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32 brilliant things to do in London this weekend

Alexandra Sims

No plans this weekend? Not any more. Begin December with a bang by playing in a pulsating art, light and music installation at House of Vans, buying picturesque scribbles at the London Illustration Fair or listening to a ‘sound sculpture’ at the London Contemporary Music Festival. 



House of Vans Presents: Chroma. House of Vans. Until Dec 17. Free. The tunnels of House of Vans are going to look like a den of prismatic unicorn dung for this pulsating art, light and music installation. Need more? Try nosediving into an adult ballpit.

The Great Christmas Pudding Race. Covent Garden Piazza. Sat. Free to watch. Watch runners dressed as your fave Christmas characters balance a plate of Chrimbo pud while negotiating inflatable hazards at this madcap fancy-dress race. All the wackiness is in aid of Cancer Research UK. You can turn up on the day to laugh and point/lend support. 

RHS Festive Flowers and Flea. Flat Iron Square. Sat-Sun. Free entry. Mix something old with something new at this vintage flea market combined with a fresh flower one. The Royal Horticultural Society will be offering a weekend of workshops and talks. Stallholders will be selling pre-loved plant pots, furniture, retro clothing, jewellery and ceramics.

The Racketeer. 105 King's Cross Rd, WC1X 9LR. Get some drinks in at our bar of the week: a rustic-looking cocktail joint on King’s Cross Road. Go for romantically lit drinking that won’t break the bank.

Gilbert & George: ‘The Beard Pictures and Their Fuckosophy’. White Cube Bermondsey. Until Jan 28. Free. See art’s oddest couple do rude words and weird beards. ‘The Beard Pictures’ are darkly troubling and beautiful.

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. Apollo Theatre. Until April 21. £10-£95. See this hot new Brit musical about a teen drag queen. Head along for the pure joy of it all and Dan Gillespie Sell’s smokin’ songs. 

Christmas Market. Oasis Farm Waterloo. Sat. £1 entry. Market stalls, kids’ activities, live music and hot food and drinks are waiting down on the farm this weekend for anyone who fancies adding a bit of local flavour to their Christmas table this year. And vegans, you can relax: the only pigs in blankets here will be of the living, breathing variety.

London Contemporary Music Festival. Ambika P3. Until Sun. £14. Kicking off this year’s adventurous fest is Ragnar Kjartansson. The Icelandic artist is opening LCMF with the UK premiere of ‘An die Musik’. Over seven hours he’ll build a ‘sound sculpture’ as five musicians layer a single song by Schubert over and over.   

London Illustration Fair. Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf. Fri-Sun. £8, free under-12s. This doodle-filled fair is back. As well as artists selling their scribbles, there’ll be a packed programme of activities and workshops to keep creative hands busy.

Ginvent Winter Wonderland. The Vinyl Factory. Fri-Sat. £17.50. Gin Foundry is turning Soho’s Vinyl Factory into a boozy winter wonderland. Sip on a free welcome G&T and gin cocktail, join a competitive game of gin rummy, buy juniper-laden drinks and get busy at a botanical wreath-making session.

Christmas Embroidery. Drink, Shop & Do. Sat. £20. Embroidery expert Cathy Eliot leads you through one mini-hoop, teaching stitches and providing templates for handmade Christmas gifts for your nearest and dearest. Stitch and bitch, even if you're new to it.

Sail with Santa. Tower Millennium Pier. Until Dec 23. £28, £16 child. Didn't you get the memo? Santa’s swapped the sleigh for a boat this year. Sail the Thames with Santa in a waterborne tour organised by City Cruises. Meet the man in red who’s set up with a sackful of presents to give out to those on his ‘nice’ list. 


Hampstead Village Christmas Fair. Hampstead High Street. Sun. Free. Hampstead's annual Christmas festival is cancelled this year, but retailers on the high street are stepping up to offer a Sunday fair in its place. Musicians and singers will perform throughout the village and kids can also enjoy Santa’s grotto, vintage fairground rides, and roasted chestnuts.  

Esty Made Local: Tottenham. The DREAM Centre. Sat. Free. Shop for Christmas goodies at the first Etsy makers’ market in Tottenham. From toys and clothes to artisan foods and one-off homewares, everything on sale has been made in the capital. 


The Garmhaus Christmas Pop-Up Vintage Market. Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen. Sun. Free entry. Leeds is letting us in on its vintage finds with the first London outing for this popular northern market. Let DJs, sequins and buffalo chicken burgers take over your Sunday.

Karla Black. Stuart Shave/ Modern Art. Until Dec 16. Free. See the former Turner Prize nominee’s show full of perfectly fragile and wispy sculptures. Black’s art shrouds prettiness in tension – and it’s totally absorbing.  

