What to do in London: the eternal question in one of the world’s most dynamic and frenetic cities. For those looking to ignite their Christmas spirit, take a spin on the ice at Somerset House, visit a neighbourhood market or get hands-on at a wreath-making workshop.
Elsewhere, enjoy a slew of new art exhibitions including Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s return to Tate Britain, a massive exhibition dedicated to ceramics at the Hayward Gallery, and Lucian Freud at The National Gallery. As the nights draw in, book a table at Shoreditch’s anticipated new restaurant Cycene, followed by a tipple at dedicated natural wine bar, Oranj. Notting Hill also has a lot going on, from a Horse Meat Disco DJ set at Caia to the opening of new restaurants including Karo Eatery, Akub and Strakers. Your big challenge is finding the time to cram in the city’s vast cultural and culinary offerings before the year ends.
Our aim is to keep our suggestions short but sweet, and everything has been chosen to bring you the best insider knowledge of the British capital. So without further ado, here are the best things to do in London this winter season.
Festive things to do in London
SKATE at Somerset House
When: 16 Nov 2022 – 15 Jan 2023
Where: Strand, London WC2R 1LA
How much: 10 – 22 GBP per person
Ring in the start of the festive season in London with a spin on the ice at Skate, the much-loved Somerset House ice rink. Glide across the neoclassical courtyard, flanked by fairy lights and a 40 ft Christmas tree. There is also a Moët & Chandon rinkside lounge, serving Champagne, mulled wine and hot drinks, as well as gourmet snacks from Jimmy Garcia. Look out for Skate Lates throughout November and December, with an impressive line-up of live DJs.
Wreath making at McQueens Flower School
When: throughout November and December
Where: 229 Cambridge Heath Road, London, E2 0EL
How much: 175 GBP per person
Master florist McQueens is hosting intimate wreath-making workshops throughout November and December at its warehouse in Bethnal Green. Immerse yourself in eucalyptus, fern, pine and winter berries, as you learn to fashion your own festive wreath, guided by McQueens’ skilled tutors. The thoroughly festive and joyful afternoon also includes mince pies, a seasonal soundtrack and the option for a glass of Champagne.
Create a Japanese New Year wreath
When: 1, 10 and 11 December
Where: 19 Motcomb Street, London SW1X 8LB
How much: 65 GBP per person
Craft a decidedly different wreath at Pantechnicon, the multi-storey behemoth that mixes Nordic and Japanese influences. Hosted by Japanese floral designer Mariko Kinoshita of Matsurika Flowers, learn to make a Japanese New Year wreath, defined by its base of shimenawa (a sacred rice straw rope), specially sourced from Shimane in Japan. The workshop lasts one hour and all materials are provided.
The Hackney Christmas Market
When: 26 November – 18 December, Friday 6-10pm; Saturday and Sunday 12-6pm
Where: Bohemia Place, London E8 1DU
How much: free
At the Hackney Christmas Market on Bohemia Place in East London, browse and buy artisanal and ethically-sourced wares from independent traders, spanning homeware, jewellery and clothing. Warm up with mulled wine, hot cocktails and a bounty of hot food options, sold alongside craft beer and baked treats.
The Ever After Garden, Grosvenor Square
When: 3-9pm, until 20 December 2022
Where: Grosvenor Square, W1K 6LD
How much: free; a charitable donation welcome
For the third year, Mayfair’s Grosvenor Square is illuminated with more than 20,000 white silk roses. The idea, coined the Ever After Garden, was conceived by designer Anya Hindmarch and fashion writer Camilla Morton, following the loss of their friend, revered production designer Michael Howells. Entry to the garden is free, and visitors are invited to dedicate a rose in memory of a loved one for a charitable donation. All funds raised go towards The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity.
Admire London’s finest Christmas trees
London’s loveliest hotels get particularly creative when it comes to Christmas trees. The Standard in King’s Cross is bringing new meaning to the phrase ‘merry and bright’ by collaborating with Italian-born, UK-based visual artist Raissa Pardini, famed for her use of colour and typography (unveiled 30 November). Meanwhile, The Londoner hotel has enlisted British fashion designer Daniel W. Fletcher to style its fetching tree; Claridge’s is collaborating with Sandra Choi of Jimmy Choo fame, and The Connaught is brightening up Carlos Place with a 30 ft fir tree, bedecked with neon dogs by artist Suzy Murphy (pictured above).
