Things To Do This Week In London: 12-18 December 2022

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Things to do this week is sponsored by Leeds Castle.

All week

A giant illuminated deer statue, in front of office buildings at London Bridge City
Christmas by the River is free to visit

DREAMS FROM PERU: Head to the Peruvian Embassy in Westminster to see Patricia Bidi's latest exhibition of linocuts, exploring her Peruvian heritage, dreams and the experience of living in London — it's fittingly called called Dreams from Peru. FREE, until 21 December

KENSINGTON PALACE CINEMA: Enter The Pavilion in the grounds of Kensington Palace — decked out for Christmas with trees and fairy lights — to watch winter festive films at The Luna Winter Cinema. Screenings this week include Elf, The Holiday, The Greatest Showman, Arthur Christmas and Love Actually. Until 23 December

PALACE OF LIGHT: Not only does Hampton Court Palace have a Christmas ice rink, it's now opened its festive illuminations trail, Palace of Light. Wander through the palace gardens and grounds after dark for a lantern and illuminations experience inspired by the Royal Beasts. It's one of our picks of the best light festivals in London this winter. Until 2 January

The gatehouse at Hampton Court Palace, illuminated with pink-purple floodlights, and the outline of a bird beamed into the sky
Palace of Light. Image: © Historic Royal Palaces.

CHRISTMAS BY THE RIVER: Free winter festival Christmas by the River is in full swing on the south side, between London Bridge and Tower Bridge. Throughout the season, look out for free film screenings and live performances, as well as a traditional Christmas market, food stalls and pop-up bars. FREE, until 2 January

BUDGET CHRISTMAS: Feeling the pinch a bit this year? There are still plenty of ways to get into the festive spirit on a budget — take a look at our guide to 9 free things to do in London this Christmas.

CHRISTMAS LIGHTS: You may have noticed one or two fairy lights appearing around London in recent weeks. If you fancy taking a closer look, read our guide to when, where and how to see London's Christmas lights this year.

Afternoon tea served on a silver three-tier stand, with champagne being poured
Tuck into a Christmas afternoon tea, such as this one at The Palm Court at Sheraton Grand

ICE SKATING: Get your skates on at locations all over town, from Somerset House to Battersea Power Station to Hampton Court Palace. Find London's festive ice rinks, and get practising those twirls. JW3 in Finchley also has a rink on the go at the moment.

PANTO: After a couple of quiet years, London's panto season is back in full swing, with family-friendly classics and twists on fairytales which are strictly adults-only. Take your pick of pantomimes in London this Christmas.

FESTIVE AFTERNOON TEA: Done the Christmas shopping, seen the lights, and need somewhere to relax? Step away from the hustle and bustle while still enjoying the festivities at one of London's Christmas afternoon teas. Think turkey sandwiches, festive-themed pastries... and a couple of boozy options too.

Monday 12 December

A large-scale installation depicting the moon, suspended within the Painted Hall
The Museum of the Moon opens at Old Royal Naval College on Tuesday

TEA DANCE: Anyone aged 50+ is invited along to Poplar Union for a Christmas Tea Dance. Take to the dance floor accompanied by festive music, or relax with mince pies, crackers, mulled wine and tea. 12pm-3pm

ROYAL CHORAL SOCIETY: The Royal Choral Society — which was formed as part of the Royal Albert Hall’s official opening — has sung at the venue every Christmas since 1872, and this year is no exception. Christmas with the Royal Choral Society is a special 150th anniversary concert, with special guests Fanfare Trumpeters of the British Imperial Military Band and soprano Mary Bevan. 7.30pm

NEW COMEDY MATERIAL: Old Rope (New Material) is a regular night at The Comedy Store in Leicester Square, giving comedians a chance to road test their latest work. Tiff Stevenson, Ed Byrne, Fin Taylor, Yuriko Kotani and Rachel Fairburn are on the schedule tonight. Age 18+. 8pm

HAPPY MONDAYS COMEDY: Head to the Amersham Arms in New Cross for Happy Mondays Comedy, with Sîon James as MC, and David Mills, Joseph Emslie and Cecily Hitchcock among the line-up. 8pm

COVENT GARDEN CHRISTMAS: Tune into a virtual tour of Covent Garden at Christmas, by Footprints of London guide Jane Parker. From the comfort of your home, view photos of the festivities in Strand, Seven Dials, Covent Garden and Trafalgar Square. 10pm-11pm

