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Natural History Museum Ice Rink
Photo: Jenna Foxton

The best Christmas events in London

Feel like getting festive this season? Here’s our guide to the best Christmas events in London

Rosie Hewitson
Written by
Rosie Hewitson
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Excellent news for all you Christmas enthusiasts: the season to be jolly is right around the corner. And unlike last year’s somewhat unorthodox affair, there’s absolutely loads going on this time round. 

Gone are the sad little takeaway cups of mulled wine to warm your freezing hands on after you’ve agreed to yet another plod around the local park at a two-metre distance from your pal. Back are all the fairy-light festooned Christmas markets, ‘Alpine’ private dining pop-ups, increasingly outlandish Christmas sandwiches and OTT light displays.

And while in the pre-Covid years, the wealth of festive happenings in London risked leaving us sick of the sight of tinsel, crackers and mince pies by the time December 25 finally rolled around, in 2021 we’re taking absolutely nothing for granted. After all, it’s all the events that make this time of the year as special as it is. 

Whether you feel like gliding gracefully around one of the city’s winter skating rinks or belting out ‘Hark the Herald’ at a wholesome carol service, there’s all sorts to do in London this winter, thank the baby Jesus. And because we’re feeling merry, we’ve pulled together some of our top festive picks.

We’ll be updating this page with events for Christmas 2021 as they are announced.

RECOMMENDED: Check out our full guide to Christmas in London

  • Things to do
  • Walks and tours
  • Kew

If there's any way to mark the most wonderful time of the year in London, it has to be a lovely meandering walk through and among the "largest and most diverse botanical and mycological collections in the world". Founded in 1840, the gardens have become one of London's most essential attractions (and homes of exotic and rare species). Christmas at Kew is always an event worth making the trip for.

  • Things to do
  • Markets and fairs
  • Walthamstow

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. 

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  • 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 free, unticketed carol concerts each year. Visit for family-friendly services, a night of organ-led carols curated by French composer Olivier Messiaen and a traditional carol service on Christmas Eve. 

  • Things to do
  • Markets and fairs
  • Walthamstow

Looking for a unique gift to give your loved ones this Christmas? Get down to the Christmas Independent Ceramics Market where you’ll find everyone from students to established artists selling their wares. Expect everything from cups to art sculptures straight from the hands of over 100 makers themselves. The market will also liven up your shopping experience with a sound system, mulled wine and festive food. Smashing. 

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  • Things to do
  • Concerts
  • Barbican

Classical music impresario Raymond Gubbay presents his annual handpicked selection of music for the festive season. Highlights include Carols by Candlelight performed in period costume (Dec 19), the film music of Hans Zimmer and John Williams (Dec 27) and great West End show tunes (Dec 29) Find the full programme on the Barbican’s website.

  • Things to do
  • Event spaces
  • Covent Garden

From December 4 the much-loved London Transport Museum will be kicking off its annual festive programme. Loads of stuff to do including Santa being on hald for a selfie, an interactive sleigh exhibit, a festive trail with a weekly prize draw and a whole series of after-dark late events for adults.

 

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  • Things to do
  • Markets and fairs
  • South Bank

The Southbank Centre’s seasonal food stands and winter pop-up bars are back, serving up festive favourites, warming drinks and whatnot. You can even dine in private, heated igloos. Gourmet cheese toasties, truffle burgers and duck wraps, fondue, bratwurst, eggnog, dutch pancakes, mince pies and loads more. Jimmy’s Winter Lodge, and the heated snowglobes, will be making a return also. Get cosy in your little private globe while making a mess with Jimmy’s legendary cheese fondue. Further down you’ll find vibey boozemongers Beltane & Pop, who’ll have you sorted for cider, mulled wine. and hot toddies. 

  • Things to do
  • Concerts
  • Bayswater

Enjoy the sounds of Fantasia Orchestra this holiday season as they perform favourites like Debussy's Clair de Lune and Warlock's Bethlehem Down. Featuring conductor Tom Fetherstonhaugh and BBC Symphony Orchestra's acclaimed clarinettist Richard Hosford, for one night only. And enjoy the candlelit background of the spectacular Grand Junction space, which is hosting its first Christmas music season after opening this past June.

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  • Things to do
  • Markets and fairs
  • Angel

Allergic to all this tinsel and festive good will? Worried about hearing Cliff Richard tunes while going about your Yuletide shopping? The Satanic Flea Market has just the thing for you. Shop for prints, zines, books, toys and films for the goth in your life.

