Whether you want festive things to do or just want to pretend like Christmas doesn’t exist, here are the best things to do in December in London with family and friends.

In addition, London has plenty of skating rinks, light trails and illuminations, as well as Christmas pantos and Grottos to discover, as well as festive, wintery and utterly lovey winter terraces to snuggle up in. 

1 Peter Pan Cup, Hyde Park

A Christmas tradition you can enjoy from the warmth of a good coat and beanie, the Peter Pan Cup sees Serpentine Swimming Club members swim a 100-yard course. Held every year since 1864, the race debut coincided with Peter Pan’s London debut.

Dates: Christmas, December 25 at 9am

Address: Serpentine Lido, Hyde Park, W2 3XA

Website: serpentineswimmingclub.com

2 London Baltic Film Festival, Ealing

This festival showcases the latest feature films from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Blending historical context, cultural exploration and artistic expression, highlights include Sundance Film Festival’s World Cinema Documentary directing award winning flick Smoke Sauna Sisterhood, The Poet, a drama-inspired by the true story of betrayal of the Lithuanian partisans, and Latvian coming-of-age film January, set during Lativa’s peaceful fight to regain independence in 1991. Q&As will follow each session.

Dates: December 1-3

Tickets: £12/£10

Address: Ealing Project, 1 High St, London W5 5DB

Website: londonbalticff.com

3 Christmas at Kew, Richmond

Christmas at Kew's world-class trail illuminates the UNESCO World Heritage site with more than one million lights. Individual installations colourfully remind people of the vital role plants and the natural world play in our lives. There’s displays lighting up the Temperate and Palm Houses, a 15-metre dome siting on top of a reflective water pool, and installations set to classic festive tunes.

Date: November 15 - January 7, 2024

Address: Kew, Richmond, TW9 3AE

Time: 4.20pm-10pm

Tickets: From £22.50

Website: kew.org

4 Dishoom Battersea

The popular Indian restaurant heads south of the river for the first time when its latest site opens at Battersea Power Station. Opening December 5, the restaurant continues on as a love letter to Bombay and India’s rich cultural heritage and serves all the hits and favourites Dishoom is known for. Dogs are also welcome at this site.

Dates: Opens December 5

Address: 42 Electric Boulevard Battersea, SW11 8BJ

Website: dishoom.com

5 Christmas Independent Ceramics Market, Peckham

Featuring more than 150 ceramic artists including up and coming emerging ceramicists to established potters, this market showcases a diverse range of affordable ceramic artwork, from cups to sculptures, which you can buy direct from the maker.

Dates: December 10, 11am-5pm

Tickets: £2

Address: 133 Copeland Road Copeland Park Peckham SE15 3SN

Website: eventbrite.co.uk

6 The Lost Library of Spitalfields Market, Spitalfields

An all-ages festive pop up show by “zero-waste theatre” The Greenhouse Theatre, The Lost Library of Spitalfields Market tells the story of Isla who is on the hunt for a Christmas present for her mother when she stumbles on a hidden library filled with discarded and forgotten about objects. Around this, there’s carol sing-alongs, board game nights, pub quizzes and live music. There’s also family-friendly craft workshops such as wreath making and candle painting and a zero waste bar serving winter warmers such ash mulled wine and hot cider.

Dates: December 1-24

Tickets: £15/£10

Address: 8 Market Street, Spitalfields Market, E1 6DT

Website: spitalfields.co.uk

7 Swamp Motel’s Velvet Pines, London Bridgz

This is dinner and a show, but taken up a notch or two. Immersive entertainment company Swamp Motel combine immersive design, with in-your-face cabaret and a three-course menu created by MasterChef finalist Omar Foster to bring you this experiential party. Set in a a70s inspire European ski resort, an incoming blizzard to threaten the power supply, it’s up to the Alpine lodge’s quirky staff to keep guests entertained.

Dates: Running until December 23

Tickets: From £149.95, includes three-course meal)

Address: 49 Tanner Street, London Bridge SE1 3PL

Website: velvetpines.co.uk

8 Horrible Histories' Horrible Christmas, Barbican

Not quite your average panto, this family show features Victorian villains, Medieval monks, puritan parties and Tudor treats and a cast of characters including Charles Dickens, Oliver Cromwell, King Henry VIII and St Nicholas. It’s a horrible show, but wonderfully so.

