Your guide to the best activities, events and fun stuff happening in London throughout December 2023

Can you hear those sleigh bells jingling? Yes, it’s December, and Christmas in London has begun in earnest. See the city skies sparkling with glimmering Christmas lights, fill your ears with Christmas songs, scoff down an indulgent Christmas sandwich, get luxurious festive treats from London restaurants and liven up a winter walk with a trip to a heated pub garden.

Read our guide for the lowdown on the events, parties, cultural happenings, and things to do taking place in London in December 2023.

1. Wander around Southbank Centre Winter Market

Wander around Southbank Centre Winter Market
✯ Things to do  ✯ Markets and fairs  ⟟ South Bank 🕒 Until 26 Dec 2023
Every winter the Southbank Centre turns the banks of the Thames into a frosty wonderland, full of little wooden Alpine-style cabins selling gifts, warming drinks, and snacks. This year, you can cosy up at Jimmy’s Winter Lodge with its heated riverside snowglobes where you can snaffle down cheese fondue. Further down you’ll find huts offering everything from truffle burgers and mulled wine to decorations made by independent designers.

2. Childhood fave ‘The Witches’ hits the stage

Childhood fave ‘The Witches’ hits the stage
✯ Theatre ✯ Musicals ⟟ South Bank  🕒 Until 27 Jan 2024

It’s been years since the National Theatre produced a truly great new musical, but this certainly looks promising. Top Brit playwright Lucy Kirkwood and cult US composer Dave Malloy have joined forces to tackle Roald Dahl’s classic kids’ novel about a young boy and his grandma who uncover a terrifying conspiracy of witches at a seaside hotel. Lyndsey Turner directs her first ever musical, with a cast headed by Katherin Kingsley as the Grand High Witch and Daniel Rigby as Mr Stringer.

3. Hit up Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

Hit up Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
✯ Things to do ✯ Markets and fairs  ⟟ Hyde Park   🕒 Until 1 Jan 2024

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 sixteenth year in 2023. 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.

3. Try your luck getting tickets to Christmas at Kew

Try your luck getting tickets to Christmas at Kew
✯ Things to do ✯ Walks and tours ⟟ Kew  🕒 Until 7 Jan 2024

The mother of all light trails, Christmas at Kew has become a key date in London’s festive calendar as the 300-acre botanic garden is lit up with glistening lights and illuminations. This year’s route will take you past glass houses emblazoned with kaleidoscopic projections, through shimmering tunnels of light and trees drenched in jewel-bright colours. As usual, there’ll also be warming winter snacks and a grotto where you can say hello to Father C himself. Be warned, Christmas at Kew tends to sell out quickly, so look sharp to secure your place.

3. Eat up at the Maltby Street Christmas Night Market

Eat up at the Maltby Street Christmas Night Market
✯ Things to do ✯ Markets and fairs ⟟ Bermondsey   🕒  Until 15 Dec 2023

Maltby Street Market’s Festive Fridays are back. Guzzle Christmas dishes from around the globe as the iconic food market’s finest traders set up their stalls after dark beneath Bermondsey’s fairy-light-festooned Victorian railway arches. There’ll be carolling, hot mulled wine, mince pies, wreath-making and responsibly sourced Christmas trees to buy. You’ll feel like you’ve wandered into a cosmopolitan Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’.

4. Try your hand at Christmas curling

Try your hand at Christmas curling
✯ Things to do ⟟ King’s Cross 🕒  Until 26 Feb 2024

The sport of curling – the one you watch on telly during the Winter Olympics and find curiously engaging – has arrived in King’s Cross, with a pop-up outdoor arena set among the restaurants and bars of Coal Drops Yard. Curl the night away on one of six synthetic curling lanes in groups of up to six, and then once you’ve finished your 45-minute session, warm up with a toasty cocktail at the Curling Club bar. This year it’s back with a ’90s twist, so the fun and games will be soundtracked by a programme of DJs curated thanks to Voices Radio.

5. Hitch up on a cheery winter horse carriage ride

Hitch up on a cheery winter horse carriage ride
✯ Things to do ✯ Walks and tours ⟟ Richmond Park 🕒 Until 1 Jan 2024

Live out all your dark Dickensian dreams on a winter outing that sleighs the competition. Explore Richmond Park or Bushy Park on a traditional carriage ride drawn by a pair of majestic Shire horses from the last working herd in London. Snuggle up in a blanket and clip-clop your way around the park while sipping on sloe gin, eating mince pies and learning about your surroundings from guides and carriage riders that look straight out of ‘Great Expectations’, dressed in smock coats and bowler hats. The private rides in Richmond Park aren’t cheap, but all the money raised supports the equine therapy services of Operation Centaur, who manage the horses. If you want a more wallet-friendly option, book one of the group rides in Bushy Park.

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6. Dine at a cosy winter terrace

Dine at a cosy winter terrace
✯ Restaurants ⟟ London

It is cold, so cold. Head to the nearest cosy outdoor space in London immediately. Luckily, some of our favourite bars and restaurants have been thinking on their frozen feet. So wrap up warm and check out these new outdoor terraces for drinking and dining decked out in wintry decor and adorned with roaring fire pits, patio heaters and enough faux fur to make you think you got stuck in the wardrobe on your way into Narnia.

7. Skaters gonna skate

Skaters gonna skate
✯Things to do ✯ Ice skating ⟟ London

Ice skating season is back baby, and we can’t wait to whizz around one of London’s many excellent slabs of ice. Winter Wonderland’s rink is the biggest, Canary Wharf’s is open for the longest period (18 sweet weeks!) and Somerset House’s is the most fabulous. Take your pick, lace up your boots and get swishing.

8. Grab last minute presents at London’s best Christmas markets

Grab last minute presents at London’s best Christmas markets
✯ Shopping ✯ Markets and fairs ⟟ London

Markets, eh? They’re pretty nice to wander around at nearly every time of year. But, at Christmas? Well, that’s when London’s markets really come into their own. Every year the capital fills with the kind of markets that host fairy-light-lined stalls, festive street-food sellers and community tombolas, with a playlist of Christmas songs on loop in the background. In fact, whether you’re looking for tasty treats, traditional decorations and cutting-edge arts and crafts or are just shopping for a last-minute present, the capital’s selection of Yuletide stalls are here to help.

9. Don’t miss out on any NYE events

Don’t miss out on any NYE events
✯ Things to do ⟟ London

New Year’s Eve in London means you’re faced with some choices. Sometimes there’s so much choice, in fact, that you end up spending the night indoors with a few loved ones and plenty of booze. We’ve all been there, but London boasts loads of great New Year’s Eve events that should coax even the most reluctant NYE fan out of the house this year.