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  • Kids
  • Morden

This winter, four of the National Trust’s London properties – Ham House and Garden, Osterley Park and House, Rainham Hall and Morden Hall Park – will welcome children to explore their grounds by following a special trail set by author and illustrator Nick Butterworth’s Percy the Park Keeper character. There will be games and activities along the way and many opportunities to spot wildlife, as well as a photo op with Percy and a prize at the end. 

  • Things to do
  • Talks and lectures
  • Greenwich

If you’ve ever wondered what goes on beyond our solar system, head to the Royal Observatory for its annual Christmas lecture. University of Bristol astrophysicist Dr Hannah Wakeford will be revealing the latest research in the study of exoplanets: planets that orbit stars other than the sun. You’ll find out what the atmosphere of these planets is like and whether they support any life forms. The lecture will be held in the observatory’s planetarium, so you’ll be able to gaze upwards and imagine you’re out of this world.

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  • Things to do
  • Food and drink events
  • Wapping

Want to spend your festive season gazing on London’s sparkling skyscrapers but don’t want to deal with the city’s chilly winter weather? This Christmas at Skylight Tobacco Dock you’ll be able to experience the best of both worlds. The venue boasts skyline views while its rooftop space will be transformed into seasonally appropriate seating with igloo-shaped pods and heated, covered tables keeping that wintry nip at bay. Want to get active while getting into the festive spirit? An ice rink will be returning to the rooftop for the first time since 2019, so you can glide around as London twinkles in the background. Don’t forget to check out the cocktail Christmas cinema, secret speakeasy and après ski lodge too. 

  • Things to do
  • Games and hobbies
  • Bayswater

Curling has come to Queen’s (fka Queen’s Ice Bowl)! After all, what is curling if not bowling on ice? The way it works is you slide stones across a rink and into the bullseye-esque ‘house’. All the while your trusty team mates are brushing and guiding the stone as best they can. Sound exhausting? It is! Luckily Meatliquor is on hand to offer burgers and cocktails to help keep you fed and watered. 

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  • Things to do
  • Quirky events
  • Regent Street

The big man has come back to London’s (and perhaps the world’s) most famous toy shop. One ticket admits a group of three (with extra people costing £15 more, each) and that gets you an unforgettable (in a good way!) personal experience with Santa in his festive grotto (conveniently located in the Hamleys Party Room). Everyone gets to partake in elven festivities and you’ll all come away with an all-important Hamleys goodie bag.

  • Things to do
  • Festivals
  • Regent’s Park

London Zoo is the only place in the capital where you can meet Santa plus penguins, otters, tigers, zebras and a whole menagerie of other animals this December. The big guy and his elves need some help asking all the critters what they want for Christmas, so kids can head off on a festive trail to gather information and then send a postcard to Father C to make sure each animal gets a present they’ll love. An audience with the man in red in his grotto will cost extra (from £13.50 per child) and he’s only available on December 4, 5 and 11 to 24 (he’s a busy dude at this time of year). But the zoo’s other seasonal attractions – including the Sensory Sweet Shop, full of candy floss clouds, a marshmallow meadow and a forest of candy canes – will be open through to January.

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  • Things to do
  • pop-ups
  • Belgravia

Now here’s a Santa experience that’s truly for children and adults. Bag and accessories designer Anya Hindmarch is setting up a grotto within Anya’s Village in Chelsea, where kids can go on an immersive journey through a moonlit forest and across crunchy snow to find Father Christmas, who will read them a story and give them a gift. Grown-ups get a free hot drink from the Anya Cafe, where there will be piles of mince pies, gingerbread men and Christmas cakes on sale. Exit through the gift shop to buy limited-edition Anya Hindmarch gifts and Christmas decorations, including ceramic tree baubles, crackers, puzzles, mugs, crayons and teddy bears. But will Santa be decked out in designer togs?

  • Things to do
  • Markets and fairs
  • Borough

Borough Market is one of  London’s favourite foodie destinations, so naturally the Southwark destination comes into its own during the feasting and boozing of the festive season, and this year is no different, with a host of special events leading up to the big day. 

