Fancy Something Festive?
Actually Cool Things to Do in LDN This Festive Season
In case you hadn’t noticed, the world has gotten a bit bleak. The days are darker than Voldemort’s soul, the nights are longer than the Nile, the news is terrifying and climate change is frightening, so it’s pretty nice to have the festive season arrive on our doorstep with its twinkly lights, spring-in-your-step spirit, chilly rose-coloured noses, and hot mugs of mulled wine topped-off with all the extras. It’s as close to real-life magic as it gets for us adults. And nowhere does this season better than London. Okay, maybe NYC. But second-best is definitely London.
Aside from having the most amazing eateries, it has all the holiday classics you could throw your money at in the name of branded festivities and unfettered capitalism. But it’s also totally possible to put on your winter glad rags and celebrate the festive season without leaving Winter Wonderland more broke than a snow globe whacked with a sledge.
London’s got a whole winter’s worth of epic things to see, do, celebrate, Tweet about and take selfies in front of. So skip Kew Gardens, avoid London Zoo and step around Leicester Square because this year you’ve gotta try something new -- you never know what little slice of London-y magic may become a contender for future tradition.
Ice Ice Baby
Why queue up outside that history museum thingy or try and bribe the bouncers at Somerset House when you can hone your skating skills in Canary Wharf (and pop into our new store at the same time)? The ice is pretty much the same as every other rink you’ve been on, but the sky-tickling towers of The City will give your Insta-stories a pretty epic backdrop. Oh and, if you don’t like the idea of strapping dangerously sharp blades to the soles of your feet and taking to the most unstable surface on earth, there’s a bar there serving seasonal drinks. That means you can get merry and giggle at everyone who thought ice-skating was a good first-date idea from the safety of a heated terrace. And you’ve got until mid-Feb to enjoy it, so there’s every chance you’ll become a repeat offender.
Screens In The Snow
Only one thing screams Christmas more than hibernating beneath a blanket with 3-5 boxes of M&S mince pies, a magnum of red wine, and your favourite festive films lined up to go, and that’s leaving the confines of your living room to watch your favourite festive films on a pop-up screen in the snow. Basically, you know this peripatetic cinema club isn’t going to lose any money with this experience. And it is an experience because a) the screen is in a snow-filled grotto, b) you can only reach said grotto by going through a magical wardrobe and c) they’re showing all the classics #LoveActually. But be quick because this one ends on December 23rd. This year. Obvs.
Like An Enchanted Palace, But Badass
If you frequent South London but have never seen Eltham Palace at Christmas, have you even been to South London? We mean it. This epic, art deco, mega-mansion is the place to go during the holiday season if you want your mind to melt out of your ears and your jaw to DROP. It’s fifty shades of wow. There are torchlit trails full of fairy-light tunnels, a light maze, holographic talking birds, post-walk mince pies - basically everything you need to keep you going for the next 11 months of waiting for Christmas to come back around. Just be quick because the magic all comes to a halt on Christmas Eve Eve.
Visit A (Theoretically) Edible City
Most museums are cool in a boring way. But the V&A’s Creative Studio at this time of year is cool in the tastiest way - it’s home to a city made from spiced-biscuit walls, icing mortar, gumdrop decorations, hundreds of pounds of gingerbread, sweets and gum, all whittled together by a bunch of architects, designers and engineers who were either commissioned because they’re super-great or did it cos they’re not great and have a whole lot of time on their hands. Either way, it’s been sat around for a while, so it probably ain’t gonna make for a suitable snack.
It’s Bingo, But Better
So much better. Essentially, it’s the same game, it’s just that the creatives at Dabbers Social Bingo have found a way to totally remix this classic. You’ll still have a hall full of people holding bingo cards tightly in their paws, but there are some differences to be enjoyed. The crowds are young, the callers are actually comedians, the fruit machines are burlesque dancers and the venue doesn’t smell like stale wee. There’s also a different theme to be had each day of the week, so you could easily become a regular here without getting bored. It’s where we now spend all our weekends, pulling on our best dayglow onesies for Disco Saturdays and then recovering with a bacon sarnie at Family Brunch Sundays. It’s epic.
‘Tis The Season of Giving
We always thought you had to be visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past to become a super-good person - but it turns out that’s a total lie. You just choose to be good and what better way to kick off your good-tidings outlook than volunteering this Christmas. There’s the London Basket Brigade that plonks food on the tables of those in need on Christmas day, Shelter From The Storm who help the homeless, Crisis At Christmas and oh-so-many more. And it costs zilch. Just a few hours out of your day and you could be giving someone their best Christmas ever. Don’t get us wrong, receiving everything from your Santa List (aka your Amazon Wishlist) feels great - but this will feel a thousand times better.
The Winter Lights
We’d love to say Canary Wharf is a touristy goldmine, but we know our noses would grow about six-feet long if we did and we’re not willing to live life with that handicap. The truth is: Canary Wharf isn’t the epitome of fun, frolics and cheeriness - until January, when a warm, fuzzy, glowy feeling falls over this financial corner of the city and leaves it looking totally awesome. Spectacular, even. It’s called the Winter Lights, and the uber-tall skyscrapers are the perfect backdrop for them. On paper, they’re just a bunch of light-emitting artworks, installations and interactive tidbits. But in reality, they’re hair-raising, mind-fizzing and jaw-dropping. We’re talking about neon graffiti walls, immersive rainbows and light tunnels that pulsate (sort of how we imagine a hippy’s migraine would look). Oh and, yeah, once again, you can top of your experience by popping into our new store and buying some Christmas gifts for everyone you forgot to buy gifts for (and all those who got you gifts you weren’t expecting to get you gifts). It opens on January 15th for a week.
Must-Do Christmas Markets
Christmas markets are intimidating places. Or maybe not intimidating but overwhelming, which is why most people stick to scoffing foods from the crimson-coloured peripheries of these pop-up labyrinths. But, trust us, there are so many reasons to take in a lungful of smoggy air and step inside them. Even the most Grinch-like Londoner will feel their heart begin to glow like ET’s as they make their way through the Southbank Centre Winter Market, the one in Greenwich, the Clapham Common one, and the one in Kingston. Sure, they can be a tad cold (they’re open-air), and the stuff they’re peddling are usually more expensive than you can grab them on Amazon, and they’re full of slow-walking tourists, but they’re still super… oh you know where we’re going with this. They’re great. So go try ‘em out before you have to wait another 11 months.
And there we have it - a list of things to in London this winter that are actually cool (and not cliche). Who would have thunk it?
Thanks for reading. For more ideas on how to embrace the endless summer, chase the horizon and keep your skin sun-kissed all year round, follow us on Instagram and Facebook, and sign-up for a naughty-little newsletter below! (you’ll get a cheeky 10% off if you do).