Discover London in all its autumn colours.
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London is one of the most visited cities in the world, no surprise when you appreciate its diverse culture, cuisine and historical attractions. Full of art and creativity, it continues to aspire and seek out new innovations that invite discovery.
London’s skyline ostentatiously displays both its history and modernity – Big Ben dominates Westminster, while the Shard casts a shadow over Tower Bridge. Focus the lens and a city of villages starts to emerge, culminating in a metropolitan melting pot of ideas and beliefs, of sights and sounds, from all corners of the globe. From the grandiose mansions of Kensington to the pop-up bars of Brixton, its vast and distinctive green spaces, and everything in between – you will find something to suit your holiday in this magnificent capital.
December brings the festive season, so expect parties, pantomimes and mince pies galore. But it isn’t all canapés and cocktails, there are still some brilliant art exhibitions and concerts not related to everything Christmas. Then, at the end of the month, New Year’s Eve brings in 2016 with a bang.
It's your last chance to see the wonderful Enchanted Woodland, at Syon Park in West London - historic home of the Duke of Northumberland and family. Visitors to the estate will experience the beautiful sculpted gardens lit by coloured floodlights. Enjoy an ethereal journey through the impressive grounds until 6 December.
A truly Christmassy treat for children takes place on 5 December through Battersea Park, where hundreds of Father Christmases take to their heels for the The London Santa Run. Alternatively, the Pantomime Horse Race takes place at the DeVere Davenport on 14 December, for some four-legged action.
Ai Weiwei, China’s foremost contemporary artist and a cultural phenomenon, has a fantastic exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts. His works, with themes including creative freedom and censorship, take over the main galleries until 13 December. His powerful and unforgettable style will amaze both fans and newcomers alike.
Another winter warmer takes place at Spitalfield’s Winter Festival this Christmas. Taking place between 4 and 15 December and hosting a smorgasbord of choirs, orchestras and artists, this festival brings everyone into the spirit, just in time for the xmas parties.
The world-famous Sadler’s Wells plays host to Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty – a spectacular re-imagining of the classic tale. First performed in 2012, and back by popular demand for seasonal run, this is a stunning ballet. Playing 1 December to 24 January, Bourne returns again to Tchaikovsky, as his previous ballets include Swan Lake and The Nutcracker.
The International Horse Show is perfect for both equine enthusiasts and neophytes, with show jumping and dressage competitions taking place all week at London Olympia. Between 15 and 21 December professional riders will impress you with the grace and flair of these beautiful creatures, a great time for all the family.
Starting in November (exact dates TBC) until the new year, the Natural History Museum opens its Ice Rink to the public again. Skate to your heart’s delight under the twinkling of 80,000 lights and around a beautiful Christmas tree. Experience a winter haven at the iconic Kensington landmark.
Made famous by comedian Will Ferrell, the 2003 film Elf takes on a melodic twist in Elf: The Musical. This fun and funny musical tale about Buddy, a man who grew up in the North Pole, will have you laughing in the aisles. Playing at the Dominion Theatre between 21 December and 2 January, this is a perfect show for the festive season.
With a new film about to hit the big screen, this is your last chance to see Star Wars at Madame Tussauds. Visit fan favourites Yoda, Han Solo, and of course the dark lord, Darth Vader at London’s famous waxwork museum, Madame Tussauds. Open until 31 December this is the ideal way to get excited about the film’s release.
And finally for 2015, the epic Mayor of London’s New Year’s Eve fireworks and party at Westminster and the London Eye will bring in the new year in style. This is one firework display you don’t want to miss on 31 December, but don’t forget to buy a ticket as it is a very popular event.
The New Year gets off to a spectacular start in London, with the world-renowned New Year’s Day Parade. Then there’s plenty for culture vultures to enjoy – from film festivals to art fairs. A dash of Disney, a spoonful of Cirque du Soleil and other delights, make January an irresistible dish.
Join the hordes of cheering spectators lining the streets around Piccadilly as the London New Year’s Day Parade celebrates the arrival of 2016, on 1 January. Thousands of performers, awe-inspiring floats, marching bands and more contribute to this fantastic feast of colour and fun.
Then on the 2 and 3 of January, it’s your last chance to see Elsa and Anna, Ariel, Lighting McQueen, Buzz Lightyear and a host of other Disney favourites in the high-octane Disney On Ice presents Worlds of Enchantment at The O2. Don’t miss this live-on-ice spectacular.
