Things To Do This Week In London: 4-10 December 2023

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Things to do this week is sponsored by the London Symphony Orchestra.

All week

The Trafalgar Square Christmas tree illuminated at dusk, with Big Ben behind it at the other end of Whitehall
The Trafalgar Square Christmas tree lights up from Thursday. Photo: Brooks DeCillia via Unsplash

ICE SKATING: Spanning Greenwich, Hampton Court, Hyde Park, Battersea, Mayfair and more, London's festive ice rinks are mostly open for business now, with the remaining ones joining this week. Get your skates on to backdrops of palaces and power stations. Many rinks have cafes or bars alongside them for post-skate refreshment.

CHRISTMAS MARKETS: Got Christmas shopping on your mind now December's here? London's plentiful Christmas markets and fairs will sort you out with stalls selling everything from festive food and drink to jewellery, clothing, cosmetics, toys and more. Some only pop up for a day or two, while others run for the whole festive season.

CAROL CONCERTS: You could attend a carol concert every day in December, and still not experience all the Silent Nights and Away In A Mangers London has to offer. We've put together our pick of carol concerts in the capital, and several of them take place this week.

People tucking into roti
Roti King has opened a new branch in Waterloo.

CHRISTMAS TREE FARMS: Starting to think about your Christmas tree for this year? If you're willing to put in a bit of elbow grease, you can cut/dig your own at some of the many Christmas tree farms close to London — or select a pre-cut one, right from the farm where it's grown. Don't forget your wellies!

PANTO: London's many and varied pantomimes are getting booked up, fast. Our guide to the 2023 panto season has everything you need to know, from classic Aladdin and Jack and the Beanstalk, to savvy Cinderella, to a couple of productions which are strictly for adults only.

EAT OF THE WEEK: Anyone who's ever queued down the stairwell of Euston's Roti King will know that the wait is utterly worth it when you finally sink your teeth into those rich mutton curries, and buttery, flaky flatbreads. The good news is that the ever-popular restaurant has now opened a third restaurant (the second being in Battersea), on Lower Marsh in Waterloo. As well as serving all the classics, there are more plant-forward dishes on the menu, including pulled shiitake rendang.

PLAY OF THE WEEK: Mark Gatiss's particularly ghostly adaptation of A Christmas Carol won plaudits when first staged in 2021, and now it's back, in the chicly distressed setting of the Alexandra Palace Theatre. The redoubtable Keith Allen takes up the lead role of miser Scrooge. (Other Christmas Carols are available.) Until 7 January 2024

Monday 4 December

People skating past a Christmas tree on an ice rink in front of Hampton Court Palace
Most of London's festive ice rinks are now open. Photo: Londonist

CITY CHRISTMAS FAIR: More than 50 luxury stalls selling festive food, gifts, clothes, toys and jewellery pop up in Drapers' Hall near Bank for the City Christmas Fair, which raises money for charity Wellbeing of Women. There's also a raffle and auction, and a champagne bar for extravagant refreshments. 11am-8pm

CHRISTIE'S LATES: Old Masters, New Era is the theme at Christie's Lates, taking place at the auction house HQ in St James's. Learn about the art of the Old Masters, and their enduring influence on the contemporary art world, through workshops, demonstrations and live performances. FREE, 6pm-9pm

FOREVER CHEMICALS: Dr Ian Mudway speaks at Gresham College about the persistence of synthetic chemicals in the environment. Where have they been found? And what are the risks to health? FREE, 6pm

NEON LIFE DRAWING: Make use of UV light and reactive body paints at Neon Not Fully Naked Life Drawing at the Old Queens Head in Islington. Experiment with different drawing techniques as you use pencils, as well as fluorescent neon pastels and highlighters to recreate the models in front of you. As the name suggests, they're not completely naked, making the event suitable for under-18s as well as adults. 6.30pm-8pm

DIANA IN CONCERT: There's a special concert performance of Diana: The Musical in concert at the Eventim Apollo tonight, narrated by Kerry Ellis as Princess Diana looking back on herself as the 19 year old Diana (Maiya Quansah-Breed). Denise Welch guest stars at the Queen. 7.30pm

MONDAYS IN LONDON: Looking for something else to do, today or any other week? Take a look at our guide to things to do in London on a Monday — we've gathered together live music venues, comedy and cabaret clubs which keep going on what is usually the quietest day of the week, along with guided walks and tours scheduled on a Monday, and a few special offers too.

