Explore London

We can’t wait for a wondrous winter

Winter wonderlands

This winter London is being transformed into a wintry playground, with festive adventures in every corner of the city. Hyde Park will, of course, play host to the mighty Winter Wonderland, including Britain’s largest outdoor ice rink, two circuses and a concoction of Christmas markets, Santa’s Grotto and an observation wheel. This year for Wonderland’s 10th anniversary there is also an ‘Arctic Adventure’ featuring real icebergs. The Southbank Centre is holding its own marketfor shoppers and foodies alike as well as stage performances of contemporary circus, while in Tobacco Dock for an alternative experience the Hyper Japan market returns, with its offering of food, fashion and a range of retro arcade and console games.

The London Illustration Fair

The annual fair moved last year to The Southbank, allowing it to expand and develop into a fully-blown creative jamboree. Artists and buyers mingle among a range of drawings, graphic-design features and household items, retailing from as little as £5, presenting a good opportunity for some early Christmas shopping. In attendance will be a selection of London’s finest illustrators who will showcase their work, hand-picked by a team of expert judges, while the public can take part in a bookblock design competition.

When: 1-4th December

Where: Oxo Tower Wharf, Southbank

Spitalfields Music Winter Festival

Celebrating its 40th anniversary, Spitalfields Music is holding its Winter Festival in venues across east London. This year’s events are an experimental mix, ranging from classical to jazz with electronic sounds mixed in. The Solomon’s Knot baroque collective will perform a rendition of JS Bach’s two-and-a-half-hour B Minor Mass from memory, while jazz and big-band classics are on offer from young musicians based in east London. There is also a performance by The Society of Strange and Ancient Instruments – not much else to say there. Listeners will be treated to non-musical items as well, including a nocturnal walking tour in search of Britain’s greatest poets, accompanied by a live strings performance.

When: 4-11th December

Where: various locations, including the Tower of London and Shoreditch Town Hall

Kew Gardens

The botanical gardens turn wonderland in this magical time to see the park at night. A laser show will light up the grounds as a Tunnel of Lights directs you to the North Pole Village, home to a range of festive activities. However, if you’re not just after the usual Christmas fare, this is still a great chance to have a night-time walk through one of London’s most tranquil and eye-opening parks and see it in a different light, away from the crush of Christmas shoppers.

When: 23rd November-2nd January (not open 28th, 29th November, 5th, 6th, 12th, 13th, 24th and 25th December)

Public art walks

More generally, there is a wealth of public art on offer throughout London’s plethora of parks. Highlights include Henry Moore’s The Arch (1980) in Kensington Gardens and Barbara Hepworth’s Single Form (1961) found in Battersea Park, with a number of stunning pieces also in Hyde Park. They make for a great winter walking tour of the city, guidance for which is provided by the Royal Academy.