Things To Do This Weekend In London: 16-17 December 2023

All weekend

People ice skating around a Christmas tree at night
Battersea Power Station is one of the venues with a pop-up ice rink

LONDON HORSE SHOW: The London International Horse Show canters its way into ExCeL, with international equestrian sport, seriously impressive equestrian displays and over 200 luxury shops, as well as three FEI World Cup competitions — in Show Jumping, Dressage and Driving. 13-18 December

EVER AFTER GARDEN: This is the final weekend to see Mayfair’s Grosvenor Square aglow with 25,000 illuminated roses, forming the Ever After Garden. The installation is a fundraiser for the Royal Marsden Hospital Cancer Charity, and though it’s free to visit, you’re invited to dedicate a rose to a loved one (suggested minimum donation £10). FREE, until 19 December, 3pm-9pm

UNUSUAL XMAS GIFTS: Still got some festive shopping to do? Ticked everyone off your list and fancy rewarding yourself for your efforts? Then consider swinging by Twentieth Century Posters on Saturday or Sunday. This lovely family-run business in Islington specialises in rare and original posters, and it’s staying open later for the final two weekends before Christmas, to help you pick out the perfect one. Grab a mulled wine and get ready to delve into design history, with shop owner/poster expert David Bownes on hand to offer advice. (sponsor)

WINTER WONDERLAND: A reminder that Winter Wonderland is ongoing in Hyde Park, with funfair rides, a Christmas market, ice skating, food and drink stalls, and plenty of other ways to part with your money. Remember that you’ll need to book your entry in advance. Until 1 January

CHRISTMAS MARKETS: Still got some Christmas shopping to do? Swing by London’s plentiful Christmas markets and fairs for food and drink, jewellery, homewares, crafts and other gift ideas — and maybe treat yourself while you’re at it.

ICE SKATING: Want to go ice skating in London this winter? We’ve rounded up the best pop-up winter ice skating rinks in London, including the biggies at Somerset House, Battersea Power Station, Hampton Court Palace, and all manner of other lovely backdrops for perfecting your Bambi impression.

A rider and horse going over a jump in front of a crowd in an arena
Trot over to ExCeL for the London International Horse Show

CHRISTMAS LIGHTS: You can’t turn anywhere in London at the moment without catching sight of Christmas lights. Embrace it, with our guide to London’s 2023 Christmas lights, including where and when to see them, and what they look like. Alternatively, see them from a bus, or take a self-guided walking tour around the West End’s most festive spots.

FESTIVE BARS: Got a date night/friends catch-up/office drinks planned? Hit up one of London’s winter drinking pop-ups and sup your way through festive drinks including boozy hot chocolate, Toblerone martinis, spiced cider, mulled sloe gin and the like. For an absolute overdose of Christmas, Miracle is a particular favourite of ours.

CHRISTMAS IN LONDON: To be honest, we could go on for ages telling you about the various festive things you could do in London this week. Instead, we’ll point you in the direction of our huge Christmas in London guide, which covers all of the above plus pantomime, festive theatre and dance shows, Santa’s grottos, Christmas dining and plenty more.

ANTI-CHRISTMAS: And if all that is so not up your street, or the festivities are getting too much, have a peruse of ways to avoid Christmas in London this December. We’ve got plenty of ideas for current theatre shows and exhibitions where you shouldn’t find so much as a tickle of tinsel or flash of a fairy light.

Saturday 16 December

Ballerinas - one dressed in lilac, the other in white - decorated with ivy, in a ballet pose
The Magic Word is performed in Blackheath.

FAMILY BALLET: Take the family along to Mycanae House in Blackheath for The Magic Word, a family-friendly ballet show featuring dancing, storytelling and eye-catching costumes. It’s the story of the Forest Queen who needs something from the Forest Elf, and has to learn how to ask for it nicely. 10.30am/12pm

FAMILY FESTIVAL: Artist Peter Paul Rubens is the inspiration behind Dulwich Picture Gallery’s Family Festival, which has a theme of Winter Light. The event includes sketching classes, fashion catwalks and trails around the Gallery, focusing on how Rubens used light and movement in his paintings. 11am-4pm

LIP SYNC BATTLE: Get your sass on at Boxpark Shoreditch, where there’s a lively Lip Sync Battle Bottomless Brunch. Tuck into a main dish and 90 minutes of bottomless drinks, and then choose your favourite track and get up on stage accompanied by your own backing dancers and DJ. 12pm-2pm

THE BOOK OF DUST: Barbican Cinema offers an NT Encore screening of The Book of Dust. It’s a recording of the National Theatre’s previous production of the show, which is set 12 years before Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. 2.30pm

MAKROOH: Soho Theatre is the place to head for Makrooh, an afternoon of spoken word and music performed by British Muslim artists. Headliners TBA at time of writing, but there’s also an open mic for any members of the audience who want to get involved. 3pm

