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London events in December

Your guide to the best activities, events and fun stuff happening in London throughout December 2020

By Time Out London Things To Do and Angela Hui |
Photograph: Andrea Pucci

Can you hear those sleigh bells jingling? Of course, you can. It’s December in London and that means winter has truly arrived and Christmas in London has begun. See the city skies sparkling with glimmering Christmas lights, fill your ears with Christmas songs, swap your lunchtime sushi for an indulgent Christmas sandwich, pig out on even more luxurious menus at London's best restaurants and watch the pubs in London get even buzzier than normal and head one of the festive parties popping up all around town. 

If Christmas is just one big old bore for you, don’t worry! There are huge helpings of cosy winter pop-ups and brilliant events without the tinsel trappings to enjoy in London. Plus, there's the epic New Year celebrations to start planning. Read our guide for the lowdown on the events, parties, cultural happenings and things to do taking place in London in December 2020.

RECOMMENDED: The definitive London events calendar

Our December 2020 highlights

Things to do

Christmas in London

London at Christmas time is pretty darn magical. Discover ideas for fun family outings throughout the Christmas period, plus fun things to do on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day in the capital. 

Things to do

Christmas lights in London

Dazzle your eyes be taking a peek at London's twinkling Christmas lights. The illuminations give London an instant festive makeover. Plan a wintery outing with our guide to all the main lights in London. 

Pretty Woman: The Musical, Broadway
© Matthew Murphy
Theatre, Musicals

‘Pretty Woman: The Musical’

Piccadilly Theatre, Soho

Bryan Adams (yes, that Bryan Adams) and Jim Vallance’s take on Julia Roberts’s breakthrough hit received mixed reviews when it premiered on Broadway last year, but it lasted for a respectable enough year. That’s something the UK debut for Jerry Mitchell’s production hopes to repeat. 

Jean Dubuffet 'Paysage aux argus (Landscape with Argus)' (1955) © Fondation Dubuffet, Paris / DACS, London, 2019. Image courtesy of Fondation Dubuffet, Paris
Art, Painting

Jean Dubuffet

Barbican Centre, Barbican

There’ll be plenty to feast your eyes on in this ambitious retrospective of the radical French artist's painting. Over his 50 year career (he died in 1985), Jean Dubuffet pushed constantly at the boundaries of artistic representation. 

Theatre, Drama

‘They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?’

Bridge Theatre, Tower Bridge

The Bridge will be transformed into a 1930s dancehall for Marianne Elliott and Steven Hoggett’s production of this new stage adaptation of Horace McCoy’s 1935 classic novel. It follows a Great Depression-era dance competition, as couples grind themselves down for $1,000 prize. 

Auguste Rodin 'Study for The Thinker' (1881) Musée Rodin, S.01168


Tate Modern, Bankside

This major exhibition at Tate Modern emphasizes just how radical Rodin was. In a sort-of ‘behind the scenes’ approach, the show draws attention to the artist’s use of clay and plaster in producing his best-known marble and bronze creations. 

'The Drifters Girl' comes to Garrick Theatre in October 2020
Photograph: Mark Allan
Theatre, Musicals

‘The Drifters Girl’

Garrick Theatre, Charing Cross Road

This new musical about all-male singing group The Drifters centres on the woman behind the band, Faye Treadwell, who was the first African-American female manager and who helped propel the group to stardom over three decades. Expect all the Drifters hits like 'Stand By Me', 'Down By the Boardwalk' and 'Save the Last Dance For Me'. 

Tracey Emin 'It - didnt stop - I didnt stop' (2019) © HV-studio Courtesy the Artist and Xavier Hufkens, Brussels

Tracey Emin/Edvard Munch

Royal Academy of Arts, Mayfair

Emin is a long-term fan of the Norweigan Expressionist. This exhibition will show how Munch has long been an inspiration to her. 

Imelda Staunton
Photograph: Courtesy of Storyhouse PR
Theatre, Musicals

‘Hello Dolly’

Adelphi Theatre, Strand

Director Dominic Cooke and actress Imelda Staunton reunite in the classic musical, which hasn't had a London revival in over a decade. It's got music and lyrics by Jerry Herman (‘La Cage aux Folles’) including the wonderful title number, plus 'Put on Your Sunday Clothes' and 'Before the Parade Passes By'.

JMW Turner 'Rain, Steam and Speed - the Great Western Railway' exhibited 1844 The National Gallery, London © The National Gallery, London

‘Turner’s Modern World’

Tate Britain, Millbank

This shows aims to illuminate just what a radical Turner was during his lifetime, including his fascination with new inventions of the Industrial Revolution, as captured in the 100% glorious ‘Rail, Steam and Speed’. And - guess what? - you can see it irl in this show! Which basically justifies the price of an entry ticket. 

Maria Bartuszová 'Untitled' (1985) Tate © Estate of Maria Bartuszova

Maria Bartuszová

Tate Modern, Bankside

Maria Baruszová was a Slovakian artist who lived and worked in Košice, the second-largest city in her home country. This major retrospective concentrates on her output from 1960s onwards, when she first started making plaster sculptures by pouring the liquid into rubber balloons.

Skate at Somerset House, ice rink
© Life After Print Ltd.
Things to do, Ice skating

Ice skating in London

Whether your ice skating skills are jaw-droppingly magnificent or utterly non-existent, you'll still find London's ice rinks as enchanting as ever. 

Shopping, Markets and fairs

Christmas markets and fairs in London

Swap stressful Christmas shopping in busy department stores for something a little more laid back. We've got you covered with our guide to London’s loveliest Christmas markets and festive fairs. 

New Year's Eve Fireworks in London, with Big Ben
© Stewart Marsden
Things to do

New Year's Eve and New Year in London

London is one of the best places in the world to be for New Year celebrations. Fact. 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. 

See what's on in January

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