Generally, December in London is taken up by Christmas, Christmas, Christmas — but not everyone's into that. With that in mind, here's a mixture of festive — and completely unfestive — things happening in the capital in December 2022.
LAST CHANCE MUSEUM OF LONDON: As the Museum of London prepares to move to its new home — and adopt a new name — its current London Wall location closes in December. See it while you can, as it'll be closed for three years with its artefacts off-show — though the Docklands branch remains open. FREE, until 4 December
TRAFALGAR SQUARE TREE: See London's most famous Christmas tree illuminated for the season in a special lighting ceremony in Trafalgar Square. As always, it takes place on the first Thursday in December, which this year happens to be 1 December
FROST FAIR: Back in the days when the Thames would completely freeze over, frost fairs were held on the ice. This month a traditional frost fair is recreated — albeit on dry land — using a series of augmented reality installations and artworks, alongside more traditional guided walks and other events. FREE, 1 December-31 January
SPARKLE IN THE PARK: Residents of the Royal Borough of Greenwich are invited to Sparkle in the Park, a free, family-friendly light festival through Well Hall Pleasaunce Park in Eltham. Wander through gardens and courtyards and around moats after dark, illuminated by fairy lights. Though it's free, you do need to book in advance. FREE, 1-4 December
ALDGATE WINTER FESTIVAL: Watch a lantern parade move through the streets of east London at the Aldgate in Winter Festival. Live performances, stalls and creative workshops are also part of the festivities, and the lanterns — made by local artists, school children and community groups — go on display in a free exhibition the following week. FREE, 2 December
FESTIVE FAYRE: Head to the Hampton Court Palace Festive Fayre for Christmas grub galore. Wander among the courtyards and grounds perusing artisan food stalls selling everything from Christmas pudding and brownies to chocolate, cheese, biltong, coffee, cakes — plus gallons of booze. 2-4 December
CANINE CAROL CONCERTS: As is tradition, Battersea Dogs Home holds its fundraising carol concerts at St Luke's in Chelsea — and brings the dogs into church to join in the fun. No confirmation yet on exactly which carols will be sung, but we'd hazard a guess at Bark! The Herald Angels Sing. 2-9 December
GINGERBREAD CITY: London's tastiest exhibition returns to Belgravia, showcasing model buildings, transport hubs and other cityscapes, designed and created by teams of architects and engineers, and made from gingerbread and other sweet treats. This year's Gingerbread City consists of five miniature cities across five different climate zones: Polar, Continental, Temperate, Dry and Tropical. 3 December 2022-2 January 2023
BASKETBALL HALL OF FAME: The first college basketball games ever played at The O2 come to London in December. The Basketball Hall of Fame London Showcase sees teams from Maine, Marist, Kentucky and Michigan square off against each other, in an event that's been postponed since 2020. 4 December
MINI RAILWAY EXHIBITION: The Model Railway Club holds a December mini exhibition at its HQ near King's Cross station. Wander round to see a number of different layouts by both club members and guest exhibitors, and purchase pre-owned models from the shop. 4 December
CHRISTMAS JUMPER DAY: Dig out your most festive knitwear for Save The Children's Christmas Jumper Day 2022 — it's on a Thursday this year, though you can do it on another day if that works better for you. The idea is that you get your whole workplace/school involved, with everyone donning a Christmas sweater, and making a donation to Save the Children. 8 December
CHRISTMAS LECTURES: The Michael Faraday Christmas Lectures are a Royal Institution tradition, dating back to 1825, aiming to introduce young people to science topics in a fun and interesting way. This year, Professor Dame Sue Black reveals the secrets of forensic science. Though tickets to the lectures are only available to Royal Institution members, they are shown on BBC Four at some point this month too. 13-17 December
THE LOST RHINO: The Natural History Museum opens a new exhibition, The Lost Rhino, centred around a video installation by artist Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg of a digitally recreated, life-sized northern white rhino — a subspecies that's nearly extinct. From 16 December
WORLD CUP 2022: Here's hoping it's coming ho-ho-home as the men's football World Cup final continues this month. Whoever you're supporting, and however far they get in the tournament, have a look at our guide to venues screening World Cup matches here in London. Until 18 December
LIT!: Lewisham's tenure as London Borough of Culture comes to an end with LIT!, a light trail, contemporary circus show by The Revel Puck Circus and a winter fair, all taking place in Beckenham Place Park. The programme is inspired by the borough's history of activism. FREE, 20-22 December
DISNEY ON ICE: Don't know about you, but Disney On Ice was a staple of our childhood, and it's back at The O2 this year. Dream Big is the theme, with Mickey, Minnie, Miguel, Moana, Elsa, Belle, Genie and other favourite characters taking to the ice, played by world-class figure skaters. 22-31 December
