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What’s on in London – December 2017

With the announcement of a 2018 Royal Wedding, London will once more be getting ready to hang out the flags after giving the streets an extra spring clean. Prince Harry is getting hitched to Meghan Markle and it’s the fairytale aspect of this event at Windsor Castle that will draw visitors from across the globe. Of course, Christmas is peak time for fairy stories and tales of true love, so whether you’re watching a magical ballet performance, having a romantic dinner or sampling some pink fizz with your loved one, raise a glass to the lovely couple and wish them the best.

Christmas lights in London – Various Locations

Don’t fall for that “If you’ve seen one set of Christmas lights, you’ve seen them all” schtick. Festive illuminations in London vary according to whatever context the streets provide. The wide boulevards of Oxford and Regent’s Street allow for expansive angel wings and bright constellations, while the close confines of Carnaby Street and Covent Garden allow for more colourful and displays.

The lights around Seven Dials make inventive use of the surrounding trees a theatre backdrops which aptly light up the square like a stage and for restrained elegance, there are always the superior Bond Street designs. All these streets are within walking distance from each other, so they can be seen in one trip. However, if you’re intending to spend an extended season shopping in the West End, the various Christmas lights will remain fresh and captivating.

Wintertime at Southbank Centre – Southbank Centre

©India Roper-Evans, Southbank Centre

This December marks the climax of a programme of activities focused on all things Nordic. A marathon ABBA-oke singing event invites all-comers to croon along to the sounds of Sweden’s favourite export. Visitors can also take a refreshing soak in a Finnish rooftop sauna and the Danish kid’s theatre group, Teater Reflecksion will be weaving magic stories together with glowing light displays.

For the experimentally-minded, Terje Isungset will be exhibiting and playing his intriguing collection of Norwegian ice instruments on the 15th December and is well worth checking out. In addition, there are performances of Slava’s Snowshow, carols and Latin dance classes.

Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree & Carols – Trafalgar Square

During World War 2, Norway endured a five-year Nazi occupation which was made somewhat bearable by the knowledge that countries like Britain were still fighting for freedom. In recognition, the people of Oslo started a noble tradition after the war by gifting a magnificent 50-year-old spruce tree to London every Christmas.

Taking pride of place in Trafalgar Square, the tree stands 20 metres tall and is decorated in the Scandinavian style with brilliant white lights. This wonderful ornament provides the ideal focus for a daily ritual of carol singing which is undertaken by various schools, churches and organisations with everybody being welcome to join in.

Shard Lights – The Shard

For the last five years, the imposingly futuristic silhouette of London’s tallest building provides a visual treat every Christmas and this December is no different. The top twenty floors are spectacularly lit up and can be seen from as far away as Hertfordshire. An extra dimension is provided by the changing colour of the display which bathes the surrounding riverside buildings with an ongoing festive kaleidoscope.

Occasional zaps of laser beams liven up the night sky around London Bridge as the Shard prepares for a leading role in the New Year fireworks festivities. Together with other effects, they form patterns, gradients and 3D patterns that all work as an effective alternative Christmas lights display.

The Nutcracker – Royal Opera House

The Nutcracker is a ballet that cannot be done on a shoe string. Sumptuous costuming and stunning sets are mandatory for this piece that involves a massive cast and a fully committed orchestra. This age-old story of toys springing to life on Christmas Eve is fully realised on the London stage in a way unique to the Royal Ballet which makes it ideal for all ages and cultures.

The ballet centres around the magical adventures of a young girl who cannot wait for Christmas to come and sneaks downstairs to look at her presents. Together with her favourite toys, she gets into numerous scrapes and is transported to a kingdom of confectionery where she witnesses the iconic dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

The Piccadilly Christmas Concert – St James’s Church, Piccadilly

There is no better seasonal setting for classical music than a Wren church and St James, Piccadilly is undoubtably one of the best in London. December 9th will see the young piano virtuoso Warren Mailley-Smith play a selection of Beethoven and Mendelssohn that is sure to enchant and inspire in equal measure.

Joining Mailley-Smith at this beautiful 17th Century venue will be soprano Susan Parkes and a young string quartet he takes on additional material by Puccini and Mozart. Hymns and Carols will also play a major part in the programme which will climax with a gorgeous version of “O Holy Night” – surely one of the festive season’s most enduringly spiritual pieces of music.

Christmas at Kew Gardens – Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew

© CCL-Rikard Ã-sterlund

Contrary to popular wisdom, taste and restraint can be found amongst the glitz-fest that arrives in London’s open spaces at Christmas time. For a subtly organic take on the festive lighting theme, check out the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew. Here near the river’s edge you will find an imaginative partnership between nature and technology that stimulates all the senses.

Trees are ideal platforms for lighting sculptures and in Kew Gardens the Christmas display takes the form of luminous trails of discovery. The greenhouses that house the exotic plants are co-opted into being used as giant semi-transparent reflectors that allow lasers and lamps to bounce off the walls with exhilarating effect. The kids will love Santa’s grotto while their parents can enjoy a warm glass or two of mulled wine.

Prosecco Fest UK – Tobacco Dock

The bubbly aperitif that has taken the nation by storm gets its very own festival at Tobacco Dock, near the City. Although everyone from yummy mummies to truck drivers seems to love this Italian fizz, there have been diehard enthusiasts who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes in order to promote it even when it the drink was unfashionable.

This festival provides visitors with the opportunity to meet such people and there will be plenty of stalls from which to sample their wares. Other drinks on show will be a selection of Cava and Spumante brands and there will be a mixologist on hand ready to rustle up some fun cocktails. Live music and a variety of food stalls will also be featured.

Jimmy’s Lodge On The River – Southbank

©India Roper-Evans, Southbank Centre

Brought to you by the instigator of Jimmy’s Pop-ups, this neat idea provides al-fresco winter dining, without the thermonuclear heaters and itchy blankets. Sites along the River Thames the restaurant takes the form of a series of Globe-like enclosures that will each seat up to six customers, giving them 360 degree views of the Thames whist dining in cosy comfort.

The Lodge specialises in fondues which are the ideal meal for sharing and experimentation. Hungrier diners can order Cote de Boeuf which can also be shared. For New Year’s Eve, there will be a sumptuous alpine feast with unlimited drinks and a front row view of the spectacular fireworks display.


About the Author

Established in 1958, Benham and Reeves is one of London’s oldest, independently owned property lettings and sales agents.  With specialism in residential sales, corporate lettings and property management in prime areas of London, the company operates from 19 prominently located branches and 8 international offices.