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101 wonderful things to do this December

By Stephanie Hartman

We made it! Christmas is almost upon us and London has pulled out all the stops to make it better than ever. Pick up beautiful gifts at festive fairs, dance, prance and skate your way around town, or sing your heart out at candlelit carol services where you can stuff yourself with mince pies and mulled wine. Finish off 2015 with a bang using the list below! 


Dec 1-24: Christmas at the Charles Dickens Museum The Charles Dickens Museum has an obvious right to go fully festive come December, and this year they'll be marking the season with near-daily special events and an exhibition themed around 'A Christmas Carol'. 

Dec 3: KidZania Adult Lates The incredible children-only city that is KidZania – where kids play a sort of real-life version of the Sims – is opening to grown-ups exclusively for Time Out this winter. If you're over 18 this is your only chance to explore the diminutive world and pretend you're a child again. 

Dec 3: Seven Dials and St Martin's Courtyard Shopping Party Over 100 stores, hotels, bars and restaurants will be offering a 20% discount plus live entertainment and activities during this central London annual shopping soirée.

Dec 3: Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony A huge Christmas tree will herald the arrival of the festive season (someone ought to tell the supermarkets they started early) when it is lit by the Mayor of Oslo, the Mayor of Westminster and the Norwegian Ambassador at 6pm.

Dec 3: William Morris Gallery Late: Agitate Tonight's event coincides with the 'Art Is Your Human Right' exhibition from Bob and Roberta Smith, celebrating agitpop and art activism through performance, music, poetry, film and craft. 

Dec 3-6: Cockpit Arts Xmas Open Studios These open studios are a great chance to support independent designer-makers and pick up unique Christmas gifts that you won't find on the high street.

Dec 3-6: Foyles First Ever Christmas Craft Fair Foyles host their very first Christmas Fair on the sixth floor of their flagship store, selling gifts, decorations, cards and more.

Dec 3-4: Selvedge present Artisan Christmas at Chelsea Old Town Hall Browse a wide range of textile-based gifts and products from more than 100 designers and small companies at this Christmas fair organised by design-led magazine Selvedge.

Dec 3-5: Royal College of Art Christmas Fete The Royal College of Art's students' union present their indoor Christmas market selling work by current and former students across all disciplines.

Dec 3-Feb 28: Big Bang Data Exhibition What does data look like? Loads of 1s and 0s floating through the ether? A mass of serpentine cables? A nice-looking cat? The answer, as presented by Somerset House’s epically informative Big Bang Data exhibition, is all three.

Dec 4-6: A Day Called Wonder Workshops and talks designed to bring people together, celebrate life and get us feeling happier are packed into this weekend of fun curated by The Sunday Assembly. 

Dec 5-Jan 24: Richmond Rink at Strawberry Hill House Horace Walpole's white, turreted gothic house in Strawberry Hill provides the backdrop for this outdoor ice rink once again.

Dec 5-6: British Street Food Awards Heats for the British Street Food Awards have been taking place all over the country this summer, and it's time for the finalists to gather for this delicious festival in the quadrant at the O2 Arena.

Dec 5: Architecture on the Thames Christmas Tours The two-and-a-half-hour boat trip is run by Open City, the organisation behind the annual London Open House weekend, which allows thousands of people to explore all sorts of places not normally open to the public.

Dec 5: Surreal Santa’s Grotto and Family Christmas Fair Local producers and artists will fill the 500-year-old halls and chambers of Sutton House with stalls for this family-friendly Christmas fair, offering handcrafted gifts and food products.

Dec 5, Dec 12, Jan 23: Midwinter Crisis Swim at the King’s Cross Ponds National homelessness charity Crisis is offering not one but three opportunities to dive into the icy depths of London's outdoor swimming facilities for the Crisis Midwinter Swim fundraiser this year.

Dec 5: Surrey Docks Farm Christmas Fair A festive breath of fresh air on the farm, this family-friendly market returns in 2015 featuring local food stalls, a farm shop and plenty of produce from this year's harvest.

Dec 5-6: Santa and Husky Sleigh Rides at London Wetland Centre Christmas is coming early thanks to a magical Santa's Grotto and free husky and donkey rides for little visitors at the Wetland Centre. Kids will come face to face with Father Christmas who'll be giving out goody bags, before they head off to meet the beautiful huskies waiting to take them for a spin. 

