As we jingle into December, it’s time for some Christmassy recommendations from yours truly. And you know my Christmas in London tends to be on the quirky side, so without further ho ho ho, here is Londoness’s alternative guide to Christmas in London. I wish you a very merry December!
You can look, but you can’t eat
The Gingerbread City is an annual exhibition where architects, designers and engineers create an entire city made of gingerbread. The aim of the exhibition is to connect the public with architecture through an innovative display designed for the holiday season. Now in its third year, this edition of the Gingerbread City is created by the Museum of Architecture and hosted by the V&A museum. Opens 8 December. Book here.
The Christmas Hope
Join my favourite comedy cabaret chanteuse, Miss Hope Springs, as she unwraps a glittering array of original seasonal songs, all sprinkled with a fine frosting of vintage-Vegas glitz. Expect fabulously festive numbers performed live at the piano and, if she gets enough eggnog down her, Hope might spill the beans on her ‘Ritz-to the-pits’ life and loves in this hysterical trip down her somewhat potholed, memory lane. 8 December. Book here.
An Ally Pally Christmas
Drum roll please as Alexandra Palace’s East Court and Victorian Theatre re-open this December, following a £27m restoration. The theatre has been dark for 80 years, and Alexandra Palace is marking the grand occasion with the Ally Pally Christmas Carnival. There’s ice-skating, a Santa’s Grotto and a funfair on the menu. The Christmas Market is staying local, with vendors from across North London. You’ll be able to take a sneak peak inside the shining new theatre and listen to music from the BBC Orchestra and Chorus Workshop. Free entry during opening weekend 1st and 2nd December. Check the website for details of the Christmas Carnival, on until 16 December.
It’s going to be a sloey Christmas at Fortnum and Mason
Learn how to make delicious festive cocktails in the elegant 3’6 bar and pick up a few tricks of the trade from master mixer Mustafa. Guests will receive a Sloe Negroni and canapé on arrival, along with a farewell drink at the end of the event. 4 December. Book here.
A Christmas Carol
Simon Callow and director-designer Tom Cairns have created a one-man theatrical extravaganza of the Charles Dickens classic, now playing in its fourth year. A Christmas must-see! Book here.
A Royal Christmas
Tour the most famous home in the world this December in the company of an expert guide, and marvel at the Christmas trimming on the Grand Staircase. For 2-2.5 hours, you will wander around the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace where you can pretend all those famous masterpieces are yours. The tour includes a glass of champagne, an official souvenir guide and 20% off in Buckingham Palace shop. Various dates in December and January. Book here.
Sniff and Snap at the Soane
You can time-travel at the Soane Museum and experience a candlelit Georgian Christmas with readings and carols. Enjoy cocktails and mince pies and sniff away at the AVM Curiosities scent jars in the Soane Kitchen. Photography is not normally allowed in the Soane, but you get free reign to snap away on the 14 December! Book here.
A Gothic Christmas with Walpole
It’s going to be a gothic evening of chamber choir, carolling, mince pies and mulled wine at Strawberry Hill House on the 14 December. And when you’re done falalalalaing, you can wander around Horace Walpole’s gothic pile and see his Lost Treasures exhibition. Look out for Cardinal Wolesley’s hat and a very special gift that Henry VIII gave his bride, Anne Boleyn, on the morning of their wedding. Book here.
A Baroque Christmas with Handel
Musicians from the Handel House Talent are performing their favourite Baroque pieces both as soloists and ensembles on the 18 December at St George’s Hanover Square. The evening will include a world-premiere of a new piece composed by Handel House’s Composer-in-Residence, Alex Groves, who was inspired by his year working inside the house at 25 Brook Street. And of course, there will be some carolling in-between. Book here.
Greedy Queens at Leighton House
From turkey and crackers to figgy pudding and Father Christmas, the festive season as we know it today has its roots in the Victorian era. Join Leighton House and Dr Annie Gray, presenter of BBC2’s ‘Victorian Bakers and The Confectioners,’ for a special evening of greedy queens, jolly canapés and festive music. 18 December. Book here. For those of you who love Queen Vic, I highly recommend you read Dr Gray’s ‘The Greedy Queen: Eating with Victoria.’
I’m dreaming of a Gin Christmas
Skating isn’t just for the kids, and John Lewis is serving a gintastic rooftop rink this winter. It’s small, so the hard work will be over and done in a dash, and you can practice some après-skate with a hot gin.
A truffled view of London
The London Eye has never really appealed, but this does: chocolate-tasting with a Hotel Chocolat ambassador, 2 glasses of Prosecco (one is never enough!) a goodie bag and priority boarding into a private capsule for up to 20 people at the London Eye.
Columbia Road Christmas
The independent shops and artisan makers of East London’s Columbia Road will open their doors for the Christmas Wednesday Shopping Evenings on the four Wednesday evenings preceding Christmas Day. Choose from artisan jewellers and booksellers, to gift shops and galleries, antiques and homewares, children’s shops, perfumery and fashion boutiques, all in a Dickensian, Christmassy atmosphere.
Maureen’s Up for It
Have a laugh and spend the evening with one of our most loved-comedians, Maureen Lipman. The show was a sell-out at the Edinburgh Fringe this year, and features sketches, monologues, song and jokes. There might even be some dancing…..17 December
Tea out to Barnes
Head out to Barnes in south west London and walk along the River Thames to the quaint, and very popular local tea room, the Orange Pekoe. The Christmas Afternoon Tea includes roast turkey, cranberry and port sandwiches, hot mince pies and of course, scones and tea. The tea is £21.95 and is served until 23 December.
Oom-Pah-Pah with the London Gay Men’s Chorus
Here’s a recipe for a big cup of Christmas cheer: head down to the iconic Victorian Clapham Grand, throw in some cabaret, vaudeville, burlesque, circus, classic carols and the London Gay Men’s Chorus, and what you get is a fun-filled very, very jolly evening. 20-22 December. Book here.
Help preserve our written treasures
Why not treat yourself or a bookworm you know to a British Library Membership? It helps fund the Library’s amazing collections which includes literary, historical, scientific and musical works from all over the globe and every age of written civilisation. Treasures from their collections include the Magna Carta, Beatles manuscripts, Leonardo da Vinci’s Notebook and the recording of Nelson Mandela’s Rivonia trial speech. A membership package includes free entry to exhibitions for you and a guest and exclusive access to the daytime Members’ Room, overlooking the King’s Library.
For more gift ideas, check my Pinterest Page. Season’s Greetings to you all. Love, Londoness.