Christmas comes but once a year, yet seems to last a couple of months in London. So time to try these five classic winter experiences.
1. Ice-skating at Somerset House
Ice-skating in the courtyard of the beautiful 18th century Somerset House runs from November 18 until January 10.
You don’t have to be experienced to try out on the 900sqm rink, but if thrills and spills aren’t your thing, Fortnum’s Lodge (partnered with Fortnum and Mason) offers light bites throughout the day and a new Botanical Bar by evening.
The Skate Lounge, meanwhile, has a variety of seasonal drinks and snacks. During the eight weeks, there are various club nights and a Jazz Skate as well as the annual Fortnum and Mason pop-up in the Christmas Arcade.
Ticket price is £7.50 plus a booking fee and the venue is open starting at 1000. Tickets are booked by session (one-hour long) with the last session from 2115-2215 (on select dates, 2230-2330). somersethouse.org.uk
2. Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park
Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland is open from November 20 until January 3.
Among the attractions is the Magical Ice Kingdom, the largest UK walk-through experience featuring real snow and ice; Santa Land, which features Father Christmas himself; over 200 Bavarian style chalets in the Christmas market; and, of course, the Zillertal-inspired Ice Rink.
An Ice Bar, 200 rides, Giant Observatory Wheel, live music and shows by Zippos Circus are also available.
Open 1000-2200 daily (November 20 opening is at 1700). Ticket prices vary by attraction. hydeparkwinterwonderland.com
3. Winter Festival and Christmas Market at Southbank Centre
The Winter Festival and Christmas Market at Southbank runs from November 20 until December 24.
Free to enter, you can wander through the many chalets along the riverbank for delicious and festive food, drinks, treats and of course, gifts. The market is open Sunday-Thursday 1100-2100 and Friday-Saturday until 2200.
Other activities put on by the Southbank Centre include a unique winter alternative for those who prefer to stay warm – the mobile BUMP Rollerdisco. Tickets are £10 for adults and £7.50 for children; ends January 17.
Various performances will also be featured and the Rekorderlig Cider Lodge will offer traditional and festive Scandinavian street food.
See more details and events at southbankcentre.co.uk
4. Christmas Carols in Trafalgar Square
From December 8 until December 23, more than 50 carol groups will send Christmas favourites ringing through Trafalgar Square. Carols can be enjoyed during the week from 1600 until 2000 and from 1400 until 1800 on weekends.
The groups sing to raise funds for voluntary and charitable organisations and while the event is free to attend, perhaps it is the perfect spot to give a little extra to those in need while enjoying the spirit around you.
One of the highlights in Trafalgar Square is the world-famous Christmas tree that has been gifted annually from Norway since 1947; the lighting ceremony will commence at 1800 on December 3.
5. Christmas Lights throughout London
Oxford Street Christmas Lights were switche on at the start of November, but not everywhere does so that far in advance.
On the night of November 12 is the Carnaby Christmas shopping party and Christmas lights switch-on. The event will feature live music, store details spanning the shopping street and even shop activities. While tickets are free they must be claimed in advance.
Regent Street’s switch-on event will happen on November 15 and promises celebrity appearances and a fireworks display.
Other notable Christmas light switch-on events include Bond Street and Covent Garden on Novenber 12, Kingston Town Centre on November 19 and the Royal Exchange Christmas Tree Lighting on November 25.