It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...
It’s our favourite time of year. The lights are already up on Regent Street and Oxford Street, Harrods, Fortnum & Mason’s, Selfridge’s and Harvey Nichols all compete for the most amazing window displays. There are ice skating rinks and German markets popping up across town, pumping the smell of spiced glühwein into the air, and all of London is alive and twinkling with that incomparable festive buzz. Of course there’s the annual Skate at Somerset House and the Natural History Museum rink, as well Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland and countless shows in the west end, but there are dozens of other ways to celebrate this time of year too. Ready for some festive cheer? Here are 12 of the most magical and fun-filled things to do that would please even the biggest Grinch.
1. CHRISTMAS AT KEW
Kew Gardens looks more spectacular than ever during the month of December, when the gardens are transformed into a magical after-dark experience. Back for the sixth year, the annual winter celebration sees Kew Gardens alight with an illuminated evening trail through the botanic gardens, more than a million twinkling pea-lights, thousands of laser beams that light up the trees, and a dramatic Fire Garden. Highlights include a glittering mile-long trail of Christmas trees and a tunnel of lights, 300 sparkling origami boats floating on Kew’s lake, the Great Pagoda, which is adorned with 80 golden dragons and the illuminated laser garden featuring dancing beams.
Father Christmas and his elves will keep children entertained as they busily prepare Christmas gifts in the grotto, and there are also some tasteful Christmas pop-up shops selling market gifts – perfect for stocking fillers. Christmas at Kew Gardens takes place from 22 November to 5 January between 5-10pm. Tickets are on sale now at www.kew.org – advance booking recommended!
Tickets from £10 for children, £16 for adults. Richmond, TW9 3AB, kew.org
2. LUNA CINEMA
Curl up with mulled wine and a mince pie and watching your favourite Christmas film in a unique setting. The Luna Cinema have taken over Pavilion of Kensington Palace and the former Art Deco cinema now reimagined as Earth (Evolutionary Arts Hackney), to show some Christmas favourites, including Love Actually, Home Alone, It’s A Wonderful Life and Elf on the big screen. Both stunning indoor, heated spaces have been transformed into cinematic winter wonderlands. Sit back on comfy seats and enjoy the movie amid gently falling snowflakes.
December 17 – 23, across London, thelunacinema.com
3. CHRISTMAS WREATH CLASSES
Turn your hand to the homemade with these festive foliage workshops. Nothing says ‘Welcome to Christmas’ quite like a lush, berry- laden wreath. Florists and probably even your local Christmas forest can supply the finished article, but the festive season is also the one time of the year to indulge in a craft moment. What could be more fun than making your own? Secateurs at the ready…
Daylesford organic farm, Gloucestershire. £125 per person, 11-15, and 18 December (daylesford.com).
4. WINTERLAND FULHAM
Neverland London returns in style this festive season with a brand new theme to match. Taking inspiration from the slopes of the Alps in the 80s and 90s, Winterland has been transformed into a festive winter playground. Expect fur lined sofas, heated hunting lodges, retro gondolas and chairlifts, bauble filled igloos and firepits, a shimmering retro room, multiple bars serving pulled wine and winter warmer cocktails, fondues and schnitzels food from Jimmy’s Lodge, and amazing wood fired, sourdough pizzas with festive toppings. And for those more playful Alpine explorers, a karaoke booth, curling lanes, beer pong, putting pong, table tennis and more can be found within Fulham’s very own ski resort. Oh, and it’s dog-friendly, too.
Winterland London, Wandsworth Bridge Road, Fulham, London, SW6 2TY. winterlandlondon.com
5. DALLOWAY TERRACE
The Instagrammable terrace has been transformed into a winter wonderland for the festive period by Nikki Tibbles at Wild at Heart. Pop in for cheese fondue, cosy cauliflower cheese, mulled cocktails and boozy hot chocolates. But you’ll need to get in there quick, as they are booking up fast…
16-22 Great Russell St, London WC1B 3NN.
6. JIMMYS LODGE
Maestro of the pop-up, Jimmy Garcia returns to the Southbank with his lodge and igloos in tow. There’s a first-floor restaurant, The Refuge, serving classic fondue menu (book in advance), while the ground floor Winter Grill serving up grab-and-go Raclette Burgers and Aspen Fries. There’s also a heated outside bar full of hot toddies and cocktails, perfect to sip over the fire pits and enjoy the London riverbank views. For the ultimate festive experience, Snow Globes along the river bank offer unrivalled views over the city. They seat up to 10 and provide dinners with canapés, the Alpine fondue and the option of Côte de Boeuf (book in advance).
Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8XX.
Clapham Common’s Winterville is a slightly more scaled-down and less touristy alternative to Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland, with rides, a street food market, roller disco rink, neon mini golf, stand up comedy, an 18+ puppet show, a Backyard Cinema with festive flicks playing inside the Christmas Labyrinth (which is also home to a secret tequila bar), and even Mexican wrestling (because why not).
Winterville on Clapham Common, open 15 November – 23 December, winterville.co.uk.
8. WINTER FOREST
With 300 snow-covered pine trees, twinkling lights and wood cabins, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a festive wonderland at Broadgate Circle this winter. Sip on hot butter rum cocktails at the all-new Mrs Fogg’s Winter Terrace, enjoy live music and even get involved at the live Christmas Carol Singalong every Wednesday.
The Winter Forest, Broadgate Circle. Open until 24 December. broadgate.co.uk/winter
9. DULCE DOMUM
Don’t miss Sketch’s Dulce Domum, an enchanted découpage forest in London’s Mayfair. Enjoy a festive dinner or drinks, surrounded by winter foliage and mistletoe.
Open until Sunday 6th January 2019.
10. WINTER WONDERLAND
Nothing says Christmas in London quite like Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. It’s the ultimate festive one-stop shop for everything Christmassy. The attraction gets bigger and better every year, with an ice skating rink, festive fairground rides, warming winter street food, cosy wooden grottos and, of course, gallons of glühwein to keep you going.
This year there’s a 45-metre ice slide inside the new Magical Ice Kingdom and Secret Forest, there’s a Bavarian village offering gigantic bratwursts and steins as big as your head, there are bookable alpine-themed Bar Hüttes, as well as Backyard Cinema’s The Snowman™ immersive cinematic walk-through experience. You can also visit the brand new Comedy Club series and watch Peter Pan pirouette on the ice.
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland. Free entry. Open 10am to 10pm (except Christmas Day) until January 6 2019.
11. PISTE BAR
If you want to feel like you’ve just come off the slopes then make sure you stop by the Piste Winter Bar. Complete with fur-lined seats and antlers hung on the walls, ski chalet bar Piste offers the perfect après-ski environment for all those missing the slopes during the winter months.
Piste Winter Bar, 3-4 Archer Street, South Soho, London W1D 7AP.
12. WINTER RETREAT
Explore a cosy tipi harbouring a roaring fire, live music, craft classes, quizzes nights, board game nights as well as plenty of festive food and mulled drinks. There’s even a coat-swapping service for those in need this winter (if you’d like to donate a coat or warm item of clothing, stop by the coat rack at The Winter Retreat tipi)
The Christmas workshops (including how to make your own terrarium and xx) are the perfect opportunity to make homemade gifts for loved ones or decorations for your own home.
The Winter Reteat at Regent’s Place is open Monday – Saturday from 12pm-11pm. Open until Monday 24th December. To book, please visit Regent’s Place: www.regentsplace.com/winterretreat