Tuesday 13 December

Joel Kim Booster, looking directly at the camera
Catch Joel Kim Booster at Soho Theatre

JOEL KIM BOOSTER: Los Angeles-based stand-up comedian, writer, and actor Joel Kim Booster is at Soho Theatre for five days, showcasing his style of stand-up. You might recognise him from Fire Island, PsychoSexual, Curb Your Enthusiasm, or Shrill. 13-17 December

MUSEUM OF THE MOON: Luke Jerram's artwork Museum of the Moon goes on display in the Painted Hall at Old Royal Naval College. It's a large-scale installation, suspended from the ceiling and using NASA imagery to depict the surface of the moon. 13 December-5 February

SIX WEEK MASTERPIECE: Did you know that one of the most famous books in English literature was written in just six weeks? The Dickens Museum offers an online talk, given by Charles Dickens' great-great-great grandaughter Lucinda Hawksley, about how A Christmas Carol was written by Dickens in a time of financial desperation, when his wife was pregnant with their fifth child, and his publishers were threatening to drop him due to the lack of success from his previous work. 6pm

CAROL SERVICE: Head to St Marylebone Parish Church for a Christmas carol service in aid of King Edward VII's Hospital. Sir Derek Jacobi and Victoria Smurfit are among the special guests at the evening of carols, readings and music. 6.30pm

GHOSTS OF CHRISTMAS PAST: Step aboard The Golden Hinde for a festive storytelling evening, including some of the spookiest Christmas ghost stories from across the generations. It's hosted by renowned storyteller Giles Abbott. Age 12+. 7pm-9.30pm

Sponsor message

Experience festive nostalgia at its finest at Leeds Castle

Decadence is the name of the game this season at Leeds Castle. Situated a stone’s throw from London, the Kent mansion has been transformed into the ultimate 1930s Christmas retreat. And you’re invited to see it until 3 January.

As the former party pad of socialite Lady Baillie, this is your chance to peep into her private world. Get set for a whole lot of razzle dazzle as you wander between rooms, each bedecked with special touches. There’s seasonal songs in the Salon, Christmas trees dripping in decorations and, in the Dining Room, a truly fantastical Christmas cake display. Inspiration for next year, perhaps?

Beyond the mansion’s cosy confines, visitors can tackle the Leeds Castle Maze, place their wishes on the wishing tree, or simply enjoy a wintry stroll around the spectacular grounds. Early bird discounts apply and – best of all — general admission tickets allow you to return for an entire year! Click here to plan your visit.

Wednesday 14 December

A cheesemonger attending a stall piled high with cheese, as a customer browses
Borough Market hosts an Evening of Cheese on Thursday

BLUE CHRISTMAS: Christmas isn't a jolly time of year for everyone, which is why Union Chapel hosts Blue Christmas, a way to mark the festive season in a calmer and quieter way. The evening includes music, poetry, and meditation, and space for quiet reflection. FREE, 6.30pm

CHARITY CAROLS: Ronald McDonald House Charities holds its fundraising Carols by Candlelight concert at St Martin-in-the-Fields on Trafalgar Square. Singer and comedian Jess Robinson hosts, with performances by the English National Opera Choir, the Male London Welsh Rugby Choir and world renowned clarinettist Emma Johnson MBE. 6.30pm-8pm

MINCE PIES: The festive European foodstuff gets the American treatment at the Hand in Hand pub in Wimbledon, with a mince pie eating challenge. 'Eye of the Tiger' is blasted out, as brave competitors scoff as many mincemeat-filled pies as they can before the track ends. 7pm-8.30pm

LONDON MOTH STORYSLAM: Anniversary is the theme of this month's London Moth StorySLAM at Rich Mix. Prepare a five-minute true story on the theme of milestones, and take your slot up on stage to share it with the audience. Alternatively, kick back and watch others spinning a yarn, without any pressure to do so yourself. 7.15pm

BBC SINGERS: Mel Giedroyc narrates as the BBC Singers perform the UK premiere of Benedict Sheehan's A Christmas Carol, a new musical score to accompany Dickens' famous Christmas story. As well as new music, the performance at Barbican features traditional Christmas carols including The First Nowell, The Truth from Above, God Rest you, Merry Gentlemen, The Sussex Carol and It Came Upon the Midnight Clear. 7.30pm

CABARET F*CKABOUT: Bethnal Green Working Men's Club hosts The Great Big Cabaret F*ckabout, with 50% of proceeds going to Cabaret vs Cancer. Watch international cabaret stars including Beatrix Carlotta and Lady Dixie Deville performing lesser-known routines and trialling ridiculous concepts they've never dared perform before. 7.30pm-9.30pm

