December is a great time to visit London, whether you want to go Christmas shopping, look at the festive lights, go sightseeing, or relax on a Circular Cruise boat and enjoy watching the frenetic activities along the Thames while you take the weight off your feet!
The Southbank Centre (nearest pier: Festival) is a bustling area at any time of year, but at Christmas time, it pulls out all the stops. Browse among the wooden chalets of the Winter Market for handmade gifts and food from all over the world. There will also be heated bar areas next to the river where you can toast the season with hot and cold festive drinks, and there are pop-up lodges and igloos where you’ll be able to enjoy fine dining. It all kicks off on 8th November and will carry on until 5th January next year, so there’s plenty of time to enjoy the buzz.
Even though snow doesn’t always fall in London in December, you’re still guaranteed to find patches of ice across London in the form of skating rinks! Between 16th November and 5th January, you can get your skates on at the Tower of London (nearest pier: St Katharine’s). Another venue - which is celebrating 20 years of winter skating - is Somerset House (nearest pier: Embankment), where you can enjoy upmarket food and drink afterwards.
Christmas carol concerts
If you enjoy singing Christmas carols, there are plenty of incredible venues near the South Bank that will be hosting concerts. St Paul’s Cathedral (nearest pier: Bankside) has a busy Advent full of concerts, carols and Christmas services. As does Trafalgar Square-based St Martin-in-the-Fields (nearest pier: Embankment) with candlelit concerts and Christmas carols throughout December. Check out the free lunchtime concerts too.
Theatre shows for Christmas
It’s panto season again. All together now: “Oh no it isn’t!” “Oh yes it is!” Most London theatres will be getting into the spirit of the season with traditional pantomimes, but if that’s not your thing, there are other productions that embrace the spirit of the season.
A trip to the circus - You don’t have to worry about being too cold in a Big Top tent, Circus 1903 is being held in the warmth and comfort of the Royal Festival Hall from 19th December (nearest pier: Festival). Suitable for all ages from 3+, the whole family can marvel at death-defying acrobatics, and they’ll love the life-sized elephant puppets.
Black Beauty - If your younger kids like horses, introduce them to the story of Black Beauty at the Purcell Room (nearest pier: Festival). This award-winning production uses a blend of storytelling, music and puppetry to tell the classic tale of friendship and heroism.
Mary Poppins - If you like songs about chimney sweeps, flying kites and feeding the birds, you’ll be in for a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious time at Mary Poppins The Musical at the Prince Edward Theatre (nearest pier: Embankment).
Christmas at the (Snow) Globe - If you’ve got enough socks and jumpers to keep you warm, you might want to brave the cold at the Globe Theatre (nearest pier: Bankside). In the week before Christmas, Christmas at the (Snow) Globe will be a great singalong where the whole family can help decorate the theatre for the festive season. And as standing tickets are just £5 (which also give you the chance to run around to keep warm), it’s amazing value for money.