LAST MONTH OF THE YEAR KLAXON!
It’s December and London is already awash with Christmas lights — kitted out in stars, trees and ice rinks for the winter season. You haven’t been to any yet? Well, please allow us to tell you about the festive galore that the city has to offer. You’re all Christmas-ed out and it’s still twenty-five days away? Non-festive life doesn’t just stand still this month, and there’s plenty out there for you to do. Everyone’s cold, but everyone’s winning, and 2023 is peeking its beady eye through the snow-capped ferns—ladies and gentlemen… December.
1) Walk into a paradise at one of London’s festive Christmas markets
You probably don’t need telling twice, but London is doused in swathes of festive décor right now, and you are cordially invited to do the jingle bell rock at any—or, even, every single one—of London’s lovely Christmas markets.
🎅 South Bank Christmas Markets
Check out our full guide to London’s Christmas markets here!
2) Teleport to the fabulous Back In Time Exhibition
To be fair, there are many parts of Camden to which the quote “Where we’re going, we don’t need roads” can apply—the tasty food market, lockside and a plethora of music venues, to name a few. But none fit quite like this one: an experience based around the very film that line is taken from. The Back In Time exhibition is finally here; boasting the largest collection of Back To The Future memorabilia in all of Europe. Hit the ignition on that DeLorean (replica) and whizz out of Hawley Wharf—Great Scott this is going to be good. Get your tickets here.
3) Witness the snow at Covent Garden (from December 1)
Early indications in the world of weather forecasting suggest the snowclouds are setting up shop at Covent Garden each day until Christmas, providing a perfect platform for dreaming of living in a white Christmas and getting those extra-festive shots for the ‘gram. Read more about it here.
4) And then take to the rest of Covent Garden’s festive playground
But, of course, there’s plenty more to Covent Garden this Christmas than a little sprinkling of ice. If, like Elsa, the cold doesn’t bother you anyway, there’s a flurry of activities—including snaps with a brand new sleigh—to enjoy with the backdrop of 115,000 lights and a 60 foot tree. Read about it here.
5) Visit a beautiful sea of white roses
The Ever After Garden is back for its third year at Grosvenor Square, inviting anyone to pen a message to a loved one they have lost in the form of an illuminating white rose. Every dedicated rose and message puts money towards The Royal Marsden Cancer Society, and blesses London with an ocean of light through a difficult period of the year. Read more about the Ever After Garden here.
6) Dance through a sparkling light display at Kenwood House
Taking you through the month of December, the mesmerising light trail at Kenwood is back for another year of spellbinding festive displays. There’s mulled wine, there’s spiced cider, and there’s the stunning Hampstead Heath location that will have you dreaming of Christmas all year once it’s gone. Book your place here.
7) Then take in one of London’s other jaw-dropping light trails
One fact shines brighter than most when it comes to Christmas in London: the city sure knows how to do lighting. Whether its the effervescent 2.7km, fire garden-flashing trail at Kew Gardens or the lantern bonanza at Lightopia, Londoners have plenty to enjpy when it comes to being dazzled by the lights. Check out our list of London’s light trails here.
8) Or take in the Christmas lights all around the city of London
Oxford Street boasts a twinkling display of sustainable stars; Mayfair has its sparkling triangular archways; Covent Garden has 115,000 lights illuminating the streets—and that barely scratches the surface. Check out our handy guide to the various light displays around the big smoke, get your camera ready, and prepare to be blown away.
9) Head through a portal to a parallel universe in Soho… (December 1-4)
Swerve out of the hustle and bustle of Soho’s to find yourself in a weird and wonderful universe in the World Of Wish, which takes inspiration from Alice In Wonderland, Salvador Dali and Stranger Things. You’ll find a Museum Of Bad Gifts collecting the worst presents in history; a Pet Parlour; a Diamond Room with a display of jewellery and a nail technician giving bespoke manicures and temporary tattoos; and much more. Are you ready to head through the portal? Find it at Noho Studios between December 1-4.
10) Waltz through Winter Wonderland
Yes, we’ve told you about Christmas markets and, yes, we’ve mentioned Christmas lights. Christmas trees and ice rinks will (spoilers intended) get a mention later. But, somewhere that has all of these things should get its own entry, right? Of course we’re talking about the Christmas bonanza that is Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland. It arrived last month, and it’ll be with us until the beginning of January. The giant toys and candy floss awaits…
Read our guide to Winter Wonderland here.
