Sleigh bells have started ringing. Salma Haidrani picks the unmissable activities that will keep you feeling festive from now until December 25. It’s like an advent calendar but much more fun
November 14: Dine in an igloo
From gorgeous street lights to ice-skating and festive film screenings, London’s not short on Christmas traditions. Now there’s something new to add to the bucket list. Igloos. Okay, the domes we’re talking about here are actually made of PVC rather than ice, but they are shaped like igloos and London has officially gone mad for them. In fact, it’s hard to get a reservation in one of these party pods, but you can still book spots at the Social Fun & Games Club at Roof East. You’ll get sweet views of the city and you can even try your hand at everyone’s favourite Winter Olympic sport: curling. Great Eastern Rd. Tube: Stratford. Until Dec 23. Book yourself a curling lane here.
November 15: Get debauched with drag queens
Dig out your festival glitter: alt club night Sink The Pink is taking over Selfridges for a strictly adults-only panto. It’ll be bringing the vibes of East End boozer The Queen’s Head to the Oxford Street department store with glitter, theatrics and, er, more glitter. A £25 ticket includes three tipples and a snack – we can’t guarantee they’ll come covered in sparkles, but you definitely will be by the time you leave. Selfridges. Tube: Marble Arch. Wed Nov 15-Nov 30.
November 17: Gawp at the Christmas lights
Want to see the capital’s finest festive illuminations in just three hours? Don your Lycra and work up a sweat on The Christmas Lights Tour with The London Bicycle Tour Company. Meet at Gabriel’s Wharf to get kitted out with bike, lights, helmet and Santa hat. Whizz past Carnaby Street’s disco ball and marvel at Regent Street’s window displays before the big finish: Covent Garden, home to a mighty spruce and the perfect spot to rehydrate with H2O. Or mulled wine (we won’t judge). Gabriel’s Wharf. Tube: Waterloo. Fri Nov 17-Jan 6 2018.
November 17: Dive ‘under the sea’ to spot ice rays and snowhorses
With the UK’s largest ice rink, hot toddies and a mini alpine village, Winter Wonderland has all the Christmassy bases covered. But if you’re starting to get festive fatigue, you’ll find something a little different at the new magical ice kingdom’s deep-sea adventure: more than 250 sculptures made from 500 tonnes of ice and snow. Expect to see stingrays, seahorses and a mermaid grotto. At minus 10C, it’s a bit nippy down there, so it’s the ideal excuse to dig out your ‘ironic’ reindeer jumper. Hyde Park. Tube: Hyde Park Corner. Fri Nov 17-Jan 1 2018.
November 18: Enter the magical world of Harry Potter
Still waiting for your Hogwarts acceptance letter? Now’s your chance to get into the famous wizarding school – by taking up Warner Bros Studio Tour’s most bewitching festive treat: Hogwarts in the Snow. Muggles can see the Great Hall decked out in all its glory with dripping icicles, snow-covered Christmas trees and feasting tables heaving with prop versions of roast turkeys and Christmas puds flanked by real flames. Warner Bros Studio Tour. Watford Junction rail. Nov 18-Jan 28 2018.
November 22: See Kew Gardens lit up for Christmas
Immerse yourself in the million twinkling lights illuminating Kew’s world-famous botanic gardens as Christmas at Kew returns for its fifth year. Expect singing trees decorated with snowflakes, a tree made from more than 360 wooden sledges and an impressive display of kaleidoscopic projections and laser beams on the Palm House and nearby pond. Warm up with mulled cider and munch roasted chestnuts along the trail to really get in the festive mood. Kew Rd. Tube: Kew Gardens. Nov 22-Jan 1 2018.
November 23: Catch a festive film
Snuggle up at our magical, drag-tastic film series Time Out Loves Christmas Movies. We’ll be decking the halls of Lost Rivers Elephant to transform it into a wintery cinema - complete with fake snow. It kicks off with ‘Home Alone’ on November 23. Then there’s‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’, ‘Elf’, ‘Love Actually’ and more throughout the festive season. The best bit? After every movie there’s a Christmas knees-up, complete with OTT decorations and entertainment from the likes of drag troupe Family Fierce and hula-hoopers Majorettes. If that doesn’t stop your inner Scrooge, nothing will. Lost Rivers Elephant. Tube: Elephant & Castle. Nov 23-Dec 16. Book at timeout.com/xmasmovies
November 23: Check out Winterville’s new home in Clapham
East London’s answer to Winter Wonderland is moving to, er, south London this year. Winterville will relocate from Victoria Park to Clapham Common – bringing loads of Christmas cheer with it. Organised by the folks behind Field Day and Street Feast, it will feature performances from the likes of Sink The Pink and Norman Jay MBE, as well as an excellent line-up of street food stalls including Chin Chin Labs, Mother Clucker and White Men Can’t Jerk – not a dry turkey sandwich in sight. Windmill Drive. Tube: Clapham Common. Nov 23-Jan 1 2018. Snap up discounted tickets to Backyard Cinema at Winterville here.