Film fans should hurry to snap up tickets for the prestigious London Short Film Festival, on 8 to 17 January. The UK’s leading showcase for independent short films – the LSFF sees screenings of ground-breaking work from both British and international talent at multiple venues across the city.
Then get ready to see the capital’s iconic architecture in a brand new light – literally – as Lumiere London illuminates the city from 14 to 17 January. Featuring innovative installations and dazzling 3D projections by an array of artists – it is guaranteed to wow.
The incredible Cirque du Soleil returns to the magnificent Royal Albert Hall from 16 January to 14 February, with the UK premiere of Amaluna. Prepare to be mesmerised, as an almost entirely female cast perform in this tribute to the work and voice of women.
Then art lovers won’t want to miss the UK’s premier modern art event – the London Art Fair – at Islington’s Business Design Centre from 20 to 24 January. A host of British and international contemporary artists will be exhibiting at the fair, with the opportunity to browse and buy.
We haven’t heard from them since their 2004 album Borrowed Heaven. Now Ireland’s most attractive musical family, The Corrs, are back and bringing their unique Celtic folk rock sound to The O2, on 23 January.
It’s one of the biggest nights in Scotland’s calendar, and London likes to be a part of the fun when Burns Night is celebrated on 25 January… Toast the birthday of late Scottish poet Robert Burns with a ‘wee dram’ of whisky, or sample ‘haggis with tatties’ at restaurants and bars around the city.
Let the world renowned London Philharmonic Orchestra take you on a musical odyssey by way of Beethoven and Alexander Raskatov, on 30 January. In the wonderful setting of the Royal Festival Hall, sit back and enjoy the world premiere of Raskatov’s Green Mass, with Beethoven’s beautiful (Pastoral) Symphony No.6.
Then cheer on the participants of the Cancer Research UK Winter Run, as they brave the elements on 31 January and pound the 10km route through Central London in aid of the cancer charity.
If you thought February would be a quiet month in London then think again. The capital offers abundant ways to celebrate for loved-up couples on Valentine’s Day. Chinese New Year is welcomed in vibrant style, then its pancake-flipping-time on Shrove Tuesday.
January may be over, but you can still enjoy ice skating in the capital. Head to the Canary Wharf Ice Rink throughout February to show off your best skating moves, in a whimsical wintery setting. A pop-up bar, restaurant and heated outdoor viewing terrace provide the ideal hideaway for non-skaters – or those looking for a warm retreat.
Book tickets to see R&B favourite Jason Derulo at The O2 on 5 February. Groove to his smooth chart-topping hits, which include ‘Wiggle’, ‘Trumpets’ and ‘Want to Want Me’, at his biggest London show yet.
Soak up the lively atmosphere and enjoy a feast of entertainment as the Chinese New Year is celebrated in London on 8 February. Make your way to Chinatown, Trafalgar Square or Shaftesbury Avenue for vibrant parades, performance artists and traditional food and craft stalls.
Head to Koko in Camden Town for a night with Kitty, Daisy and Lewis on 11 February. Bop along to the catchy, eclectic sounds of this sibling trio as they dazzle you with their fantastic musical ability and unique compositions.
Celebrate tennis culture, fashion and traditions throughout history at Powerful Posters: Tennis and Advertising, 1893-2015 until 21 February at Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum. Exhibiting posters which date from 1893 to present day, this collection explores how the glamour of tennis has been used to advertise fashion, film and everything in-between. Highlights include the white dress from the 1970s Athena 'Tennis Girl' poster, which was first featured on the 1977 calendar before making its way onto the iconic poster - which sold more than two million copies worldwide.
From 18 to 21 February the London Classic Car Show takes place at Excel London. This impressive showcase of classic cars is bigger than ever for 2016. Spend your day admiring this impressive automobile collection, in a retro environment with music and talks.
Don’t miss the opportunity to see Liberty in Fashion at Fashion and Textile Museum, which ends on 28 February. Celebrating the company's 140th anniversary, this exhibition of more than 150 garments, textiles and objects demonstrates Liberty's impact on British fashion.
Or if you’re more into nature than fashion, head to the ZSL Animal Photography Exhibition at London Zoo, which is also showing until 28 February. This charming exhibition includes entries from photographers of all entry levels, who compete for the huge £10,000 prize fund. Not to be missed, this impressive display embraces creatures big and small.
If you’re planning a trip to London, one of the most important considerations you’ll make is where to stay. London is like a city of villages, each providing a different city break experience. Our hotels in London are spread across many of London's neighbourhoods. For entertainment there’s no better place than the West End. Westminster is at the heart of politics and royalty. Or stay around Tower Bridge and soak up quintessential London and the ‘city life’.
