nine of London’s top independent restaurants, including recently opened Lina Stores, you’ll find the perfect spot for work lunches or Christmas dinners with friends and family. Enjoy a warm culinary hug at Ekte with their mulled wine, hearty Nordic cuisine, and fresh cinnamon buns, sample sizzling Indian barbeque at Brigadiers, or relish Lina Stores’ pumpkin & ricotta agnolotti with hazelnuts. You can’t beat Bleecker’s homemade beef burgers or celebrate the season without a classic Norfolk Black turkey dish at Vinoteca, alongside one of their 200 unique wines. And why not tuck into 20-inch pizzas at Homeslice, feast on fresh Hawaiian flavours at Poke House, or indulge in a slice of maple pecan pie and a ‘Chairish Coffee’ (aka Christmas in a cup) at Caravan? All restaurants have heated terraces for al fresco winter dining. Find out more here.
6. Admire The Shard’s new Christmas lights (from December 1)
For a glimpse of London’s highest Christmas lights, you’ll need to look to London Bridge, because The Shard‘s festive display is back with a bang and a brand new theme for 2021. Each evening until New Year’s Eve, the top 20 storeys of the building will light up in colour, and this year, the skyscraper takes on the theme of togetherness, celebrating our ability to enjoy the festive period with loved ones again. Moreover, it will give thanks to to the emergency service workers who work through the holidays to keep us safe — a wonderful gesture! Check it out here.
7. Mosey along to Trafalgar Square’s tree-lighting ceremony (December 2)
Trafalgar Square’s tree — a gift from Norway, as per — will be glistening with Christmas lights this month, and the grand switch-on ceremony is back to its old, live in-person scale. Find out more here.
8. Dance in the snow at Covent Garden (until December 27)
In a bid to make the holidays even more magical, Covent Garden is currently dusted with a sprinkling of snow each day until Christmas! You’ll find it covering the area by the famous Christmas tree every hour — really, it’s the only way of guaranteeing snow this winter, and it’s also entirely sustainable. A win-win! Read more here.
10. Salivate over this jaw-dropping gingerbread city (from December 4)
Guaranteed to shatter even your most ambitious gingerbread house dreams, this architect-designed Gingerbread City will arrive in Belgravia this month. Please, please resist the urge to dive in and start tearing it apart King Kong-style – they might frown upon that… All the details are here.
11. Cheer on your favourite team at the Vitality Women’s FA Cup final (December 5)
The Vitality Women’s FA Cup final this year couldn’t have presented a more exciting affair; as a fixture between two titans of the game awaits. A London matchup with a bitter rivalry sees a fight between north and west, as Arsenal take on Chelsea, at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, December 5. If you want to see the game up close, get your tickets here!
Known as the “highest 24-hour restaurant” in London, Duck And Waffle are inviting guests to take a journey through the sky as their 40th floor paradise is transformed into a festive Polar Express-themed eatery: Step into an imaginative train carriage based on the beloved Christmas tale of The Polar Express (2004) and sip on festive beverages while tucking into a delectable four-course menu. Read more here!
Join Tanqueray Gin, Gizzie Erskine, Candice Brathwaite and Pritesh Mody as they teach you how to become the ultimate host this party season! Learn how to transform your home with festive decor and tablescaping tips, make moreish canapes with a modern twist, and shake up delicious Tanqueray Gin cocktails. You’ll get to taste all the festive fare on offer, and get a gin-tastic goody bag to take home with you. With these expert tips under your belt, your next guests will be left talking about your legendary festive shindig well into the New Year! Get your tickets here.
Throughout the month of December, you can wander around our city’s beautiful Christmas markets in search of little gifts, the best mulled wine, and festive treats, and here are some of London’s best:
London’s most magical festive event is finally back! Hyde Park has once again been transformed into a giant Christmas village, inviting Londoners to glide around the UK’s largest outdoor ice rink, browse for gifts at the market stalls, take in the glistening view from the giant wheel, and fill up on festive food and delicious hot drinks. This year, you’ll need a timed entry ticket to join in on the fun, and weekend slots are filling up fast — so make sure to book in your visit now! Winter Wonderland is open until January 3, 2022. Get all the info here.
Popular rooftop Sabine is jumping on the alpine trend with their new winter-themed rooftop transformation. You won’t be freezing on their heated terrace though, and faux fur blankets and warm twinkling lights will keep you feeling snug. Sip on festive cocktails and enjoy seasonal bites while enjoying prime views of St Paul’s Cathedral! Find more info on their website.
24. See an incredible display of the Northern Lights in London this winter (from December 11)
Remember when the Northern Lights shone over the Tower of London a few years ago? No? Okay fine, it wasn’t the actual aurora borealis, but something that came pretty darn close to the real thing. If you missed the incredible moment, you’re in luck: The stunning Northern Lights display by Dan Acher is once again returning to London, and you can catch it for free at Guildhall Yard from December 11 – 22. Read more here.
