20+ Cheery Things To Do In London In January 2024

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Last Updated 01 January 2024

20+ Cheery Things To Do In London In January 2024

Things to do this month is sponsored by the Old Royal Naval College.

A group of people wearing matching red hoodies parading in front of a huge inflatable balloon, past Nelson's Column
Kickstart the month — and the year — with the London New Year's Day Parade. Image: LNYDP

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, 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, 7 January

CIRQUE DU SOLEIL: Cirque du Soleil's latest show, Alegria: In A New Light, comes to the Royal Albert Hall. It's an update of a Cirque show now marking its 30th anniversary, telling the story of a power struggle between the old order and youth, with typical Cirque flair. 11 January-3 March

Performers in mid-air during a Cirque du Soleil performance
Cirque du Soleil returns to the Royal Albert Hall. Photo: Matt Beard

CRUEL INTENTIONS: Cruel Intentions: The ’90s Musical opens at The Other Palace, marking the 25th anniversary of the film of the same name. '90s songs from the likes of Natalie Imbruglia, The Verve and Britney Spears soundtrack the story of two step-siblings who set out to destroy an innocent girl. 11 January-14 April

RUPAUL'S DRAGCON: More than 175 queens are on the line-up at RuPaul's DragCon at ExCeL Centre, including stars from 13 international franchises of the show such as Canada, Spain and Thailand. Full schedule TBC at time of writing, but expect appearances and performances on both the main stage and pink carpet. 13-14 January

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. 17-21 January

Two women chatting and looking at artworks on the wall at London Art Fair
Browse contemporary works at the London Art Fair. Photo: Matt Cocksedge

CANARY WHARF WINTER LIGHTS: Once again the streets, docks, malls and squares of Canary Wharf will be aglow for Winter Lights. So far, 12 temporary 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, 17-27 January

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 includes a wealth of new drama, documentary, comedy and animation short films, competition-winning films, and industry events such as Q&As and speed-pitching sessions. 19-28 January

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Be dazzled by the Painted Hall’s sparkly new art installation

Look up inside the Old Royal Naval College’s Painted Hall this January and you’ll see more than spectacular baroque murals. That’s because London’s answer to the Sistine Chapel now boasts a new work of art. This is the London debut of Coalescence by Paul Cocksedge.

Coalescence was created using 2,500 pieces of coal, suspended in mid-air. Staggeringly, this represents the amount consumed by a single 200W light bulb over the course of a year. Armed with this knowledge, you’re invited to reflect on the critical relationship between human action and environmental stability as you gaze up at this imposing installation. Societal commentary aside, it’s a real marvel to see in person, the glossy anthracite (that’s a type of high-carbon coal, FYI) creating a dramatic interplay of shadows and sparkles.

You can see Coalescence by visiting the Painted Hall any time between now and 4 February. Tickets cost £15 and include access to Skittle Alley and all of the Old Royal Naval College’s tours.

Coalescence at the Painted Hall. Open daily 10am-5pm. Exhibition runs until 4 February.

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, 20 January

NETBALL CUP: Watch England go up against Australia, New Zealand and Uganda in the first weekend of the Vitality Netball Nations Cup at Wembley Arena, before the competition moves to Leeds for the second and final weekend. 20-21 January

THE KING AND I: The long-awaited production of The King and I, starring Helen George (Call The Midwife) opens at the Dominion Theatre. Over 50 West End and Broadway performers and a full-scale orchestra join forces for the story of the King of Siam and Anna, a British schoolteacher, in 1860s Bangkok. 20 January-2 March

A forest of glowing trees in front of One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, at night.
Canary Wharf gets a glow-up for Winter Lights. Photo: Londonist

AMERICANA MUSIC WEEK: Various Hackney venues host UK Americana Week, a celebration of Americana and Roots Music. 50+ bands take to five stages, along with daytime panel discussions and talks, and an awards ceremony. 22-25 January

MIME LONDON: Previously, London International Mime Festival took place at this time of year, but that's been replaced with a new event, Mime London. The same directorial team is behind it, and the inaugural event consists of eight contemporary visual theatre productions having their London debut at various venues, including the National Theatre and Barbican. From 23 January

BRONCO BILLY: 1980 Clint Eastwood film Bronco Billy has had the musical treatment, with an all-singing, all-dancing production opening at Charing Cross Theatre. It's the story of the leader of a Wild West show who employs a newlywed heiress on the run from her husband. 23 January-7 April

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 Nights 2024 events in London. 25 January

A colourful swirling CGI image
Cute opens at Somerset House. Image: Xiuching Tsay, Drunken Gravity, 2019. Courtesy of the Artist. Photo by the artist

CUTE: The world of cute culture comes under the microscope in new Somerset House exhibition, Cute, which is curated in partnership with Sanrio to celebrate Hello Kitty's 50th anniversary. Music, fashion, toys, video games and social media all feature, along with new artist commissions, looking at how plushie toys, doe-eyed animals and the like have gained so much traction. 25 January-14 April

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 uses the data to spot any patterns, anomalies, or any species that may be in danger. FREE, 26-28 January

FROST FAIR: The historic frost fairs of London past are brought back to life with Bankside's Frost Fair, a three-day event emanating the days when the Thames used to freeze over. It (hopefully) won't be that chilly this time around, but head to Bankside for traditional games, music and dance, artisan stalls, art and craft workshops, and even a life-sized elephant, as well as Frost Fair-themed food and drink. 26-28 January

JUST FOR ONE DAY: The Old Vic hosts new musical Just For One Day, which focuses on 13 July 1985: the day of the Live Aid concert. It features songs by the likes of Bob Dylan, David Bowie, The Who, U2, Queen, The Police, Elton John and Paul McCartney, telling various people's stories of the event. 10% from the sale of all tickets will be donated directly to The Band Aid Charitable Trust. 26 January-30 March

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

The Fairy Godmother from Cinderella
Disney100 closes this month. Image: Joanna Rutherford
  • GINGERBREAD CITY: Having been open since early December, it's time for The Gingerbread City to close, before it all goes a bit stale. You've got the first week of January to visit the mini metropolis made from biscuits, and decorated with icing, sweets and the like. Find it at Westfield White City. Until 7 January
  • TITANOSAUR: Natural History Museum's blockbuster exhibition, Titanosaur: Life as the Biggest Dinosaur stomps its way out of South Kensington this month. It's a chance to get right up close to a cast of the skeleton of the biggest dinosaur species ever known to have existed, and learn about how it managed to survive. Until 14 January
  • DISNEY100: In 2023, Walt Disney Studios marked its centenary with Disney100, a large-scale exhibition delving into all facets of the company, from films to theme parks, and Cinderella to Star Wars. Props on show at ExCeL Centre include the carousel horse ridden by Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins. Until 21 January
  • FRANS HALS: The National Gallery hosts the first major retrospective of work by Dutch painter Frans Hals in more than 30 years, bringing together 50 of his best portrait works including his most famous picture, The Laughing Cavalier (1624) which is on loan from The Wallace Collection. Until 21 January
  • THE WITCHES: Roald Dahl's The Witches is performed live on stage, in a family-friendly show at the National Theatre, telling the story of a young boy and his grandmother who have to put a stop to the witches' evil plan. Until 27 January