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Things to Do in December 2021
Photograph: Steve Beech / Shutterstock

London events in December

Your guide to the best activities, events and fun stuff happening in London throughout December 2022

Rosie Hewitson
Written by
Rosie Hewitson
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Can you hear those sleigh bells jingling? Yes, it’s December, and Christmas in London has begun in earnest. See the city skies sparkling with glimmering Christmas lights, fill your ears with Christmas songs, scoff down an indulgent Christmas sandwich, get luxurious festive treats from London restaurants and liven up a winter walk with a trip to a heated pub garden.

Read our guide for the lowdown on the events, parties, cultural happenings, and things to do taking place in London in December 2022.

RECOMMENDED: The definitive London events calendar

Our December 2022 highlights

  • Things to do
  • Exhibitions
  • South Bank

Everyone’s favourite riverside culture hotspot Southbank Centre be aglow again with festive illuminations. Winter Light is a free, open-air exhibition featuring an electric smorgasbord of lightworks (which is what we’re calling these now) from super-talented artists from around the world. All of them make mind-bending use of light, colour and even boundary-pushing film to deal with issues and topics surrounding nature, technology, urban life and spirituality.

 

  • Things to do

Even if you think Christmas is a load of consumerist claptrap, you can’t deny that London looks a whole lot better when it’s hung with strings of glistening lights. And London is never in short supply of some thoroughly excellent festive light displays. From the classic angels that beam over Regent’s Street to the snazzy, themed displays over Carnaby Street, a trip to one of these gleaming streets will flutter the heart of even the most Scrooge-like of souls

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  • Restaurants

It is cold, so cold. Head to the nearest cosy outdoor space in London immediately. Luckily, some of our favourite bars and restaurants have been thinking on their frozen feet. So wrap up warm and check out these new outdoor terraces for drinking and dining decked out in wintry decor and adorned with roaring fire pits, patio heaters and enough faux fur to make you think you got stuck in the wardrobe on your way into Narnia. 

  • Things to do
  • Film events
  • Leicester Square

This Christmas, the Prince Charles Cinema said, ‘’Tis the season for a bucketload of films’ and this is never more true than at its annual festive pyjama party featuring back-to-back screenings of ‘The Muppet Christmas Carol’, ‘Elf’, ‘Home Alone’, ‘Die Hard’ and ‘Gremlins’.  

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  • Things to do
  • Walks and tours
  • Kew

Christmas at Kew has become a key date in London’s festive calendar, with plenty of Londoners flocking to the 300-acre World Heritage Site to discover glistening tunnels of light, dancing lakeside reflections and trees drenched in jewel-like colour. As usual, there’ll be plenty more to enjoy besides the larger-than-life illuminations, from warming winter snacks to a grotto where you can say hello to Father C himself. This light trail tends to sell out, so move quickly to secure a place. 

  • Things to do
  • Ice skating

Ice skating season is back baby, and we can’t wait to whizz around one of London’s many excellent slabs of ice. Winter Wonderland’s rink is the biggest; Canary Wharf’s is open for the longest period (18 sweet weeks!); Somerset House’s is the most fabulous; and Glide at Battersea Power Station is the shiny new kid on the block. Take your pick, lace up your boots and get swishing.

 

 

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  • Things to do
  • Markets and fairs
  • Shoreditch

The DIY Christmas Art Market is a veritable jamboree of potential gifts – either to give to friends and family, or to treat yourself with. As well as art prints and risograph and screen prints, the market will have t-shirts, patches, comics, tote bags, ceramics, zines and independent publications on its stalls, ready to be wrapped up and put under the tree. Sample the eclectic creativity with a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie to really ramp up the festivities. 

  • Things to do
  • Concerts
  • St Paul’s

Get yourself feeling ridiculously festive with an evening of carols inside Sir Christopher Wren’s architectural masterpiece, aka The Big Lad aka St Paul’s Cathedral. The legendary London landmark hosts a series of mostly free and unticketed carol concerts each year, alongside a couple of ticketed charity gigs raising money for the likes of Blood Cancer UK and the MS Society. But, the big events to look out for are A Celebration of Christmas (Dec 15) and the Christmas Carol Service (Dec 23 and 24). They’re free and always hugely popular, so get down there early and be prepared to queue. 

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  • Things to do
  • Food and drink events
  • Borough

The world of solid dairy has some truly devoted fans and such great variety to tempt them with. Borough Market’s annual Evening of Cheese is back, presenting a wide range of products from all over the world to tempt turophiles, including wines, ciders, chutneys and – obviously – lots of cheese. At this year’s edition take advantage of tastings and seek expert advice on how to put together a festive cheeseboard featuring the highest quality cheeses from Britain, Ireland, France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the Netherlands. There’ll be drinks on hand to complete the gouty vibes. 

  • Things to do
  • Walks and tours
  • Richmond Park

Live out all your dark Dickensian dreams on a winter outing that sleighs the competition. Explore Richmond Park or Bushy Park on a traditional carriage ride drawn by a pair of majestic Shire horses from the last working heard in London. Snuggle up in a blanket and clip-clop your way around the park while sipping on sloe gin, eating mince pies and learning about your surroundings from guides and carriage riders that look straight of ‘Great Expectations’, dressed in smock coats and bowler hats. The ride isn’t cheap, but all the money raised supports the equine therapy services of Operation Centaur, who manage the horses. 

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  • Things to do
  • Exhibitions
  • Belgravia

The sweetest festive event you’ll find in London, the Museum of Architecture’s Gingerbread City exhibition tasks over 100 leading architects from landscape architects to engineers and designers to use their building know-house to ditch their conventional building materials for dough bricks and sugar paste mortar. This year there’ll be five tiny biscuit cities to see across five different climate zones: Polar, Continental, Temperate, Dry and Tropical, with the pro-builders thinking about how we need to think differently about building around the world. It’s a feast for the eyes, but resist the urge to nibble! 

  • Things to do
  • Quirky events
  • Hyde Park

One of London’s quirkiest Christmas traditions as well as being one of the oldest, the Peter Pan Cup has been contested on Christmas mornings since 1864. Strictly a spectator event – unless you happen to be a regular, not to mention hardy, member of the Serpentine Swimming Club – the name of the 100-yard swimming race in Hyde Park’s lido derives from the 1904 edition, when author and playwright Sir James Barrie presented the trophy to the winner. The race commences at 9am so head down to watch the brave folk go for it before you start opening your presents.

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  • Things to do

New Year’s Eve in London means you’re faced with some choices. Sometimes there’s so much choice, in fact, that you end up spending the night indoors with a few loved ones and plenty of booze. We’ve all been there, but London boasts loads of great New Year’s Eve events that should coax even the most reluctant NYE fan out of the house this year. 

 

  • Music
  • Classical and opera

An evening of proper Christmas carols is an absolute must if you’re interested in getting entirely wrapped up in unalloyed festive cheer. Check out our comprehensive round-up of the jolliest and most moving services in the capital. Indoors and outdoors, cathedrals, churches and secular spaces, we’ll be adding to it constantly, as more events are announced. 

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