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Things to do on Boxing Day 2021 in London

The festive fun doesn’t end with Christmas Day. Make the most of the holidays with great things to do on Boxing Day

Written by
Chris Waywell
&
Time Out London Things To Do
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As you come round from your turkey-and-‘Home Alone’ stupor, don’t write off Boxing Day. There are lots of great things to do in London on December 26. 

Take a hangover-busting winter walk through one of London’s glorious green spaces; gawp at the city’s glorious Christmas light displays; or go to a panto (cos you couldn’t last year, remember?). This year, let’s make December 26 great again.

RECOMMENDED: Find more festive fun with our full guide to Christmas in London.

Things to do on Boxing Day in London

  • Theatre

After the misery of 2020, London's theatres are back to their best for Christmas 2021, with a spectacular array of shows for all comers. Whether it's a cutesy puppet show for toddlers, a traditional family trip to see a pantomime, or a dazzling night at the circus, our guide to Christmas theatre in London has got you covered. 

All of London’s great neighbourhood theatres will be putting on their usual pantomimes, so check out our comprehensive panto guide for the best places to sample this most entirely British of festive traditions. But if fabulous dames and shouts of ‘He's BEHIND you!’ aren't your particular bag of brussel sprouts, then don't worry: there’s something out there for all tastes. 

Read on for more info on the best festive shows out there, whether they're at London's biggest venues or in teeny-tiny pub theatres. Or for a comprehensive guide to what's on right now, keep an eye on the latest theatre openings.

RECOMMENDED: Get ready for Christmas in London with our guide

Family Christmas shows in London 2021
  • Theatre
  • Children's

As the wintry nights draw in, get a cosy festive glow at one of London’s many joyful kid-friendly Christmas shows, whether you’ve got your inner child or actual children in tow. Traditionally, the first port of call for anyone who wants to keep grannies, dads and toddlers on side is visit to the pantomime: if that’s what you're after, check out our comprehensive guide to the best pantos across London. But there plenty of other ways to keep everyone aged one to 101 entertained with a Christmassy theatre trip.

From the fringe to the West End, London's theatre scene is bursting with family-friendly shows that are bright and silly enough to delight kids, while offering enough wit, subtlety and festive nostalgia to satisfy adults too. Whether you’re after an all-singing, all-dancing musical spectacular, an adaptation of a much-loved children’s classic, or a thrilling circus adventure, London’s theatres have got you (and your family) covered. Here’s our guide to planning the perfect family theatre trip this festive season.   

We’ll be updating this page as more shows are announced 

Are you after a show that's squarely aimed at kids? Check out our full guide to children’s Christmas shows in London 

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  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens

Yes it's cold out. Yes the trees are bare. Yes, even the birds sound a bit depressed. But we're lucky to have some amazing parks in London, and walking around in them (as long as you live close by) is one of the only things you're currently allowed to do. So get out there and enjoy some bracing green space. Remember that many public toilets remain closed in the capital, and do keep up with all the rules around moving around the city under social distancing. 

RECOMMENDED: Seven of London's prettiest walks

  • Things to do
  • Ice skating

Ice skating rinks are now closed from Dec 20, while London is under Tier 4 restrictions. 

Don’t listen to the hearsay. Christmas is not cancelled. Okay, Winter Wonderland is. But there will still be Christmas lights, there will still be seasonal music played two months too early, and there will be skating, damn it, even if it’s on a sparsely populated, socially distanced rink. 

London might be in Tier 3, but there are still covid-safe ice rinks open in the capital. Whether you can pirouette like Michelle Kwan or just slip around like Bambi, there’s a rink for everyone in London. We might have to book well in advance, but we can’t be stopped – skaters gonna skate! 

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London’s most cosy pubs
  • Bars and pubs

Lounge around on roughed-up sofas and bask in the glow of a burning fire – these cosy London pubs are crying out to be treated like your home away from home in the autumn months. Whether you want to get warmed-up after a brisk walk through Hampstead Heath or you feel like getting all aglow while in Soho, these pubs will work wonders on your post-summer, not-quite-winter complexion. 