25. Spice up your Sunday with this Hard Rock Café drag brunch (December 12)
This winter, seek solace, smoked salmon, and sensational entertainment inside the Hard Rock Café. The Oxford Street outpost is serving both looks and food at a brilliantly boozy drag brunch sure to make you want to sashay your way to a table pronto. You can get your tickets here for December 12.
London is looking suitably sparkly, and frankly, we’re in our element. You can find all the best Christmas lights in the city here, but we’ve picked out some festive favourites you just can’t miss!
Have a night out you won’t forget, no matter how many cocktails you consume! This ‘Picture Perfect Winter Cocktails‘ bar crawl will take you to three of Shoreditch’s coolest venues, where you can expect an array of Instagrammable festive cocktails, mixology insights from professionals via your smartphone guide, and a host of delicious snacks to complement the flavours of the drinks. Book your ticket here.
Thought Santa was all wholesome and nice? Think again. Get to know the real Santa during this cracking evening of singing not-so-holy festive songs, drinking unlimited bubbles and cocktails, and playing naughty Christmas games. Trust us, it’ll make you think twice about sitting on his lap… Get your ticket for this hilariously filthy Christmas bash here.
Paddington isn’t renowned for its forests, but that has changed with the launch of Pergola Paddington‘s winter season. The festive makeover has seen the rooftop hangout become a cosy winter forest filled with street food, seasonal cocktails, and toasty welcomes, and it’s open until January 3. More here.
Take Christmas movie binges on your sofa to a new level and venture out to one of these cosy cinemas instead — trust us, you’ll feel right at home! Catch classics like Elf, The Holiday, or Die Hard surrounded by twinkling lights and Christmas decorations in some of London’s loveliest venues. Find the best places here.
Soon we’ll be saying goodbye to one of our favourite Christmas experiences in London — but not before one last spin on the ice! The Natural History Museum’s magical ice rink has opened for one last skating season this winter, before the museum’s Urban Nature Project transforms the space into a biodiversity hub in 2022. For the past 16 years, this classic holiday activity has enchanted skaters with its stunning backdrop, beautiful Christmas tree, and festive food and drinks on the sidelines. The dreamy ice rink closes for good on January 16, and bookings are filling up fast… so if you want to enjoy one more memorable skate here, grab your spot while you can! Get all the info here.
London’s finest ice skating rinks are back in business, so you can cautiously inch your way alongside the handrails at the best of them!
I think we can all agree that memorable experiences make for the best gifts, and luckily, there are plenty of incredible things to do here in London, both over the holiday period and well into 2022. From mesmerising art exhibitions à la Van Gogh and Michelangelo, to immersive games transporting you into the world of Money Heist and Army of the Dead, or even glamorous Bridgerton balls and moving Titanic installations, the options are endless. Find some of the best ones here!
A fancy alpine bar is currently gracing the presence of Sky Garden, adding a touch of winter to the awe-inspiring panoramic views on offer. Enjoy live music with a glass of champagne, festive cocktails, mulled wine or cider, and gaze at the skyline amongst frosted-wreath archways, fir tree foliage, and fairy lights! More info here.
When the temperatures drop in London, the igloos come out, and they make our bitter-cold winters a thousand times better! Here are just a few of London’s best cosy igloos to warm up in with a meal and drink:
Inspiration lies around every corner, especially when the likes of Selfridges, Fortnum & Mason, and Cartier are displaying their wares in the most eye-catching way possible. See our favourites here!
Afternoon teas are always a good idea, but even more so when they get a brilliantly festive makeover for the holidays! We’ve rounded up some gorgeous Christmas afternoon teas in London that we think you’ll love, and they make for great gifts, too! Find them all here.
‘Tis the season to be chilly, but thankfully London is home to dozens of heated terraces, gorgeous gardens, and stunning rooftops that serve incredible food and legendary cocktails. Read about some our favourites here.
Looking for something to spice up your festive season? The multi-award-winning cabaret extravaganza La Clique is back to dazzle and delight Londoners this Christmas! The sensational show is a heady concoction of cabaret, music, comedy, circus acts, and contemporary vaudeville that has won over critics and earned them a wealth of fans around the world. They’ve high-kicked and hula-hooped into Leicester Square and will be sticking around until January 8, so hurry up and book your tickets now!
While Santa’s sleigh may not be welcoming visitors, we’ve got the next best thing: It’s safe to say the 139 bus route between Waterloo and Golders Green is pretty darn Christmassy. You’ll ride under the lights on The Strand, Regent Street’s angels and Oxford Street’s stars, see the big tree in Trafalgar Square, and so much more. You can even hop off to see sights like Fortnum and Mason‘s advent calendar installation, and hop back on again. Read more about the festive bus route here.
