22 Cheery Things To Do In London In January 2023

22 Cheery Things To Do In London In January 2023
A glowing red rink encircling a pedestrian bridge over water in Canary Wharf
Canary Wharf Winter Lights is back - and it's free!

NEW YEAR'S DAY PARADE: If you're not busy sleeping off the year's biggest hangover, head into central London on 1 January for London's New Year's Day Parade. Marching bands, dancers, pop group Scouting for Girls and rock band Toploader, and huge inflatable balloons are all part of the entertainment this time round. FREE, 1 January

TWELFTH NIGHT: London's annual Twelfth Night celebrations mix ancient customs with modern festivities, making for a bizarre and eclectic event. Head to the riverside near Shakespeare's Globe to witness wassailing, The Holly Man (or Green Man) being paraded across the river, dramatic performances, and a chance to be crowned King or Queen for the day by finding a bean or a pea in a cake. Like we said, an odd (but fascinating) one. FREE, 8 January

CIRQUE DU SOLEIL: Cirque du Soleil's latest show, Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosities, comes to the Royal Albert Hall. It's a steampunk-inspired show featuring acrobatic stunts and contortionists — and let's face it, with Cirque, you know it's going to be good. 13 January-5 March

MIME LONDON: Apparently the capital's longest established theatre season, London International Mime Festival is back for four weeks of performances. The programme includes more than 15 productions across circus, juggling, live theatre and short films by performers from all over the world. Our pick includes a chance to see the ever-popular Gandini Juggling, as well as String Theatre, for younger audiences. 16 January-5 February

A band in green and gold military-style uniforms play trumpets and other wind instruments
Photo: London New Year's Day Parade

LONDON ART FAIR: The capital's art scene swings into action for the year at the London Art Fair at the Business Design Centre in Islington. Focus is on modern and contemporary pieces, with galleries from all over London and beyond exhibiting. 18-22 January

CANARY WHARF WINTER LIGHTS: Once again the streets, docks, malls and squares of Canary Wharf will be aglow for Winter Lights. So far, 21 glowing installations have been announced for the free illuminations festival, with a market and street food stalls popping up to keep visitors fed and watered. While you're in the area, why not take a twirl on the Canary Wharf ice rink? It's the only one of London's winter ice rinks which stays open right through until February. FREE, 18-28 January

SOUND OF THE UNDERGROUND: Travis Alabanza’s first play for the Royal Court spotlights London’s iconic underground club culture. Legends of the London Queer club scene star in Sound of the Underground — expect punk, profanity and a fierce fight about workers’ rights. 19 January-25 February

HISPANIC WORLD: The Royal Academy opens a new exhibition, Spain and the Hispanic World, showcasing art from the region from the ancient world to the 20th century. It spans sculptures, paintings, ceramics, maps, drawings and more, including work by Velázquez and Goya. 21 January-10 April

String puppets of a man and a dog on a set of stairs on stage
String Theatre: A Water Journey is part of London International Mime Festival. © Tiddly Films

LONDON SHORT FILM FESTIVAL: January is ideal for snuggling down in the cinema watching films, which is where London Short Film Festival comes in. Taking place at several independent cinemas around the capital, the programme usually includes a wealth of new drama, documentary and animation short films, competition-winning films, and industry events such as Q&A sessions and speed-pitching sessions. Full 2023 programme TBC at time of writing — check the LSFF website for updates. 20-29 January

WASSAIL DAY: London Wildlife Trust hosts a Wassail Day at Dulwich Village Orchard. It's an ancient custom of singing to apple-producing trees in cider orchards, and the event includes an orchard tour, live folk music, crafts and more. FREE, 21 January

CHINESE NEW YEAR: Sunday 22 January is the date of Chinese New Year 2023, ushering in the Year of the Rabbit. We're hoping London's parade will be back after a couple of years hiatus due to Covid, and plenty of other places will be celebrating too — have a read of our guide to Chinese New Year and Lunar New Year celebrations in London. Around 22 January

VAULT FESTIVAL: 500+ shows make up this year's VAULT Festival programme, expanding from its original home to take place in various venues around Waterloo. Theatre, comedy, immersive experiences, cabaret, and family shows all feature on the programme, from risqué character comedy Clown Sex, to comedy drama We Are Going To Die. 24 January-19 March

Cirque du Soleil is back at the Royal Albert Hall © Goff Photos

THE LEHMAN TRILOGY: Three-act play The Lehman Trilogy returns to London after stints on Broadway and in LA, telling the story of the Lehman Brothers, from their arrival in American as immigrants, to the collapse of their investment firm in 2008. See it at the Gillian Lynne Theatre. 24 January-20 May

BURNS NIGHT: Scottish poet Robert Burns is celebrated on the anniversary of his birth with Burns suppers and other special Burns Night events. From special suppers to live music to ceilidhs, here's our guide to Burns Night events in London. 25 January

BIG GARDEN BIRDWATCH: Help the RSPB keep an eye on the numbers of wild birds in London by taking part in the Big Garden Birdwatch. If you're lucky enough to have a garden or outside space, spend an hour counting and recording the numbers and types of birds that visit it, then report back to the RPSB. The charity then uses the data to spot any patterns, anomalies, or any species that may be in danger. FREE, 27-29 January

SYLVIA: Singer Beverley Knight stars in Sylvia, a musical celebrating the life of suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst, which returns to The Old Vic this month. Dance, hip hop, funk and soul music feature in the revolutionary tale. 27 January-1 April

A traditional Chinese lion dancer
Join the Chinese New Year celebrations. Image: Tong Su via Unsplash

CHARLES I: Every year, the anniversary of the execution of Charles I is commemorated. The event begins at 11am in the Mall, when the King’s Army, the Royalist part of the English Civil War Society, gather on The Mall in full costume, with mounted troops and weapons, and march up to Horseguards Parade for a commemorative service. Well worth watching if you're in the area. FREE, 30 January

LAST CHANCE: A few things are closing this month too. It's your last chance to see:

  • WINTER WONDERLAND: If you haven't made it to the behemoth seasonal funfair yet, it runs until early January. It tends to be quieter after Christmas, though you'll still need to book entry tickets in advance. Until 2 January.
  • DIPPY: Last chance to see Dippy Returns at Natural History Museum, a display detailing the replica diplodocus skeleton's recent tour around the UK. FREE, until 2 January
  • BEATRIX POTTER: The V&A's major exhibition dedicated to the children's author, her work as a scientist and activist, and how that inspired her famous characters. Until 8 January
  • STRANGE CLAY: Focusing on artists who work in ceramics, Strange Clay brings together a fantastic selection at Hayward Gallery at Southbank Centre. Until 8 January
  • LUCIAN FREUD: Last chance to see the National Gallery's Lucian Freud: New Perspectives, the first major exhibition of the artist's work in 10 years, with paintings spanning seven decades. Until 22 January

Last Updated 25 January 2023

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