Highlights include ice skating, winter festivals and pop-up screenings
Just because it's freezing outside (and in most cases inside too), that doesn't mean you can't still head out and enjoy yourself. Thankfully, London's abuzz with wintertime events ranging from light shows and festivals to pop-up street food markets and film screenings which means there's plenty to take advantage of at this time of year. We've rounded up some of the best ways to make the most of the festive period in the coming months.
Go ice skating
It's not Christmas until you've whizzed (or wobbled) around an ice rink with your loved ones in tow. Luckily, London's got a number of rinks that pop up every November. The Natural History Museum Ice Rink is always a good shout, with the stunning backdrop of Hintze Hall and drinks by Hotel Chocolat to keep you warm. The ice rink at Somerset House has a specially curated programme of music nights this year, with takeovers from the likes of Eat Your Own Ears, Field Day, Balamii and more still to be announced. You'll find the UK's largest open air ice rink at the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland along with a German-style Christmas market and shows like Cinderella on Ice and Cirque Berserk.
If you're not familiar with the rules of ice hockey, you're certainly not alone; it can be a tricky game to follow. But one things for certain, there's a lot of action and excitement involved and with four London teams currently competing in the English National Ice Hockey League, there are plenty of opportunities to get in on the action. In the next few weeks, the London Raiders are playing the Streatham Redhawks (11 Nov), the Invicta Dynamos (25 Nov) and the Peterborough Phantoms (3 Dec), all at the Lee Valley Ice Centre.
Sometimes you need a good Christmassy film to get you in the festive spirit. With that in mind, the folks behind London's Rooftop Film Club will be taking over Peckham's Electric Theatre to bring you screenings of both Christmas classics and fan-favourites as part of their Winter Film Club. Even if Christmas isn't really your thing, the programme is always varied, with last year's screenings including Louis Theroux's My Scientology Movie, Love Actually, Casablanca and Elf. For a totally unique viewing experience, join the Backyard Cinema crew, who will be transforming the Mercato Metropolitano into a magical Snow Kingdom. Journey through frozen lakes and ice caves to the grand ballroom where winter warmer cocktails await you along with screenings of everything from The Princess Bride to Baby Driver.
The annual Magical Lantern Festival returns to Chiswick House and Gardens at the end of November, marking the beginning of the festive period and the end of Chinese New Year. Visitors can expect a spectacular display of light and illumination, with colours, sculptures and lanterns recreating different stories and characters. Once you're suitably dazzled, there's a food and drink area, merchandise marquee and Santa's Grotto just for the little ones.
Canary Wharf becomes a glowing beacon throughout January as sculptures, structures and installations take over the area, showcasing interactive and visually impressive art and design from around the world. Highlights from 2017 included Angels of Freedom, five giant wings with white halos created by Israeli artists Merav Eitan and Gaston Zahr and Ovo, a collaborative light installation from Belgium. The Winter Lights Festival programme for 2018 is still to be announced but will no doubt be as magnificent as always.
There are more than enough department stores and High Street shops in London to get your Christmas shopping fix but what if you're after something unique and special? It's always worth paying London's many markets and fairs a visit because you may just find that perfect present. The E17 Designers' Christmas Market at the Asian Centre (10 Dec) and Mirth, Marvel & Maud (16 Dec) features a range of local crafters and handmade wares, along with live music and sweet treats. The Massive Arts Christmas Fayre at the Ritzy (2 Dec) is also well worth visiting, as is the Hyper Japan Christmas Market, where you can buy all things Japanese, from ramen to anime.
Celebrate Christmas in your own way at one of the many wintertime festivals that London has to offer. Winterville at Clapham Common is described as 'London's alternative festive experience', with a range of pop-ups from Backyard Cinema, Plonk Golf, the Twisted Wheels Roller Disco, Street Feast and more. There's also a Spiegeltent with performances and parties from the likes of Norman Jay, Sink the Pink and South London Soul Train. Wintertime at the Southbank Centre is back once again with Nordic treats, Christmas shows and an interactive exhibition, while the Greenwich Winter Time Festival takes over the historic grounds of the Old Royal Naval College with street performers, live music, markets and food and drink.
Christmas is officially panto season which means you've got a tough choice to make between the many shows that are taking place around London. In East London, Hackney Empire take on Cinderella this year with Aisha Jawando starring as Cinderella, and Kat B and Tony Whittle as the Ugly Sisters. The Lyric Hammersmith have got Jack and the Beanstalk, written by playwright Joel Horwood, while the New Wimbledon Theatre are also putting on a production of Jack and the Beanstalk, with seasoned dame Clive Rowe and Al Murray in the main roles. Elsewhere, there's Dick Whittington at the London Palladium, Peter Pan at the Wembley Arena and Puss in Boots at Hoxton Hall.
Six weeks of festive fun with the UK's largest open-air ice rink and London's largest German-style Christmas market. Entertainment includes The Sooty Christmas Show, Cinderella on Ice and Zippo Christmas Circus.