The best exhibitions in London right now
Strange Clay at the Hayward Gallery
When: Until 8 January 2023
Where: Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Rd, London, SE1 8XX
How much: 15 GBP
A new show at the Hayward Gallery explores strangeness in its most enticing sense. The work of 23 contemporary artists has been curated to push the limits of our preconceptions about what ceramic art can be. The pieces range from small pots turned on a wheel in a single breath by Edmund de Waal, to monumental figurative sculptures fired in industrial kilns and loaded with forklifts. Among the most thought-provoking is the installation My Place Is The Placeless by Iranian artist Shahpour Pouyan, featuring 33 ceramic sculptures of roofs, spires and domes in traditional vernacular from around the world, including longhouses, Buddhist temple spires, and European church domes. The installation was made in response to a genetic test the artist took, which traced his ancestry to 33 modern countries. Other works in the exhibition are simply an undeniable spectacle, such as the shiny ceramic sculpture of a giant squid on the floor of the gallery, lying in what appears to be a pool of its own ink.
The Carpenter’s Line at Japan House London
When: Until 29 January 2023
Where: Japan House, 101-111 Kensington High Street, London, W8 5SA
How much: Free, with time slots available to reserve
Japan House London, the outpost for Japanese cultural appreciation and learning on Kensington High Street, has launched its latest design-focused show celebrating the traditional woodworking prowess of the densely forested Hida region of Gifu Prefecture in central Japan. Japan House’s shows are always free and thoroughly immersive, combining excellent sound and set design with a wide curation of objects, from traditional tools to exemplary pieces of craftsmanship. Prepare to be surprised as you’re introduced to another side of Japanese culture.
Objects of Desire at The Design Museum
When: Until 19 February 2023
Where: Design Museum, 224-238 Kensington High Street, London, W8 6AG
How much: 16.80 GBP
Objects of Desire celebrates surrealism in design from the movement’s beginnings in 1924 to the present, mixing classic art works of the movement with furniture, interior design, fashion and photography, including pieces by surrealist pioneers Salvador Dalí and Lee Miller, as well as Björk and Maison Schiaparelli. There’s also an after hours late event on 25 November, involving an open workshop, talks, a bar, and a chance to explore the exhibition in more sociable hours.
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye at Tate Britain
When: 24 November 2022 – 26 February 2023
Where: Tate Britain, Millbank, London, SW1P 4RG
How much: 16 GBP
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s celebrated 2020 show is returning to Tate Britain in November, giving the public another chance to see the paintings, as the previous run was cut short by the pandemic. Artist and writer Yiadom-Boakye’s canvases are enigmatic yet instantly resonant, depicting vivid, elegant portraits of people that do not exist. The painter conjures these figures from a combination of memory, images and imagination, creating mysteriously detailed depictions of timeless characters. Make sure to experience the exhibition during its three month run.
Lucian Freud at The National Gallery
When: Until 22 January 2023
Where: Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN
How much: Free entry
Be one of the first through the door at Lucian Freud: New Perspectives, a new major exhibition at The National Gallery celebrating the artist’s centenary. Just as Freud visited the gallery to search for “ideas and help – to look at situations within paintings, rather than whole paintings”, museum-goers are invited to find inspiration in this huge collection of his significant works, spanning seven decades. The surrealist Girl with a Kitten (1947) and expressionist Reflection with Two Children (1965) are among the key works on show from the British painter, who once claimed to use The National Gallery as though “it were a doctor”.
Cecilia Vicuna at Tate Modern
When: Until 22 January 2023
Where: Bankside, London SE1 9TG
How much: Free entry
Multi-disciplinary artist and poet Cecilia Vicuña has devoted her life’s work to preserving and honouring her native Chile’s indigenous roots. She was exiled from the country in the early 1970s following the coup d’état against President Salvador Allende, and themes including exile, extinction, ecology and community emerge frequently in her work. For this year’s annual Hyundai Commission, Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall is being reimagined by Vicuña, who is known for working across painting, poetry, performance and weaving. Much of her diverse creative output is unified by an ‘eco-feminist’ outlook – a rallying cry for environmental and social justice.
Hallyu! The Korean Wave at the V&A
When: Until 25 June 2023
Where: The V&A, Cromwell Road, London, SW7 2RL
How much: 20 GBP
This month reveals the long-awaited show, Hallyu! The Korean Wave at the V&A, which was delayed from its scheduled 2021 opening and is now set to run into 2023. The exhibition is the first of its kind in the UK, and explores the explosion of Korean pop culture around the world. Hallyu (which means Korean Wave) started gaining traction in the 1990s, and encompasses Korean music, film, fashion and video games. The show takes a look at K-Pop bands and their rise to popularity, like BTS, the Gangnam Style craze of 2012, and the overall impact Korean Wave has had on the global creative industries of cinema, drama, music, fandom, beauty and fashion. Spanning 19th century paintings and stills from Netflix’s 2021 hit Squid Games, this exhibition has it all.