Tuesday 5 December

Pianist Ivana Gavrić smiling at the camera
Ivana Gavrić performs alongside the City of London Sinfonia. Photo: Andrej Grilc

FAIRYTALE OPERA: Opera Prelude hosts soprano Mimi Doulton for a performance of some of opera's greatest fairytale adaptations. Humperdinck's Haensel und Gretel, Dvorak's little mermaid-inspired Rusalka, and lesser-known works such as Hans Abrahamsen's The Snow Queen all feature, in the show at Royal Court Theatre. 11am-1pm

INTERNET OF THINGS: Soon, everything from street lamps to vehicles to medical devices could be networked. Prof Victoria Baines speaks at Gresham College about what we can expect from the 'Massive Internet of Things'. FREE, 6pm

CAROL CONCERT: St Marylebone Parish Church is the venue for King Edward VII Hospital’s Christmas Concert, with guests including actor Sir Derek Jacobi CBE and Victoria Smurfit. Money raised goes to the hospital's Pain Management Programme for the medical care of service men and women. 6.30pm

CITY OF LONDON SINFONIA: Pianist Ivana Gavrić and City of London Sinfonia team up for a concert at Cadogan Hall which showcases the versatility of the piano as an instrument. Mendelssohn’s Concerto in D minor — written when he was just 14 years old — is the main focus, with works by Bach, Chaminade, Farrenc and Fanny Mendelssohn also featuring. 7.30pm-9.30pm

SKATE DATES: Skate at Somerset House has teamed up with Tinder for a series of dating events on the ice. Take to the rink for a 45-minute skating session accompanied by a soundtrack by DJs from London's club scene. Age 18+. From 8pm

SALVATION ARMY: A staple of the festive programme at the Royal Albert Hall, Christmas with the Salvation Army brings together the International Staff Band and International Staff Songsters, plus celebrity guests for an evening of live music and spoken word. 8pm

Sponsor message

2-for-1 tickets to see the LSO perform Tchaikovsky’s final symphony

The last Half Six Fix concert of the year takes place at the Barbican this Wednesday, and the London Symphony Orchestra sure going out in style — with a stirring performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6. This intensely moving piece of music was one of the composer's last, written shortly before his death. It’s also perhaps his most enigmatic, with Tchaikovsky vowing to keep its meaning a secret from audiences.

That’s not to suggest that your conductor, Gianandrea Noseda, won’t have plenty of fascinating things to say about it, of course! As is always the case with Half Six Fix concerts, your evening begins with a quick primer on the piece you’re about to hear. It’s all part of the LSO’s mission to make orchestral music more accessible — also reflected in Half Six Fix’s affordable ticket options and shorter run times (the whole thing lasts just an hour, to make it easy to squeeze into busy schedules!)

Half Six Fix tickets start at £15 plus booking fee, but our readers can secure two for the price of one* by entering the code LDN23HSF at checkout. With the concert running 6.30pm-7:45pm, it’d make for a pretty spectacular prelude to festive drinks or date night — or indeed an excellent conclusion to a day of Christmas shopping in London.

Half Six Fix. 6.30pm-7.45pm at the Barbican. Tickets here.

*Subject to availability

Wednesday 6 December

Two armchairs next to a fireplace which is decorated for Christmas with greenery and stockings
The Ham Yard Hotel hosts a Christmas celebration.

THE MOONWALKERS: Actor Tom Hanks is the voice of The Moonwalkers, a new experience at Lightroom in King's Cross which tells the story of the Apollo moon missions. It uses projections, filmed interviews between Hanks and astronauts of the current Artemis programme, and an original score. 6 December-21 April

COURTYARD CAROLS: The Ham Yard Hotel near Piccadilly Circus opens its courtyard for a Christmas celebration featuring carols performed by the cast of Les Misérables, live jazz by Leon Garner, plus mulled wine and special offers from the independent shops that surround the courtyard. Free entry, 4pm-8pm

HAVE YOURSELF A...: This Gresham lecture at St Paul's, Covent Garden investigates how and why the song ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ has become so popular, transcending its roots in the MGM musical Meet Me in St Louis to become a presence in the canon of secular popular Christmas songs. FREE, 6pm

CHRISTMAS HISTORY: Food historian Dr Annie Gray gives an online talk about festive foods in Britain from 1945 onwards. It's based on her research at the National Archives for her latest book, Call The Midwife: The Official Cookbook, and covers Christmas food traditions from the days of rationing through to the age of the microwave. 7.30pm