Borough Market's Festive Kitchen 

On December 7, 8, and 9 from 11am - 4pm there'll be live demonstrations, tastings, masterclasses and more from Borough Market traders and chefs, hosted over the three days by Angela Clutton from Borough Market’s own podcast, and food writers Ed Smith and Jenny Chandler. All free to attend, the demonstrations will use produce you can pick up across the market. It sounds a bit like being a guest on Saturday Kitchen. You can find out more here.

An Evening of Cheese

On December 15 from 6pm-8pm, the market will be hosting a ‘cheese-themed extravaganza’, with an entire herd of cheesemongers on hand to provide expert advice on selecting the perfect morsels for your cheeseboard this festive season. There'll be tastings too, of course. Get it in your diary now.

Kitchen Lates 

Every Thursday from December 2 to December 23, the market will be open until 9pm, making it the ideal place to grab a late dinner after picking up some gifts for your epicurious loved ones. In terms of the menu, there’ll be plenty of seasonal delights on offer from the likes of Taco Padre, LaTua Pasta, and many more.

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  • Kids
  • Strand

Santa doesn’t set up grottos in any old hotels, you know. He chooses top-tier establishments when he stays in London. Like the West End’s Strand Palace hotel, where he will be taking up residence for a few weeks this winter. And this isn’t any old grotto, either. Here, kids can meet furry creatures on a snowy tundra, watch the elves beavering away in a Victorian toy workshop, wander through an enchanted forest and, of course, say hello to Father Christmas, who will give them a present.

  • Things to do
  • Food and drink events
  • Seven Dials

Celebrate the Christmas season with festive happenings at Seven Dials Food Market in Covent Garden. Head down for holiday-themed treats from a variety of traders during the Deck the (Food) Hall special, as well as djs playing Christmas tunes. There is also a (bottomless!) Winter Feast on December 19, so book your tickets on the Seven Dials Food Market website. This is one of the biggest Christmas parties in the city, so you do not want to miss it!

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  • Things to do
  • Markets and fairs
  • Oxford Street

Selfridges is always a go-to when it comes to Christmas shopping, whether you want to pick up your presents from the iconic department store or just get some festive feeling in while you browse. This year, head to the mews behind the historic shop and you’ll find even more Xmas cheer with the return of its Christmas market. You’ll find food trucks curated by Street Feast founder Dominic Cools-Lartigue and mulled wine, warm apple cider, hot buttered rum, craft beer, cocktails and more to keep you fuelled up before hitting the shelves. 

  • Things to do
  • Markets and fairs
  • Hyde Park

The Grinch would have a real job stealing all the Christmas from Hyde Park’s huge tribute to festive fun. The annual favourite is back for its fifteenth year in 2021. Entry to Winter Wonderland is free during off-peak hours and either £5 or £7.50 during peak times, and you can head along for cheerily lit fairground rides, a child-friendly Santa Land (including Santa’s grotto) and quaint Christmas markets. It’s a real treat for anyone wanting to get into the festive spirit – as long as you’re ready to hear all those songs as you potter around.

 

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  • Things to do
  • Markets and fairs
  • King’s Cross

Canopy Market will be open every day in the run-up to Christmas, and each week sees a different theme take over the market, kicking off with a special ceramics and indy artists event. Expect carol singers, live jazz, special events, seasonal master-classes, workshops and tastings. 

  • Things to do
  • Markets and fairs
  • Tower Bridge

London Bridge City’s annual Christmas market is back. Enjoy scenic views over the river Thames while browsing the German-style chalets dotted around Hays Galleria and City Hall. A handful of bars will be serving up Christmas cocktails, warm cider, mulled wine and craft beers, while over 60 traders will be on hand selling gourmet treats and handmade gifts.

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  • Things to do
  • Performances
  • South Kensington

The big one. An absolute barn-stormer. Can you say you’ve even ‘done’ Christmas in London unless you’ve experienced the full majesty and power of Christmas carols belted out at the Royal Albert Hall. This year things are very much business as usual (the less said about 2020 the better). Traditional carols, modern festival arrangements and an unbeatable festive atmosphere. If you book 10 or more tickets (eg if you’re bringing your whole Christmas Posse) you should be eligable for a 10 percent discount.

  • Things to do
  • Events & Festivals

The skyline may look a little brighter for the next few weeks. Lightopia London, the immersive illumination experience in Crystal Palace, has officially been switched on. This year’s all-new display features interactive lights and lanterns that together create a multi-sensory wintry wonderland.