Thursday 15 December

People enjoying fake 'snowfall' inside the Leake Street graffiti tunnel
Image: Miracle on Leake Street

A PISSEDMAS CAROL: The casts of Sh!t-Faced Showtime and Sh!t-Faced Shakespeare team up for a well-oiled interpretation of A Christmas Carol at Leicester Square Theatre. It's Dickens' classic festive tale, interspersed with new songs, and with one drunk member of the cast thrown in, just to keep things interesting. 15 December-7 January

ST PAUL'S TOUR: Guildhall Library offers a virtual tour of St Paul's Cathedral, from the Great West Doors via the Dome and Wren’s Great Open Space to the glorious 19th century mosaics and down to the Crypt. In person at Guildhall Library or online. FREE, 2pm-3pm

MIRACLE ON LEAKE STREET: London's longest graffiti tunnel is transformed into a winter wonderland for annual event Miracle on Leake Street. For one night only, enjoy snowfall, festive face painting, a cabaret performance, and food and drink stalls by local traders. FREE ENTRY, 6pm-9pm

EVENING OF CHEESE: CHEESE! If you love the gouda stuff, get yourself to Borough Market for An Evening of Cheese, a festive event with the market's expert cheesemongers on hand to offer you tips for choosing your festive fromage. Taste some of the cheeses on offer too, washed down with drinks from some of the market's other traders. FREE ENTRY, 6pm-9pm

TREMONTI SINGS SINATRA: Heavy metal guitarist Mark Tremonti switches gears, to croon his way through Frank Sinatra hits at indigo at The O2, ably backed by legendary band leader Mike Smith, and Sinatra's original band. 7pm

RICK ASTLEY: A lesser-known entry on the Royal Albert Hall's festive programme is Rick Astley's Swinging Christmas, an evening of festive classics performed by a special big band concert, with Astley himself performing too. 7.45pm

Friday 16 December

A beer glass held aloft
It's the most wonderful time of the beer, sorry, year, at the London Christmas Beer Festival

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

CHRISTMAS BEER FESTIVAL: Head to Tobacco Dock for The London Christmas Beer Festival, a chance to choose from and samples hundreds of beers from 50 UK breweries. There's also food from the likes of 10 Greek Street and Tendril, plus DJs and live music from Natural Voices Choir and Pantonic Steel Orchestra. 16-17 December

CHRISTMAS CONCERT: The Poppy Factory in Richmond is offering a tour of the fascinating workshops, accompanied by a festive concert by the Blackwater Valley Wind Quintet. 12.30pm

CARIBBEAN CARNIVAL: Christmas meets the Caribbean at the Just Vibez Caribbean Winter Carnival at Southbank Centre. DJs from the Just Vibez creative collective play Calypso and parang (a type of folk music) accompanied by live dancing and performances. FREE, 4.30pm

HANDEL'S MESSIAH: The Academy of Ancient Music and a selection of solo artists are at Barbican Hall to perform Handel's Messiah, a piece of music performed annually at this time of year in a tradition dating back to the 18th century. 7pm

FOODIE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS: Footprints of London guide Joanna Moncrieff offers a walking tour through the best Christmas lights in the West End, while also talking about the history of Christmas food. Begin in Marylebone, and wander through brightly-lit streets and hidden passages, ending in Piccadilly Circus. 7pm-9pm

Saturday 17 December

Bottles of wine on a table
Did somebody say... wine sale?

HACKNEY FLEA-MAS MARKET: Get your last-minute Christmas shopping done at Hackney Flea-Mas Market in Abney Public Hall. The vintage market has 30 specially selected traders, selling 20th century furniture, records, homewares and more, making it an ideal place to pick up a gift for anyone keen on sustainability — or just treat yourself. 17-18 December

CHRISTMAS BALLET: Mycenae House in Blackheath puts on A Christmas Wish — a family-friendly ballet, sprinkled with festive enchantment, in a magical tale of love and friendship. 11am and 1pm (and the same again tomorrow)

SACK MAKING: Make your own festive sack, as part of the Christmas craft programme at the Postal Museum. Taking inspiration from the hessian sacks used to deliver festive cheer, create your own festive bag and personalise it with printing and decorations. Check out the festively decorated Mail Rail experience while you're there. 10.30am-4pm