Dates: December 29, 2pm and 4.30pm

Tickets: From £16.50

Address: Silk Street, Barbican EC2Y 8DS

Website: barbican.org.uk

9 Rooftop Cinema at Kitchen at Holmes, Marylebone

Kitchen on Holmes’ popular festive rooftop cinema returns for another year, following sell-out runs across the last three years. The restaurant transformed its secret roof terrace into a cosy winter wonderland to present a collection of classic Christmas movies including The Holiday, A Christmas Carol, Miracle on 34th Street and Die Hard. After feasting on a Mediterranean-ish tasting menu, guest head upstairs for the flick

Date: November 22- December 21

Tickets: £70 includes tasting menu, popcorn, a glass of champagne and a film

Address: 108 Baker Street, Marylebone, W1U 6U

Website: kitchenatholmes.co.uk

10 Stranger Sings! at Southwark Playhouse, Elephant and Castle

Just like the TV show, Stranger Sings! is set in the 1980s in the Indiana town and follows a gang of pals plagued by creatures from a hostile alternate dimension thanks to the local human experimentation facility opening a gateway between Hawkins and the Upside Down. The spoof comedy has been nominated of three Off West End awards, this stage show was one of The Stage’s Top 50 Shows of 2022.

Date: December 13 – January 6, 2024

Tickets: from £32/£26 adult/concession

Address: 77-85 Newington Causeway, Elephant and Castle SE1 6BD

Website: southwarkplayhouse.co.uk

11 Borough Market’s evening of cheese, Southwark

This cheesy dream is free to attend, and an opportunity to stock up on festive supplies or window shop through the traders while soaking up the festive atmosphere. Find cow, goat and sheep cheese from Britain, Ireland, France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the Netherlands, and pick up a drink to mosey around with while you’re there.

Date: Wednesday, December 123

Time: 6pm-9pm

Address: Borough, SE1 9AL

Website:  boroughmarket.org.uk

12 Stranger Things: The First Shadow, West End

This musical takes audience back to a time before the Upside Down – to Hawkins in Indiana in 1959, when the town was just an ordinary town with ordinary worries. It is the prequal to the Duffer brother’s series so while there won’t be the adorable gang of tweenaged heroes, there will be a young Jim Hopper and Bob Newby, whose lives will change course when news student Henry Creel arrives in town.

Date: Until August 15, 2024

Tickets: From £20

Address: Phoenix Theatre on Charing Cross Road, WC2H 0JP

Website: atgtickets.com

13 Carols by Candlelight at Union Chapel, Islington

In the wonderful atmosphere of this Grade 1 listed chapel, an architectural Victorian Gothic jewel, lit entirely by candlelight, Union Chapel Church’s annual Christmas carol service tells the story of the birth of Jesus in words, poetry, and prayer from Union Chapel Voices the Union Chapel vocal quartet, instrumentalists, and actors. Even if you’re not particulary religious, you can still soak up the atmosphere.

Date: December 17

Time: 6pm for a 7pm start

Tickets: Unticketed, but arrive early

Address: 19b Compton Terrace, Islington N1 2UN

Website: unionchapel.org.uk

14 The Wolseley City

Every bit as luxurious as the original Wolseley on Piccadilly, this newer restaurant is larger than the first, with two private dining room and two vast bar spaces. The magnificent interiors draw inspiration from the original architecture of the 160 Piccadilly venue and have been created by London-based Fabled Studio. Food-wise, the restaurant pays tribute to its heritage in fine hospitality and European grand café culture.

Address: 68 King William Street, City, EC4N 7HR

Website: thewolseleycity.com

15 Gilgamesh, Covent Garden

In its heyday, the Babylon-themed venue was fun and theatrical and drew an A-lister crowd and now it is back. Gilgamesh’s reincarnation will retain the same spirit, sense of theatre and fun as the original. In fact, it will retain some of the original’s furnishings and interior embellishments which have been held in storage since the venue closed. Come for the pan-Asian menu and a good time.

Address: 4A Upper St Martin’s Lane WC2H 9N

Website: gilgameshlondon.co.uk

16 Wednesdays at Columbia Road, Hackney

A charming series of late-night shopping evenings fuelled by mulled wine, carol singing and loads of community spirit. Wander in and out of the shops and pubs that line the street and get amongst the revelry. Don't forget, you can also pick up your Christmas tree and the florally bits and pieces you need for decorations such as table arrangements and wreaths. 

Date: Wednesday November 29, Dec 6, 13, 20

Time: 5pm-9pm

Tickets: Unticketed

Address: Columbia Road, E2 7RG

Website: columbiaroad.info

17 ICE at Kensington Palace

This plush new ice skating rink will be set up in the beautiful grounds of Kensington Palace and will boat a huge festive tree as a centre piece. There will also be sustainable food and drink options, stalls selling seasonal bits and bobs and games for adults and children. There is also a VIP section created in partnership with Cecconi’s by Soho House, for an extra lush time and Fortnum & Mason comes on board as an official retail partner.