Dec 6-Jan 10: JW3 Ice Rink Returning for its third year in 2015 this North London Ice Rink opens in mid-December for skating, special events, music, mulled wine and Chanukah doughnuts.

Dec 7: Death Café The ‘Mary Poppins of death’, Creative Funeral Planner Louise de Winter hosts Ziferblat’s first Death Café where guests are invited to discuss all matters of death, dying, life and living in a safe and relaxed environment over a cup of tea and a slice of cake.

Dec 5-6: Eel Pie Island Open Studios Buy or commission original arts and crafts direct from the artists who ply their trade in these still-working boatyards.

Dec 9: Filmageddon Quiz This is a film quiz on a blockbuster scale – their monthly events test the knowledge of hundreds of movie fans at a time and even take place in a cinema, with video questions projected onto the massive screen.

Dec 9: College by Candlelight: 500 years of Festive Food A large collection of ancient recipes are held at the unlikely venue of the Royal College of Physicians and this event celebrates the methods found within those pages, with the College's team on hand to provide demos, tastings and explanations of the flavours that chart five centuries of festive food and drink.

Dec 10: Go Ape in Battersea Park This Go Ape centre is the 29th site to spring up within the UK's treetops, and the first to venture from a forest environment into a central London location.

Dec 10: Chanukah on the Square If you're looking to celebrate Chanukah this month there's no more superlative-packed gathering to join than this evening event in Trafalgar Square. It's the UK's biggest annual celebration of the eight-day festival of light, attracting thousands of people for a day of live music and family-friendly fun.

Dec 10: VSO annual Christmas Carol Concert Hugh Grant is the latest star to have been added to the line-up of these carols. The Methodist Central Hall in Westminster, opposite the Houses of Parliament, is the impressive venue that will host performances from the City of London Choir, youth chamber choir Inner Voices, Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter and activist Angelique Kidjo, plus more. 

Dec 10-11: Twilight Tours at 18 Stafford Terrace An evening of Victorian intrigue and drama, during which you'll be treated to a tour of the atmospheric house, along with mulled wine and mince pies.

Dec 13: Christmas Festival at Kentish Town City Farm This family-friendly fundraiser offers pony rides, arts and crafts, archery, face painting, homemade food, mulled wine and plenty more festive farmyard activities.

Dec 15-21: Olympia, The London International Horse Show Now in its 108th year, the equine world’s annual Christmas party will attract internationally acclaimed riders, Olympic Gold Medallists and horse-lovers from all over the country for world cup competitions, remarkable displays, festive entertainment and even a shopping village.. 

Dec 22-Jan 3: Disney On Ice at the O2 See your favourite Disney characters glide across an enormous ice rink in 2015's edition of the annual spectacular: 'Disney on Ice presents Worlds of Enchantment'. 

Dec 25: Peter Pan Cup Strictly a spectator event, unless you happen to be a regular, not to say hardy, member of the Serpentine Swimming Club, the Peter Pan Cup race takes place each year on Christmas morning.

Real Food Christmas Market


Restaurant openings 

Dec 1: Shuang Shuang You’ve heard of Chinese hotpot, right? The meal you cook yourself in a pot of simmering broth? And you’ve heard of (and probably eaten) conveyor belt sushi. Well, Shuang Shuang brings the two concepts together. You have the pot of broth in front of you and the belts deliver dishes of goodies for you to cook. A first for Chinatown – and for all of London, for that matter.

Dec 3: Billy and the Chicks What, another fried chicken joint? Was this really necessary? Well, maybe not necessary – but when the man manning the fryer is a chef who used to work at St John, there’s probably a fair chance that this fowl won’t be foul.

Dec 3: Flat Iron Covent Garden The original Flat Iron steakhouses in Denmark Street and Beak street have been packing in herds of happy customers – but they’re both on the small side, and a no-bookings policy can be frustrating for famished fans. So it’s good news that their new place is a massive 180 covers. Rumour has it that there will also be a butcher on-site.

Dec 4: Kanada Ya Haymarket Everyone has the same complaint about the original Kanada Ya ramen bar in St Giles: the food’s amazing but you can’t book, and there’s always a bloody queue. Consider your prayers answered at this second branch. It’s largely the same menu, but you can book if you’re a party of six. Woo hoo!

