ow did you spend Christmas 2020? Microwaving a sad turkey dinner for one? Assuring a disappointed child that Santa just didn’t know about the last-minute lockdown and that’s why all their presents are at grandmas? Frankly, never have the lyrics to Last Christmas felt quite so relevant and, in the spirit of the festive comeback song, this year the holiday season in the capital promises to be bigger and better than ever.
Whether your festive traditions involve a tour of London’s best Christmas trees, curling up in a cosy alpine bar, tucking into a seasonal afternoon tea or handmaking gifts at workshops and masterclasses, here’s our guide to the best Christmas events taking place in the capital this year.
The Nutcracker at Browns, Mayfair
If merely watching beloved festive ballet The Nutcracker isn’t quite enough for you, the much-lauded Charlie’s restaurant at Browns hotel will be bringing the magic off the stage and into the dining room for three nights this winter. Allow yourself to be transported back to Edwardian London as a troupe of award-winning actors, dancers and musicians perform iconic moments from The Nutcracker, while guests enjoy a three-course festive feast and use a dossier of secret clues to solve a mysterious disappearance.
Skate at Somerset House, The Strand
Set in the neoclassical surrounds of the Somerset House courtyard, guests to this year's Skate ice rink are greeted by a 40-foot Christmas tree that sets the tone for a day of festive fun. As well as the aforementioned ice rink, Somerset House has teamed up with Moët & Chandon to create a rinkside lounge serving chilled champagne, mulled wine, cocktails and hot drinks while indulgent winter dishes, including raclette, French onion soup and game burgers, can be found at Jimmy Garcia's Chalet Barragiste in the west wing of Somerset House.
The Biltmore, Mayfair
Mayfair's The Biltmore hotel is pulling out all the stops this year in an attempt to make up for last year's disappointing Christmas. First up the Ballerina Afternoon Tea will see diners treated to a 20-minute performance of classics from The Nutcracker while tucking into hot chocolate, finger sandwiches and festive patisserie, before paying a visit to the big man himself in Santa's Grotto. Elsewhere Café Biltmore has been transformed into an elegant winter terrace serving a special seasonal set menu featuring smoked salmon, turkey and all the trimmings and a decadent chocolate delice for dessert.
On 25 November, Connaught Village is celebrating the festive season with a jolly afternoon of live performances, in-store events and complimentary crafting workshops, including bauble decorating and lino card printing. This year's unique Connaught Christmas Tree is an ode to Richard Curtis's Love Actually, artfully hung with illustrative neon signs, in the style of Tracey Emin.
Workshop spaces are limited, so book ahead at connaught-village.co.uk
Rivalling The Connaught tree is a magnificent new installation by Scott's. Created in partnership with Perrier-Jouët Champagne, glistening clouds, shooting stars and a shimmering crescent moon frame the door of the world-famous restaurant. The display draws on the heritage of the Champagne house, which is said to have been born beneath a lucky star during the Great Comet of 1811.
20 Mount Street, London W1K 2HE, scotts-restaurant.com
In addition to Scott’s, restaurant tycoon Richard Caring also owns 34 Mayfair, Daphne's and The Ivy. Each one has been extravagantly dressed up for the festive season, festooned with baubles, trees and ribbon-wrapped parcels – guaranteed to ignite your Christmas spirit. The menus are just as delectable as the decor, with truffle-topped pasta dishes, special choux desserts and delicious spiced cocktails.
34 Grosvenor Square, S Audley Street, London W1K 2HD, 34-mayfair.co.uk
Marylebone Village is easily one of London's prettiest enclaves at Christmas, resplendent with twinkling lights and festive decorations. Shop cutting-edge fashion at Koibird, modern jewellery at Mejuri, men's cashmere at Luca Faloni and fine cheese and wine at La Fromagerie. Refuel with a Middle Eastern spread at the much raved about Delamina or a fittingly festive lunch at The Cavendish. This year, Marylebone Village has partnered with Mind in Brent, a mental health awareness charity.
