Jack Frost may be on his way to London, but there’s plenty to keep you merry and full of cheer. Here’s my guide to a jolly Ho Ho Ho December.
Jingle my Bells
For the Best in Show Christmas Carols, head to Battersea Dogs and Cats Home. It’s guaranteed to bow wow you! Monday 5th December. Battersea
St Martin in the Fields is the perfect place to rest your weary shopaholic feet. I love the candlelit concerts here, but dress warm and bring a cushion if you have a soft tush! There’s also a café crypt under the church with some great jazz evenings. St Martin in the Fields
For a jazzy soirée, be entertained by restaurant critic Jay Rayner (of Masterchef fame) at Brasserie Zedel. I once saw Rayner playing an impromptu piece at The Ivy Club, and he blew me away. The Jay Rayner Quartet Songs of Food and Agony include such greats as ‘Cantaloupe Island’, ‘Black Coffee’, ‘One For My Baby’, and ‘Save The Bones’. 10th December (check Zedel for other dates as he is a regular).
Staying with Zedel, be sure to catch the colourful and always entertaining Miss Hope Springs. She’ll be crooning out her Christmas favourites such as “Santa is a Woman’, ‘Christmas Calypso’ and ‘Paper Snow.’ 23rd and 24th December.
I’m not very good at it, but ice-skating to Bing Crosby and Michael Bublé is what Christmas is all about, ideally with some après-skate mulled wine. I’ll be slip-sliding at the Natural History Museum this weekend with one of the most beautiful buildings in the world as my backdrop. There’s a smaller rink for kids and a café bar for adult winter warmers. I do hope Paddington Bear drops in!
My favourite ice pond has to be Somerset House, and I’m heading over there with the family on Christmas Eve. You can drop into the Fortnum’s Lodge for yummy Chocolossus Hot Chocolate and fondue or head over to the Fortnum’s Christmas Arcade for some last-minute shopping. New Year’s Eve here is also highly recommended – you get pole position for London fireworks from Somerset House.
Tucked away behind the hustle and bustle of one of London’s busiest streets is the Piccadilly Market, a time-warp of a market and café. It neighbours Christopher Wren’s Piccadilly Church, and you can take a break from all the Christmas mayhem and madness here. Take a pew and listen to Carols for Shoppers on the 20th December at 5.30pm.
Marylebone Village is one of my favourite places for Christmas shopping, and you’re a stone’s throw away from Selfridges if you need a department store fix. Head over to Paul Rothe for their fantastic range of chutneys, Daunt Books for bookworm pressies, Pierre Marcolini for haute chocolaterie and drop into The Marylebone for liquid nourishment.
Monocle Christmas Market: Say hello to Santa, pet a reindeer, meet Monochan the owl, and do a spot of shopping in the Marylebone shop. Glühwein is also provided to warm your cockles . 3rd and 4th December.
Dennis Severs House at No 18 Folgate Street in Spitafields is a time capsule of life between 1724-1914, following a family of Huguenot silk weavers named Jervis through the ages. In December, the house is dressed for a Georgian Christmas, and the tour is conducted by candlelight. David Hockney likened the experience as one of the world’s great opera experiences. I’m counting the days! Dennis Severs
A Royal Christmas
Kensington Palace is hosting a Victorian Christmas for 5-11 year-olds, and it’s free with entry to the palace. Your little elves can step into Queen Victoria’s Christmas and find out what presents were like 150 years ago, create a decoration to hang on the Queen’s Christmas tree, play with her favourite childhood toys and make their own paper cut lantern. Saturday 3, 10, 17 December Kensington Palace
Hampton Court Palace is travelling back in time to an Elizabethan Christmas, when the Master of Revels must create a celebration to rival all others: you’ll get to experience Queen Bess’s Yuletide through music, dance and drama. Included in the price of the palace ticket. 21-23 December & 27 December – 1 January 2017.
Nice Fish has had some mixed reviews but it’s Mark Rylance, so acting brilliance is guaranteed. Directed by Rylance’s wife, Claire Van Kampen, the comedy is on at the Harold Pinter Theatre until the 11th February. Up to 4 free tickets are allocated daily to those who come dressed as a fisherman or even better, a fish.
Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s classic, The Little Matchgirl and other Happier Tales is directed by Globe director, Emma Rice, and it’s on at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse until the 22nd January 2017. We’re all familiar with the sad story – in Rice’s production of music, puppetry and candlelight, there’s a new tale for each strike of the match. It promises to be theatrical magic.
If you didn’t get a ticket to the dazzling production of Nutcracker at the Royal Opera House, you can still see it in live relay at cinemas around the country on the 8th December. The Curzon cinemas, Olympic, Electric and Vue are just some of the London silver screens where you can catch Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece.