This may not be the month for smooching under the mistletoe or for perching on Santa’s lap, but there are still plenty of things to do in London this Christmas. There will be lights a plenty. Our magical Christmas markets roll back into town. Museums re-open, some with blockbuster exhibitions. You can even get your skates on and glide, or wobble, across some of London’s gorgeous ice-skating rinks. And there are plenty of live and online events you can enjoy in person or from the comfort of your yuletide living room. Here’s your ho ho guide to Christmas in London 2020.
35 festive things to do this Christmas in London
Pick of the Month
Let’s begin with Mr Christmas and the Charles Dickens Museum. Follow in Dickens’s footsteps and savour the sights, sounds and scents of the rooms where he lived and worked. The halls will be decked with holly and ivy, and beautiful Victorian decorations will adorn the rest of the house. There are also a number of online events at the Dickens Museum including A Christmas Housemaid Tour, an online production of A Christmas Carol, and a talk with Dickens’ great-great-great-granddaughter, Lucinda Hawksley. Don’t be a Scrooge – visit the website here.
This December, national treasure Sandi Toksvig will be bringing laughter, carols and the joy of Christmas from the Globe Theatre in an online film premiere of Christmas at the (Snow) Globe. Online audiences across the world will be invited to don their best ugly Christmas jumper, pour a mug of eggnog and join the Globe on Twitter @The_Globe for some festive cheer with the #SnowGlobe watch party. Book here.
What’s on stage this Christmas in London
A Christmas Carol
There are plenty of venues bringing Charles Dickens’s popular tale to the London stage this year. Get your merry on, and book one of these to get you into the Christmas spirit.
The Bridge Theatre is pulling this Christmas story out of the bag, with Simon Russell Beale taking the lead.
Andrew Lincoln (Love Actually) will be live streaming from the Old Vic stage this December. If it’s anything like the previous In Camera productions, you and yours will be in for a big treat.
Kevin Whately’s version will be live streaming from the Barbican. Book here.
Watch a free 15-minute short film of A Christmas Carol, designed for the whole family to be enjoyed over the festive period. It will be available exclusively from 19 December for those who sign up to the Polka Theatre newsletter from now until Christmas.
Ballet and Theatre
Director and choreographer Arthur Pita has a reputation for adopting a surreal take on storytelling. His magical dance theatre show The Little Match Girl makes a welcome return to Sadler’s Wells for Christmas. Our unlikely heroine is an impoverished street girl, with just one final match to keep her warm on a cold Christmas Eve. Beautifully recreated through dance, song and Frank Moon’s live atmospheric music, The Little Match Girl is a timeless fable about kindness and helping others.
Christmas in London wouldn’t be quite the same without the Royal Opera House’s production of The Nutcracker. This year’s version includes a new battle scene between the Nutcracker and the Mouse King, and it’s beautifully choreographed by Will Tuckett.
Over at the London Coliseum, the English National Ballet has been performing a version of Nutcracker every year since 1950. With this special production, dancers and musicians will take you on a whirlwind tour of the classic ballet’s most popular moments, with Tchaikovsky’s famous score played live.
Award-winning digital theatre-makers Creation Theatre present a surreal adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Audiences across the globe will be invited to escape reality and journey together to the magical Emerald land. 28 shows will be performed live online and across two weeks.
Over at the Oso Arts Centre in Barnes, a Rapunzel panto is being delivered with a few subtle Covid tweaks. Forced to live in isolation at the top of the highest and most remote tower of Barnard Castle, Rapunzel is in desperate need of a haircut. Will the cavalier Prince Cummings capture her heart, or is his love blind? Tickets are selling fast, so get booking now.
This Christmas, Greenwich Theatre reopens with Russ Tunney’s thrilling festive adaptation of Joan Aiken’s classic children’s novel, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. This fun-filled socially distanced adventure is accompanied by an online and interactive experience, Sir Willoughby’s Challenge, for those unable to attend the live performance.
London Exhibitions opening in December
Get ready for some of the biggest exhibitions of the year, opening this December in London.
This winter, the Natural History Museum will, for the first time ever, display the natural world wonders that have long fascinated humankind, next to the fictional creatures of the Wizarding World that have captured the imaginations of millions. Follow in the footsteps of the fictional Magizoologist Newt Scamander and the hundreds of scientists at the Museum as you venture into the wild to discover more about some of the most awe-inspiring creatures ever known. Fantastic Beasts: The Wonder of Nature opens 9 December.
This December, the V&A will open Bags: Inside Out, the UK’s most comprehensive exhibition dedicated to the ultimate accessory. From designer handbags to despatch boxes and vanity case, the exhibition will explore our longstanding fascination with the bag.