From creakingly old inns with nooks for hiding away from the London fog to modern pubs that know how to turn on the warming charm, find somewhere in the capital to get seriously cosy over autumnal ales and hot toddies

  • 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. 

Other highlights of Hyde Park’s annual Christmas treat include circuses and the biggest outdoor rink in the UK – it surrounds the Victorian bandstand and is illuminated with more than 100,000 lights. There's also the Real Ice Slide, ice sculpting workshops and a German-style Bavarian Village full of frothing steins and live music.

The usual line-up of rollercoasters and fairground rides are sure to keep thrill-seekers happy. A good alternative for those who prefer to stay on solid ground is the selection of themed bars with real fires, except for the Bar Ice (for obvious structural reasons) where even the glasses you drink from are made of ice. This year features extra measures, including reduced capacity and staggered entry times, to keep the site Covid secure.

If you’re skating, be aware that while there’s no minimum age for skaters, under-12s must be accompanied by someone 16 or over and the smallest skates for hire are children's size 9 (adult skates go up to size 13). You can use your own skates as long as they’re not speed skates. Wheelchair users are welcome on the ice. There are also ice guides who can look after groups of up to 15 skaters at a time (for an additional charge).

Find more festive fun with our guide to Christmas in London.

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  • Things to do

London is at its most bling this time of year, when the city becomes covered in glittering decorations and glowing bulbs. There’s nothing lovelier than walking round the city taking in the sparkling sights on Boxing Day. If you live local to central London, it’s the perfect way to add some sparkle to your daily walk. Remember, always try to stay at a 2m distance from anyone outside your social bubble. 

  • Things to do
  • Events & Festivals

For fans of ice (not in the methamphetamine/diamonds sense), this year is already looking a whole lot more chilled than 2020. Not only is ‘Frozen: The Musical’ storming the West End stage (read our review here), but several of the city’s seasonal ice rinks that didn’t happen last year for obvious reasons have now announced their winter seasons. The magical courtyard classic that is SKATE at Somerset House is coming in November, complete with DJ lates and the rest. The rink at the Natural History Museum is back for its swansong season before it melts away for ever to become a sustainable urban garden. And now the Queen’s House in Greenwich has announced that its rink will be returning too.

So, why should you go on a crisp winter evening to a dramatically landscaped UNESCO World Heritage Site to skate in the shadow of England's finest piece of seventeenth-century Palladian architecture created for a fairytale queen? Erm, let’s have a little think, shall we?

There is no doubt that the Queen’s House ice rink is one of London’s most captivatingly beautiful. It might not have the cool-factor (no pun intended) of SKATE, or the tourist chops of the NHM, but for purists, it’s pretty perfect, and it always looks dazzling. 

Okay, so the food and drink options here aren’t quite as chichi as some of its competitors, but unlike the Strand or South Kensington, there are plenty of good local options in Greenwich to provide you with mulled wine and other warming treats. And it’s a wonderful place for a winter walk afterwards. South to the Pole!

The Queen’s House Ice Rink, Park Row, SE10. Nov 18-Jan 9 2022. Adults from £15, children from £8.50. Book here.

Stuff to do in London this weekend.

Christmas has already dropped at Fortnum & Mason.

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The 50 best Christmas movies
  • Film

In the last few years, the Christmas movie has made a comeback. Thanks to our insatiable appetite for content, Netflix has hunkered down and produced an avalanche of schmaltzy Christmas rom-coms, many of which inexplicably feature ‘High School Musical’ star Vanessa Hudgens. 

Like a bowl of Christmas pud, some of them might be too much if you’re lacking a sweet tooth. Nevertheless, their influence seems to have rubbed off. Last year gave us ‘Last Christmas’, a London-set festive romantic comedy that made a valiant attempt to dethrone ‘Love Actually’ from its position as the polarising Christmas favourite.

Of course, 2020 will not be packed with Christmas markets or trips to the panto, so you might be after some festive films to keep you entertained this year. With that in mind, we’ve counted down the most charming, entertaining and occasionally even terrifying festive movies. From demonic Santas and home-invading thieves to feelgood fireside frolics, Christmas songsice-skating escapades and enough hot chocolate to drown an elf, our cinematic sack is bulging with treats.