 

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  • Things to do
  • Exhibitions
  • Belgravia

An entire city of gingerbread. Imagine that. Well, many of you probably don’t have to imagine it – you might’ve seen it with your very eyes. The Museum of Architecture’s Gingerbread City exhibition is hugely popular, and has been running for several years. It returns in December, featuring over 100 architects, landscape artists, engineers and ecologists, all working together to craft a mini settlement made entirely of gingerbread and icing.

 

  • Things to do
  • Ice skating
  • Aldwych

What's a London Christmas, without Somerset House's iconic ice rink? Skate around the grand neoclassical courtyard on this huge, 900-square-metre outdoor rink, with a 40ft Christmas tree plonked in the middle for maximum Insta-potential. This year brings a new partnership with Moët & Chandon – and to get even more in the festive spirit, tunes will be blasting, Hotel Chocolat will be hosting a selection of gifts, and tasty food and drink will be available to feast on. 

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  • Things to do
  • Ice skating
  • South Kensington

Your last opportunity to enjoy an icy London legend. The ice rink at the Natural History Museum will take up residence at the South Kensington venue for a final season this year before it gets transformed into a new urban garden. Next year, the area usually occupied by the rink will become a fully accessible green space that the museum hopes will help visitors learn about the diversity of our planet, while also offering scientists a chance to develop best practices to protect our urban nature. 

  • Things to do
  • Markets and fairs
  • Tower Bridge

London Bridge City’s annual Christmas market is back from November 16. You can expect extremely scenic views over the river and a bunch of lovely winter cabins offering pop-up boozers, street food and festive craft items. There will, as per usual, be lots of workshops and events organised, so keep an eye on official announcements. 

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  • Things to do
  • Film events
  • Marylebone

A very charming secret roof terrace, right close to Marylebone. but also a stones throw away from Baker St station, is providing a posh movie pop-up this winter. Films include iconic titles like ‘Home Alone’, ‘Love Actually’, ‘White Christmas’ and ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’. There’s more to it than movies though. The Kitchen at Holmes’ seasonal winter tasting menu (with a complimentary glass of Perrier Jouet Grand Brut‚ sounds pretty great, including smoked burrata, smoked ink cuttlefish croquettes and grilled octopus. Films are shown in a ‘Narnia-esqua wonderland’, accompanied by popcorn, fairy lights and fur throw heaven. 

  • Things to do
  • Exhibitions
  • Hampstead Heath

Last Chrismas in London was a disaster, so make up for the year that shall not be spoken of with a festive do-over. Kenwood House will be installing a new Christmas light trail at its stately location on Hampstead Heath starting November 26 and running all the way through until January 9. According to the organisers, the trail will be a ‘multi-sensory mix of light, fire and sound’, with installations, a 'light avenue', laser garden and a banging sculpture by Hannelora Johansson. At the end of the trail, there’ll be craft stalls, street food and most importantly, a fully licensed bar selling hot booze. If anywhere in London can make you feel Christmassy, it’s Hampstead Heath. Find out more here.

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  • Music

You know those NOW! CDs you had as a kid? Well, the Southbank Centre is taking that concept and turning it into an event for Christmas this year. Except, rather than the music being played out of a tinny '00s CD player, it's going to get performed in the Royal Festival Hall by an orchestra and a choir. Capital Voices will be running through contents of 'NOW that's what I call Christmas' on December 10. Think: 'Fairytale of New York'; 'Last Christmas'; 'All I want for Christmas' and more.

  • Things to do
  • Concerts
  • Fitzrovia

Come all ye faithful and enjoy free traditional carol services in December. Head to All Souls Langham Place where they’ll be spreading Christmas cheer with live choir and orchestra performances, based on Charles Dickens’ classic ‘A Christmas Carol’. Music from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, Muppets Christmas Carol and Scrooge the Musical, as well as loads of other classic Christmas carols. Nativity stories and festive readings all whilst you munch on free mince pies and Christmas punch. There's no need to book, just turn up and enjoy!

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  • Things to do
  • Classes and workshops
  • Fulham

If you’re the kind of person who appreciates things more when you’ve put the graft into them yourself then you’ll love this hands-on Christmas Wreath Making workshop at Fulham Palace. Get stuck in and try your hand at crafting your own festive foliage using material plucked straight from the palace’s botanical gardens. Florist Elaine Fisher will be by your side to guide you through the process and there’ll be mince pies to console or congratulate yourself with, depending on how your wreath turns out. 

Fancy something more unusual?

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