What’s on in London this Winter

By Amy Rosoman for British Airways Holidays

Photography by SolStock

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Updated November 2018

Lights sprawl over Harrods and ice rinks coat the courtyards. Hole up in a pub, discover outdoor wonderlands and don’t miss the best events with our guide to the best things to do when the nights draw in.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Where the wild things are

A melancholy pair of snub-nosed monkeys, a sleepy-eyed leopard, a bear above the clouds – the Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards are magical, familiar and horrifying glimpses into the animals of our planet. Wildlife photographers around the world camp out in the back of beyond to get that perfect shot. Of the tens of thousands of entries the competition receives ever year from over 100 countries, only a few are chosen to fill the dark rooms of the Natural History Museum, where their animal subjects shine out of the darkness. Prize categories include urban photography, landscape, invertebrates, and the people’s choice – go cast your vote.

When? All winter

Where? Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD

Nearest Tube: South Kensington (District, Piccadilly and Circle lines)

Where to stay: The Rembrandt in the west of London is a tube ride away from Kew. Its Knightsbridge location brings a certain elegance; and the hotel, with its historic façade and afternoon tea, fits right in.

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Londoners know that it’s not Christmas until you’ve seen at least one production of The Nutcracker, which is why there’s always more than a couple of rival productions on in the capital at once

Christmas at Kew 2018

Wrap up warm and head to Kew Gardens for their winter festivities. As you wander through the iconic gardens you’ll find singing trees, giant baubles, light shows and plenty of warming treats – don’t miss the Palm House’s laser spectacular. Tickets are on sale from 26 June 2018 and we recommend booking early to avoid disappointment.

When? 22 November 2018 – Saturday 5 January 2019

Where? Kew Gardens (30 minutes from central London)

Nearest Tube: Kew Gardens Station (District)

Where to Stay: The Ampersand Hotel is a five star boutique in Kensington with a lovely tea salon and just a stone’s throw from South Kensington underground station.’

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  • A sea of illuminated globes by the Palm House, Christmas at Kew. ©RBG Kew.

    Treasured texts

    The British Library has 150 million items in its collections, in most of the world’s languages, stored on hundreds of kilometres of shelving. The Magna Carta and Leonardo Da Vinci’s notebook are stored here. You can’t rent these out – and even if you could, the library fines would be formidable.

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  • The Power of The Matriarch, one of the entries for Wildlife Photographer of The Year. ©David Lloyd - Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

    A familiar face

    Famous for his amazing portraits of African wildlife, David Lloyd visited the Maasai Mara in Kenya and followed an elephant herd to their waterhole in the evening light. Their leader, a female, posed for this brilliant, watchful image.

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  • The skate path at Ice Rink Canary Wharf.

    Kept on ice

    East London’s Canary Wharf rink is a relative newcomer on the skating scene, and a cool alternative to Somerset House.

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Ice Rink Canary Wharf

The River Thames might not have frozen over for centuries, but London still has plenty of skating spots in the winter, from Somerset House to Hampton Court. Canary Wharf’s ice rink is one of the newest and most innovative. Last year, LED lights under the ice made the rink extra magical. This year, the massive indoor ice rink is back, but we recommend you head straight to the outdoor skate path, which takes you on a winding ice route through the trees. Popular across the world skating, trails are a welcome break after getting dizzy skating circles on the main rink. For afters, warm up at the bar.

When? 2 November 2018 – 16 February 2019

Where? Canada Square Park, Canary Wharf, London E14 5AB

Nearest Tube: Canary Wharf (Jubilee line)

Where to stay: DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel London - Docklands Riverside in east London has views over the towers of Canary Wharf.