William Kentridge at the Royal Academy
When: Until 11 December
Where: Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BD
How much: 22 GBP
Over the past decade, the Royal Academy – previously the exclusive home of Old Masters and pieces by artists long since departed – began hosting the work of living artists in its main galleries, in enormous solo shows. The first was Anish Kapoor, and others such as Ai Weiwei and Antony Gormley have since hosted their own. This month, it is the turn of South African multi-sensory artist William Kentridge. His all-encompassing practice spans floor-to-ceiling drawings, collage, immersive film, sculpture, tapestry, theatre, opera, dance and music. The exhibition will be the largest Kentridge has shown in the UK, featuring work from throughout his 40-year career, including pieces that have never been seen before, and some that have been made specifically for the show. His immersive and broad practice will certainly make a spectacle against the backdrop of Burlington House’s Main Galleries.
New restaurant and bar openings
Cycene at Blue Mountain School, Shoreditch
What: A hotly anticipated new opening from chef Theo Clench
Where: 9 Chance Street, London E2 7JB
The latest culinary gem to join London’s restaurant scene is Cycene at Blue Mountain School, the multifaceted Shoreditch store that curates high-end artworks, ceramics and garments. Cycene, which translates to ‘kitchen’ in Old English, has launched in collaboration with executive chef Theo Clench and is designed to feel more like a private home than a restaurant. A ten-course tasting menu draws on East Asia and Australasia influences, and leans heavily on Clench’s passion for seafood. Choose between the Dining Room, with just 14 covers, or the Hearth Room, which offers a private dining experience for one group of four to six guests. The latter, designed in collaboration with Tyler Hays, gives you the chance to sit adjacent to the kitchen.
Oranj wine bar opening in Shoreditch
What: natural wine in a convivial setting
Where: 14 Bacon Street, London, E1 6LF
Between Shoreditch High Street overground station and Brick Lane, an inconspicuous warehouse is about to open as Shoreditch’s first dedicated natural wine bar. Oranj, which launched in 2020 as an online retailer, is opening what founder Jasper Delamothe describes as “a pub for wine drinkers”. You can expect zingy Catalonian whites, low ABV reds from Jura and plenty of orange wines from all over the world. Alongside the natural wines, there will also be a series of chef residencies held at the bar, beginning with London legend Decatur in December.
DJ takeovers at Caia, Goldborne Road
When: 2 December
Where: 46 Golborne Road, London W10 5PR
How much: free entry
Caia is a new destination restaurant and late-night wine bar on Goldborne Road, with a focus on fire-cooking (tip: sit at the bar for a view of the culinary action). On Saturday 2 December, Horse Meat Disco’s Severino will take the decks from 9pm in the basement bar. Since opening in July, Caia has built a reputation as a go-to for live music in sophisticated surrounds, and impromptu DJ sets from some of the industry’s key players, including a monthly takeover from Rough Trade. (The food and natural wine is pretty banging too).
Kuro Eatery, Notting Hill
What: a new neighbourhood restaurant in W8
Where: 3 Hillgate Street, London W8 7SP
Kuro Eatery is a new venture from Julian Victoria and Jacob Van Nieuwkoop, the duo behind the popular Kuro Coffee in Notting Hill. The all-day restaurant, located a few doors down, matches a minimalist aesthetic with bold, inventive flavours from chef Andrianos Poulis. Order the beetroot with cashew cream and the zesty spaghettoni with clams and bottarga, served with a concise but impressive wine list. Packed-out tables indicate the spot is already a favourite with locals and, as one might expect, the coffee is excellent.
Akub launching in Notting Hill
When: Opening December 2022
Where: 27 Uxbridge Street, London, W8 7TQ
How much: TBC
Another Notting Hill opening – French-Palestinian chef Fadi Kattan, who runs Fawda in the West Bank, is opening a new restaurant in London at the end of the month. Akub will showcase his personal take on Palestinian cuisine, combining local produce, meat and seafood with imported specialty ingredients from Palestine. Dishes announced so far include sea bream cured in arak, freekeh, and musakhan – a roast chicken cooked with sumac. We’re also excited to try the new cocktail menu which revolves around arak.
Continue your cultural tour of London with our insider guide to the city’s greatest galleries and museums.