Dec 6: Shackfuyu This isn’t an opening but a reopening – and most welcome it is too. The Bone Daddies pop-up is an officially permanent restaurant, with radically redone décor and some new dishes on the menu in addition to old faves from the old menu. There’s a 50 percent discount (dinner only) off food from December 1 to 6 December.

Dec 7: Sartoria This is another one that’s reopening rather than just opening. The draw here is the new chef, Francesco Mazzei, late of the much-lauded L’Anima in the City. The old Sartoria was never quite up to Savile Row quality, more pret à porter than haute couture. With Mazzei in charge, we have high hopes for finer finery.

Mid Dec: Bellanger A new café and brasserie from Corbin and King, the team behind The Wolseley, The Delaunay and Brasserie Zedel. 


Dec 3-19: Disco Picnic Two adjacent stripped-back Victorian houses in Peckham host this combination of installations, food and DJs. Seth Troxler's tasty food venture Smokey Tails will be cooking up a storm and there'll be music until 1am daily.

Dec 5-20: Hiver and Friends Join Hiver honey beer every weekend from now until Christmas at M.D Joinery's workshop in SE1. Expect beekeepers, charcuterie, honey tasting, wine and cocktails and honey beer on draught.

Dec 6: The London Gap featuring Redwell Brewery Chefs Adam Jay and Pip Lacey creating a special tasting menu, perfectly paired with beers from Redwells Brewery.

Dec 6: A Supa Dupa Brunch Party DJ Emily Rawson, the powerhouse behind the hip hop and R&B club night Supa Dupa Fly, has rounded up her coolest pals for this Sunday brunch at The Hoxton Holborn. Hubbard and Bell will be serving up a feasting menu complete with smoked salmon bagels, avocado topped sourdough, sweetcorn fritters and more.

Dec 9-16: The Art of Dining: 80s Office Christmas Party The Art of Dining return with a Christmas special, complete with drinks, dinner, and stacks of paper ready for the photocopier. The 80s themed event teams food, theatre, set design and music inspired by the classic work do, with big hair and shoulder pads encouraged. 

Dec 15-23: Real Food Christmas Market The festive edition of the Real Food Market will be bringing tasty snacks and tempting treats to the square just outside King's Cross St Pancras station in 2015. Stalls will be offering up a selection of sustainably and ethically produced fine foods but with extra added seasonal goodies.

© Idil Sukan


Dec 1-12 and Jan 12-23: Nish Kumar – Long Word… Long Word… Blah Blah Blah… I'm So Clever Smart, thought-provoking stand-up from this recent 'Live at the Apollo' star and 2015 Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Award nominee.

Dec 8-Jan 17: Bill Bailey – Limboland More musical deconstructions and whimsical flights of fancy as the ever-brilliant Bill Bailey plays the West End.

Dec 8-11: Weirdos for Christmas Number 1 – An Alternative Panto A large gang of oddball comedians join forces for their annual alt-panto. It's chaotic, totally stupid and so much fun.

Dec 10-12: Foxdog Studios Ltd These two genuine IT consultants mix musical comedy with programming wizardry, and the entire audiences plays along with the show on their smartphones. Technology, eh?

Dec 10-Jan 6: Sofie Hagen – Bubblewrap This Danish stand-up won Best Newcomer at the Edinburgh Fringe in August. Her debut show's honest, charming and full of smart jokes.

Dec 14: James Acaster – Represent The four-time Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Award nominee talks jury duty, Christingles, 'celebrity' gossip and log flume hype men in his latest, superb solo show.

Dec 18-19: Laugh Out London's Big Christmas Weekend for Shelter Harry Hill, Stewart Lee, Henning Wehn, Isy Suttie, John Kearns and more play this mega charity fundraiser.


Dec 1-2: Madonna The Queen of Pop returns to the scene of her infamous Brit Awards tumble for a headline show that should go a lot more smoothly.

Dec 1-3: Disclosure Catch Disclosure dropping tracks from their second album ‘Caracal’ at Ally Pally, with special guest vocalists almost certainly on the cards.

Dec 4: Faithless The band whose Ikea-pack dance music never seems to pall in the ears of a following who, 20 years on, can't get enough of their cathedral-house beats and the lowering, silken tones of Maxi Jazz.

Dec 5: Akala Mobo Award-winning rapper Akala (Ms Dynamite's little brother) headlines with his soulful hip hop and spoken word.

Dec 6: Peaches Electroclash provocateuse Merrill Nisker is back, delivering her notorious brand of porno-rap with jerky groovebox beats.

