Wrap up warm. It’s December and that means winter has truly arrived and Christmas in London has begun. The skies are sparkling with Christmas lights, airwaves are buzzing with Christmas songs, office workers are swapping their salads for indulgent festive sandwiches, the best restaurants and pubs in London are even buzzier than usual and there are festive parties popping up all over the place.
But don't worry if you’re sick of Christmas spirit already, as there are tons of cosy winter pop-ups and great, non-festive events to enjoy – as well as the epic New Year celebrations to get planning. Here's your guide to all the best events and cultural happenings taking place across London this December.
RECOMMENDED: The definitive London events calendar
Our December 2018 highlights
London is one of the best places in the world to be for New Year celebrations. Fact. Never one to miss out on a party, the capital is fully prepared with loads of New Year's Eve parties and events up its sparkly sleeve, as well as the mighty NYE firework display over the Thames.
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 rounds up the many nights taking place, making it easy to track down your perfect NYE bash, whatever you're looking for.
The film world continues its love affair with werewolves, vampires and all things 'Twilight'. But theatre types have always known witches are where it's at. After its 2006 opening at Apollo Victoria, Oz prequel 'Wicked' continues to fill this massive theatre with an international crowd of voracious consumers (glass of champagne and a choccy for £16 anyone?). But this stylish and bombastic musical still delivers, sailing over its patchy score thanks to a gravity-defying performance from its current leading lady Rachel Tucker, as the intense green-skinned undergrad who goes on to become the Wicked Witch of the West. 'Wicked' is a spectacle that rises or falls around its central performance. In the midst of a gigantic production full of bangs, bells and whistles Tucker, with her small frame and searing vocal ability, simply flies off with the show. She's closely followed by Gina Beck, who plays good girl, Glinda. Glinda and Elphaba's relationship forms the heart of this story and, as the Good Witch, Beck is a consummate clown, playing up the silliness of her character at every turn. But she can raise a tear, too, and her final duet with Tucker, 'For Good', is genuinely heart-rending. The Tim Burton-inspired ensemble oscillate between the hypnotic and grotesque and a sweet but thin voiced Matt Willis charms as the rather superfluous Prince. As in classical ballet, this is all about the women and, even by previous lead Idina Menzel's standards, they are in soaring form here. T
Celebrate the Brixton-born superstar by discovering his south west London roots in this guided tour. As well as exploring some rarely celebrated landmarks, including Bowie’s birthplace and primary school, classic hits, such as Starman, Heroes, Life on Mars - to name just a few, will also be performed en route. Guests should meet at Brixton tube at least 10 minutes early. Book tickets here.
Experience one of our signature silent discos at the SEA LIFE London Aquarium. Don a pair of glowing headphones and tune into one of three channels as you immerse yourself in the world of water. Tickets are just £29 and include the silent disco, welcome drink and guided tours of the brand new jellyfish exhibition.
Stephen Sondheim's witty, endlessly charming musical about a bachelor in New York is getting a revival by West End heavyweight Marianne Elliott ('The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time', 'War Horse'). Except for the first time ever, its central character Bobby will be a woman. Rosalie Craig will play Bobbi, now a woman in her 30s who's rebelling against her married friends' insistence that she should settle down. Elliott has also secured legendary Broadway star Patti LuPone to play Joanne, bringing her back in the West End for the first time in over 25 years. She's proved her skill as a Sondheim interpreter at a series of concerts for the great man's birthday, including a fearsome rendition of 'Company's best known song, 'The Ladies Who Lunch'. And 'Bake Off' star Mel Giedroyc will show off her singing talents, too, joining the cast in the role of Sarah.
French playwright extraordinaire Florian Zeller has already had West End hits with slippery infidelity comedies 'The Truth' and 'The Father'. Now, he's back with a drama about a long-married couple whose lives are thrown off-kilter by an unexpected visitor. 'The Height of the Storm' stars Jonathan Pryce, whose long career has included film roles in 'Glengarry Glen Ross' and 'Evita', and multi-award winning actor Dame Eileen Atkins ('The Hours', 'Cranford'). Jonathan Kent directs, using a translation by Christopher Hampton.
Captain Fred Roberts might be at war, but he hasn't lost his sense of humour. 'The Wipers Times' is the story of a First World War soldier's mission to publish a satirical mag ridiculing the enermy. Written by seasoned satirist Ian Hislop and Nick Newman, this historical drama plays the Arts Theatre after a national tour.
