Christmas events in London
Get in the seasonal spirit of things at one of London's festive events and activities
Tue Sep 10 2013
Longing to spend you free time in a place where festive headgear is encouraged and mulled wine is the only thing on the drinks list? You'll find London's best Christmas events and activities right here, so dig out the knitwear and be merry.
Kew's annual, seasonal makeover has a spectacular sounding new addition for 2013. The Illuminated Trail sees the gardens transformed with a series of lighting installations created by artists from around the UK. Exploring the gardens on a leisurely stroll through the enchanted winter landscape takes around 75 minutes. During the evening openings there are also plenty of family-friendly attractions including a Victorian carousel and vintage rides, Santa's grotto, a boutique Christmas market with foodie treats and live festive music. These lates promise to be a perfect way to get into the Christmas spirit.
Hyde Park gets glammed up once again with its sparkly, annual Christmassy additions. The central London park will be kitted out with rides and attractions, including a Giant Observation Wheel and two circuses – 'Christmas Circus' and 'Cirque Berserk' – from the family-friendly Zippos Circus. Plus Winter Wonderland's ice rink, which is the biggest outdoor rink in the UK, surrounds the Victorian bandstand and is illuminated with more than 100,000 lights.
Pick up a map and, with the help of some elves, follow the trail to Santa's woodland grotto. Once there you'll meet the big man himself - and get a gift! Advance booking essential. Ages 6 and older.
From the folks who bring the fantastic Dusty Fingers Vintage night markets, comes a snowy twist on a classic. It’s the one-year anniversary for the market, and they are planning an extra-special evening – including a vintage kilo-sale where you can buy Christmas gifts by weight, cake decorating for the mandatory holiday family dinners, and of course the usual selection of trinkets, furs, fashion, and homewares will be up for grabs. Keep an eye out for the impressive selection of cheesy '80s festive jumpers for that inevitable tacky Christmas party. Listen to live music by a brass band, sip on mulled wine, and munch on other festive treats as you browse the space.
What sets this grotto apart from the rest is that your little ones can actually meet Santa’s reindeer – adding that extra touch of magic and wonder. In the daily keeper’s talk, you’ll find out why the critters all have to be of the female persuasion. Of course they’ll also meet Father Christmas, and carousel rides and other animal demonstrations complete the experience. Make sure to book your tickets in advance.
- Critics choice
Alfred Waterhouse's stunning Natural History Museum once again provides the backdrop for London's most enchanting ice-rink: a 1,000-metre-square outdoor affair with a Christmas tree at its centre and a smaller rink for children. Returning this year is a rinkside fairground carousel, and spectators can take in the scene with a hot chocolate or mulled wine from the balcony café bar overlooking the ice. The trees are decked with thousands of fairy lights to add to the festive atmosphere. See the website for wheelchair-user sessions, and note the rink is occasionally closed for private functions.
The traditional German-style wooden huts of the Southbank Centre Christmas Market return to Queen's walk along the river (between the Southbank Centre and the London Eye) this season. Browse a large selection of toys and gifts, and sample a variety of festive food and drink, including Glühwein, Bratwurst and gingerbread. There's a stall for kids to make Christmas cards and a pocket money stall with affordable gifts for family and friends. The Designers Makers Christmas Market is also on (Dec 16-22, open daily 11am-8pm) with over fifty British designers selling jewellery, ceramics, textiles, homewares, and prints.
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Discover all the festive activities to be enjoyed in London this Christmas, including markets, Christmas lights, pantomimes and carols.