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Expect to see dancing fountains, talking trees, fairies and interactive light experiences.
Festive fun, attractions and things to do over the Christmas and New Year period.
After an absence last year due to the pandemic, London’s alfresco ice rinks are back again for the 2021 festive season. Some of the capital’s most iconic buildings are transforming their courtyards and outdoor spaces into winter sports venues. Along with pop-up ice rinks, many are accompanied by heated bars and stalls, selling festive food and drink to warm you up after a spot of ice skating.
This 2021/2022 season will be the last year ever for the Natural History Museum’s outdoor rink as the space is being transformed into an urban wildlife hub, while a bit further east, the Tower of London’s rink is also taking a hiatus until next year.
Most rinks are open daily during their seasonal sessions, including Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, but are closed on Christmas Day.
Here’s a guide to London ice rinks – both outdoor and permanent – open this winter season.
One of the capital’s favourite open-air ice rink returns for the winter season for its final time. There is also a rink side café bar serving hot and cold drinks and meals. There is also a Penguin Skate Club, offering lessons for children aged 4-8yrs. Open 11am-10pm. Tickets: Adults from £12.65, Children from £8.80. Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, South Kensington, SW7 5BD. Nearest station: South Kensington. To book, visit the Natural History Museum website.
London’s longest open-air winter ice rink returns to Docklands after last year’s absence. There will also be the heated, Off Piste bar from Pravha serving drinks. Open daily 10am-10pm. Tickets (45 min sessions inc. skate hire): Adults and teens 13-18yrs £17.95, Children 4-12yrs £11.95. Canada Square Park, Canary Wharf, E14. Nearest station: Canary Wharf. For booking, visit the Ice Rink Canary Wharf website.
Skate on London’s rooftops with views of the City of London’s skyscrapers. Features alfresco and covered bars, igloos, and street food. Open Thu-Sun only. Free entry to Skylight. Skating tickets: TBC (45 minutes inc. skate hire). Skylight (Pennington Street entrance), Tobacco Quay, Wapping, E1CW 2SF. Nearest station: Shadwell or Wapping. For booking and more information, visit the Skylight London website.
Take to the ice in the courtyard of the historic Somerset House. As well as general skating, they are also club nights on ice and skating lessons. Also in the courtyard will be gourmet dining at Chalet Barragiste with Jimmy Garcia and hot and cold drinks at the Skate Lounge by Moët & Chandon. Session times last 45 minutes. Tickets: Adults from £11, children from £8.50. Somerset House, Strand, Westminster, WC2R 1LA. Nearest station: Temple. For more information and booking, visit the Somerset House website. Read the rest of this entry
This winter, Wembley Park’s festive light festival is returning to bring some neon and colour to the dark nights. Following the success of the inaugural Winterfest two years ago, the collection of installations is returning to the streets of HA9 for six weeks. Launching on 25 November 2021, the open-air light trail, themed ‘Reunited in Light’, will be open to the public seven days a week.
The launch of Winterfest will coincide of the switch-on ceremony of London’s largest LED Christmas tree on Wembley Park Boulevard. The 25-metre high, electronic conifer has been decorated with new digital artwork by local Brent artist Yoni Alter, including 100,000 kinetic lights which pulse to different rhythms.
Meanwhile, bespoke light installations will be peppered throughout the entertainment district, through trees, digital totems, lampposts and light banners. ‘Reunion’, a new light installation from Kumquat Lab, will have its world exclusive unveiling in Market Square. The structure features a series of light arches which visitors are invited to walk through and meet under. Joining the collection on 9 December 2021, will be the light installation ‘Reflections of the Future’, offering guests the chance to explore a multi-sensory journey walkway.
Along with the light show, Wembley Park’s new permanent outdoor gallery will launch on Olympic Way with the ‘Reunited in Light’ photography exhibition (25 November 2021 – 27 February 2022). The collection features work from 12 UK-based photographers, including Tami Aftab and Sophie Harris-Taylor.
Although we’re currently in Tier 2, not all Londoners can get to their favourite cocktail bars. However, two of the capital’s award-winning drinking spots are bringing some festive concoctions to your door. The Umbrella Project, the team behind The Sun Tavern and Discount Suit Company, have launched pre-bottled Christmas cocktail Quarantini Kits.
Cocktail fans can enjoy four exclusive bottled cocktails inspired by festive aromas and tastes, including:
– Terry’s Chocolate Orange Negroni (Cacao Nib & Orange Peel Gin, Sweet Vermouth, Campari).
– Three Kings (Gold Rum, Frankincense, Myrrh, Umbrella London Ginger Beer Syrup, Bitters).
– Umbrella Buttered Brandy (Butter Washed Cognac, Rosso Vermut, Pedro Ximenez Sherry, Umbrella Brewing Apple Cider).