11) Undertake a quest to Phantom Peak Wintermas
Christmas at London’s steampunk town paradise? Would you Adam and Eve it. Well, you better; because I see your Garden of Eden and raise you Phantom Peak’s Wintermas. The gates are now open, beckoning visitors in to an added winter grotto, tongue-tingling food stands, carnival games and festive frolicking to complete. Book your space here.
12) Pick up a free pastry and support this local homeless charity (December 1)
Charles Artisan Bread are offering 50 free pastries from 8am on the first of the month, in a bid to raise awareness of the work carried out by Hackney Night Shelter. It doesn’t end there, either. Throughout the month, the bakery will be donating 50p from each pasty sold to the charity, meaning you can help give back to the local community and enjoy a fine snack. Read more about Hackney Night Shelter and Charles Artisan Bread on their websites.
13) Get captivated by a beautiful free exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery
Running until late January, Bitter Nostalgia is an inspiring, free collection of art at the Saatchi Gallery, showcasing work by South Korean painter Hyangmok Baik and British-Nigerian artist Adébayo Bolaji. Offering up a love letter to nostalgic themes nostalgic themes using memory, emotion, the past and more; it’s an essential piece of viewing within the art world through this month in London. Find more information here.
14) Show off your crafting skills at this wreath-making workshop (December 1)
If your door is looking a little, well, bare when the calendars flick to December 1, then you need only head down to this lovely wreath-making class to make one that says “NAY” to the Scrooges, as you prepare to kit the front of your house out in festive splendour until January 6. Head to the Stems Wilder wreath workshop in Brixton Village between 7-9pm for some mince pies and festive vibes. Grab your space here.
15) Explore an other-worldly new cocktail experience (from December 2)
A gateway into the brand new woodland-kissed world of Avora awaits you this month. Get your mitts on three free cocktails before embarking on an experience that incorporates taste, sounds, sights, smell and touch. Forage for your ingredients and embark upon a theatrical storyline with live actors. Will you side with the planet or the billionaires? Time will tell. Book your spot at Avora here.
16) Welcome in the annual gift of Trafalgar Square’s Christmas tree (from December 1)
Ah, it’s time folks. Time for our beautiful square to come alive with the lights of the Trafalgar tree. Every year since 1947, Norway have blessed London with a tree as a thanks for helping them out during World War II, and this year it returns on the first day of the month. Yes, people have been known to be mean about how it often looks, and yes, some of the jokes are funny—but it wouldn’t be Christmas without this loveable Norway Spruce tree in the centre of our city.
17) Check out another one of London’s fine array of Christmas trees scattered around the city
Pretty dapper Christmas tree they’ve got there at Coal Drops Yard in King’s Cross, wouldn’t you say? And if you think that’s the only piece of shrubbery that London has dressed up to the nines, you, my friend, are sorely mistaken. Anyone looking for a city not peppered with smartly decorated saplings is barking up the wrong tree, and here’s the evidence.
18) Gaze out at the view at a new rooftop bar (opens December 2)
Yes, we’re usually telling you about rooftop season in summer; but winter doesn’t exactly see them all hibernating until June 1—quite the opposite, in fact. Brave the cold and head down to Florattica, east London’s newest rooftop bar and let yourself loose on their Christmas cocktails at a covered outdoor terrace. Cheers! Read more about Florattica here.
19) Have a boogie at a gig in London town
Look, things start to tail off towards the end of the month as Christmas Day looms, but N-Dubz! Fred Again! The Cure! Rosalia! and more have something to say before the year is out. Plus, you can see if UB40 turn that red, red wine into a mulled variety so soon before the 25th.
BLACKPINK (December 1): The O2
Madness (December 2): Royal Festival Hall
Mahalia (December 2): Lafayette
Bicep (December 2-3): Alexandra Palace
Bob Vylan (December 3): Electric Ballroom
N-Dubz (December 6): The O2
Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes (December 6-7-8): Camden Underworld
Fred Again (December 7-8-9): Brixton Academy
Westlife (December 7): The O2
First Aid Kit (December 8-9): Eventim Apollo
Maverick Sabre (December 8): KOKO
Joy Orbison (December 9): Electric Brixton
The Cure (December 11-12-13): Wembley Arena
Joey Bada$$ (December 13): The Roundhouse
Sister Sledge (December 14): The Roundhouse
Rosalia (December 15): The O2
Black Country, New Road (December 15-16): Bush Hall
Crazy P (December 17): EartH
UB40 (December 21): Wembley Arena
20) Check out the compelling Seeing Auschwitz exhibition
Seeing Auschwitz brought a painful but vital exhibition to the capital in October, offering a chance to see beyond photos taken of the largest Nazi concentration camp. The exhibition is a harrowing analysis of 100 photographs, sketches and testimonials, with a free 60-minute audio guide playing voice clips from Auschwitz survivors. It’s difficult viewing, but for many it can be an important view into the historical context behind the combination of photographs and words. It’s open in South Kensington now, and tickets can be found here.