Part immersive theatre, part virtual reality, The War of The Worlds experience will delight and terrify you in equal measure. Inspired by Jeff Wayne’s musical interpretation of H.G. Wells’ landmark novel, the experience uses actors, holograms and augmented reality to reimagine the 1898 Martian invasion in the digital age. You’ll crawl, slide and weave your way through 24 extraordinary scenes, guided by journalist George Herbert. Book your tickets here.
Kew Gardens have festooned the grounds with one million lights for the return of their ever-popular Christmas lights trail. It’s a spectacle quite unlike anything else! More info available here.
The chilly weather shouldn’t stop us from enjoying a pint in our beloved beer gardens, and luckily, London’s pubs are warming up their outdoor spaces for us to continue doing so. We’ve picked out some of our favourites here.
The Ivy Chelsea Garden is known for its bold and beautiful installations throughout the seasons, and this winter, the theme is Miracle on Mount Crumpit, inspired by Christmas classic How The Grinch Stole Christmas. You’ll find the façade covered with sparkling baubles, a Christmas tree, Whoville-style houses, and of course, the Grinch climbing down Mount Crumpit. Get a sneak peek here!
We’ve covered light displays and trails, Christmas markets, and ice rinks, but what about Christmas trees? London has enough pretty trees on display to warrant a list of its own, and here are some of the nicest ones you’ll find around town:
Back for 2021, Epping Ongar Light Fantastic has seen the Epping Ongar Railway heritage trains bedecked in a plentiful array of Christmas lights, turning the classic engines into brightly-coloured blurs speeding through the night. Seriously, if the North Pole had a steam line, I reckon it would look a lot like this. See more here.
79. Sip cocktails a this insanely festive Christmas-themed bar (until December 23)
Charming festive cocktail bar Miracle at Henrietta has returned to the capital for a fourth year of cocktail-fuelled revelry. Aiming to transport you back to Christmases past, an army of throwback Christmas ornaments, colourful lights, and an oversized fireplace complement whimsically-named cocktails at this magnificently OTT spot. Find out more here.
80. Help someone who may be spending Christmas Day alone (December 25)
If you or someone you know might be lonely on Christmas Day, The Alexandra pub in Wimbledon is here to help. As as lovely gesture to combat loneliness over the holidays, they’ll be hosting a ‘Don’t Be On Your Own Day’ on December 25, where anyone in need of company and a good meal is welcome, entirely for free, no booking required. Read more about the heartwarming initiative here.
Their adverts have us in floods of tears annually and without fail, and this year, John Lewis is going the extra mile to get us feeling festive, with the return of their winter rooftop on Oxford Street. Be wowed as you admire the glorious makeover at one of London’s largest rooftop bars, filled with places to relax by sitting down with hot drinks, a seasonal cocktails and food courtesy of Giz’n’Green; all while taking in the panoramic views across central London. See more here.
82-89. Welcome 2022 in style (December 31)
Yet another year has come and gone, and while we haven’t yet left the pandemic entirely behind us, this New Year’s Eve is looking a little more lively than the last! We sadly won’t be seeing the return of our city’s beautiful NYE firework show just yet, but we’ve got some brilliant events picked out so you can ring in the new year in style. From bottomless brunches to sky-high parties, here are some of our picks:
Soft candlelight and twinkling Christmas trees, London’s best musicians, and history’s greatest composers – now that’s a recipe for a wonderfully festive night out! Here are our picks of the best festive candlelight concerts this month:
Carols for Shoppers @ St Martin-in-the-Fields (Dec 1)
Christmas by Candlelight @ Freemasons’ Hall (Dec 4, 11, 18 & 19)
Hans Zimmer’s Best Works @ Central Hall Westminster (Dec 10)
A Tribute to Coldplay @ Butcher’s Hall (Dec 12)
Rock Classics on Strings @ Butcher’s Hall (Dec 13)
Christmas Baroque @ Southwark Cathedral (Dec 18)
Christmas Carols by Gospel Choir @ Butcher’s Hall (Dec 20)
Christmas Special ft. Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker @ Castle Hotel Windsor (Dec 21 & 22)
The Best of Christmas: Love Actually, Home Alone & More @ Butcher’s Hall (Dec 22 & 23)
Vivaldi’s Four Seasons at Christmas @ St Mary Le Strand Church (Dec 28)
91-98. Discover London’s best new bars and restaurants
November brought some new arrivals, and so will December — here are some incredible new restaurants and bars we wrote about last month, which are well worth adding to your end-of-the-year bucket list for a good meal and drink!
99-100. More things to do inspiration…
Some features in this article have been paid for by Secret London’s friendly brand partners.
Also published on Medium.