– Xmas Old Fashioned (Bourbon, Pimento Spiced Liqueur, Douglas Fir & Jasmine Tea Syrup, Bitters).
Christmas Quarantini Cocktail Kits available with two (£30) or four (£50) bottles. Each bottle contains three serves. Can be drunk within three months.
Well, 2020 is nearly over, and I’m sure most of the country is glad to see the back of a very difficult year. While Christmas will undoubtedly be different to what we’re used to, plenty of London’s hospitality and entertainment businesses will be pulling out all the stops to offer a safe and entertaining social event. Expect social distancing, frequent cleaning and masks may be required so you can feel protected while enjoying the festivities. Among the events taking place are foodie fayres, film screenings, pantomimes and art exhibitions.
For December, London will be Tier 2, which means no mixing indoors with people outside your household or support bubble. Up to six people can meet outdoors in parks, private gardens and pub’s outdoor spaces.
20 Dec update: London is now in Tier 4 so a majority of events and attractions are likely to be cancelled or postponed. Please check the event website for further up-to-date information.
Look out for the 🐻 for family-friendly activities.
Look out for the computer symbol 💻 for online events.
Enjoy cookalongs, masterclasses and talks from foodie experts and chefs streamed live from a special kitchen in the historic London market. Events take place Wed-Fri online. All live content will be streamed on the market’s Facebook page. Check out Metro Girl’s blog post on the event. 💻
Although the Winter Lights festival has been postponed, Canary Wharf’s contemporary streets have been lit by a series of light installations. Dusk until 10pm. Free. Installations dotted throughout Canary Wharf estate, E14. Nearest station: Canary Wharf. For more information, visit the Canary Wharf website. 🐻
A line-up of drive-in festive events, including Cinderella pantomime, film nights, car-a-oke, silent disco and festive food market, all from the safety of your car. Times vary. Tickets: £38.78 per car. Syon Park, Park Road, Brentford, TW8 8JF. For tickets, visit the Parking Lot Social website. 🐻
Enjoy a festive cinematic experience. Enter through a magical wardrobe and walk through a winter wonderland to the screening room. Watch a mix of classic and recent favourites. Covid-19 safety precautions being taken, including cleaning and socially-distanced seats. Tickets from £19.50. Unit 8, Copeland Park, Peckham, SE15 3SN. Nearest station: Peckham Rye. For more information, visit the Pop up Screens website. 🐻
Step into the Underworld to see The Devil getting married. An immersive, theatrical show with dining options. Social distancing and mandatory face coverings. Thur-Sat: Entry times from 5.30pm-8.30pm, Sun: Entry times from 4.30pm-7.30pm. Tickets: From £25, Dining from £55. The Vaults, Launcelot Street (off Lower Marsh), Waterloo, SE1 7AD. Nearest station: Waterloo, Lambeth North or Waterloo East. For more information, visit The Vaults website.
A celebration of festive food in the grounds of historic Hampton Court Palace. Featuring street food, pop-up bars, artisanal producers, live music, and more. 10am-5pm. Tickets (inc entry to courtyard and gardens): Adults £24.50, Children 5-15yr £12.20, Under 5s free. Hampton Court Palace, East Molesey, Surrey, KT8 9AU. Nearest station: Hampton Court (36 minutes from Waterloo). For more information and tickets, visit the HRP Food Festivals website.
A host of Christmas festivities are taking place at the Old Royal Naval College. Including the illuminated Christmas tree, festive market (12, 13, 18, 19 & 20 December), carol services, winter dining at the Painted Hall and a production of The Little Match Girl. Event timings and dates vary. Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, SE10. Nearest station: Cutty Sark, Greenwich or Maze Hill. For more information, visit the Old Royal Naval College website. 🐻
Dutch artist Jade van der Mark presents an exhibition of her large-scale paintings on city life. Open 11am-6pm. Pi Artworks, 55 Eastcastle Street, Fitzrovia, W1W 8EG. Nearest station: Oxford Circus or Tottenham Court Road. For more information, visit the artist’s website or the Pi Artworks website.
Watch the iconic film’s soundtrack performed live by an orchestra accompanying the screening. Socially distanced seating. Times: Matinee 2pm, Evening 6.30pm (staggered entry times). Tickets: £65-£81. Eventim Apollo, 45 Queen Caroline Street, Hammersmith, W6 9QH. Nearest station: Hammersmith. For more information and booking, visit the Eventim Apollo website.