21) Glide around a dreamy ice rink
In winter, London is less big smoke, more big ice. Your skills on the rink might—much like that opening analogy—not be Olympic gold medal standard, but if Bambi can give it a go, so can you. Plus, many of them have mulled wine and lots of food, so there’s really no way you can lose. Here’s a few suggestions to get you going.
💃 Glide at Battersea Power Station
Read our guide to London’s enchanting Ice Rinks here.
22) Sing some carols on top of the O2 Arena (December 3)
While the O2 might be housing elephantine names this month like N-Dubz and BLACKPINK, there’s one only one act that will really hit the heights… in a literal sense. Yes, carol singers are taking to Greenwich’s dome to spread the festive cheer, and you can too! Get the not-so-lowdown on the event by reading our sneak preview.
23) Venture into the upside down at the Stranger Things Experience
After you’ve scaled the heights of the O2, it’s only logical to go to the upside down, right? Blast some Metallica and Kate Bush, run up down that hill and grab yourself a treat from Scoops Ahoy when you’re done. You earned it. Buy tickets to the Stranger Things experience here.
24) Try a six-course tasting menu with a twist
Foodies around the UK have no doubt heard of Six By Nico—a themed six-course experience that changes regularly and doesn’t break the bank. And lovers of the fan-favourite restaurants in Canary Wharf and Fitzrovia will be pleased to hear that a) the Chippie theme has returned and b) it’s got a Christmas twist. The six plates pay homage to quintessentially British comfort foods, with unique takes on scampi, chips & cheese, fish supper and deep fried mars bars on the roster. Book your spot to try it out.
25) Head to a brand new Japanese restaurant inspired by Tokyo’s Ginza (opens December 5)
Shiro lands this month, promising Londoners a chance to get the feel of Tokyo Ginza’s—one of the city’s most popular shopping districts—buzzing dining culture. Dishes such as Crystal Sushi blend unique flavours, including scallops and caviar with kimchi, and there’s two floors kitted out in sophisticated white interiors that will have you dining in bliss. Read more and book here!
26) Witness the turning of the screw Shard’s lights (December 6)
The Henry James horror novella being played out would be quite the shock, but at the Shard promises a spectacular affair when its lights turn on for Christmas 2022. They’ll turn on every day from December 6 at 5:30pm until New Year’s Eve, and, thanks to technology, you can even watch a nifty little livestream with accompanying audio track. Try making a dystopian series out of that one, we dare you! Read about the Shard’s lights turning on here.
27) Live through the golden eras of jazz, soul and disco at this multisensory music experience
Set out on a journey through the history of a multitude of genres with LexTempus, with an adventure taking you through Chicago, San Francisco and New York for a 101 on jazz, soul and disco. You’ll feel every single beat with the Woojer haptic technology chairs, see it all on 270-degree screen and even be blessed with the sweet immersive scents by ecoscent. Plus, you can literally drink it all in by ordering cocktails curated for each city in the experience. Book your place here.
28) Celebrate Koya City’s fifth anniversary special (December 6-11)
Koya City are celebrating half a decade with a scrumptious blackboard menu that incorporates a selection of the most popular specials from the past five years. Flock down this month to try the godly codly “Cod pil pil udon” and a host of other marvellous plates. Read more and book here.
29) Treat yourself and your pup to a beauty salon trip (December 7-8)
Short, Bark & Sides is the UK’s first beauty salon that allows both dog and owners to get a pampering at the same time. Pedicure and pawdicure with prosecco and pawsecco? Sounds too good to be true; but it is, and it lands in London this month. Read all about Short, Bark & Sides here.
30) Have a festive pint at London’s most Christmassy pub
The Churchill Arms outdoes itself every year, doesn’t it? Looking like Santa Claus himself gave it a glowup, it’s safe to say it’s the most Chirstmassy pub in London. So, without further ado, it’s time to catch the bus sleigh and make a beeline for the bar; this next pint has a big fat (metaphorical) CHRISTMAS logo in the foam. Salut. Read about it here.
31) Or, sink a pint in the great outdoors at one of London’s boozers with heated gardens
Sure, it might chilly out, but there’s plenty of pub gardens that are still demanding your attention. You may want to take a coat, but these spots all have outdoor heating for you to snuggle up and sip on that pint with the fresh air for company. Read our guide here.
