South Bank Winter: Festive Fancies

Londonist is proud media partner to South Bank London. Over the coming weeks we’ll be exploring what they have to offer and helping you make the most of a South Bank Winter.

It’s December, which means it is officially OK to start looking forward to Christmas. If you still need a nudge in the right direction then let us introduce the South Bank Winter programme. Chock-a-block full of festive theatre, music, shopping, eating and experiences around the lovely South Bank area, it’s a splendid place to spend a day filled with seasonal cheer.

The Chocolate Festival. That’s right, a festival of chocolate. Surely even Christmas cynics get itchy fingers at the sight of a tin of Quality Street. Held at Southbank centre, visitors to this free festival can go loco for coco with chocolate afternoon tea, chocolate workshops, tastings, and even a choccy quiz. Stock up for the season or just eat yourself silly (13-15 December).

There are more festive foodie delights in store with a Christmas Afternoon Tea at London Marriott Hotel County Hall (until 5 January), a Christmas Sushi Platter (featuring sashimi in the shape of a Christmas tree) at Ichi Sushi (until 30 December), or turkey with a view, courtesy of Skylon Grill’s festive menu (until 30 December). For take-home treats, pay a visit to Southbank Centre’s Real Food Christmas Market (19-22 December) where you can pick up ethically produced food, ingredients and gifts from over 40 producers.

Need a sit down to digest all that? A programme of seasonal live music should provide the perfect opportunity. Go for traditional carols at the Queen Elizabeth Hall as The Sixteen perform their annual Christmas Concert (11 December), The Messiah by Candlelight at the Royal Festival Hall (13 December) or hear The Snowman brought to life as the Orchestra of St Paul’s provide a live score to a screening of the film (21 December).

There’s festive theatre, too. We’re particularly excited by the Festival of Fairytales for Grownups at the Bargehouse (11-15 December), which turns the five-storey Bargehouse into a hub of performance, fantasy and fairytales. Why should kids have all the fun? Although if you do have little ones to impress, then Slava’s Snowshow at Royal Festival Hall (17 December-6 January) should do the trick (don’t be fooled by the name – Beauty and the Beast at the Young Vic (4-21 December) is not for kids!).

Image by psyxjaw

Image by psyxjaw

If you find yourself with an hour or two in between activities, spend it wisely and get some of your Christmas shopping done. Oxo Tower Wharf, home to an eclectic mix of designers, galleries and specialist shops, and the Southbank Centre Book Market, are both permanent fixtures on the South Bank shopping scene. But you could also see what’s on offer at Southbank Centre’s Christmas Market (until 24 December), purchase a piece of bespoke jewellery at gallery@oxo’s Dazzle exhibition (until 5 January), or go for luxury beauty goodies at the Mandara Shopping Experience at Park Plaza (5 December).

Gifts are great, but Christmas is also about spending quality time with family and friends. Pop along to say hi to Santa in his Grotto at SEA LIFE London Aquarium (14-24 December), settle down at the Queen Elizabeth Hall for a celebrity reading of A Christmas Carol (15 December) or splash out and take to the skies with your loved ones in a Mulled Wine and Mince Pie Private Capsule on board the London Eye (until 5 January).

Find out what Christmas was like in London during the Second World War at the Imperial War Museum’s A Wartime Christmas exhibition (20-31 December), take a guided walk to explore the themes of charity and goodwill in urban life with Inua Ellams’ Christmas Mini Midnight Run (6 December) or, our personal favourite, take a Festive History Tour of the Old Vic and discover the seasonal secrets lurking backstage at this historic building (14 December).

Want more? Take a look at these other ways to spend a lovely winter’s day on South Bank London.

If you take a seasonal snap while out exploring South Bank then post it to the South Bank London Twitter using the hashtag #SouthBankWinter and London South Bank may add it to their winter photoblog, which already contains some beautiful pictures. 

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