Drive-in cinema offers film screenings and live experiences (e.g. musical performances, theatre, etc) in Enfield. With refreshments available, social distancing guidelines and the audio beamed in through your car stereo. Tickets: One car £35. The Drive In, Troubadour Meridian Water, Harbet Road, Enfield, N18 3QQ. For tickets and more information, visit The Drive In website. 🐻
Wembley Park has unveiled a selection of light installations for the festive period, including London’s tallest LED Christmas tree, festive selfie spots and ‘United in Light’, a new Instagram artwork on the Spanish steps. Wembley Park, Wembley, HA9 0FD. Nearest stations: Wembley Park or Wembley Stadium. For more information, visit the Wembley Park website.
The summer exhibition is now winter as it was delayed due to Covid-19. Check out new art from a mix of established and emerging artists and architects, including Tracey Emin, Rebecca Horn, Anselm Kiefer, Julian Schnabel, Gillian Wearing and Ai Weiwei. Open daily 10am-6pm. Tickets: £20-£22. Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, W1J 0BD. Nearest station: Green Park or Piccadilly Circus. For more information, visit the RA website.
A glittering trail which weaves its way through Kew Gardens with stunning sights lit up upon the way. 4pm-10pm. Tickets (advance): Adults £19.50/£24.50, Children £14.50, Under 4 free. Select your entrance gate when booking. Kew Gardens (Royal Botanic Gardens), Kew, Richmond, TW9 3AB. Nearest station: Kew Gardens. For more information, visit the Kew Gardens website. 🐻
London Zoo are hosting a series of festive events alongside the usual animal enclosures. You can meet Santa, enjoy VIP Santa Breakfasts and Animal Gift Giving sessions. Open 10am-4pm. Ticket prices vary depending on activities. London Zoo, Regent’s Park, Marylebone, NW1 4RY. Nearest station: Regent’s Park or Camden Town. For booking, visit the ZSL website. 🐻 Read the rest of this entry
As we’re just a month away from Christmas, it’s time for London’s sights to be transformed with festive lights. Offering something different from the typical spruces are three alternative Christmas trees for the ‘traditionally untraditional’ Christmas at King’s Cross. After such an unusual year, why not take a different approach to festive decorations?
Unveiled on 23 November and on show until the new year are three different interpretation of the traditional Christmas tree. All the light installations have been dotted throughout the 67 acres of open space in King’s Cross so spectators can safely enjoy them while socially distancing.
The Electric Nemeton Tree in Granary Square has been designed by local architecture practice Sam Jacob Studio. The 36ft high tree is a futuristic metal construction inspired by the origins of the Christmas tree tradition. Surrounded by water fountains, the structure can be admired from the side and below.
The Terrarium Tree in Coal Drops Yard has been created by the Botanical Boys. The 28ft tree is comprised of 70 terrariums containing miniature gardens and 168 mirror baubles. Following the close of the festive period, the terrariums will be rehomed in the new year.
The People’s Tree at Battle Bridge Place is a multi-coloured, interactive tree. The lights are powered by people with censors picking up vibrations from nearby footprints or people’s movements. The dynamic light installation is located just moments from the popular IFO (Identified Flying Object), aka ‘the birdcage’.
Find out what’s on in London in December 2020 here.
We all know Christmas will be rather different this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. But one thing about the festive season that can’t be ruined is all the wonderful food and drink. In the run-up to Yuletide, the capital’s famous food market is giving Londoners plenty of ‘food for thought’ in a three-week digital pop-up. Borough Market’s Festive Kitchen will feature plenty of foodie events to inspire and entertain from 2 December 2020.
Streamed live from a special kitchen set in the market, chefs and food experts will be hosting cookalongs, masterclasses and talks. Running on Wednesdays to Fridays throughout December, the live activities and events will showcase the market’s fantastic produce and inspire festive recipes and Christmas food and drink. Whatever you fancy, from meat, baking, vegetable, chocolate, and even floristry, you can make sure your kitchen is ready for the celebrations, no matter how large or small we’re allowed to have.
Each week will be curated and compered by three hosts, including food author and presenter Angela Clutton, plant-based cooking expert and Bettina’s Kitchen founder Bettina Campolucci Bordi and GBBO’s first winner and author Edd Kimber. Wednesdays will kick off with a series of live cookalongs, with guest chefs – such as Ben Ebbrell and Olia Hercules – dropping by on Thursday evenings. Londoners can pre-order recipe produce boxes from the market so they can cook along at home.
Among the chefs, stallholders, and food and drink experts taking part in the pop-up include: Mei Mei, Shuk, Juma, Calum Franklin, Anna Jones, Gizzi Erskine, Ryan ‘Mr Lyan’ Chetiyawardana, Signe Johansen, Nina Parker, Alexandra Dudley, Ed Smith, Benjamina Ebuehi, Northfield Farm, Turnips, Bread Ahead, Rabot 1745, and The Gated Garden.
Find out what’s on in London in December 2020 here.