Bloomsbury has attracted writers and liberal thinkers for centuries. Streets lined with Victorian architecture and beautiful garden squares contribute to its distinctive village feel. Our bestselling hotel in this area is 3* Royal National – it’s basic but, as a comfortable base in a great location, it is ideal. King's Cross St Pancras is one of London’s most newly regenerated areas and it’s now an exciting place to be. Here you’ll find The British Museum, The British Library and the much underrated Charles Dickens’ Museum. Fantastic transport links provide easy access around London and across the UK, with Eurostar serving London's high-speed rail link with Paris, Brussels and continental Europe too.
This central London neighbourhood is a magnet for shopping enthusiasts. Department stores, including Selfridges and Liberty, nestle alongside fantastic high street shops on Oxford Street and Regent Street. While premium designer brands surround Old and New Bond Street. We recommend staying at 4* Cumberland, offering a perfect base for the avid shopper – the reception boasts one of London’s most exciting art galleries too.
At the heart of London’s monarchy and politics, and a favourite for locals and visitors alike, this area is brimming with culture and enviable views of iconic landmarks. Big Ben, The Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace are to name but a few. Enjoy the best of London from the 4* The Grosvenor, which is perfectly located next to London Victoria Station.
Known as the leafy neighbourhoods of London, Paddington is bordered by Hyde Park and fashionable Notting Hill is characterised by its distinctive green squares. A haven for antiques, second hand books and the weekly Portobello Road Market. 4* Hilton London Paddington is a popular choice, adjacent to Paddington train station – providing easy access to Heathrow Airport, and only three blocks from the shopping district along Oxford Street.
One of the most beautiful areas of London and great for history and the arts. Kensington is surrounded by stunning Georgian and Edwardian architecture. Visit the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum while you’re here. Earl’s Court is a lively area offering a true taste of London lifestyle, with plenty of pubs to frequent. 4* K+K Hotel George provides a quiet retreat, where you can experience great service and an excellent buffet breakfast.
Our finest luxury hotels luxury hotels and London’s Michelin starred restaurants gravitate towards the most exclusive addresses in London. Enjoy award-winning afternoon tea, browse the designer shops on Bond Street and admire the affluent houses in Berkley Square. 5* Grosvenor House, A JW Marriott Hotel is an iconic resident on Park Lane, providing the biggest of all hotel rooms in London.
This exclusive royal neighbourhood is a great place to shop for designer or vintage pieces. Knightsbridge is the home of Harrods, the world famous department store. And Chelsea is famous for the Kings Road, with its fashionable roots from the 60s. 4* Rembrandt is a firm favourite in this area – perfectly located adjacent to the V&A and Natural History Museum.
From musicals to dramas, comedies to tragedies, London’s Theatreland provides the best in entertainment. The lively areas of Covent Garden and Leicester Square are bursting with bars, restaurants and talented street performers who vie for your attention. 5* Waldorf Hilton enjoys an enviable location at the top of the Strand, perfect if you want to be right in the heart of the action.
The year-round festival atmosphere on the Southbank makes this one of the most vibrant areas in London. Browse galleries in the South Bank Arts Centre and play your part in the outdoor art installations. Spectate at the skateboard-friendly underpass and enjoy the views from the EDF London Eye – this pedestrian-friendly area along the River Thames is a cultural delight. We recommend 5* Hilton London Bankside for its fantastic location on the ‘design trail’.
London's Financial District beautifully showcases this city’s historical past. Iconic landmarks, like the Tower of London, the magnificent Tower Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral dominate London’s skyline. Cross the Millennium Bridge and visit the Tate Modern and Shakespeare’s Globe, or stroll over to sample the gourmet food stalls at Borough Market. 5* Grange Hotel St Paul’s offers incredible views and designer shopping at One New Change offers a nice distraction too.
Conveniently located within 20 minutes’ from London City Airport – East London offers a great alternative to central London, especially if you’re looking for a cheap hotel. Stratford is home to the Olympic Park, at the centre of the London 2012 Olympic Games, and Westfield – the largest urban shopping centre in Europe. Canary Wharf and the London Docklands can also rival the West End, with glam bars, restaurants and the O2 Arena putting on the world’s most popular live events. The 4* DoubleTree by Hilton London Docklands Riverside enjoys a unique location, with fabulous views over the Thames and Canary Wharf and excellent facilities including an indoor swimming pool and health club.
Author and resident Saska Graville unearths off-the-radar places to eat, sleep and shop.