December in London can be one of the most magical of the year, with the capital getting into the festive spirit with a series of pop-ups, wintery activities and festive traditions. From the best carol concert, to the most Instagrammable lights-show, here's our pick of the best events happening this year.
The Nutcracker At The Royal Opera House
There are multiple reasons why the Tchaikovsky-scored ballet is a festive favourite. From its instantly-recognisable score (who doesn't hum along to Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies?) to the whimsical set design and magical storyline, it's the perfect family day out for many reasons – not least its brevity, clocking in at under two hours. The story follows Clara and her adventures one night after she is given an enchanted Nutcracker toy. After battling the Mouse King and being whisked away on the back of a swan, she meets a memorable cast of characters from around the world, before being tucked back up in bed before Christmas morning.
For more information and tickets go to roh.org.uk
Pop-Up Screens Christmas Programme
What's better than watching a Christmas film in your pyjamas at home? Probably nothing. But a close second is definitely seeing one at Pop-Up Screens winter-edition, which moves indoors after spending the summer al fresco. Taking place at a Christmas grotto in Hackney, guests will enter through a magical wardrobe, arriving in a winter wonderland dusted with snow, where mulled wine is the tipple of choice. Films being screened include The Muppets Christmas Carol, Elf and Bad Santa, as well as La La Land, Frozen and of course Love Actually, so there's really something for everyone.
For full listings and tickets, go to popupscreens.co.uk
Coppa Club Igloos On The River
Back by popular demand are Coppa Club's outdoor igloos on the River Thames. So pleasingly-wintery we're frankly shocked that they haven't happened before, they sparked a snap-happy craze in 2016, with demand for that perfect Instagram shot so high that they were forced to employ more staff. Surroundings-aside, even the menu is elevated above your usual Christmas fair, with truffled celeriac soup, roasted seabream, blood orange cheese cake, rather than stale mince pies, sausage rolls and turkey sarnies. You probably needed to book in October once they're announced in order to get a reservation, but they do take walk-ins, too.
For more information and to book go to coppaclub.co.uk/towerbridge
Christmas At Kew Gardens
See London's iconic Kew Gardens in a totally new light (pun intended) at its yearly 'Christmas at Kew' illuminations event. Over one-million twinkly lights showcase the park's heritage blooms, while a laser show highlights the incredible architecture of the Palm House and kaleidoscope projections beam light across the extensive gardens. Elsewhere there's a mistletoe photo booth, a vintage fairground ride and of course, Father Christmas, plus hot chocolate and toasted marshmallows.
Christmas at Kew runs from 22 November 2017 to 1 January 2018. Tickets cost from £16 and are available to buy at christmasatkew.seetickets.com
If Winter Wonderland is a little too touristy and Winterville too edgy, then Winterland might be the Christmas-themed cover-all pop-up for you. Taking place at the site of this summer's popular BYOB Neverland in Fulham (yes, you read that right, it's BYOB – hot toddies and bottles of Prosecco at the ready), the winter-themed instalment will feature the usual street food stalls, mulled wine bars and snow-topped décor, with the addition of five Olympic-sized curling lanes and three igloos overlooking the river, for added hilarity and Instagramable-ness.
For more information go to neverlandlondon.com/winterland
Carols By Candlelight At Union Chapel
Call us old-fashioned, but there's nothing as cheering at Christmas as a carol concert. Taking us right back to our school days, we love forgetting our hang-ups and singing 'Good King Wenceslas', 'Once In Royal David's City' or 'In Bleak Midwinter' as loudly as possible. The most popular carols in London take place at Union Chapel in candlelight, but as it's a non-ticketed event, you may want to arrive early to avoid disappointment.
For more information go to unionchapel.org.uk
Skate Lates At Somerset House
Perhaps the ideal Christmas date scenario, Somerset House is opening its famed ice-rink after-hours this year to let you show off your skating prowess to any potential romantic partners. With a specially curated programme of music – including takeovers from Field Day founders Eat Your Own Ears, '90s hip hop and R&B club night Supa Dupa Fly and Peckham-based radio station Balamii – you can expect something a little cooler than the umpteenth-play of Mariah Carey's 'All I Want For Christmas'. More into the après-skate? Head to the Skate Lounge, where you can enjoy a mulled wine, glass of Prosecco or any other Christmas tipple that tickles your fancy, plus replenish your energy via a mince pie and a hot sausage or two.
For more information go to somersethouse.org.uk
Georgian Christmas Late At Sir John Soane’s Museum
Step back in time and experience Christmas like the Georgians at the Sir John Soane's Museum. The one-off evening will start with a warming mug of mulled wine, before you're guided by candlelight around the museum, seeing how the family would have celebrated Christmas in the 1700s. Down in the kitchens, food historian Tasha Marks will be talking all about festive ingredients, while in the library, there will be a reading of quintessential regency novel, Emma by Jane Austen. Finally, the night will finish with a carol concert, accompanied by a harpist. It's the stuff of Elizabeth Bennett's dreams.
For more information and tickets go to soane.org
Winter La La Land
Think of Winter La La Land as the Christmas equivalent of a street food festival, with all the required trendy foodie stalls - we're talking BBQ joint Smokey Tails, American-cuisine purveyors Black Bear Burger and vegan junk food aficionados Biff's Jack Shack - housed inside an alpine lodge, rather than a wood-chipped car-park. With a karaoke pop-up from Lucky Voice as well as a dance floor for when you've had too many mulled wines, this is your best bet for festive fun under one roof.
For more information go to lastdaysofshoreditch.co.uk
Hogwarts in the Snow
If you haven't been to the brilliant Harry Potter Studios in Watford yet and you're a fan of the books, then frankly, we're confused, but Christmas is the perfect time to make up for it. Not only is the Great Hall decorated in yuletide style, but there are snow drifts in Diagon Alley and a model of the castle that was used for the Christmas scenes on display. This year for the first time the stage in the Great Hall will also be transformed to look like it did during the Yule Ball, with Professor Flitwick conducted the orchestra's festive offering.
For more information and to book go to wbstudiotour.co.uk/hogwarts-in-the-snow
MEATliquor Christmas Menu
Looking for somewhere to escape the traditional turkey roast for a Christmas lunch? Look no further! Everyone's favourite dirty burger emporium MEATliquor has launched a festive-themed edition of its menu, with the likes of turkey cheesesteak, the XXXmas burger and piggies in blankets. You can still find all your favourites, too, from the Dead Hippie burger to the slightly rebranded Xmac and cheese side.
For more information and to book go to meatliquor.com