Sixty-five paintings that usually hang in the Picture Gallery at Buckingham Palace and are widely acknowledged to be among the highlights of the Royal Collection will be brought together in a gallery exhibition for the first time. In Masterpieces from Buckingham Palace, spectacular works by artists such as Titian, Rembrandt, Vermeer, van Dyck and Canaletto can be enjoyed ‘close up’ at the Queen’s Gallery.
The Royal Academy of Arts presents a landmark exhibition bringing together for the first time the work of Tracey Emin and Edvard Munch, two internationally renowned artists born 100 years apart. Long fascinated and inspired by Munch’s work, Emin will choose a selection of his masterpieces to accompany her own works. The exhibition will also feature around 25 works by Emin.
London Christmas Concerts and Carols
The Royal Albert Hall always knows how to put on a good show, and this year is no exception. The Christmas programme includes carols, traditional concerts, ballet, jazz and family fun. Visit the website here.
Enjoy Viennese music, festive classics and some favourite waltzes at Cadogan Hall.
Live-streamed from the Barbican Hall for the first time, the full baroque orchestra and choir of the Academy of Ancient Music are joined by a glittering array of soloists for Handel’s evergreen musical account of the Messiah. With Rowan Pierce and lestyn Davies, this is sure to be a festive treat. Book here.
The 35th Christmas Festival at St John’s Smith Square is on from 10 to 23 December. All concerts will be appropriately socially distanced and will also be streamed. Visit the website here.
The Crazy Coqs cabaret line-up at Brasserie Zedel includes Shaw Shimmers into Christmas, Drag Actually: The Christmas Drag Rom Com, and Miss Hope Springs: Christmas Agogo! More information here.
If Christmas carols is your thing, you’ll be happy to know that there are plenty of socially distanced performances going ahead at Southwark Cathedral.
London Ice Skating Rinks
Enjoy unbeatable views of the River Thames and Greenwich Royal Park as you weave your way around the rink at the Queen’s House in Greenwich. Alexandra Palace, or Ally Pally as it is affectionately known, is also opening this year. And an annual Londoness favourite, Hampton Court ice skating rink has to have the most beautiful backdrop in town – King Henry VIII’s palace, no less.
London Christmas Markets
Duck Pond Market at Chiswick House runs from 3 to 6 December. Buy local produce and handmade festive wreaths (made with foliage from the estate). Or, take home a potted plant in one of the terracotta pots found in the gardens during the restoration. Tuck into some food fare with one of the market traders or stock up on festive treats. More here.
Book a free ticket for the outdoor/indoor Christmas market at Fulham Palace which includes fine foods and gifts.
Head over to the Old Royal Naval College this Christmas. Celebrate the festive season with pop-up festive theatre performances for children in the beautiful riverside grounds and a local arts and crafts market. On set days in December you can enjoy late access into the stunning Painted Hall. Tickets will also include a delicious warming winter meal and a free Christmas present. Visit the website here.
The famous Greenwich Market will be getting its Christmas makeover this December, and it’s open 7 days a week. There’s also Christmas late shopping on the 9, 16 and 23 December.
The Oso Arts Centre is celebrating Christmas with its popular (and free) Christmas Fair. You can also book a wreath-making workshop with Blue Lavender.
On Cloud Pine, in partnership with The Royal Parks, is selling sustainably sourced Christmas trees in three pop-ups at Bushy, Greenwich and Richmond Park. The friendly team includes individuals who are suffering due to the pandemic, such as those from the arts sector. The pop-ups, which will also sell wreaths and garlands, will be open from 26 November to 20 December. More information here.
Out of Towners this Christmas
Enjoy opera highlights and Yuletide classics at Glynbdebourne. The Christmas concert will showcase the talents of the Glyndebourne Chorus and Tour Orchestra. Enjoy a meal in one of the onsite restaurants or a spot of Christmas shopping in the shop. Visit the website here.
This Christmas, step into the twinkling gardens of Waddesdon Manor. Browse for handmade gifts at the market and treat yourself to a festive afternoon tea. The Winter Light trail will transform the gardens with both dramatic colour and playful installations. Book here.
This winter, explore the Christmas display at Windsor Castle. The magnificent centrepiece is the 20-foot-high Nordmann Fir tree in St George’s Hall, taken from Windsor Great Park and dressed with hundreds of iridescent glass and mirrored ornaments. In the State Dining Room, the table will be laid with silver-gilt pieces from the spectacular Grand Service commissioned by George IV and still used today by The Queen and her guests at State Banquets.
What are your plans for a merry and bright Christmas in London 2020? Let me know is you know of any other things to do this Christmas in London below.