WINE GARAGE SALE: Specialist Cellars wine merchants in Pop Brixton hosts its annual Wine Garage Sale, bringing together over 60 premium New Zealand, Australian and South African wines. Stock up your Christmas stash, grab a gift for the wine-lover in your life, and sample an extensive selection of wines. 12pm-4pm

DIE HARD: Yippee Ki-Yay! The Enchanted Forest cinema pop-up at Greenwich Peninsula is screening Die Hard this afternoon. (And if that's a tad violent for you/the kids, they're also showing Miracle on 34th Street earlier on in the day at 1pm). 4pm

ICE HOCKEY: Watch home team The Haringey Huskies take on the Chelmsford Warriors in this week's ice hockey match at Alexandra Palace. 5pm

NOT F**KIN' SORRY: Not Your Circus Dog, a collective of learning disabled and neurodivergent performers, is at Southbank Centre for Not F**ckin' Sorry, a cabaret show featuring lip syncs, dancing and stories. 8pm

FROMAGE ON ICE: Take to the ice at Alexandra Palace for the Fromage on Ice Christmas special. Skate the night away to pop tunes and cheesy festive hits, with plenty of sing along opportunities. 9pm-11pm

Sunday 18 December

Scrabble tiles spelling out 'Christmas'
Pick up a bargain at Hackney Flea-Mas Market all weekend

WORLD CUP FINAL: At time of writing, the teams in the World Cup Final are still to be decided, so we don't know exactly which venues will be screening that match. However, check with the London venues which screened the earlier stages of the tournament, as it's likely that some of them will be showing the final — especially if a certain team make it through (not that we want to jinx their chances...)

CHRISTMAS MARKET: Today's the last Sunday to catch a Christmas market at Brixton Village; in partnership with Black Eats LDN, it's showcasing Black-owned restaurants, businesses and small artisan producers. 12pm-7pm

BIG FIRKIN BAND: Lewisham pub The Fox & Firkin’s very own bespoke big band —  a collective of local professional jazz musicians — take to the stage for a family-friendly live show. They aren't joking about the 'big' bit — it's a 17-piece band! FREE ENTRY, 3.30pm-6pm

CAROLS BY CANDLELIGHT: Union Chapel's Christmas Carol Service tells the story of the birth of Jesus in words, poetry and prayer, with a mix of traditional carols and gospel Christmas classics by the Union Chapel Voices choir. It all takes place by candlelight, making an already atmospheric venue even more special. FREE, 6pm

IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE: What do you mean you haven't watched It's a Wonderful Life yet this year? Better get yourself to the BFI, where they're screening the festive Frank Capra masterpiece this evening. Merry Christmas you wonderful old Building and Loan! 6.10pm

YOUTH ORCHESTRA: The Grand Union Orchestra, which specialises in cross-cultural music by musicians and singers born or brought up in all major musical traditions worldwide, showcases its youth branch. Head to Rich Mix in Shoreditch for the Grand Union Youth Orchestra Winter Concert. FREE, 6.30pm

TOM SEALS: Jazz pianist Tom Seals has been praised by Tom Jones, no less, as sounding like Little Richard. Seals is on the ivories tonight, accompanied by his band, for what'll be a stupendous night of tunes at Ronnie Scott's. Doors 6.30pm

Urban oddity of the week

Two model mice fight over a piece of yellow cheese on the side of a building

Borough Market's Evening of Cheese (see Thursday) reminds us of this tiny urban oddity in the shadow of the Walkie Talkie. As you can see, it's a miniature sculpture (often said to be London's smallest*) of two mice squabbling over some cheese. The oddity on Philpot Lane supposedly represents two workmen who died after falling from scaffolding on the site. More likely it's a surviving bit of signage from an old cheesemonger on the site.

*A pretty dubious claim. Many London churches have small sculpted grotesques and other decorations that seem never to be considered.

Good cause of the week

A masked lady receives donated gifts from two others in a shopping centre
Image Canary Wharf Group

Want to put a smile on a child's face this Christmas? The Canary Wharf Toy Appeal is looking for newly bought toys to distribute to struggling families in the wider area. Now in its third year, the good cause has already donated 40,000 toys to homes in need, and hopes to collect even more this year.

The appeal will run until Friday 16 December, and the toy drop off point is at Level -1 Jubilee Place Mall. Those who are unable to visit can donate online through the JustGiving page, and volunteers will buy a present on their behalf.

The initiative is run in partnership with the East London Business Alliance (ELBA). Check out the guidelines before jumping in, as certain types of toy might not be appropriate.