Claire is a freelance digital writer for Time Out London. She vows to one day make it through an entire movie marathon at the Prince Charles Cinema. Follow her on Twitter at @getdancey.
Ditch your crap Christmas gifts at a present swap shop
Christmas presents are always a risky game. You ask for a swank Tom Dixon cafetiere and espresso cup set, you get a soap-on-a-rope and a bag of dodgy chocolates. Luckily, there’s a home for all unwanted Christmas presents, in the form of Broadway Market bar Stories’ not-so-subtly titled ‘Crap Christmas Present Swap Shop.’ Take your unwanted records, clothes, weird chocolates and DVDs to scoop a bargain on someone else’s unwanted gifts. The only thing you'll need to work out is where to say said ropey presents went when well-meaning relatives come to visit. The event takes place on January 11 at 7pm. It's free entry but they're collecting voluntary donations for charity Centrepoint. While you're at it, why not treat yourself to a little something extra at one of London's 100 best shops?
Last-chance London: the plays, shows and exhibitions closing in January
With 2016 here already, now's your last chance to grab tickets to some of London's best shows and spaces. We've rounded up our favourites the city has to offer. Food and drink Wünderlust Street food stars Fleisch Mob have taken over Deptford's double-decker venue, 'Big Red' loaded with with seasonal dishes, local beers and DJs if you choose your night right. Running until Friday 8th January Popdown at the Vaults High-end dining in the dark vaults of Waterloo right by Leake Street's graffiti tunnel. An unusual scene for chefs from the lauded likes of The Fat Duck, Le Gavroche and Maze will be piling up four courses of plates and some interactive surprises. Running until Saturday 16th January Wintery Experience with Bompas & Parr In true creative and ostentatious style, inventive experience connoisseurs Bompas & Parr have teamed up with scientists - real scientists! - to create a wintery wonderland where every last light, sound and experience is geared up to 'provoke a romantic response'. Those crafty scientists. It all takes place on The Shard, no less. Until Sunday 31st January Ceru With roots in Yalla Yalla and Black & Blue, levantine restaurant Ceru serves dishes from Cyprus, Turkey, Lebanon and Israel, and is a rarity in pop-ups, based at Cannon Street. You've only got the start of January to get your fill of bold spices, roasted aubergines and lamb meatballs. Running until Monday 4th January Winter fun Winter Wonderland Get the last of your fes
Take a tour of London as a ghost town
For one week, every Christmas, London dramatically empties. With lots of city-dwellers heading to visit family, the festive period is the perfect time for anyone left in the city to treat it like a personal playground. We're not at all weirded out by the creepy emptiness of it all - not at all. Here are some favourite locations looking like a spectacular ghost town. Photo by John Vincent "And then the apocalypse came." For any brave Londoner braving the ghost city, this famous view of Piccadilly Circus deserted on Christmas Day would be our first destination. Photo by Zoltan Gabor Take a wander up Regent Street to enjoy the Christmas lights in the beautiful, eerie creepy silence. A photo posted by 嫚嫚嫚 (@ursmaki) on Dec 25, 2015 at 5:25am PST The shops are yours for the taking! Now's a good time to set up camp for the Boxing Day sales. Morning peak hour on the northern line. On Christmas Eve. 🙄 #emptylondon A photo posted by La (@londonla) on Dec 24, 2015 at 1:25am PST Hop on the tube at peak hour and this will be your busiest commute. Photo by Narrotographer If you've ever walked down the Embankment in the depths of winter or height of spring, on a sunny day, rainy day or day with the letter 'Y' in it, you'll be doing the same automatic deep breath of joy that we do on seeing this view. Photo by John Vincent In Covent Garden, you've got the entire covered shopping centre to yourself. A video posted by london genc 🇬🇧 (@genc) on
Laser lights are coming to every Boris Bike in London
It used to be that the only way to tell a Boris Bike was coming your way was by the shrill bell-ringing that accompanied it. But now, Santander Cycles are getting a new, futuristic safety feature: laser lights. The new lights were trialled earlier this year on 250 bikes and are now being rolled out across the city's 11,500-strong fleet of Boris Bikes. The 'Blaze' lights have been around for the last two years and have won designer Emily Brooke a fistful of innovation awards. They zap bright green bike logos onto the ground six metres in front of the cyclist, making sure pedestrians (and, crucially, lorries) can see riders coming. By early 2016, all 11,500 bikes will be armed with the new green lights, at a cost of £860,000 – a bill that's being mostly footed by sponsors Santander. Now no-one will ever need to fight over who gets the novelty bike at the docking station. Get inspired with one of our six scenic bike rides around the city. Don't fancy tackling London on two wheels? Here are nine sneaky tube shortcuts that only Londoners know.