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Winterville has returned to London after a year off. Billed as London’s alternative winter festival, it’s a supersized funfair, glowing with fairy lights and pink-faced patrons. Take the whole family along to enjoy the rides, crazy golf, a 250-seat immersive cinema, food stalls and entertainment on Clapham common. There are also two great ways to fall over – a roller disco and an ice rink. It’s smaller than Hyde Park’s massive Winter Wonderland but the food stalls have a hipster edge – they’re run by food truck magnates Street Feast. Book a show at the Spiegeltent for afters – the setlist is a stuffed stocking full of family shows, cabaret and comedy.

When? 15 November 2018 – 23 December 2018

Where? Clapham Common

Nearest Tube: Clapham Common, Clapham South

Where to stay: Park Plaza Westminster Bridge is right by Waterloo Station, making it easy to hop on the Northern Line or the bus to Clapham. It’s a chic, contemporary hotel with an indoor pool and spa.

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  • People enjoy the ice rink at Winterville.

    Common people

    On Clapham Common, Winterville promises delicious street food after a turn on the ice.

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  • Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter. ©Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. - Harry Potter publishing rights ©J.K. Rowling.

    A wizarding winter world

    Feel like a student at Hogwarts and join Dinner in the Great Hall, as you tuck into a magical two-course meal. Take dessert on Platform 9 and ¾ for an enchanting moment – check dates before you book.

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  • Pearly Queens at the New Year’s Day Parade 2017. © Keith Larby / Alamy Stock Photo.

    Grab your glad rags

    Join the fun of welcoming in 2019. Dress-up, dress down, clown around – immerse yourself in a day of fun and celebrations, whatever your style.

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Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year falls on Tuesday 5 February so expect events that week end. There’s a parade of dancers and musicians through central London. Spot dragons with cow ears, the feet of tigers and the eyes of demons. Lucky red decorations adorn the streets, whilst firecrackers cause havoc. In 2019, it’s the year of the pig. Celebrate at the main stage in Trafalgar Square, but also follow the crowds to the Hong Kong Stage on Charing Cross Road and the Family Stage on Shaftesbury Avenue. For heaven’s sake, book a restaurant afterward, you won’t be the only one thinking that some dim sum in Chinatown is a good idea. A volley of fireworks round things off come evening.

When? New Year falls on 5 February 2019

Where? Trafalgar Square

Nearest Tube: Leicester Square, Charing Cross

Where to stay: Amba Hotel Charing Cross a beautiful and historic hotel in the heart of the city and just a short walk to Convent Garden and the delights of Chinatown.

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Harry Potter – Hogwarts in the Snow

Grab your cape and feel the warmth of festivities at Hogwarts this winter. Explore the Christmassy makeover of the London studios, with blazing Christmas puddings and bauble embellished trees in the Great Hall. Glide along to the Yule Ball with dangling icicles, then find your way to the special-effect crackling fire in the Gryffindor Common Room. See the snow-dusted Hogwarts castle model and look out for your favourite Harry Potter movie set pieces in their festive glory.

When? 17 November 2018 – 27 January 2019

Where? Warner Bros. Studio Tour London

Nearest Tube: Get the Overground to Watford Junction, then take the shuttle bus to the Warner Bros Studio.

Where to Stay: The Grosvenor close to the magnificent Buckingham Palace and on the doorstep to Victoria, it’s easy to get around the city from here. Take a sumptuous afternoon tea in the lounge, before ordering evening cocktails.

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New Year’s Day parade

Welcome in 2019 with a parade celebration through the streets of London. Beginning around Green Park at midday, the action hits the hot spots of Piccadilly Circus, Pall Mall, Trafalgar Square and finishes around Parliament Square. Watch as performers colour the capital with dancing, singing, music and more, filling the city with a happy-go-lucky atmosphere. The best way to spectate is choosing a spot and sticking to it – pick up hot drinks and snacks to keep you going.

When? 1 January 2019

Where? Across London’s West End

Nearest Tube: Green Park

Where to stay? Le Meridien Piccadilly for a lavish stay, set at the beginning of the New Year’s Day parade route. Savour an opulent retreat after busy days exploring London and soothe your soul with a dip in the indoor pool.  

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