SPARK STORYTELLING: Head to The Ritzy in Brixton for Spark Storytelling, an open-mic style storytelling club. This month's theme is 'Firsts', and you can sign up in advance or on the night to tell your story. Rules are that it must be true, about you, and around five minutes in length. 7.30pm

GEORGIAN CHRISTMAS: Footprints of London guide Rob Smith offers an online talk about what Christmas was like in Georgian London. Things changed throughout the Georgian period, from private celebrations involving Christmas porridge, to a revival of the great celebration feasts, pantomime and masked balls. 8pm-9pm

Thursday 7 December

A performer inside the Leake Street tunnels
Miracle on Leake Street is a free-entry Christmas party.

CHRISTMAS JUMPER DAY: Dig out your most festive knitwear for Save The Children's Christmas Jumper Day 2023 — 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. 7 December

CHRISTMAS ACTUALLY: Love Actually director Richard Curtis has curated Christmas Actually, a festive variety show at Southbank Centre. Sanjeev Bhaskar and Jayde Adams host the selection of live music, poetry, comedy and storytelling. 7-11 December

HANUKKAH: The Jewish festival of Hanukkah, or Chanukah, starts today, and London has plenty of menorah lightings and other events to celebrate. 7-15 December

DRAWING EXHIBITION: See over 400 paintings, drawings and other works on paper, at the Royal Drawing School's End of Year Exhibition. View them in person at the Shoreditch HQ, or online. FREE, 7-19 December

MIRACLE ON LEAKE STREET: Free festive party Miracle on Leake Street is back at Waterloo for an evening of live entertainment including cabaret performances and a screening of Home Alone 2: Lost In New York. Food and drink is available from stalls, bars and restaurants, and it takes place in the Leake Street graffiti tunnel, so no need to worry about the weather. FREE, 6pm-9pm

TRAFALGAR SQUARE TREE: See London's most famous Christmas tree illuminated for the season in a special lighting ceremony in Trafalgar Square. It always takes place on the first Thursday in December, which happens to be today (though you'll likely see the tree in situ a little while before). FREE, 5.30pm-6.30pm

LATE NIGHT JAZZ: The Mario Bakuna Band take to the stage for Late Night Jazz at the Royal Albert Hall. In the venue's Elgar Room, they perform new arrangements of material by great Brazilian composers, in a tribute to Brazilian culture. 9.30pm

Friday 8 December

Bear Grylls hiking, with a backpack and sunglasses
Bear Grylls is at the Royal Geographical Society

KINGDOM OF WINTER: ExCel Centre hosts Kingdom of Winter, a large-scale event that's new for 2023, opening today. An ice rink, circus performances, fairground rides, market stalls and an ice expedition trail can all be found under one roof (to be fair, it's a very large roof). 8 December-7 January

ACCIDENTALLY WES ANDERSON: Famous Instagram account Accidentally Wes Anderson opens an exhibition in west London, displaying images from the satisfyingly symmetrical and pastel-hued feed — and inspired by the aesthetic of film designer Wes Anderson's sets. You can also get the lowdown on where some of the locations featured are, in case you fancy recreating the shots yourself. From 8 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 are made by local artists, school children and community groups. FREE, 12pm-7pm (parade 5pm-6pm)

BEAR GRYLLS: Explorer Bear Grylls is at the Royal Geographical Society in Kensington to talk about his life as an adventurer, to raise money for African conservation charity Tusk. Hear about his adventures, from Scouting to climbing Mount Everest despite breaking his back just months earlier, to hosting extreme TV shows. 6.30pm-10pm

LOVERS' ROCK: Stars of the lovers' rock genre Janet Kaye and Carroll Thompson perform a Christmas show at The Forge in Camden tonight — between them they've had hits with the likes of Silly Games and I'm So Sorry. 7pm

DICK WHITTINGTON: Still not decided which panto you're going to this year? Tonight sees Dick Whittington kick off at St Andrew's Hall in Bromley; the Burnt Ash Drama Association have been doing pantos for over 60 year, so they know what they're doing — oh yes they do! 7.45pm

Saturday 9 December

Children dancing with balloons
Big Fish Little Fish family raves are very popular events

SANTACON LONDON: Hundreds of Santas descend on London for Santacon, which sees members of the public "dress up in Santa suits, run around, give gifts, sing songs, have strangers sit on our laps and decide who is naughty or nice". Festive chaos in the best possible way — and a bit of a mad one if you stumble across it unexpectedly. 9 December

