Last updated on September 27th, 2023
It’s December so that means Christmas is all around us in London this month. Get your December diaries out and get planning with my guide to some of the best cultural things to do in London this month including art exhibitions, theatre, events, opera, dance and music – and let’s not forget Christmas lights and trees galore!
Londoness Loves: Cultural things to do in London this December 2022
Free things to do in London this December
Wrap up warm and go see the luminous Ever After Garden roses in Grosvenor Square. Take a moment for some contemplation about those loved and lost. You can also pay £10 and dedicate a rose for a loved one (in person or online) with proceeds going to the Royal Marsden.
Join Mr Londoner (one of my top recommended London guides) for a tour of Bankside in celebration of the Frost Fair. Frozen: Tales from the Frost Fair are on Saturday and Sunday 3 and 4 December. Check the Frost Fair website for other free (and paid for) events.
The Trafalgar Square Christmas tree goes up on the 1 December. Let’s hope it’s not quite as anemic-looking as last year’s!
Check out the various Christmas markets across town including Greenwich Market, Hammersmith, Kingston, Southbank, Covent Garden (go early), Portobello, and if you can cope with the crowds, Hyde Park Wonderland.
Head over to the Orleans Gallery for The Christmas Shopping Weekend featuring 50 local makers, designers and artisans who will be selling unique gifts from art to knitwear and jewelry. The cafe will be serving festive treats, and there will be music and free drop in creative activities for families. Check out the two interactive sight installations – Liz West’s Hymn to the Big Wheel (which is a jewel-coloured walk through sculpture) and Bryony Benge-Abbott & Thomas Sharp’s The Dataset’s Dream (a twilight installation allowing visitors to venture into our woods lit by candle lights and search for mysterious glowing moth grow houses. Free but booking essential).
See John Wesley’s House after hours and enjoy the festivities of an 18th century Christmas. The House will be full of festive sights and sounds, Flauguissimo Duo will be performing chamber music as a backdrop to the evening, and there will be seasonal activities in the Preacher’s Room. 7 December. Book here.
Hop on the 139 bus which will take you on a free tour of London’s best Christmas lights. More on that and all the Christmas lights in London on Catherine’s Cultural Wednesdays blog.
The Museum of London at London Wall is closing its doors with a final all-weekender festival – and it’s all free. 3 and 4 December.
The Worshipful Company of Launderers invites you to join them as they celebrate Christmas at their annual carol service with celebrity readers. This year’s theme is A Dickensian Christmas and features Timothy West reading passages of Dickens’ best known works. December 5. Book here.
Walk the Tasmin Trail in Richmond Park and catch sight of the giant oaks, deer and the King’s Mound, and check out the views towards St Paul’s Cathedral. Stop off for coffee and cake at Pembroke Lodge.
The Southbank Centre’s free, open-air exhibition Winter Light features 11 light works from 10 internationally acclaimed contemporary artists. Winter Light will be lit each day from 4pm to 11pm. On until 8 January 2023.
Bulgari is presenting an immersive experience with Refik Anadol’s artwork representing its most famous icon, Serpenti for the first time ever at the Saatchi Gallery. On until 23 December. Book here.
Head over to St Paul’s Cathedral for their free (and unticketed) Christmas Carol concerts on the 23 and 24 December. Or head over earlier on 10 December for Britten’s Ceremony of Carols.
A new virtual exhibition and in-person collection trail exploring sacred art and its relation to today’s world will open on 5 December at the National Gallery. Fruits of the Spirit: Art from the Heart pairs nine pictures from the National Gallery’s collection with nine from partner institutions.
The House of St Barnabas charity for the homeless is hosting an evening of Christmas carols on 13 December. Reserve your spot here.
Join City Guide & Lecturer Jill Finch to start the Festive Season with a virtual wander through the historic City of London at Christmas. You’ll meet Boy Bishops, Mummers, the Lord of Misrule, Liverymen and women, unruly apprentices and more. 6 December. Virtual and in-person at the Barbican Library. 6 December.
Christmas 2022 Events in London
Soak up the atmosphere as you listen to the world-famous St Paul’s Cathedral Choir, Carly Paoli and Classical Reflection, enjoy inspiring stories and festive readings from celebrity guests David Walliams, David Bradley, Ruth Jones, Joanna Scanlan and Lucy Edwards, and sing your favourite carols at St Paul’s Cathedral on 8 December. All in aid of Guide Dogs. Book here.
One of London’s most iconic buildings, Union Chapel in Islington, will be holding a series of special Christmas events, including Carols by Candlelight, The Mystery of Christmas, (December 18), folk artist Cara Dillon performing Upon a Winters Night ( December 6), and for those facing difficult challenges during the festive period, Blue Christmas (December 14). More details here.
Prepare to be enchanted by a majestic menagerie of mythical creatures in Palace of Light, the latest after-hours light trail at Hampton Court Palace. As dusk draws in at this famous royal retreat, visitors are invited to step into a fantastical world of glittering unicorns, lordly lions and galloping greyhounds, all set within the palace’s magnificent gardens and courtyards. Inspired by Henry VIII’s heraldic beasts, commissioned to decorate his imposing palace as a show of power and might, these magnificent illuminations promise to delight visitors of all ages. 7 December – 2 January. Book here.
Celebrate the holiday season on a Festive Family Tour of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Hear how Christmas was observed in Shakespeare’s time and the folk traditions that people practiced to welcome in winter. From wassailing to the winter solstice, ‘kissing boughs’ to proper mince pyes, this family-friendly guided tour is on from 19 December to 25 February. Book here.
