Little Angel Puppet Theatre, Angel

If you haven’t been to any puppet theatre before, you’re missing out. And the Little Angel is the centre of the UK’s puppet theatre scene, with exquisitely designed and choreographed productions running over the festive season. At the moment, the highlight is A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings, which is based on Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s children’s story.

Until January 29
14 Dagmar Passage, London N1 2DN 
Tube: Highbury & Islington

This is Design, Design Museum, London Bridge

The Design Museum is far too cool to do Christmas and, let’s face it, most of the festive season could do with a style reboot. So it’s a great place to get away from all the naffness. Even if you’re a complete novice when it comes to design, you’ll find the current exhibition, This Is Design, fascinating. It looks at elements of design that are so everyday that we no longer notice them. Who, for example, designs traffic lights and road signs?

Until January 22
28 Shad Thames, SE1 2YD 
Tube: London Bridge
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London Zoo, Regent’s park

London Zoo has dozens of kickass animals and you can bet that Mr Komodo Dragon doesn’t know its Christmas and that Mr African Hunting Dog won’t expect you to bring a plate of mince pies when you come to visit. For grinches, the company of animals is the only recourse when normally sane adults become obsessed with tinsel and nauseatingly saccharine carols.

Every day except Christmas Day
Regents Park, NW1 4RY 
Tube: Camden Town  

Rihanna, The o2 arena, Greenwich

Someone should tell the Barbadian sex kitten that’s it far too cold to be cavorting around in hot-pants and suspenders. The poor girl should put on some Ugg boots and a fleece.

December 21-22
Peninsula Square,
SE10 0DX
Tube: North Greenwich


OMA: Progress, The Barbican

The Office of Metropolitan Architecture design and engineer some of the world’s most striking structures and this retrospective is a winner for anyone with an interest in city skylines and the idea of buildings as art.

Until February 19, 2012
Silk St, EC2Y 8DS 
Tube: Barbican


Join an Occupy London discussion, The Banks of Ideas, Liverpool St

The tent city outside St Paul’s Cathedral was apparently just the start, and the Occupy movement – in protest against the excesses and inequalities of under-regulated capitalism – has since taken over a building owned by Swiss banking firm UBS in east London. The space has been transformed into a so-called Bank of Ideas, where people have come to trade skills and discuss issues. Certainly, these committed protesters won’t be sitting around discussing what they hope to find in their stockings this Christmas. Instead, you can sit in on seminars about media reform or the World Trade Organisation. Equally, you can attend a yoga session or a clown workshop.

Every day except Mondays
29 Sun St, EC2M 2PS 
Tube: Liverpool Street

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Robot Festival, Science Museum, Kensington

Check out the most cutting-edge technologies when it comes to robot innovation and design. This exhibition charts the progress of robotics and explores the way the field may come to shape our lives in the future.  Will they be our maids and butlers or will they rise up and overthrow their ‘flesh masters’? Maybe, in time, they will invent a robot that can endure Christmas so you don’t have to.

Until December 31
Exhibition Rd, London, SW7 2DD 
Tube: South Kensington

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Art Macabre drawing sessions, Islington

Remember your high-school art classes where you had to draw a picture of fruit in a bowl? Well, this is nothing like that. Instead, you’ll be encouraged to let your imagination run wild with weird, wonderful, even slightly disturbing muses. Their next session will focus on Russian fairytales – they’ll also be serving Russian tea and baboushka-shaped gingerbread. Not Christmassy at all.

December 20
Cass Art, Colebrooke Row, N1 8AB 
Tube: Angel

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Tranny Shack, Madame Jojo’s

It’s hard to imagine a more dramatic departure from kids singing carols than transvestites performing Aladdin. It’s a pantomime, so technically still a bit Christmassy. And
a visit to Madame JoJo’s is likely to scuff away that veneer of all-round festive cheeriness. It’s a bit dark and bit seedy – but in the best possible way. Look, if you don’t like Christmas, you’ll end up watching trannies in tights sooner or later.

8-10 Brewer St, W1F 0SE
Tube: Piccadilly Circus

Tacita Dean, Tate Modern, Bankside

British filmmaker Tacita Dean has contributed the 12th commission in the Tate’s Unilever series, which involves ambitious works of art being installed in the gallery’s cavernous Turbine Hall. This installation is an 11-minute silent film projected on to a giant white monolith. Maybe you’ll think it’s incredible. Maybe you’ll think it sucks. If you haven’t been before, it’s worth a look just to see art presented in such a striking space.

Until March 11
Sumner Street, Bankside, SE1 9TG

Tube: Southwark

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Slava’s Snowshow, Royal Festival Hall, Southbank

After a 15-year absence, this peculiar dream-like stage show has returned to London and is a perfect escape from the dreary reality of Christmas shopping and
a mulled-wine hangover. Gorgeous sets, outlandish
clowning and a thrillingly imaginative but still simple tale combine to make this a classic production.

Until January 8
Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX 
Tube: Waterloo

Carols for Godless People, Bloomsbury Theatre

For anyone made uneasy by the unavoidable, inconvenient religious aspects of Christmas, this comedy-chat will be just the tonic.

December 18-23
15 Gordon St, WC1H 0AH 
Tube: Euston

Cruise the canals, departing Camden

Boat trips along Regent’s canal, though London’s northern neighbourhoods, are all the rage in high summer, but are a chillier, more windblown experience this time of year. That’s no excuse – there’s still a great atmosphere and the route takes in some of the city’s prettiest parts from the water.

Saturdays & Sundays
Chalk Farm Rd, NW1 8AR 
TubeL Chalk Farm

How to have better conversations, School of Life, Russell Sq

The School Of Life is a unique little London institution – it’s a tiny shop that offers lectures on “how to live wisely and well”. It’s like a drop-in self-help centre, but without the weirdness and infomercials. This week, the School Of Life hosts a seminar teaching participants how to improve their conversations. If, after exchanging pleasantries with someone you’ve just met, you find yourself veering speedily toward familiar topics – the weather, what you did on the weekend, the cricket – then maybe you need to brush up. And, let’s face it, Christmas is the time for awkward silences between people thrust together by mutual friends.

December 15
70 Marchmont St, WC1N 1AB
Tube: Russell Square

Visit Fo Guang Shan Buddhist temple, West End

If you’ve really resolved to ditch Christmas this year, then why not turn to Buddhism and embrace the dharma path? The Fo Guang Shan is one of the largest monastic orders of Buddhists, based mostly in Chinese Taiwan. They aim to purify human hearts and foster talent. If you show up on a Sunday, you might catch the Chanting of Great Compassionate Mantra.

Every day except Fridays
84 Margaret Street, W1W 8TD
Tube: Oxford Circus 

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Mixology masterclass, Shoreditch

If all else fails at this time of year, the bottle is your last resort. But instead of just draining a couple of casks and passing out in the bath like last year, why not learn to get inebriated with a little more panache? Learn how to expertly mix cocktails and then, next time you’re at a party, you’ll have something to do with your hands while everyone else is ignoring you, hopefully leavening your feelings of inadequacy.

December 17
98 Curtain Road, EC2A 3AF  
Tube: Old Street