When to visit London's busiest museums
Life moves fast and there are better things to be doing in London than queueing – having fun, for example. We've used Google's 'popular times' feature to scientifically bring you the best times to visit London's top ten museums, so you can skip the crowds. British Museum Visit one of the world's oldest museums and get your fix of human history and culture at the British Museum, whilst carefully avoiding the rest of the present-day humans. The collection is vast and only a fraction is on public display at one time and, as you might expect, a crowded weekend queue is not the ideal way to take in the treasures on display. Travel from AD 300 through to the eighteenth century Enlightenment at your own pace. Find peace and quiet on Thursdays at 10am or 4pm, though a lunchtime should still prove to be pretty zen. Check out 'Celts: Art and Identity' to see why the tribes of the Iron Age were united by a love of beautiful art objects (running until Sunday January 31 2016). Tate Modern &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;img id="a3da30ca-5fe0-7fac-fe48-160fda670853" data-caption="" data-credit="" data-width-class="" type="image/jpeg" total="222329" loaded="222329" image_id="102887812" src="http://media.timeout.com/images/102887812/image.jpg" alt="Tate" class="photo lazy inline"&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;
Oysterfest 2015: the great celebrity chef Shuck Off is back
London's celebrity chefs are gathering for Shuck Off, an annual event held to celebrate the start of native oyster season and raise money for Action Against Hunger. For the less seafood-savvy, that's an oyster-prising competition involving a tea towel, twisting knives and – hopefully – some extreme shucking skills. This Thursday at Newman Street Tavern, chefs and foodies from the city's top restaurants will go head to head to shuck half a dozen oysters at high speed. Current champion Fredrick Lindfords will be up against the likes of Tom Aikens (of Tom's Kitchen), and chefs from Balthazar, Dalston's The Richmond, Bibendum, J Sheekey, and The Dairy all competing to be the fastest mothershucker in town. Tickets are £15 a head and you're invited to watch as kitchen antics spill out into the dining room, whilst you sup champagne and oysters. Find out more at 48newmanstreet.co.uk. Meanwhile, check out London's best seafood dishes or host your own Shuck Off with a visit to one of London's best fishmongers.
Ping-pong mecca Bounce opens in Shoreditch
After three years of setting up court in Holborn, ping-pong bar bounce is opening up its second venue today (October 5). And these guys aren't messing around. They promise that the new Bounce will be in keeping with the 'authentic heritage of ping-pong as a high society parlour game'. With 17 bespoke tables and a private room, this is a place to get seriously competitive. Expect an east London twist, as luxe furnishings meet urban 'anarchic graffiti style' and UV lighting. It all sounds very fitting for somewhere just 80 yards east of Old Street roundabout. As well as ballgames, there's an open-plan restaurant serving up traditional Italian pizzas along a 25-foot pizza counter, and suave cocktails from the bar. Neither of these are likely to improve your game. Book a table now at bouncepingpong.com.
Get on the sauce at Forza Win this October
Pasta and booze deals don't normally bowl us over but we'll pretty much always prick up our ears when Forza Win say they're doing something different. At their pop-up-turned-permanent home in Peckham, they've parked their culinary skills at the Bussey Building's converted cash and carry, turning it into a gorgeous, ethical and much-loved restaurant. 'We reckon it's possible to be kind to the planet, not break the bank and have lots of fun doing it,' they say, and we like this a lot. A photo posted by Forza Win (@forzawin) on Sep 30, 2015 at 10:22am PDT Throughout October, pasta's getting the Forza treatment as they expand their mid-week dinner special, Project Awesome Sauce, where you can grab bowl of pasta and a glass of booze for only a tenner. If you do manage to nab a seat at one of the tables stretching the length of their new permanent communal eatery, you'll dine on a near-identical meal with fellow food fans. From roaming the city to settling on some permanent digs, Forza Win is showing that it's far from flash in the pan. Grab a bowl throughout October, Wednesday to Friday 6-11pm and Saturday 4pm-midnight. No ticket required, just turn up. Forza Win is at 133 Copeland Rd, SE15 3SN.