32) Speaking of heating up, it’s mulled wine season
There’s no better time to drink mulled wine and feel fine than December, is there? And there’s really no shortage of the stuff here in London town. Read about the best places to sip on that beautiful, piping hot alcohol right here.
33) Waltz along to the happiest place in London
It’s December. It’s cold. It’s dark. If we ever needed a happy place, it’s right now. Thankfully, Dopamine Land is here, giving visitors a boost of endorphins since opening earlier this year. There’s adult ball pits, floor is lava rooms and more colourful installations than you could shake a candy cane. Book your place here.
34) Head to London’s brand new profiterole bar
Yes, you read that right. Among other things, The Proof bakery has a PROFITEROLE BAR where you can customise your own pot of profiteroles with unlimited toppings, for just a fiver. Alongside a cup of joe, this is hitting the spot every damn time. Read about The Proof here.
35) Find a new area of the city to explore
However long you’ve lived in London, be it two months or your whole life, there’s always somewhere new to explore. Not ventured to Camden yet? Fancy heading down to Greenwich, or having a stroll around Marylebone? Now’s the time! We’ve got plenty of handy area guides on the site, so take your pick and see what a new area of the city has to offer.
36) And that includes places outside of zone three!
It might take a little longer, but there’s plenty of beautiful parks, tasty food halls, and lovely buildings outside the realms of the Tube map’s zone three. Here’s a few places in zone four and beyond to get you started.
37) Get a round in at the Tobacco Dock Christmas Beer Fest (December 16-17)
As Christmas events start to pop up, you’ll usually hear about Baileys! mulled wine! brandy! when it comes to alcohol. Which makes me, and many of us, ask the question: what! about! beers?! All is not forgotten, pint drinkers—there’s a whole Christmas festival for the stuff at Tobacco Dock this month. There’s a tasty spread of craft beers on offer here across the two days, and plenty of food from London’s favourite restaurants—Dom’s Subs, Tacos Padres, Tiny Rebel, and more—with a dash of festive entertainment, including a return of the drag queen advent calendar. Get your tickets here.
38) Relax on the beautiful Willows on the Roof terrace at Oxford Street
John Lewis get us ready for Christmas with their advert each year, but they also run a popular roof terrace that’s doused in festive joy. This year, to add to the top-notch food, cocktails and views, they’ve added some festive igloos to dine in and say goodbye to 2022 in style. Read all about it here.
39) Then go for a tour of London’s igloos
One noticeable change to the environment of London around Christmas time is the emergence of these clear, spherical objects. People like to dine inside them and they feel pretty damn festive so we rounded up some of the best ones around. LONG LIVE THE IGLOOS.
40) Pick out your December libation at this garage wine sale (December 17)
Now, this is just before the time of the month when everyone starts to get a little discombobulated over what day it is, or is just drowning under parties and preparations. Specialist Cellars at POP Brixton are hosting a garage wine sale bringing together over 60 different varieties from New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. After you’ve picked your poison, you can get down to festivities including a DJ set between 12-4pm. Read about it here.
41) Find your favourite Christmas sarnie
Some swear by Pret, others bow down to Gails. You may have decided on your favourite a year ago, but there’s no harm in checking that you’re still correct. Or, take on the beast at Mondo Sando for, well, fun. Just look at it.
Read about 10 of the best Christmas sarnies you’ll find in London here.
42) Enjoy the immersive festivity at Backyard Cinema
Christmassy cinemagoing doesn’t come better than Backyard Cinema. Upon arrival, you’ll be whisked away on a train, embarking on a journey to the snow and to the ferns, ready to relax in front of a festive flick at this magical wonderland. Read more about Backyard Cinema’s festive cinema screenings here.
43) Sway along to a dreamy candlelight concert
When music gets the candlelight treatment, it goes to a whole new level; so it’s time to witness the transformation in the flesh and get down to one of these lovely London concerts this month.
🕯️ Candlelight Christmas: Love Actually, Home Alone & More at St Mary’s Church (December 17)
🕯️Candlelight: Celeste Live at Central Hall Westminster (December 17)
🕯️ Candlelight Jazz: Christmas Classics at Glazier’s Hall (December 18 & 25)
44) Inspire your little ones with the music of Beethoven at this themed party for charity (December 18)
Now, when you think children’s party you think chaos, but putting on the dulcet tones of the legendary classical composer and pianist might have them stopped in their tracks; silenced, in awe at his genius, if only for a second. Piece Of Music invite all children (ideal for those aged 3 to 7) and parents for “Beethoven’s Birthday Party”. There’s music games, live and piano, competitions, entertainment, party food and raffle for the kids to enjoy, and all proceeds are going towards Save the Children UK. Find out more and book your place here.
