Last-minute Christmas in London? 10 of the best festive events
by Abigail Blasi
You’re in London, it’s busy, it’s Christmas. You want to do something festive. So where should you go?
The good news is that there’s even more than usual. Not only is life in the capital back in full swing after the lockdowns, but it’s also the 10-year anniversary of Kew Gardens illuminations, Battersea Power Station has finally opened, and there are more light shows and wonderlands than ever.
Read on for a selection of the very best Christmas events this year – and, with many of them continuing well into January, you might find yourself having a bumper Yuletide…
Kew Garden’s annual light show is always something special, but it’s especially beautiful this year for the 10th anniversary of the trail, with each tableau a work of art, from tropical lighting and a 12 days of Christmas illustrated by wicker sculpture, to musical fountains punctuated by puffs of fire.
With rides, stalls, ice skating and shows, Hyde Park Winter Wonderland is always a superbly Christmassy, if pricey day out. This year it’s worth heading there if only for the ice slide, ice bar, and the fantastic Dr Archibald Virtual Reality ride, where you travel back in time to find a missing history professor.
The gorgeously twee Covent Garden Christmas bar is back, with snow underfoot, twinkle, and vintage decor galore plus cocktails in novelty mugs, most endearingly ‘Grandma Got Run Over By A T-Rex’, a dinosaur-Christmas mugful of vodka and citrus deliciousness.
The newly opened pleasure palace that is Battersea Power Station has gone turbo-charged for Christmas, with ‘selfie spots’ to make your own festive scenes, a riverside ice rink, face painting, kids’ workshops, festive decorations, and a Christmas market.
It’s a classic for good reason. This is still by far London’s most beautiful setting for a rink (closely followed by Greenwich Park and Hampton Court), and this year there are Uniqlo-sponsored DJs (hope they’re wearing their Heattech) putting the party in your pirouettes.
Lanterns and projections light up the night as Kenwood House gets into its stride for Christmas 2022, in a perfect location close to the frosted splendour of Hampstead Heath, with mull and mince pies to keep it toasty.
Crystal Palace’s lit opus brings some sparkle to south London, featuring stretched-silk lanterns depicting everything from Chinese dragons to the Clangers, which are all especially bewitching around the park’s lakes and Victorian dinosaur models.
The South Bank has its regular Christmas market, featuring chances to go drunken curling as well as shop for knitted crafts, but this year there are free light installations to boot, with abstract light artworks dotting the riverbank and lighting up the night.
The Christmas trail at Hampton Court is double the length of 2021, with lanterns and lights inspired by the Royal Beasts, including glittering unicorns, polka-dot panthers and galloping greyhounds, and a chance to explore the sparkling wilderness, formal gardens and historic palace courtyards after dark.
Igloos have popped up around central London in time for the cold snap, with Fire & Fromage at the South Bank and Chalet Suisse at Somerset House. Book in to nestle under rugs and partake of mull, fondue, hot chocolate and much more.
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