Just a short blog post to wish Memoirs of a Metro Girl readers a Merry Christmas. Hope you get to spend time with your loved ones and ignoring your diet for a few days and enjoying some good food and drink.
This year, I am taking the rare step to actually leave London for Christmas. It will be strange as I always look forward to the city being so quiet after the mass exodus – this year I will be part of said exodus.
To those people staying in London for the festive period – or perhaps you’re a visitor coming to the capital for Christmas – here’s a few ideas of what’s on around town. Of course, most things are closed on Christmas Day.
– Visit the Winterfest light festival at Wembley Park.
– Check out the last few weeks of Olafur Eliasson’s interactive art exhibition @ Tate Modern.
– Follow the Snowman sculpture trail in London Bridge.
– Watch a festive film on ice at Big Screen on Ice at QUEENS.
– Enjoy the contemporary art at the Sculpture in the City exhibition in the City of London.
– Go skating on one of London’s outdoor ice rinks.
– Find out where London’s festive terraces, pop-ups and Christmas cocktails are.
– Check out one of London’s pantomimes, ballets and Christmas shows.
Wishing all readers of Memoirs of a Metro Girl a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
See you on the other side of the decade!
P.S. Or if you’re ready for January 2020, find out what’s on in London then.
You may have noticed in the media in recent months that 2019 marks the 25th anniversary of the TV show Friends. Although I was an original fan back in the 1990s, a whole new younger audience have come to love the show thanks to Netflix and Comedy Central. This Christmas season, the sell-out FriendsFest is back in London with a festive twist. Hosted by ComedyCentral UK, FriendsFestive gives fans of the show a chance to hang out on the sets, see authentic props and costumers from the show, and pose for photos and videos as you recreate memorable scenes.
I had previously visited the first FriendsFest back in 2015 and was fortunate enough to meet actor James Michael Tyler, who played Gunther. The original FriendsFest was a much smaller affair with only one proper set and I had seen through friends’ social media photos that subsequent Friendsfests had got bigger and better. FriendsFestive differs from the others because it offers a twist on the theme with many references from Thanksgiving and Christmas episodes, as well as a lot more interactive spaces and photo opportunities.
When booking, you are given a timeslot for a set tour, before being given free time at the end to explore the photo areas, shop, and food and drink spaces. As we waited for our tour to begin, we were given time in a sort of Friends mini museum, full of authentic costumes and props from the show. You’ll recognise Rachel’s horrific pink bridesmaid dress for Barry and Mindy’s wedding; Monica’s red prom dress; the turkey ‘headpiece’; Ross’s letter comparing Rachel and Julie; Chandler’s gold ‘bracelet buddy’ from Joey; Ursula’s porn video; amongst many others.
The guided tour started in Monica and Rachel’s apartment living-kitchen area, which had been suitably decked out for Christmas. The kitchen had familiar items fans from the show would recognise such as Phoebe’s skull full of liquorice, Rachel’s disastrous trifle-mince pie hybrid and a cardboard box full of Monica’s broken posh plates. Our group were given opportunity to explore the set and pose for photographs, before clearing the room so an empty photo could be taken. Helpfully, this was factored in for every room so you could get some decent shots without random people ruining your shot. Next, we progressed to the hallway, complete with candy basket hanging on Monica’s door. Moving on to Chandler and Joey’s apartment, it had cute touches like Hugsie the penguin on the sofa, and the drum kit Phoebe bought Joey to try and force Rachel to move out. Finally, it was the Central Perk set, with the iconic orange sofa, the neon service sign and Phoebe’s guitar on stage. Read the rest of this entry
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Expect to see dancing fountains, talking trees, fairies and interactive light experiences.
Cheese lovers rejoice! It’s time to research your Christmas dairy needs as the annual ‘An Evening of Cheese’ returns to Borough Market. On Wednesday 11 December, the historic market will be opening its doors for a late-night celebration of cheese. Over 20 cheesemongers will be showcasing their cow, goat and sheep’s milk cheese from UK and international producers. Foodies can get inspired for their festive cheeseboard by talking to cheesemongers and getting advice on drink and cheese pairings. You can also pick up cheese recipes and watching cheese-based cooking demos in the Market Hall’s Demo Kitchen.
Meanwhile, in the run-up to Christmas, Borough Market are extending their opening hours to help Londoners get prepared for their food and drink needs for the festive season. The market will be open daily until 4pm on Christmas Eve, including Sundays. There will be plenty of seasonal fun, with local choirs performing in the Market Hall, festive Demo Kitchens and Cookbook Club sessions with Angela Clutton and Ed Smith, author of the Borough Market Cookbook. Customers will also be able to use the new click-and-collect service, to make their food shopping even more convenient.
For a guide to what else is on in London this December, click here.