MUSEUM BY CANDLELIGHT: Did you know that London has its own Fan Museum, located in Greenwich? You do now, and today is an excellent time to visit as it hosts the final of its four Museum by Candlelight evenings, giving you a chance to see the collection illuminated almost entirely by candlelight, with a soundtrack of classic festive tunes. 4.30pm-7pm

People walking through a row of wooden chalets at Winter Wonderland, with fairground rides in the distance
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland is in full swing – and likely to be rather busy,

BSL TOUR: British Sign Language users are offered a tour of Hayward Gallery’s current Hiroshi Sugimoto exhibition, led by artist Rubbena Aurangzeb-Tariq, whose work concerns culture and deaf identity. Get to know the general concepts of Hiroshi Sugimoto’s work, and discuss certain pieces in detail. 6.30pm

ICE DISCO: Get your skates on and spend a couple of hours slip-sliding around the indoor ice rink at Ally Pally, for one of its Christmas ice discos. Skate in the shadow of a Christmas tree as festive music plays, with twinkling lights overhead. Age 14+. 7pm (until 3 January)

CHRISTMAS CABARET: Tuck into a three-course meal at Woolwich Works as you watch a Christmas cabaret show featuring music and comedy acts. Mime artist Alex Luttley, drag icon Mahatma Khandi, and magician Neil Kelso are among the performers. 7pm

CHRISTMAS AT THE MOVIES: The London Concert Orchestra is at Barbican for Christmas at the Movies, a concert of tunes and soundtracks from well-loved Christmas films including Elf, The Snowman, The Grinch, Frozen and more. 7.30pm

SOUL CITY: Saturday night at Camden’s Jazz Cafe means Soul City, a night of soul, disco and house music from across the ages, played until the wee small hours. 10.30pm-3am

MYSTERY MOVIE MARATHON: The Prince Charles Cinema hosts a Mystery Movie Marathon, with five films shown back to back throughout the night. The catch? You won’t find out what the films are until the event, and there’s no theme or link between them, they’re just five random films. Bit of a leap of faith, but the PCC team absolutely know their stuff, so you’re in excellent hands. 11.45pm

Sunday 17 December

A woman holding a toddler on the dance floor
Take the kids to Big Fish Little Fish family rave in Vauxhall

UPCYCLING WORKSHOP: Got an item of clothing in need of repair? Take it along to Tipis on the Green in Parsons Green, and learn the basics of sewing and embroidering to visibly mend it, adding colour, texture and character as part of the repair process. 10am-11.30am

BANGLATOWN WALK: Take a guided walk focusing on Bengali migration and settlement in the East End of London. Begin at Brick Lane Bookshop, and learn about the Bengali community’s history, heritage and cultural practices — as well as both the value of multiculturalism and the tensions it can create. 12pm

FAMILY RAVE: Kids bouncing off the walls with anticipation for Christmas? Take them to the Big Fish Little Fish family rave at Fire & Lightbox in Vauxhall, where the whole gang can party the afternoon away and let off steam on the dance floor across three rooms. There are also craft, play and chill out areas. 1pm-3pm

DRAG BRUNCH: There’s a festive edition of the West End Drag Brunch at The Otherist by Drake & Morgan, near Liverpool Street. You can expect a two-course brunch and welcome drink (with the option to go bottomless), along with performances from drag queens from the West End, in full festive mode. Expect them to… sleigh. 1pm-4pm

VICTORIAN ISLINGTON: Meet Footprints of London guide Rob Smith at Angel station, for a guided walk focusing on what Christmas was like in the local area during the Victorian era. Hear both funny and sad stories, and learn about past local traditions, including currant cake, dancing, and Christmas lectures. 2pm-3.45pm

A choir performing
London City Voices gives two concerts at Skylight

CAROL SINGALONG: Jonathan Cohen and Louise Dearman lead a family-friendly Christmas carol singalong at Barbican, joined by the London Concert Orchestra and London Concert Chorus. Tunes on the programme include Let It Snow, White Christmas, and O Little Town of Bethlehem. 2pm/5.15pm

CHRISTMAS CONCERT: London City Voices hosts a celebration of all things Christmassy (and a few that are non-Christmassy). Head to Skylight Bar at Tobacco Dock for a programme themed around the American Songbook. Choose between the matinee or evening performances. 2.30pm/6pm

POPUP PAINTING: Try your hand at recreating Elizabeth Kennedy’s Klimt-inspired Tree of Life, at a festive edition of PopUp Painting. Prosecco is included at the London Art Bar event, where all art materials are provided and a practising artist is on hand to offer guidance. 3.30pm-6pm

CHRISTMAS (SAFE) CRACKERS: How many Christmas bank robbery thriller films are there? Well, at least two, according to Lost Reels, who screen them at the Cinema Museum today. Watch Cash On Demand (1961) and The Silent Partner (1978) back to back, with an introduction to each. Makes a change from your usual Christmas film screenings. 6pm

QUIZMAS: Grab your brightest friends and head to Woolwich Works for a quiz night with a festive twist. Rounds include pictures, music, and mystery voices, and the first prize is £50. 7pm

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