Don’t miss out on the best of this year’s festive season entertainment in London. WORDS: Elizabeth Eun
Maybe it’s those atmospheric chilly evenings or the promise of a glass of mulled wine in a snug pub afterwards, but nowhere else does Christmas entertainment quite like London.
Treading the boards: Pantos
What could be more fun than men dressed as women, bawdy humour and throwing sweets? Pantomimes are a huge feature of Britain’s unique Christmas charm.
Here’s our tip for the season: “He’s behind you!”
Do it: Aladdin takes the crown for most performed panto this year, with several versions in town. But with ex-Baywatch babe Pamela Anderson swapping the red cossie for a stint as the genie, New Wimbledon Theatre’s version is likely to be the one on most Christmas lists.
» New Wimbledon Theatre, 93 The Broadway, SW19 1QG (ambassadortickets.com/wimbledon). Dec 4-Jan 10. £16-£29
Meanwhile, over on the East side, Aladdin is pretty much your last chance to see inside the incredible Hackney Empire before it shuts down for nine months for a major refurb.
» Hackney Empire, 291 Mare St, E8 1EJ (hackneyempire.co.uk) Nov 28-Jan 9. £9.50-£22.50
For something a little more grown-up try Sinderfella, an adults-only panto showing in the heart of the West End.
» Leicester Square Theatre, 5 Leicester Pl, WC2H 7BX (020 7432 4220). Dec 4-30. £15-£19.50
Into The Hoods: A London Fairytale is an urban fable complete with a soundtrack courtesy of Gorrillaz, Massive Attack, Jay-Z, Basement Jaxx and Kanye. Like a panto, but with street cred.
» Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre, SE1 8XX (southbankcentre.co.uk). Dec 16-Jan 10. £15 -27.50
Men in Tights: A Night at the Ballet
Chrissie creds: Nothing says Christmas like a delicate winter dreamland peopled by willowy ballerinas.
Do it: Lose yourself in The Nutcracker’s magical world of sugar plum fairies and Tchaikovsky’s brilliant music at this seasonal ballet.
» London Coliseum, St Martin’s Ln, WC2N 4ES Leicester Square (eno.org). Dec 16-Jan 3. £8-£60
Men in tutus performing Swan Lake? Take a swig of edgy with your Christmas sherry as Matthew Bourne turns tradition upside down in his all-male version of the classic ballet.
» Sadler’s Wells, Rosebery Ave London, EC1R 4TN Angel (sadlerswells.com). Dec 10-31. £10-£50
All ye faithful: Carol concerts
Chrissie creds: It doesn’t get more Christmassy than carols, and the Brits pour such dedication into their songs about yuletide you’ll want to tralalala along.
Do it: Rug up and enjoy a free carol service in one of London’s most iconic outdoor squares. BYO candles and mince pies.
» Trafalgar Square, SW1, (london.gov.uk/trafalgarsquare/events/xmas.jsp). Dec 7- 21. Free
If you haven’t yet seen inside London’s extraordinary St Paul’s Cathedral, grab this chance to be awestruck by the interior while getting into the spirit.
» St Paul’s Churchyard, EC4M 8AD, (stpauls.co.uk). Dec 3-25. Free
Stray a little from the traditional at the grand Royal Albert Hall. Special events include an evening featuring Rufus and Martha Wainwright, along with guests Boy George and Dawn French.
» Kensington Gore, SW7 2AP High Street Kensington (royalalberthall.com). From Dec 7. £25-£70
London has so many gobsmackingly impressive churches you don’t need to be highly religious to get along to midnight mass.
The much-loved St Martin-in-the-Fields and both St Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey will hold services on Christmas Eve – an excellent chance to see the interiors of these wonderful buildings.
The weeks before Christmas are also a great time to visit St Martin-in-the-Fields’ atmospheric Café in the Crypt for a mince pie afternoon tea.
■ St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, WC2N 4JJ, (www2.stmartin-in-the-fields.org). Dec 24,11.30pm.
■ Westminster Abbey, Parliament Square, SW1P 3PA, (westminster-abbey.org). Dec 24, 11.30pm.
■ St Paul’s Cathedral, St Paul’s Churchyard, EC4M 8AD, (stpauls.co.uk). Dec 24, 11.30pm
What better way to cap off a night of panto, carols or ballet than a rugged-up wander through the winter wonderland of London’s world-renowned Christmas lit streets.
The best lights are usually found around the West End’s shopping district of Oxford and Regent Streets, although your local high street will have a good showing too.
Call them kitsch if you will, but that’s kind of the point with these knick-knack laden stalls.
» Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park, SW1X 7RL
» Covent Garden Deluxe Christmas Market, Covent Garden Piazza, WC2E 9DD