London's fantastic at Christmas, but Christmas ain't for everyone. Fed up of the relentless festivities? Want to escape the C Word for a few hours (or longer)? Maybe you don't celebrate Christmas, or perhaps you're just not in the mood this year. To avoid Christmas in London, head to these events without a bauble or carol singer in sight. We can't guarantee you won't encounter such seasonal afflictions en route, but if you want to go full Grinch, here are a few tips.
Do a Lord of the Rings all-nighter at the Prince Charles Cinema
Shut yourself in a dark room away from Christmas lights and immerse yourself in approximately 12 hours of Hobbit action. The legendary Prince Charles Cinema screens the Lord of the Rings trilogy (extended versions, naturally) back to back through the night, on three different dates in December. Acquaint yourself with the rules and etiquette before signing up.
2, 9, and 16 December 2023.
Explore the moon with Tom Hanks
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Lightroom in King's Cross opens new immersive experience The Moonwalkers, voiced by Hollywood actor Tom Hanks, who also co-wrote the script. The show tells the stories of the Apollo missions to the moon, using projections and audio voiceovers, as well as an original score, and there are also filmed interviews between Hanks and astronauts of the current Artemis programme. Hey, if you can't escape Christmas on the moon, where can you?
6 December 2023-1 April 2024.
Go to the Satanic Flea Market Anti-Christmas Fayre
A market in December that's not full of twinkling lights and carol singers? That'd be the Satanic Flea Market Anti-Christmas Fayre, the December version of the regular dark arts and crafts event. Intrigued? We went along in October 2022 to find out what it's all about.
Browse 100+ stalls full of oddities, including collectibles, underground fashion, original art, cultural relics, vintage clothing, unusual toys, occult trinkets, obscure records, bric-a-brac, human skulls and taxidermy. Safe to say, you won't find a lavender candle and box of fudge for Aunt Doris here.
10 December 2023.
Kick back and watch a non-festive theatre show
It feels you can barely move in London at the moment without seeing an advert for a panto, Christmas concert or festive kids' show — but there are still plenty of thoroughly unfestive shows out there, if you know where to look:
- The Mousetrap: Famously London's longest running show — just celebrated its 71st anniversary.
- Witness for the Prosecution: Another one from the prolific pen of Agatha Christie.
- Hamnet: Based on Maggie O'Farrell's bestselling book, fictionalising the story of William Shakespeare's son, Hamnet, who died aged 11.
- The Enfield Haunting: An adaptation of the true story of an Enfield family in 1977, who believed their house to be haunted, starring Catherine Tate.
- Dear England: Last December we had the World Cup to distract us from our festivities: this year we'll have to make do with Dear England, the popular play about Gareth Southgate's team's pursuit of glory, which sold out at the National Theatre and has now transferred to the West End. We gave it ★★★★★
Just because you're not feeling festive, it doesn't have to be all doom and gloom. Perhaps we can tempt you with a musical, such as:
- The Book Of Mormon
- Back To The Future
- Tina - The Tina Turner Musical
- Frozen (full disclosure: this one does have a song about building snowmen...)
- Mrs Doubtfire
- The Choir of Man
... or one of these other choices.
Catch one of London's top exhibitions right now
December tends to be a fairly quiet month for new exhibition openings, but there are plenty of top-notch displays running throughout the month (some closing early next year). If you're planning to visit during Christmas week, do check opening hours before you go as they'll likely vary from normal. Choose from:
- Titanosaur at the Natural History Museum (until 14 January)
- Disney100 at ExCeL (until 21 January)
- Burma to Myanmar at the British Museum (until 11 February)
- Accidentally Wes Anderson (until 17 February)
- Fantasy: Realms of the Imagination at the British Library (until 25 February)
- Fashion City at Museum of London Docklands (until 14 April)
- The Cult of Beauty at Wellcome Collection (FREE, until 28 April)
- Turn It Up: The Power of Music at Science Museum (until 6 May)
- 茶, चाय, Tea (Chá, Chai, Tea) at Horniman Museum (FREE, until 7 July)
- Astronomy Photographer of the Year at National Maritime Museum (until mid-2024)