November 26: Go to a winter rooftop pop-up
Who said rooftop bars were just for summer? Get your skates on at Skylight, east London’s first rooftop ice rink. The top of this Wapping car park has been given a festive facelift, retiring its croquet lawn to make way for cosy blankets and twinkling neon lights. It reopened a couple of weeks ago, but wait till the end of the month to visit and you’ll fully appreciate the heated lounge where you can enjoy panoramic views of the city’s skyline and tuck into cheese or chocolate fondue. Or both – because, y’know, it’s Christmas. Find more festive pop-ups here. Tobacco Dock. Wapping Overground. Until Jan 7 2018.
December 1: Swap Christmas dinner for a festive brunch
What’s better than bottomless boozy brunch? A Christmas-themed one, obviously. Wear your stretchiest trousers and head to Bad Egg for a festive feast of turkey hash (buttermilk turkey nuggets and crispy potatoes) and a towering burger topped with roast beef, horseradish and cheese fondue. As for the booze, alongside prosecco and mimosas, they’ll be shaking up Santa’s secret slushy, which is apparently a mix of the big guy’s favourite tipples – so expect it to be heavy on the port? Bad Egg. Tube: Moorgate. Wed-Fri from 3pm. Dec 1-22.
December 7: Chill out with hot booze
Bored of mulled wine? We feel you. Which is why we’re throwing Hotboozapalooza: a hot cocktail fest and mulled-wine-free zone. We’re taking over Flat Iron Square’s après-ski-themed bar for a boozy bonanza including a hot gin punch with festive spices and a warming rum concoction with cream and fresh pineapple. You can grab grub from food stalls or pick up booze to stash under the tree. Most importantly, you can get merry without facing a mulled wine hangover. Flat Iron Square. Tube: Borough. Dec 7. Book at timeout.com/hotboozapalooza
December 10: Swelter in a sauna
Christmas in London wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the Southbank Centre’s Wintertime Market to pick up festive wares and gifts from the alpine-style chalets along the river. This year, things are hotting up on the South Bank thanks to the arrival of a Finnish sauna on the Queen Elizabeth Hall’s roof garden overlooking the Thames.
It’s not for the faint-hearted, though. You’ll spend much of a 70-minute session in 90C heat – ideal for sweating out all that festive booze. On Sundays, you can catch a performance or join in a (literally) heated debate in the sauna. Belvedere Rd. Tube: Waterloo. Until Dec 30.
December 14: Go dancing on ice
Somerset House’s famed ice rink is hosting a new series of Skate Lates this year. With everything from grime to EDM plus takeovers by Peckham-based radio station Balamii, ’90s and noughties hip hop and R&B club night Supa Dupa Fly and Field Day founders Eat Your Own Ears, it should appease even the most discerning music snobs. Throw some shapes
on the ice to the sounds of ’70s disco when independent record label BBE takes over on December 14 – the perfect antidote to Cliff Richard’s festive crooning. Somerset House. Tube: Temple. Thu Nov 16-Jan 5 2018.
December 19: Catch a carol concert at the Tower of London
With Christmas less than a week away, it’s time to turn festivity levels up to max. Get in the Christmas spirit and do your bit for charity at a candlelit carol concert hosted by Street Child to raise money for work supporting vulnerable children and families in West Africa. Listen to the soothing sounds of the Chapel Royal choir in the Tower of London’s Church of St Peter ad Vincula. You won’t lose your head but your vocal cords might take a hit after one too many high notes in ‘Silent Night’. Luckily, there’s mulled wine at the end to soothe them. Tower Hill. Tube: Tower Hill. Dec 19.
December 23: Go on a boat ride with Santa
Sleighs are so 2016. This year Father Christmas is delivering gifts from a vessel on the Thames – and you can join him. City Cruises is putting on boat rides with Santa all through December. There’ll be mulled wine and mince pies for the grown-ups, soft drinks and cookies for the kids. Mr Claus will hand out presents to the little ones as the boat goes to and from Tower Pier. The last ride is at 4.35pm on December 23 and it’s guaranteed to get you ready for Christmas Eve. Shh… don’t tell Rudolph he’s out of a job. Tower Pier. Tube: Tower Hill. Dec 2-3, 9-10, 16-23.
December 25: Shiver in support at the Peter Pan Cup
Strictly a spectator event, unless you happen to be a Serpentine Swimming Club member, the Peter Pan Cup race takes place every Christmas morning. As much a London tradition as the Trafalgar Square tree, 2017’s instalment marks 154 years of foolhardy front-crawlers spending Christmas Day racing in water that often freezes in winter. Work up an appetite for the excesses to come with a brisk walk across Hyde Park before watching the race. It starts on the south side of the lake, near the Lido Café. Serpentine Lido. Tube: Knightsbridge. Dec 25, 9am.
Ready for more festive fun? Check out our ultimate guide to Christmas in London.