Dec 6: Marina & The Diamonds Elastic-voiced quirk-pop star Marina Diamandis returns with a fresh set of songs from her new album ‘Froot’. It’s as sweet and juicy as you’d expect.

Dec 7-8: Kehlani Raw new vocal talent and songwriter Kehlani built a grassroots following before signing to Atlantic Records, giving her both realness and reach to spread her earnest R&B across the world.

Dec 10: Matt Berry Lush psychedelic folk by the ‘Toast of London’ actor and his band.

Dec 10: Hudson Mohawke Mind-warping electronica and futuristic R&B from the Glaswegian genius and producer for Kanye.

Dec 12: The Psychedelia Smithsonian After a few warm-up events throughout the autumn, DJ Eddy TM presents a 12-hour ‘mini-festival’ edition of his ’60s-style gig/club happening.

Dec 12: George The Poet NW10’s answer to Gil Scott-Heron performs his smart, upbeat political rhymes.

Dec 13: Todd Terje Big Todd the disco god sprinkles some Christmas magic on Camden this winter, pitching up for a live show to celebrate the success of his debut album ‘It’s Album Time’.

Dec 14: Lianne La Havas Still just 25 but tipped by Prince and with a Top Five debut album under her belt, south London singer-songwriter La Havas recalls Feist and Erykah Badu with her velvety vocals and mellifluous, synth-shimmering folk-soul sound.

Dec 14: Nelly Welcome to Nellyville! The US R&B star drops in for a steamy show tonight, dropping classics such as ‘Hot in Herre’ and ‘Dilemma’ as well as material from his most recent album ‘MO’ to help you get up-up on the dancefloor.

Dec 18: Skepta/JME Christmas time, mistletoe and grime: London rap lynchpins Joseph and Jamie Adenuga – aka Skepta and JME – roll up for a big festive show at Brixton with special guests Novelist, Casisdead, Frisco and Section Boyz. Big.

Dec 22-23: London Community Gospel Choir The stunning harmonies of Basil Meade's inspirational vocal troupe are guaranteed to give even the most committed atheist goose pimples. Their annual Christmas shows in Camden are always a sell-out.


Dec 2-Jan 8: Skate at Somerset House: Club Nights Top DJs spin tunes while you ice skate at Somerset House's annual winter series.

Dec 4: Love Glove With a track record of hosting great parties and club nights fuelled by deep disco, heavy house and dancefloor-focused techno and funk, it's hard not to fall in love with Love Glove. A host of great guest DJs and the LG residents spin the tunes.

Dec 5: Until the Music Stops Optimo’s JD Twitch and JG Wilkes invite recent label signees The Golden Filter to join in the fun at their last Until the Music Stops party of 2015 at Oval Space.

Dec 5: Winterville Spiegeltent: Indeedy Musical Bingo at Winterville The party that gives the humble game of bingo a manic, musical twist hits the Spiegeltent at east London festive village Winterville for a special Christmas edition, hosted by Jess Indeedy and DJ Helix.

Dec 5-19: Guilty Pleasures presents The Mighty Hoop-La A full-on fun party co-hosted by some of London's most colourful and inventive club crews, taking place on three consecutive Saturdays in December at the Spiegeltent of east London festive village Winterville.

Dec 4-Dec 25: Winterville Spiegeltent: Bugged Out’s Little Bugger Party crew Bugged Out are hosting a series of full-on-fun weekly club nights at the Spigeltent in east London festive pop-up village Winterville.

Dec 11: Friday I'm In Love This popular singalong club night allows punters to belt out their favourite indie and pop anthems from the '80s and '90s.

Dec 18: The House Clearance House Party There's no such thing as a free lunch. But who needs lunch when you've got free vinyl? Yep, at this innovative party you can take home more than just memories of dancing to top tunes – you can take home the tunes as well.

Dec 31: New Year’s Eve parties in London London is chock-full of incredible New Year's Eve parties, from quirky fancy dress events to heads-down raving. Our definitive list of events breaks down the many nights taking place by splitting them into area – north, east, south, west and central London – making it easy to track down your perfect NYE bash.

Check out more Christmas clubbing in London


Dec 4: Sunset Song Ex supermodel and party girl Agyness Deyn stars in this gorgeous, windswept, rain-lashed Scottish romance. 