Dates: Until February 24, 2024

Opening Hours: 9.30am-10.30pm

Tickets: From £19/£16

Address: Kensington Palace Grounds, Bayswater Road, W8 4QP

Website: iceatkensingtonpalace.co.uk

18 Bubble Planet, Wembley

Bubble Planet is a multi-sensory installation made up of 11 themed rooms which use colours, bubbles, lasers and lights, as well as 360-degree projection technology to create a “dream-like” escape from the every day. There will also be a virtual reality component.

Date: From November 24

Address: Unit 22 Fulton Road, Wembley

Website: feverup.com

19 The Nutcracker at Southbank Centre

Held at Southbank Centre's brand new venue The Tuff Nutt Jazz Club, this production of Tchaikovsky's iconic score has been re-imagined by Mercury Price nominated Cassie Kinoshi and performed by a live jazz band on stage. 

Date: Until January 6, 2024

Tickets: from £15

Address: Southbank Centre Belvedere Road, South Bank SE1 8XX

Website: southbankcentre.co.uk

20 Miracle in Leake Street Christmas Market, Waterloo

Leake Street’s Home Alone 2 inspired Christmas event will feature a screening of Home Alone 2 followed by a street party. There will also be performances, free wreath making workshops and face-painting, as well as food and drink from Lower Marsh Market traders.

Date: Thursday, December 7

Tickets: Free but register for a ticket here eventbrite.co.uk

Address: Leake Street Waterloo SE1 8SW

Website: wearewaterloo.co.uk

21 The Gingerbread City, White City

The Museum of Architecture’s Gingerbread City returns to showcase great design and baking minds. An utterly charming – and edible – exhibition for adults and children, the fantastical city is where imagination and innovation meet to become a canvas for future-forward city planning, that is completely edible.  

When: December 2 – January 7, 2024 

Cost: From £18.50/£12.50

Address: Westfield London, White City W12 7GF 

Website: thegingerbreadcity.com

22 Festive Thursdays at Covent Garden

Covent Garden does Christmas well, and on Thursdays throughout December it puts on a late filled with festive surprises, late night shopping, dining and drinking and glitter. Enjoy the buzz as you soak up the ginormous Christmas tree and huge bell installation.

Date: Thursdays throughout December

Website: coventgarden.london

23 The Great Christmas Feast, West Kensington

Travel back to Christmas Eve 1843 and step inside Charles Dicken's home to let an immersive performance of A Christmas Carol wash over you. The elaborate show is staged in 5,000 feet of new set, and comes with cinematic live music and a three course Victorian meal. 

Dates: November 14 - January 14, 2024

Time: 7.15pm or 1pm matinee

Tickets: £149.50

Address: 9 Beaumont Avenue, West Kensington W14 9LP

Website: christmasfeast.thelostestate.com

24 Kingdom of Winter, ExCel, Royal Victoria Docks

Covering 21,332 sqm, this brief pop up boasts to be UK’s largest indoor winter experience when it opens. It will have an ice skating rink, fairground rides, and ice trail, circus performance, alpine stalls and two food and drink villages, and it’s easily reached on the Elizabeth line.

Dates: December 8 to January 7, 2024

Opening Hours: 10am – 8pm, seven days a week, closed Christmas

Tickets: From £5.50

Address: Royal Victoria Dock, 1 Western Gateway E16 1XL

Website: kingdomofwinter.com

25 Wishmas, Waterloo

Wishmas: A Fantastical Christmas Adventure is a new addition to the festive calendar, created by the Secret Cinema team and directed by Elgiva Field, former Associate Director of the trail-blazing and mind-blowing Punchdrunk theatre company. Wishmas is a fully immersive festive experience, suitable for kids and adults. An “alternative to Winter Wonderland”, Wishmas is set in a magical world which takes about 60-minutes to walk through, meeting Wishkeepers, robins, Father Christmas and magical rooms along the way.

Date: November 14 - January 7

Tickets: From £29

Address: The Old Bauble Factory, 1 Launcelot Street, Waterloo, SE1 7AD

Website: wishmas.co.uk

26 Humbug, Waterloo

A Christmas-themed dive bar in a secreted, hidden away spot within the dimly lit archways of Waterloo. It will host live performances, sing-a-longs, festivities and storytelling, as well as a weary Santa who needs cheering up. Facing the pressures of the North Pole and his bustling workshop, Santa has retreated to Humbug in the hope of restoring himself to the jolly guy that everyone love, where Christmas cheer - and sherry – will be available on tap.

Date: November 15 - January 6

Tickets: £29.50

Address: Unit 9, Leake Street Arches, Waterloo, SE1 8SW

Website: humbugchristmas.co.uk