RECOMMENDED: Find more festive fun with our guide to Christmas in London

  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Kew

Kew Gardens will be open during Boxing Day. There’s a whopping 300 acres to explore here, so social distancing won’t be hard. Take a winter stroll past the grand Victorian glasshouses, the famous Chinese Pagoda and one of the world’s most significant collections of plants and trees.

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Eltham Palace
  • Attractions
  • Historic buildings and sites
  • Eltham

Winter walks don’t get more stunning than a stroll through the grounds of Eltham Palace. So, lucky us, because it’s open on Boxing Day.

 

  • Things to do
  • Events & Festivals

We can exclusively reveal that one of the absolute highlights of winter in London, the atmospheric and beautiful ice rink at Somerset House, will be returning this year. You can book tickets from 10am this Friday morning (September 17). 

SKATE has been a calendar fixture since it launched 20 years ago. Not only can you swan about amid the neoclassical splendour of William Chambers’s magnificent courtyard, you can do so accompanied by the likes of Jaguar or Dalston Superstore, which certainly brings a very different vibe to PR-sanctioned hibernal fun times.

This year, SKATE is running from November 17 to January 16 2022. There will be a massive Christmas tree as a focal point (of course), plus the usual Skate Lates with DJs and whatnot. There are some changes, though. For starters, there’s a new (bigger) ice rink, with the chance to get a coaching session from a pro in case your skate skills (and indeed skates) are a bit rusty after so long off the ice. There will also be cheering après-skate options, including Hotel Chocolat’s Chocmobile and Moët & Chandon fizz, depending on your level of fanciness.

SKATE at Somerset House
Photograph: Luke Dyson

It should all be very festive and stuff, especially as there was no SKATE last year cos of the pandemic and the winter lockdown. Other ice rinks in the capital that also didn’t run last year included the Natural History Museum’s, Hyde Park’s and the Tower of London’s. It was also announced last month that this year will be the last outing for the Natual History Museum’s ice rink before it becomes a permanent urban garden, which sounds nice and all, but can you entertainingly and repeatedly fall on your arse in an urban garden, eh? Not without a bloody good excuse. Get booking and skating NOW.

SKATE at Somerset House, Nov 17-Jan 16 2022. Book here from 10am Fri Sep 17. 

Queer nightlife is back in London.

Fabric is back with all-day party Sylvester

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  • Things to do
  • Events & Festivals

A staple of London’s winter activities scene will be returning to us from October – but it’ll be your last time to enjoy its icy charms. 

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. That means you have from October 22 to January 16 to cram in as many festive skate sessions as you can. 

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. The plans have been informed by a number of aims, including creating a sustainable design and protecting and increasing existing wildlife and biodiversity. 

It’s important stuff – especially given our planet’s climate crisis – but we will miss gliding (or attempting to) around the ice, 30ft Christmas tree twinkling away in the centre.

If you need to get one last skate in before our icy friend departs us forever, you can cop tickets on the Natural History Museum website – and they'll only set you back £11.50 for adults or £8 for kids. 

Cromwell Road, South Kensington, SW7 5BD

The seven best bits of the Natural History Museum

Here are London's 10 best museums

  • Theatre
  • Theatre & Performance

’Tis the season to veg out in front of the TV. And we’ll all be doing a lot more of that with London in Tier 4. Thankfully, you won’t have to be resigned to watching repeats of ‘Mrs Brown’s Boys’ thanks to YouTube’s 12 Days of Culture programme, teaming up with ten British cultural institutions to bring theatre, dance and music into our homes. London venues taking part include the Donmar Warehouse, Royal Opera House and Sadler’s Wells, plus Little Angel Theatre and Unicorn Theatre for kids’ entertainment.

See London sparkle on Boxing Day

More Christmas? Check out the best lights in London
  • Things to do

There's nothing like the sparkle of London Christmas lights to give the city an instant festive makeover. Why not plan an outing to gaze upon Christmas lights in London ahead of a festive spot of ice skating or hitting the Christmas shops. 

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