Christmas at Covent Garden
Impatient to get the festive season started? London’s premier Christmas destination, Covent Garden, will be kicking off its celebrations from 9 November, when it switches on a dramatic light display featuring 115,000 bulbs, mirror balls, giant mistletoe and baubles. There'll also be the famed 55-foot Christmas tree, as well as special events, offers and pop-ups across the neighbourhood's range of stores and restaurants throughout the season.
Selfridges Christmas Market on the Mews, Oxford Street
If Amazon’s Christmas decoration offering has left you feeling rather uninspired, head over to Selfridges where, among the designer labels and fine jewellery, the department store’s Christmas Market on the Mews will be spotlighting sustainably-grown trees from Moyses Stevens and wreaths by Your London Florist. Located in the mews behind the Oxford Street store, there will also be street food from the likes of The Tramshed Project, Utter Waffle and Popdog, and three bars offering seasonal serves, as well as a helter-skelter and gifting stalls.
Winter Forest at 100 Wardour Street
Escape to 100 Wardour Street's immersive Winter Forest, nestled in the heart of Soho. The alpine space boasts snow-topped trees, crispy foliage, mistletoe and fairy lights, as well as live music on Wednesdays. Sip on vodka cocktails created in collaboration with Belvedere Organic Infusions, from a dark and delicious blackberry and lime concoction to Naughty But Nice, which stirs cacao liquor, Baileys and a velvety swirl of whipped cream.
Cocktails by Candlelight, Seven Dials
Winter is the perfect season for cosy, romantic date nights and, if you’re looking to do something a little different to the usual drinks and dinner, Cocktails by Candlelight offers a brilliant alternative. Having made its name through at-home candle-making kits, throughout November and December Cocktails by Candlelight will be hosting workshops at its pop-up space in Seven Dials. Try your hand at creating your own scented candle while sipping on Bombay Sapphire cocktails in a beautifully decked-out grotto. Free-flowing Christmas cheer guaranteed.
Seven Dials Winter Festival
Covent Garden’s Seven Dials neighbourhood will be hosting its first ever winter festival this November, promising a weekend of live entertainment, masterclasses, special offers, unique gifts and plenty of festive food and drink. Among the highlights will be a culinary workshop with Gizzi Erskine, a live podcast recording by body confidence advocate Alex Light, zero-waste cocktail classes with Billi London, and Christmas card-making at the London Graphic Centre. Spirits will be kept high with mulled cider from BrewDog, alpine wines from Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels and seasonal dishes from Wildwood Kitchen and Chick n Sours.
Christmas in Chelsea
Being home to the brilliant boutiques of the King’s Road, as well as gorgeous restaurants and luxurious hotels, Chelsea is the perfect place to get into the Christmas spirit. This year, events in the neighbourhood kick off on 20 November, when Santa will be helping a little local hero turn on the Christmas lights during a day that promises to be full of festive entertainment. For the first time, the King’s Road will be part-pedestrianised, allowing visitors to enjoy live performances and cocktails on the Sloane Square Winter Terrace, peruse the stalls of the Fine Food Market on Duke of York Square and shop the area’s luxury boutiques at leisure.
On 4 December, Chelsea will also be hosting a special shopping event to help you tick off all the trickiest names on your list. Promising to be a fun day for the whole family, expect special offers, promotions and entertainment across the neighbourhood, as well as complimentary horse-and-carriage rides. Still not sure what to get them? Also new for this year is the Sloane Street Gift Card which can hold up to £500 to be spent at some of the Street’s most coveted stores, including Valentino, Tom Ford, Prada and more.
Festive Afternoon Tea at Four Seasons Park Lane
There are few things that revive the spirits after a long day of Christmas shopping more than a glass of champagne and some delicate pastries. Accordingly, the Four Seasons on Park Lane has reimagined its classic afternoon tea to capture the traditional flavours of the festive season. Served in the cosy surrounds of the Amaranto Lounge, enjoy classic finger sandwiches, scones with spiced jam and handmade pastries, all accompanied by speciality Jing teas or a glass of bubbles from the hotel’s carefully curated selection.
