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15 festive things to do the week before Christmas

Kyra Hanson

It’s that time of year when panic-buying sets in, the wrapping paper runs out and we can’t even look at another mince pie. But the big day is fast approaching, and there’s still plenty of festive fun to be had. From London’s loveliest Christmas light displays and traditional carol concerts to unusual festive fairs and alternative Christmas events, London is in full jingle-bells mode, here are 15 ultra Christmassy things to do this week. 

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

Hyde Park’s annual sparkly addition to London includes a huge ice rink, two circuses, an observation wheel and a Magical Ice Kingdom, plus themed bars for the grown-ups. And you can even get merry on mulled wine on Christmas Eve if you fancy, as it’s open as usual. Hyde Park. Until Jan 1. Free entry (some ticketed events). 

Welcome Cinema + Kitchen present: A Very Special Christmas Special

Forget marmalade sandwiches, you’ll be served up a festive feast at this supperclub and screening of ‘Paddington’, plus prizes, presents and crackers. Tickets are free to refugees and asylum seekers and if you’re feeling generous (it is Christmas after all), you can choose to pay more for your ticket so someone else less financially fortunate can join. Amnesty International Human Rights Action Centre. Wed Dec 20. From £20. 

The XXXmas Sh*t Show

Forget watching cherub-faced carol singers while you freeze your toes off. If anyone is going to get you in the festive spirit (by which we mean totally sloshed and shamelessly debauched) it’s this alternative variety night, hosted by drag starlet Baby Lame, featuring some of London’s best alt-cabaret acts in all their filthy splendour. The Glory. Wed Dec 20. £10. 

Christmas Lights Bike Tour

They Made This Christmas Fair

Still looking for the perfect gift for the print lover in your life? You might just find it at this market, full of prints, posters and gifts from some top designers, including Supermundane, Crispin Finn, John Booth and Morag Myerscough. Protein Studios. Wed Dec 20-Sat Dec 23. Free entry.

Festive Vegan Deli

Made a New Year’s Resolution to go full vegan? There’s no need to resign yourself to a life of pulses and limp lettuce when you can eat like the Fat Gay Vegan. His pick of the city’s top plant-based suppliers, (including Young Vegans and brilliantly named jelly specialists The Butch Institute) will be spreading their meat-free cheer at this Camden pop-up today. Camden Stables Market. Thu Dec 21. Free entry. 

Whippersnappers Winter Wonderland

Father Christmas has rocked up in Dulwich and thankfully, he’s brought a sackload of mulled wine, hot chocolate and mince pies with him. Fun activities for the kids include watching films at a log cabin cinema, listening to music in a magical yurt and decorating gingerbread biscuits with Mrs Claus. Profits go towards Whippersnappers’ work delivering activities for children with disabilities. College Lodge. Thu Dec 21-Sun Dec 24. £22.50 child, £9 adult.

Elizabethan Christmas at Hampton Court Palace

Good Life London: The Christmas Special

Get down to this weird and wonderful Christmas wonderland, where DJs will be giving all your fave party classics a festive twist. There’ll also be wild decor, giant stages, roaming actors and heaps of confetti. See you under the mistletoe disco ball. The Islington Metal Works. Fri Dec 22. £17.10.

The Gingerbread City

Today’s your last chance to marvel at two floors’ worth of biscuity streets and buildings, constructed by some of the Museum of Architecture’s best architects and urban planners. Don’t arrive hungry – if those dainty castle turrets look good enough to eat, it’s because they are. 27 Thurloe St. Until Fri Dec 22. £3. 

Elizabethan Christmas

If you’ve got LED overload and you’re yearning for something more traditional this Christmas, make a beeline for Hampton Court Palace, where courtiers, musicians, and jesters will be performing a heartwarming Christmas tale. Hampton Court Palace. Dec 22-23. £8 child, £15.90 adult. 

Southbank Centre Winter Market

Camden Christmas Wonderland

If you’re one of the smug ones who did their Christmas shopping ages ago and actually has time to kick back and enjoy the festivities London has to offer, get your glad rags on and head to Proud in Camden for a day of disco, bingo, bad Santa giveaways and alternative Christmas carol services. There’s even a cheeky mistletoe kissing booth. Proud Camden. Sat Dec 23. £10. 

Hart’s of Smithfield Christmas Auction

Bring plenty of cash, your own bag and your loudest, shoutiest voice to this annual market and you could be leaving with more than just your Christmas dinner sorted. Try your luck with the traditional coin toss and you might even bag yourself a hunk of highly prized meat for free. Smithfield Market. Sat Dec 23. Free entry. 

Southbank Centre Winter Festival

On the lookout for last-minute gifts? Wrap up warm and visit the riverside market chalets on the South Bank, where you can pick up pottery, lanterns, sweets and other stocking fillers. Take a break from shopping, get your dancing shoes on and join a festive swing dance class with Five Go Jiving at noon, along with plenty of other festive events in the Southbank Centre. Royal Festival Hall. Sun Dec 24. Free entry. 

Charles Dickens Museum

London Shell Co Christmas Lunch & Dinner Cruises

For a stress-free Christmas dinner, step away from the kitchen and hop aboard the London Shell Co canal boat, serving up its award-winning festive grub on Regents Canal cruises throughout December. London Shell Co, The Prince Regent, Sheldon Square. Booking required. Until Dec 31. £35 lunch, £55 dinner. 

Ghost of an Idea: Unwrapping 'A Christmas Carol'

The Charles Dickens Museum always gets the full-on festive treatment at this time of year (how could it not?) but there’s also a special exhibition looking at the background to ‘A Christmas Carol’, with costumes from the Dan Stevens film dotted throughout Charlie’s handsome townhouse. Charles Dickens Museum. Until Feb 25. £9, £7 concs. 

Christmas Lights Tour

Want to get your festive fix all in one go? Peddle your way around London’s pretty Christmas lights on this three-hour tour, where you’ll pass Christmas markets as well as the Oxford, Carnaby and Regent Street displays before finishing up at the festive mecca that is Covent Garden. South Bank. Until Jan 6. £25.95. 

Find more festive fun with our guide to Christmas in London.

Read our pick of the loveliest Christmas lights in London, the most festive ice rinks, the best Christmas markets, the most unusual Christmas events and more, including pantomimescarol concerts and restaurants that are open on Christmas Day

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