Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland opens today, like the first door on an extended Advent Calendar of Christmas happenings. We've rounded up a few other highlights that have tickled our sleigh bells, so to speak. Ice skating fans should also check our special feature on the best seasonal rinks.
Eating, drinking and being merry are high on the festive agenda as Taste of Christmas returns to the ExCel Centre. The capital’s top restaurants proffer their seasonal menus, while award-winning chefs such as Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall give live demos. Be sure to peruse the Taste Market for the perfect Christmas gift. Taste of Christmas runs 2-4 December, 10am to 6pm. Standard tickets are £17.50 in advance, £12 for children aged 6-14.
Kew Gardens sports a distinctly festive feel this December as it hosts a guided Winter Walk, opens a Santa's Grotto and offers carousel rides on the Kew Palace lawn. Festivities take place from 10 December to 2 January, 9.30am-4.15pm. Tickets for adults cost £13.90 and kids under 17 go free. Special attractions, such as face-painting and carousel rides, hold an additional cost.
How about a worthy alternative to those crowded West End streets? From now until 22 December the independent businesses of Columbia Road will open their doors late on Wednesday evenings. Browse the vintage fashions, seasonal foods, homewares and crafts. Perfect for after-work shoppers.
Get into the charitable spirit by heading to the StreetSmart Christmas Carol event on 1 December. Taking place at Boyds Brasserie, a live choir will entertain attendees as hot mince pies and mulled wine are served. All proceeds go to StreetSmart, a charity that supports the homeless in London. Doors open from 7pm, and entry is free.
From 10 to 11 December London’s Wetland Centre plays host to Santa Claus and his huskies. Give the kids (8 and under) a sleigh trip to remember followed by a visit to Santa’s grotto. The Centre opens from 10am to 4pm; an adult ticket costs £9.95 and children's are £5.50.
There’s nothing like a bit of carolling in the presence of an impressive Christmas tree, and none come more impressive than Trafalgar Square’s Norwegian spruce. Between 5 December and 22 December choirs perform nightly from 5pm beneath the tree’s 500 white lights.
For a crafty Christmas visit the Museum of Childhood between 26 November and 29 December. The little sister of the V&A Museum hosts craft workshops (Christmas decoration making with Mrs Claus, anyone?) and a special performance of the classic Italian fairy-tale Pinocchio. Admission to the craft workshop is free, and tickets for Pinocchio are £3.50 per person.
A collective of creative and designers local to the Tooting area hold a Christmas-themed show at Sprouts Arts in Furzedown. From 11 November to 15 December visitors can purchase festive gifts from a variety of designers and attend workshops that include ceramic painting and Christmas card making. The event opens 10am to 6pm, and admittance is free.
Missed the big lights switch on in Oxford Street? Make your way to Leadenhall Market on 18 November to see the Lord Mayor turn on the Christmas lights. Musicians from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama promise something festive and you can enjoy the atmosphere with a hot mug of mulled wine. Free entry.
On 10 December the Vivamus Choir, with guest conductor Ben Parry, perform Christmas carols by candlelight at St Martin-in-the Fields. The event includes seasonal readings and the opportunity for the audience to participate. Tickets are available from £8 per person, rising to £28 for Band A seating.
By Rachel Clark