Christmas in Belgravia
If you’re a fan of Christmas lights, don’t miss Belgravia’s holiday festivities. Illuminated from 10 November, dazzling white lights will criss-cross the neighbourhood turning it into a winter wonderland guaranteed to light up your Instagram feed. Further celebrations in the area include a weekend Christmas market in Eccleston Yard offering handmade gifts from independent makers, alongside mince pies and mulled wine, as well as The Gingerbread City: an interactive exhibition featuring gingerbread house workshops and a city made entirely from gingerbread and constructed by over 100 architects, engineers and designers.
Ice Rink Canary Wharf
Christmas wouldn’t be complete without strapping on a pair of ice skates and living out your greatest Torvill & Dean fantasies. Or, more accurately, clinging to the edge trying desperately not to fall over. Whatever your level of expertise, Canary Wharf’s annual ice rink is always a highlight of the festive season and, thanks to the addition of a fairy light-strewn transparent roof, this season’s is better than ever. Open for a mammoth 18 weeks, you’ve plenty of time to perfect your skills. Once you’re done, head over to the alpine-themed Off Piste bar to warm up with mulled wine and Baileys hot chocolate.
Christmas at Brixton Village
If you’ve had your fill of carols and mince pies, head down to Brixton Village for Christmas festivities with a difference. Alongside its unconventional floral wreaths by Stems Wilder, and a Christmas market offering fashion, design, accessories and beauty products by some of South London’s most unique creatives, there will be late-night live music by the likes of The Grassroots Band, Kadija Kamara and Eddie in the Brixton Village Courtyard. To kick things off the neighbourhood has teamed up with queer disabled-led creative project Quiplash to host an evening of queer cabaret featuring visually-impaired performers Ebony Rose Dark and Tito Bone. Expect music, dancing, hilarity and plenty of festive fun.
Apres-ski at Shangri-La The Shard, Southwark
Grab a stein and don your most outrageous knitwear because this winter The Shard’s chic Shangri-La hotel is transforming into a shrine to all things Austrian. The hotel’s ground-floor Bar 31 will be outfitted like a cosy chalet, with twinkling fairy lights and a menu of hearty snacks and glühwein. Upstairs, meanwhile, a gingerbread village and ski gondola will take over the Ting restaurant and Gong bar. Take in views to match the mountainous surrounds while indulging in an alpine afternoon tea, complete with Austrian delicacies including smoked trout, pretzels, Black Forest gateau and sachertorte.
Creative Christmas at The Great Northern Hotel, King’s Cross
Looking to add a personal touch to your gifting this year? Combine some festive crafts with a luxurious pre-Christmas getaway with The Great Northern Hotel’s Creative Christmas package. The hotel has teamed up with the artisans of nearby Coal Drop’s Yard to create a day of events and workshops suitable for accomplished artists and newbies alike. Begin by fuelling up with a champagne brunch or lunch at the hotel’s Plum + Spilt Milk restaurant before moving on to a gift-making masterclass under the guidance of terrarium builders The Botanical Boys or floral artist Sophie Kim of Roseur. Plus, you’ll get a 15 per cent discount on an overnight stay at the hotel, which, after a busy day, you’ll be glad you took advantage of.
Deck the Halls at Pergola Paddington
North London’s premier drinking and dining space, Pergola Paddington, will be transformed for the Christmas period, offering a host of new experiences and events perfect for the party season. From 11 November, its Deck the Halls pop-up will see the top two floors become a winter forest complete with snow-covered hills and 350 Christmas trees, while downstairs will feature cosy chalets and an Alpine Lodge bar with log fires. There will also be a new festive cocktail menu, Christmas-themed drag brunch, Christmas singalongs and a host of new pop-up restaurants catering to every type of festive get-together.