Dec 11: By the Sea Angelina Jolie’s new film, which she wrote, directed and stars in, co-stars Brad Pitt – maybe you've heard they're a thing.

Dec 11: The Night Before It's boys gone wild as Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt take on the Christmas movie, with mixed but generally pleasing results.

Dec 17: Star Wars: The Force Awakens Spaceships and Wookiees and stormtroopers and lightsabers and droids and Jedis and Siths and oh my God we're so excited.

Dec 26: In the Heart of the Sea After being rammed amidships by an angry sperm whale, the crew of the nineteenth-century British vessel Essex are forced to spend 90 days adrift at sea. Before you ask, yes, they do start eyeing each other hungrily…

© Simon Annand


Dec 1-Mar 15: Hangmen Martin McDonagh returns to retake his crown with this superb dark comedy.

Dec 2-Jan 16: The Lorax 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' adaptor David Greig takes on one of Dr Seuss's kooky heroes.

Dec 2-Jan 3: Cinderella The hippest panto team in town deliver the goods again.

Dec 4-Jan 30: Peter Pan Goes Wrong Mischief Theatre return with their adaptation of JM Barrie's classic children's play about the lost boys and Peter Pan, scoring a West End run over Christmas.

Dec 10-Jan 30: The Dazzle Andrew Scott stars in this London premiere of a Richard Greenberg play, co-produced by Michael Grandage Company.

Dec 11: Les Liaisons Dangereuses Dominic West returns to the Donmar Warehouse for Josie Rourke's revial of this saucy play about seduction. 

Until Jan 30: A Christmas Carol Jim Broadbent returns to the stage to play Scrooge in Charles Dickens' Christmas classic.

Until Mar 15: Damon Albarn's new musical stage endeavour arrives at the National Theatre following its opening at the Manchester International Festival.


Dec 5-6: Pop Up Pattern Shop Pattern pioneers Patternity are opening the doors of their creative studio on Redchurch Street for a weekend long pop-up shop. Inside, you’ll find a host of Patternity’s mind-bending printed products and cool collaborations, including stationery with Paperless Post and ceramics with Richard Brendon.

Dec 5-6: Etsy Made Local Crafty e-tailer Etsy comes to Soho for the latest in its series of offline shopping events. Everything on sale has been made in the capital, from toys and clothes to artisan foods and one-off homewares.

Dec 10-13: The Poundshop presents The Garage Sale A new pop-up event where over 50 designers are able to sell stock from past seasons, prototypes, work in progress and samples. 

Dec 17: Crafty Fox Night Market at the Geffrye Shop for interesting and rather beautiful crafts, jewellery, accessories, homewares and trinkets at this evening edition of Crafty Fox, which takes place in the lovely setting of the Geffrye Museum

Dec: We Built This City We Built This City is the kind of gift shop you're happy to take your cousins to when they come to visit. After a successful stint in a pop-up venue, it's returned to Carnaby for the long haul, selling a selection of curated pieces from London artists inspired by the city around them.

Dec: Gimme More The team behind Shoreditch shop Maiden have opened a new pop up for the Christmas season. The Cheshire Street store, Gimme More is packed with festive gifts, decorations and handpicked presents including prints, home ware, diaries, cards, calendars and more.

Until Dec 23: Kat Maconie Pop-Up Your commute is about to get a lot more exciting thanks to Kat Maconie’s disco-inspired pop-up shop in Old Street tube station. Head along to gawp at statement shoes from her latest collection – and don’t blame us if you don’t have enough money to top up your Oyster afterwards.


Dec 3-Feb 14: The Inoperative Community This free group exhibition of experimental film and video from the 1970s explores ideas of social relations and community.

Dec 4-6: The London Illustration Fair London's only illustration-dedicated fair returns with the most innovative and exciting illustrators working today.

Dec 5-6: Independent Ceramic Market Organised by the people behind the DIY Art Market and Hackney Flea Market, this free weekend market will showcase over 50 ceramicists.

Dec 11-Feb 28: Heman Chong: An Arm, a Leg and Other Stories The Singaporean artist, whose practice incorporates photography, performance and writing, will cover the floor of the South London Gallery’s main space with ‘Monument to the people we've conveniently forgotten’, an installation of one million blacked out business cards that explores codes of behaviour. 

Dec 12-Feb 21: Rose English: A Premonition of the Act For the past decade, the celebrated performance artist, Rose English has been working with Chinese acrobats, filming their performances and rehearsals.


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