Bust Christmas Craftacular. York Hall. Sun. £3 entry. Feminist mag Bust is back with another Christmas craft fair, complete with shopping, DJs and DIY making workshops to get stuck into.

Insta Gift Market. Old Spitalfields Market. Sat. Free entry. You know those small businesses who try and flog you their stuff on Instagram? They are run by IRL people, and you can meet 50 of them at the first ever Insta Gift Market. No need to double-tap the sellers on the nose, you can just tell them you love their stuff, using your mouth.

Winter Open Studios. Glebe Road Studios. Sat-Sun. Free. Browse and buy Christmas gifts directly from 12 ceramic artists and designers based at Glebe Road Studios. The Hackney makers will give visitors the lowdown on their wares, demonstrate techniques and give budding makers the chance to have a go at throwing their very own piece.

Victorian Santa’s Grotto. Museum of London Docklands. Until Dec 23. £10. Father Christmas hops between two atmospheric Victorian streets nestled in the Museum of London and Museum of London Docklands, with plenty of presents for well-behaved nippers. 


Pear Tree Café Christmas Market. Battersea Park. Sat-Sun. Free entry. Around 30 vendors are setting up shop by Battersea Park’s frosted boating lake. Roam the stalls, listen to carol singers, sip mulled wine, feast on ‘Pig in Blanket Hot Dogs’ and gather round the ‘Marshmallow Fire Pit’ when it gets chilly.

Wild Winter Fayre. Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park. Sun. Free. A magical woodland hideout will be serving hot mince pies, barbecue food and winter warmers at this day of workshops and wintry outdoor fun.

Cheese Town. Brixton Rooftop. Sat. £10, Love going to town on a slab of Cheddar? Meet your people at a rooftop fromage-fest. Mac-filled camemberts and a raclette station? Edam right.

Greenwich Winter Time Festival. Old Royal Naval College. Until Dec 31. £15, £8 child. Move over, Winter Wonderland – there’s a new Christmas show in town: it’s a snowy festive takeover of the World Heritage-listed Old Royal Naval College.

Santa Dash. Clapham Common. Sun. £25, £15 child. Are you a rebel without a Claus? Surround yourself with thousands of them at this Santa run across Clapham Common. Raise cash for Great Ormond Street Hospital while, hopefully, spreading a little Christmas cheer. Registration includes the Santa suit and mulled wine/mince pie reward at the finish line.

Sample Christmas. Greenwich Peninsula. Sat-Sun. Free. This brilliant craft market is back for a Christmas special, featuring a showcase of emerging creatives spanning fashion, beauty, art and homeware. Pick up cute presents for loved ones (and yourself) as well as seasonal produce from the food market.

Etsy Made Local. Tooting Tram & Social. Sat. Free entry. Find unique, affordable and meaningful gifts from south London makers and designers in the lead-up to Christmas. And be in with a chance to scoop one of 50 free goody bags if you’re first in the queue.

Massive Arts Fayre. Ritzy Brixton. Sat. Free entry. Do your Christmas shopping away from the aggro of central London at this makers’ market upstairs at the Ritzy cinema. 


The Singing Tree. V&A Grand Entrance. Until Jan 6. Free. Visit the V&A’s unusual Christmas tree, which feeds off festive words contributed by members of the public and turns them into an audiovisual carol. Keep it clean people – it is Christmas.

Lorne. 76 Wilton Rd, SW1V 1DE. Tuck in at our restaurant of the week: a neighbourhood spot from a pair who first met at refined Mayfair restaurant The Square. 

Mistletoe and Merriment: Christmas with the Stuarts. Ham House. Until Dec 15. £11.90. Find out how Londoners used to make merry at Christmastime under the reign of Charles II, as Ham House comes to life with music, festive greenery and seasonal treats. Free with general admission.

St John’s Hospice Christmas Fayre. St John’s Wood High Street. Sun. Free. More than 50 stalls selling a tempting range of jewellery, clothing, gifts and food will fill St John’s Wood High Street with festive cheer for this fair in aid of St John’s Hospice. For the first time, there’s an ice rink too. 


Don’t miss these offers 

Maze: A three-course menu plus a glass of bubbles at Gordon Ramsay’s chic Mayfair spot – exclusively for Time Out. 

‘Bananaman: The Musical’: Exclusively discounted tickets to the musical of the cult cartoon superhero at the Southwark Playhouse. 
Chit Chaat Chai Feast: An exclusive meal and a cocktail at this quirky south London Indian eatery.
The Black Cat CabaretUp to 42 percent off tickets to this contemporary cabaret extravaganza. 

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