London Transport Museum is bringing back its much-loved Lights & Sights tours this festive season for the first time since winter 2019. Ticket holders will journey through the West End’s festive light displays and illuminated landmarks on a classic red Routemaster bus, accompanied by a jolly soundtrack of classic Christmas tunes. Book here.
Join The Poppy Factory in Richmond for one of their wreath or cupcake-making workshops. Having just been for a fantastic tour (more information on that soon), I can vouch for the fantastic cupcakes. Don’t forget to make your own poppy whilst you’re there. More information here.
Celebrate the festive season with an hour of piano music performed to the glow of candlelight at the beautiful St Mary-le-Strand on 6 December. Book here. Or, head over on New Year’s Eve and join the Piccadilly Sinfonia for some Vivaldi, Bach and Handel.
London Art and Exhibition this month
The Museum of Architecture’s mouthwateringly edible The Gingerbread City exhibition returns to London from 3 December opening in Belgravia. This year’s exhibition presents not just one edible city but five miniature cities across five different climate zones: Polar, Continental, Temperate, Dry and Tropical. On until 7 January. Book here.
Artist Luke Jerram’s awe-inspiring The Museum of the Moon will be displayed in the magnificent Painted Hall. Visitors to this magical setting can experience the seven metre, to-scale Moon, created using NASA imagery, as it hangs in the Baroque hall. The installation features a surround sound composition by BAFTA-winning composer Dan Jones for a stunning and profound art-meets-nature experience. There will be a programme of Lates, music, dining and activities alongside The Museum of the Moon. Book here.
London Opera and Classical Music this November
Join The Sixteen at Cadogan Hall for a typically mixed and varied a cappella Christmas programme that draws on festive-inspired repertoire from the Renaissance to the current day. 15 and 21 December. Book here.
Get into the festive spirit with the Foundling Museum and the London Handel Players as they celebrate the Christmas season with arrangements of arias from Handel’s Messiah and Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, as well as traditional carols and instrumental works. Book here. 2 December.
The absolutely brilliant Opera Prelude young artists are caroling with music inspired by Christmas, fairytale and general jollity at the Garrison Chapel in Chelsea. The concert includes sparkling wine at the interval. December 6. Book here.
There is so much to see and enjoy at St Martin-in-the-Fields this month. Check the website for all the festive details.
‘Tis the season to go to St John’s Smith Square for their 37th annual Christmas Festival. Top talent, from Vox Luminis to The Tallis Scholars, will gather in the heart of Westminster to perform timeless Christmas music. With the iconic hall at St John’s Smith Square decked in festive decorations, and mulled wine and mince pies sold in The Footstool Cafe, this Christmas at St John’s Smith Square is set to be sparklier than ever. Book here.
London Theatre and Stage this month
Simon Russell Beale is taking on Scrooge at the Bridge Theatre’s adaptation of A Christmas Carol. 6 December to 31 December. Book here.
This Christmas, experience the classic Dickens’ tale with a Tennessee twist in an all-new musical Dolly Parton’s Smoky Mountain Christmas Carol. Featuring an original score written by Parton, this country version is set during the 1930s in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee. 8 December to 8 Jan 2023. Book here.
When a grown-up Tiny Tim asks Sherlock Holmes to investigate the peculiar death of Ebenezer Scrooge, the Great Detective must use his tools of deduction to get to the bottom of the crime. But it is a dark and treacherous Christmas Eve, and once again the holiday is haunted by the spirits of the past, present, and future. A Sherlock Carol is on until 17 January. Book here.
Bugsy Malone The Musical is playing at Alexandra Palace for a strictly limited run. This revival of the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre’s Olivier award-nominated production directed by Sean Holmes and choreographed by Drew McOnie, is currently touring the UK and will open in London on 3 December 2022, playing until 15 January 2023.
European Arts Company are bringing their acclaimed adaptation of A Christmas Carol to the Greenwich Theatre, starring John O’Connor as Charles Dickens. Adapted from Dickens’ own public reading scripts and eyewitness accounts of his performances on stage, O’Connor replicates the spirit of Dickens’ original tours. The tour will be in aid of Great Ormond Street Hospital, which Dickens helped found. 12 and 19 December. Book here.
London Dance this November
With an unforgettable score, sumptuous sets and costumes, evocative lighting and masterly storytelling, Matthew Bourne’s fairtyale Sleeping Beauty is brought to life by the New Adventures company at Sadler’s Wells. On until 15 January. Book here.
Out of Towners
It’s hard to imagine Windsor Castle looking more picture-perfect than in the summer – but its Christmas installation takes the castle to even starrier heights. Go just to see the Crimson Drawing Room which is not open to the public during the rest of the year (the royals like to use it then). It’s a wonderful, magical day out and I highly recommend a stop off at the Two Brewers for lunch or dinner after. On until 2 January. Book here.
On a Final December Note
The National Art Pass is a fantastic Christmas present for the art lover in your life. It offers a year of inspiring experiences and great days out with free entry to hundreds of museums, galleries, and historic places across the UK, 50% off major exhibitions, and much more. Buying an Art Pass provides funding for Art Fund, the national charity for art. Membership helps Art Fund support museums, galleries, and historic places across the UK, so that everyone can enjoy these brilliant places.
Individual: £73, Under 30: £45, Double: £110. Plus One add-on – £40. Plus Kids add-on: £10 You can also save an additional 25% in your first year if you choose to pay by direct debit.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS ONE AND ALL!