PETER PAN CUP: If you do one thing on Christmas Day in London, head to Hyde Park to watch the Peter Pan Cup. A group of hardy swimmers from Serpentine Swimming Club take to the chilly waters; you can't take part unless you're a member, but you can watch them from the comfort of dry land. FREE, 25 December
BIG GAME 14: Harlequins' Rugby Union Big Game is one of the biggest events in London in the downtime between Christmas and New Year. This is the 14th edition, and for the first time, both Harlequins Men and Women's sides are playing the same opposition in a double header against the Bristol Bears. Takes place at Twickenham Stadium. 27 December
NEW YEAR'S EVE: The biggest party night of the year is approaching. Whether you want to go full-on drinking and dancing on the last night of 2022, or see in 2023 in a more sedate manner, take a look at our curated list of things to do in London on New Year's Eve. Oh, and here's the lowdown on seeing London's New Year's fireworks, back after a two-year hiatus. 31 December
Ongoing Christmas events in London in December
By the time December rolls around, it feels like Christmas has already been in full swing in London for several months. Here's a reminder of some of the festivities taking place around town (though do check opening times around Christmas Day itself, as they may vary):
EVER AFTER GARDEN: Mayfair's Grosvenor Square is aglow with 20,000 illuminated roses, forming the Ever After Garden. The installation is a fundraiser for the Royal Marsden Hospital Cancer Charity, and though it's free to visit, you're invited to dedicate a rose to a loved one (suggested minimum donation £10). From 23 November, 3pm-9pm
WINTER WONDERLAND: Once again, the huge festive funfair takes over Hyde Park, with rollercoasters and fairground rides, theatre and circus shows, an ice kingdom, ice rink, food and drink stalls, a Christmas market, and ice rink and plenty more. Be aware that you still need to book your entry in advance this year. 18 November 2022-2 January 2023
CHRISTMAS AT THE O2: Find everything you need for a fabulous festive season under one (frankly iconic) roof. The O2 has Icon Outlet to help your Christmas shopping budget go further, over 30 food and drink options to fuel your festivities and all sorts of incredible things to do during the holidays. We're talking rooftop climbs, indoor skydiving, axe throwing and more... (sponsor)
CHRISTMAS LIGHTS: The Oxford Street and Regent Street Christmas lights are world-famous — and with good reason. Glowing stars dangle elegantly over the former this festive season, with those twinkling angels back over the latter, and with Christmas light displays in Covent Garden, Carnaby, Bond Street and elsewhere in the capital to see as well, you'll be needing our guide to London's Christmas light displays 2022. You can also see them by bus, if that's more your speed.
SANTA'S GROTTOS: The man in red makes multiple appearances in London at this time of year, at grottos and meet-and-greets all over town. You'll need to book way in advance for most of them — here's the lowdown on Santa's grottos in London this year.
LIGHT FESTIVALS: London gets LIT at this time of year, and not just with Christmas lights (above). Illumination festivals take over botanical gardens, wetlands and palace grounds, with light tunnels, illuminated animal sculptures, fire gardens and other installations to ogle — get booking for London's best light festivals this year.
CHRISTMAS MARKETS: Stock up on Christmas gifts (or treat yourself) at London's best Christmas markets, which feature independent makers, wooden chalets, twinkling lights, and plenty of food and drink to enjoy as you shop.
ICE SKATING: A festive staple, skating rinks pop up all over town for the Christmas season, so you can take to the ice outside palaces, skyscrapers, and all manner of other backdrops. These are London's best ice rinks for Christmas 2022.
CAROL CONCERTS: You can barely move in London in December without stumbling across a carol concert or two. The best-known ones such as St Paul's and Westminster Abbey are notoriously difficult to get into, but why not see what's on at your local church?
FESTIVE DRINKING: 'Tis the season for warming your cockles at cosy pop-up bars — and London is absolutely covered in them. These are our picks for winter drinking pop-ups to sink a drink or two. Miracle at Henrietta is a particularly favourite, just because it's SO DAMN CHRISTMASSY.
IGLOO DINING: You can barely move at this time of year for igloos and snow globes popping up all over town, inviting you inside to drink, dine and be merry. It's not a cheap way to eat out, and for some, you'll need to book way in advance, but it does make for a cosy and photogenic night out.
FESTIVE FILMS: From posh hotels to independent and pop-up cinemas, plenty of places offer screenings of Christmas films (think Elf, Home Alone, Love Actually, The Holiday, It's A Wonderful Life, and plenty more), with varying levels of festive bonhomie thrown in. Take a look at this year's festive film screenings.
CHRISTMAS BESTSELLERS: Notting Hill's Museum of Brands embraces the festive spirit — and supplies a heady dose of nostalgia — with its exhibition, Toys, Tech and Tamagotchis: Christmas Bestsellers Of The 20th Century. See top-selling toys from yesteryear, including Barbie, Rubik's Cube, Furbies, Lego, and Star Wars merch. Until 6 January 2023
FREE CHRISTMAS: This can be an expensive time of year, which is why we've put together a guide of 10 free things to do in London at Christmas, to help you get that festive feeling without parting with your hard-earned cash.