SHOWSTOPPERS: The Showstoppers’ Christmas Kids Show comes to Woolwich Works, offering an interactive production in which suggestions and ideas from audience members are included in a musical which is put together live in front of you. Kids get to decide who the characters are, and what happens next. Age 5+. 9-10 December

THE LIGHT PRINCESS: Fairy tale The Light Princess is retold at The Albany in Deptford with an electronic score, puppetry, bears and, er turnips, apparently. It's the work of award-winning theatre company LAStheatre, and is staged on Saturdays and Sundays up until Christmas Eve. 11am and 2pm, also on various other Sat and Suns until 24 Dec

CAMBERWELL XMAS: Santa and Rapunzel are coming to the Saturday market at Camberwell Green bringing a free Caribbean lunch, free treats, decoration fun, festive music and fun-packed active games to get the kids moving! FREE, 11am-2pm

MARIACHI BRUNCH: If you could do with sinking a couple of margaritas, while scoffing cheese and jalapeno empanadas and listening to live mariachi music, the one place you need to be today is South Place Hotel in Moorgate, for their one-off Mariachi Christmas Brunch. From 12.30pm

WHEELCHAIR BASKETBALL: See local wheelchair basketball team East London Phoenix take on the Cardiff Met Archers at SportsDock in the Docklands. It's a rare chance to see two games for the price of one, as the club's Division II women's team play immediately afterwards, also included in your ticket. 12pm-3pm

FAMILY RAVE: Take the whole family along to Colour Factory in Hackney Wick for the ever-popular Big Fish Little Fish Family Rave. It's a festive special, aimed at 0-8 year olds and their families, featuring a multi-sensory dance floor with glitter cannons, bubbles, giant balloons and parachute dance finale. Tickets for these events always tend to sell out, so be quick if you want in. 2pm-4pm

ANGEL AT CHRISTMAS: The festive spirit is in the very name of Angel, Islington! On this new tour with London On The Ground, discover the history of the area — for centuries famed for its pastures, dairies, fresh water wells and pleasure gardens - and some of its associations with Christmas. 2.30pm

CHRISTMAS AT THE MOVIES: The All Souls Orchestra perform songs from classic Christmas films, in two special concerts at All Souls Langham Place near Oxford Circus. 3pm/7pm

Sunday 10 December

Brixton Windmill covered in a light dusting of snow.
There's a Winter Market at Brixton Windmill

ANTIQUES FAIR: The final Adams Antiques Fair of the year pops up at the Royal Horticultural Halls in Westminster, with over 120 antiques dealers selling an array of antique jewellery, silver, decorative pieces and collectables. 10am-4.30pm

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. 11am-4pm

THE EGG SHOW: Up for some avant garde festivities? Take a yuletide trip into the absurd, with The Egg Show, in which you'll meet Mazvita (an 11-year-old performance artist who likes to pull her jumper over her head and be an egg), and Daniel Oliver, a 42-year-old performance artist who likes to shout and create a mess. 11.30am and 3.30pm

WINDMILL MARKET: Brixton Windmill hosts a Winter Market in its grounds, complete with food and drink stalls, live music and children's craft workshops — plus a chance to visit Santa's grotto for a small extra charge. 12pm-3.30pm

SATANIC FLEA MARKET: The Satanic Flea Market holds its AntiXmas Fayre at Electowerks in Angel, celebrating dark arts and crafts with 100+ unusual shops selling oddities and curiosities. We're promised a 'demonic collection' of collectibles, underground fashion, fortune tellers, original art, and much more. We went to a Satanic Flea Market event back in October 2022 — here's what it was like. 12pm-6pm

MERMAID CAFE XMAS: Kristina Karsegard, Elanor Moss and Wounded Bear are at Green Note in Camden, for a special festive edition of the Mermaid Cafe Club (exciting new artists in an intimate setting). If you wanted to make a day of it at this venue, there's also a matinee show of Greek music. 7pm

Good cause of the week

A collection of Christmas gifts
Image courtesy of Canary Wharf

Donate a toy! Many families are struggling this Christmas with the ongoing cost-of-living crisis biting hard. Canary Wharf and the ELBA (East London Business Alliance) have once again opened their Toy Appeal, which encourages us to donate a gift to a child in the local community.

Just head to Level -1 Jubilee Place Mall between now and Friday 15 December, Mon-Sat from 10am-4pm, and donate a brand-new toy, which will be presented to a child who otherwise would go without. Donations can also be made online.