19 things to do in Clerkenwell before the world ends
When the world ends in fire and brimstone, not even the smart architects and design firms of Clerkenwell will be able to build you a way out. Good news: the design-laden region's piled high with some of the city's best food and drink spots, so it's a good place to be if you're still completing this list as the world ends. Ding ding. 1) Buy all the stationery at Present and Correct Clip party. #tbt A photo posted by Present & Correct (@presentandcorrect) on Jul 16, 2015 at 1:31am PDT Take a break from tapping your keyboard and rekindle your love of stationery. Luckily the tiny and beautiful Present and Correct make this easy peasy. You'll find all the stationery you could ever need, and find yourself inventing excuses to take home everything else. The store also has an excellent Instagram feed. 2) Get a Brill-iant coffee #fujifilm #xt1 #xf23mm | #brillcoffee in #exmouthmarket, #london | Does this guy pop in to buy a #cd? A photo posted by James Glover (@jrtg.uk) on Jan 22, 2015 at 6:23pm PST Head to Brill for coffee, music and bagels. Part music shop, part coffee shop, grab a coffee and soak up some folk sounds. 3) Clerkenwell Kitchen #delicious #breakfast from #clerkenwellkitchen A photo posted by Anthony Trollope (@anthonytrollope) on Jul 25, 2014 at 3:16am PDT The super-eco, super-smug café for all your lunch needs. 4) Find the birdhouses The bird hotel #birdhouse #stjamesclerkenwell #clerkenwell A photo posted by Manuela Pinho de
Work in progress: King's Cross gets its own pavilions
Having exchanged its shady past for a renovation of design, architecture and culture, King's Cross is getting another addition to its quirky and creative space with two new pavilions for this year's London Festival of Architecture. They join the array of fun fountains, colourful lights, smart restaurants, a viewing tower and astroturfed canal-side seating that now cover the space. The theme of the Festival is 'work in progress' and both designs interpret this in different ways. The red design comes from a Dublin-based collaboration between TAKA, Clancy Moore Architects and Steve Larkin Architects, and aims for visitors to have fun within it. The yellow pavilion, meanwhile, created by Belfast-based Hall Mcknight, is all about the bits and pieces that help build a city, housing a collection of bricks. Go down and check them out. Both will last for the duration of the festival until the end in June. Check out the Serpentine Pavilion that's just opened, too.
Pack your trunk: ride elephant-inspired rickshaws around London for free
Riding a London rickshaw rightly topped our list of 'Top 10 things not to do in London', but now they're facing a gorgeous makeover that'll make you fall in love with them. The three-wheeled monsters are typically known for toddling around Soho, getting the way of buses, blasting out Rihanna and ripping off tourists (and even Boris Johnson's annoyed by them), but this summer they're facing a revolution. A 20-strong fleet have been given tuk-tuk-style engines and transformed into traffic-stopping pieces of art. Creatives including Diane Von Furtstenburg, Mulberry and Bompas & Parr have come together with the Quintessentially Foundation as part of the Travels to My Elephant conservation campaign, with elephant-based activity springing up across the city this summer. First up: designing the humble rickshaw in the name of saving elephants. For two months you'll be able to hop on and tour the town on these mobile pieces of art for free, with a donation to the charity, if you're feeling generous. Find your nearest taxi rank now. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;img id="c2e45082-597a-e492-3b59-1520e4147e67" data-caption="" data-credit="" data-width-class="100" type="image/jpeg" total="9969671" loaded="9969671" src="http://media.timeout.com/images/102691903/image.jpg" alt="Travels to my elephant" class="photo lazy inline"&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt; Once the parade around town has come to an end, you'll be able to bid on your favourite ricksha
Seven surprisingly pretty photos of London supermarkets at sunset
Found yourself in a tentative Tinder date situation you want to keep super casual? Fancy catching a sunset without clambering up a hill? Want to visit a culinary library without breaking the bank? Introducing: the supermarket. It's your answer to all romantic and culturally demanding situations. Artsy Instagrammers argue that the humble London supermarket is more beautiful than you might think – and we've gotta say, we've never seen them look quite so buff. Start your night with sunset reflections in Swiss Cottage. It's the perfect place to bask in front of aeroplane streaked-skies, the waft of pepperoni from the deli counter and the yapping of a small dog by the shop entrance. It's like 'Lady and the Tramp' all over again. I never thought I would see the day when #finchleyroad looked beautiful #stunningsky A photo posted by Ash (@ash7546) on Jun 17, 2013 at 4:32pm PDT We all know the old saying: red sky at night, shepherd's delight. Purple sky by Waitrose at dusk, organic shepherd's pie clean-up in aisle four. Sunset over the Asda carpark. Scenic. #sunset #carpark #london #sky #clouds A photo posted by Joanna Montgomery (@joannannanna) on Apr 19, 2014 at 3:46pm PDT Hands up who thought deserted car parks were good for just one thing! Hands down. Think again. #sainsburys #camden #london #night A photo posted by Javier (@jazu00) on Jul 20, 2012 at 12:53am PDT One blue sky sunset is never complete without a contrasting glow of a blindingly orange Camden Sai