45) Treat yourself to a mince pie or six
46) Take in some culture at one of London’s brilliant art exhibitions
We’re blessed to live in a city where so much art surrounds us all year round, so make it your mission to fit in some visits to galleries in the final month of the year.
❤️ Anne Imhof: Avatar II, Sprüth Magers (until December 23, 2022)
🧡 Metamorphosis — Serpenti, AI Data Sculpture, Saatchi Gallery (until December 23, 2022)
💛 Jubilation: 200 Years of Royal Souvenirs, Museum of Brands (until December 31, 2022)
💚 Strange Clay: Ceramics in Contemporary Art, Hayward Gallery (until January 8, 2023)
💙 Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature, V&A Museum (until January 8, 2023)
💜 Japan: Courts and Culture, Queen’s Gallery (until February 2023)
❤️ LuYang NetiNeti, Zabludowicz Collection (until February 2023)
🧡 M.K. Čiurlionis: Between Worlds, Dulwich Picture Gallery (until March 2023)
💛 WEIRD SENSATION FEELS GOOD: The World of ASMR, The Design Museum (until April 2023)
💚 A Year in Art: Australia 1992, Tate Modern (until May 2023)
47) Attend a secret dining experience inspired by ‘A Christmas Carol’
The Lost Estate in Kensington has had something of a festive makeover, transforming into what the home of Charles Dickens at Christmas in 1843 might have looked like. Live music and live actors will take you through the evening as you tuck into a three-course meal—which includes an actual recipe created by Dickens’ wife, Catherine—and sip on a cocktail. Book your spot here!
48) Enjoy Christmas and New Year’s Eve in the clouds up at Sky Garden
You know Sky Garden, London’s brilliant vantage point to catch views of the city from 43 floors up? Yeah, you do. Well, they’re hosting some fantastic events to toast the end of the year and catch a view of the Christmas light-kissed city. DJs, bubbly, the lot! Read more about them here.
49) Book your annual December theatre trip
Everyone knows that a trip to the theatre in December just hits different. For starters, the West End is awash with Christmas decoration, you’re surrounded by lights and lots of people shuffling in from the cold to catch a play. Les Mis, The Lion King, The Play That Goes Wrong… whatever! Get the family together and enjoy the brilliance that is theatre season, Christmas edition.
🎭 Bugsy Malone (December 3 – January 15): (Alexandra Palace theatre)
🎭 A Christmas Carol (until January 7): The Old Vic
🎭 Baghdaddy (until December 17): Royal Court Theatre
🎭 Cabaret (until December 17): Playhouse Theatre (Kit Kat club)
🎭 Cages (until December 18): Riverside Studios
50) Plan a day trip to Harry Potter’s forbidden forest
Did you know you can visit the Forbidden Forest, creepy crawlies and all, in Cheshire? Since you might have a little more time towards the end of the month, why not take a portkey up north to delight in butterbeer and clap eyes with buckbeak at this spellbinding experience? Get your tickets here!
51) End the year at this Mayfair Inca Empire New Year’s Eve event (December 31)
2022, we barely knew ya! They seem to go faster each year, so make sure that New Year’s Eve event is as spectacular as possible. Take this golden Incan Empire at Coya Mayfair. Guests will be treated, *deep breath*, to swathes of brilliant décor; tongue-tingling flavours from COYA’s Peruvian menu; singers; a saxophonists; a live band and a transformed pisco bar to take you into the 2023. Cheers to that! Book your spot here.
52) Keep exploring this fabulous city
As you might have guessed, we rather enjoy giving you tips on where to go in London. Here’s a few more places we’ve been shouting about recently for you to check out!Take A Dazzling Ride Into The Skies In Battersea Power Station’s Great Glass Lift 60 Of The Best And Booziest Bottomless Brunches In London A Gorgeous Immersive Light Show Has Returned To Eltham Palace You Could Have A Sleepover With The Dinosaurs At The Natural History Museum This Brilliant Tube Map Shows You The Cheapest Pint Near Every Station The Big Market Is Bringing Over 120 Different Traders To Peckham Levels For Their Winter Market This Lovely Italian Restaurant Has Dialled It Up To 11 With Their Christmas Decorations Mayfair’s Prettiest Restaurant Has Had A Luxurious Festive Makeover
More things to do inspiration…
200 fab and FREE things to do in London
100 of the best things to do in London
All our ideas for unusual places to visit in London
Also published on Medium.