‘Caroline, or Change’ will transfer to the Playhouse Theatre Nov 20-Feb 9. This review is from its March run at the Hampstead Theatre It’s Louisiana, 1963. Change is in the air, in theory. But household maid Caroline is still stuck in a stuffy basement, pulling loose change from her employers’ pockets. Tony Kushner’s semi-autobiographical opera picks over his childhood memories, exploring the injustices that he, a spoilt, sad eight-year-old, was half-blind to. I’ve said ‘opera’ because that’s what Kushner has called it: like his ‘Angels in America’, it’s a work that’s hard to classify, mixing close emotional naturalism with metaphysical flourishes. And in this case, a singing tumble dryer who’s as utterly miserable at being trapped in the basement as Caroline is. Caroline’s misery lies, partly, in her solitude, isolated from her community in a white family’s house. So Kushner and composer Jeanine Tesori create imagined company: the radio, embodied by a glimmering Motown-style trio of women, singing in immaculate harmony, a soulful moon (Angela Caesar) who floats above the stage, a bubbly washing machine (Me’sha Bryan) – as well as her hated tumble dryer. Tesori’s score is a rich, tumbling, complex thing: blues, church music, klezmer, opera and Motown sounds all cycle through it, get pushed to the front or provide a low hum in the background. At the heart of this commotion, Sharon D Clarke’s mesmerising performance as Caroline is the still point your eye’s always drawn to.
'The Snowman' is back for Christmas 2018. This review is from 2013. It may seem perverse to put the words 'snowman' and 'genius' into the same sentence, but the inspired range of delights in this dance adaptation of Raymond Briggs's book deserves no less an accolade. For a two year old the pleasure lies in everything from seeing a coconut, banana and a pineapple perform a limbo dance to the playful flicking on and off a light switch; for a five year old the fascination lurks in the conflict between Jack Frost and the irrepressibly jolly Father Christmas; while for the adults the enjoyment of the show will come from the beautifully performed dance routines and the orchestra's alternately lively and moving evocation of the iconic score. True, there are aspects of this traditional-as-mince-pies show that are starting to look a little dated: the mother and father scenes seem increasingly 1950s, and some of the attempts at humour creak as much as an obese Santa Claus climbing some wooden stairs. Yet the love and precision with which the Birmingham Repertory Theatre's production is put together reinforces its deserved status as a classic, and at the point when the boy and the snowman take off to fly above the stage everyone (with, it must be confessed, the exception of my two-year-old son, who was busy pretending to receive an executive call on his fibre-optic torch) is enchanted.
The Old Vic’s take on Dickens’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ works so hard to win your affection that I suspect director Matthew Warchus would wait outside and hand you a puppy afterwards if he thought it would help you have a good night.It is the Coldplay of festive theatre: big, bombastic and happy, a little on the shallow side, but overwhelmingly winsome.An almost operatically full-tilt Rhys Ifans is great fun as literature’s most famous miser Ebenezer Scrooge, but he’s not always terribly well served by Jack Thorne’s adaptation, which often elevates Dickens’s literal words above his story. A festively-clad chorus is on hand to read out relatively obscure bits of the original novella verbatim. But that’s not the same thing as fleshing out the characters properly. The plot itself does rattle along at a breakneck pace, but in the opening section there is little evidence put forward for Scrooge’s unpleasantness; the impression is of a damaged man, not a nasty one. Considering that Dickens basically invented the modern tear-jerker with ‘A Christmas Carol’, this is not an especially emotionally engaging adaptation. There’s the sense that, in order to keep things fresh, Thorne and Warchus have been reluctant to fully indulge the sentimentality of a story that’s defined by it.Nonetheless, the booming Ifans pours in his heart and soul, and the rest of the ensemble is colourful and entertaining, particularly the brilliant young actor Erin Doherty, who injects some grounding naturalism as Sc
Pete Tong is more than a piece of latter-day cockney rhyming slang; he’s also a scene-shaping DJ. This winter, he’s teaming up with the 60-piece Heritage Orchestra to raise the O2’s roof with some big-room anthems, for all you ravers who only want to grow up a little bit.
Find out what's happening in January
Since this review was published, Rumpus Room has undergone refurbishment. Time Out Eating & Drinking editors, March 2017. Hotel bars used to be the straight-laced kind of place you’d take your ’rents. Not so at the Mondrian, where Dandelyan has been winning awards on the ground floor while level 12’s Rumpus Room has stayed a bit of an inside secret. Now this chic bar is ready to welcome the world, with a terrace overlooking St Paul’s and DJs to lure sophisticated after-workers and Friday night socialites. I say socialites, since the venue claims to take its cue from the Bright Young Things, a group of hedonists followed by the tabloids in the 1920s. Think England’s non-fiction ‘Great Gatsby’ (or the ’20s version of the sidebar of shame). In truth, the theme’s not obvious, but the setting is pure style. Waitresses work the room in floaty, floral numbers you’d expect to see on Kate Moss in the French Riviera. And she’d probably approve of their way (a million miles from ‘basic bitch’ service). There are mauve banquettes, glittering chandeliers, and a shiny gold bar, but it’s the view that really wins the crowd. Stick around for sunset, when the room gets more blingy. Don’t expect such an atmosphere without paying a pretty penny; solid classic cocktails cost £14. My paloma was faultless, but my bank card withered when I promptly reached the bottom of the glass. Stick with champagne cocktails to feel more at peace; after all, Rumpus Room is an occasion bar. We can’t vouch for
Venue says: “Join us every Wednesday for live music, unparalleled views of London and a special Grey Goose cocktail menu with drinks at £10. Book Now!”