What’s on in London this Winter

By Eloise Barker for British Airways Holidays

Photography by Jon Bower at Apexphotos

Skip to Navigation

October 2017

Lights sprawl over Harrods and ice rinks coat the courtyards. Hole up in a pub, discover outdoor wonderlands and Harry Potter magic, 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

The emerald quills of a quetzal’s tail, a squirrel hunched on a cold day, a tiger cub caught in a snare – 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 Ampersand Hotel is a five star boutique in Kensington with a lovely tea salon.

Find out more

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

Harry Potter: A History of Magic

In the Harry Potter books, the History of Magic classes were the most boring lessons at Hogwarts. Not here. In London’s British Library, visit Harry Potter: A History of Magic, an exhibition perfect for Potterheads who haven’t time to go to Watford for the Warner Bros. Studio Tour. In the renowned library’s cool, dark PACCAR gallery pore over prints, pictures and spells, including J K Rowling’s original manuscripts and sketches, and Jim Kay’s gorgeous illustrations. Learn about the philosopher’s stone and the night sky from medieval manuscripts, all just down the road from Platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross.

When? 20 October – 28 February

Where? British Library

Nearest Tube: Kings Cross St Pancras (Northern, Victoria, Piccadilly, Metropolitan, Hammersmith and City)

Where to Stay: The Royal National is a 3-star hotel that’s rightly popular with families. It’s very near the British Museum, where the fantastic Egyptian rooms await.

Find out more

  • A phoenix rising from the ashes in a 13th-century bestiary, part of the Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibition. ©British Library.

    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.

    Book flights to London
  • 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.

    Book your trip to London
  • 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.

    Book a London hotel

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? November – February

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.

Find out more


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? 23 November – 1 January

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.

Find out more

  • People enjoy the ice rink at Winterville.

    Common people

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

    Book flights
  • The Nutcracker. Artists of The Royal Ballet as the Snowflakes. ©ROH, 2015. Photographed by Tristram Kenton.

    A cracking success

    The Nutcracker debuted in St Petersburg in 1892, but it wasn’t an instant hit. Now, however, in the US alone, sales of tickets to Nutcracker performances account for around 40% of all ballet ticket revenue.

    London city breaks
  • Magical Lantern Festival at Chiswick House and Gardens.

    Lighten up

    More peacock lake than swan lake – the larger than life animal designs shine in the landscape of Chiswick House, an 18th century garden designed around a Roman-style Palladian villa.

    Book London hotels

Magical Lantern Festival

Don’t miss the chance to see the spectacular illuminated outdoor installations of the Magical Lantern Festival at Chiswick House and Gardens. Enjoying its third year in the capital, this year’s exhibition takes you on a journey through the night. With a Christmas theme, look out for an eccentric collection of life-sized animal lanterns, air-bound sleighs, and scale models of famous monuments. Make sure you sample the street food along the way, too, before taking little ones to see Santa wrapped up in his Christmas grotto. Take your coat and boots – this night time adventure through the gardens can get chilly.

When? 24 November – 1 January

Where? Chiswick House and Gardens, W4 2RP

Nearest Tube: Turnham Green (District line)

Where to stay: The K&K George is set in a typical West London townhouse. Pretend you’ve lived on this columned street all your life.

Find out more

The Nutcracker

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 over winter. The Royal Ballet’s version, directed by Sir Peter Wright, is one of the most respected. The set design by Julia Trevalyan Oman is traditional and sparkling, perfect for the 1892 ballet, and Tchaikovsky's score twinkles with magic. Look out for the charming Christmas tree, which grows on stage before your very eyes. The little girl Clara is given a nutcracker shaped like a soldier who comes to life. After fighting off the Mouse King, together they go on an adventure through the Land of Sweets, where they finally meet the glorious sugar plum fairy.

When? 5 December – 10 January

Where? Royal Opera House, Bow Street, Covent Garden

Nearest Tube: Covent Garden (Piccadilly), Leicester Square (Bakerloo, Northern)

Where to stay: Waldorf Hilton, a grand affair that even has columns round the indoor pool. High tea is served in the Grand Palm Court.

Find out more

  • Queen with Adam Lambert. ©Xavier Vila.

    Did you know…

    Queen’s song Bohemian Rhapsody, the third-highest selling single of all time in Britain, was composed in numerous sittings by Freddie Mercury, mostly from his bed. The recording took six different studios. The opera section was particularly difficult, taking three weeks to get right. Worth it.

    Book your flights
  • Chinese New Year in London’s Chinatown. ©shomos uddin.

    Zoological Zodiac

    There are twelve animals in the Chinese Zodiac. In 2018, it’s the year of the dog.

    London city breaks
  • A scene from Amadeus, with Adam Gillen playing Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. ©Marc Brenner.

    Mostly Mozart

    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his sister, Nannerl, were both musical prodigies. Their family toured Europe showcasing their talents when they were just young children. Mozart wrote his first symphony aged just eight years old.

    Book London hotels


Everyone wishes they’d seen Queen in the 80s. With legendary frontman Freddie Mercury performances were a kind of magic. Mercury seemed irreplaceable – a fact that hit home for the world when he died in 1991. But then American Idol finalist Adam Lambert appeared: the answer to Brian May’s and Roger Taylor’s – the remaining band members’ – leather-bound prayers. They started performing together in 2012. Following a 25-city US tour, Queen + Adam Lambert come to London for just two nights. The tour will play the classics, but there’s time on the setlist for the back catalogue, too. With 15 studio albums, that’s a lot of guitar solos. Queen reign once more.

When? 12 – 13 December

Where? O2 Arena

Nearest Tube: North Greenwich (Jubilee Line)

Where to stay: The bright, modern InterContinental at the O2 is literally steps away from the concert venue, so you don’t have to worry about leaving before the encore.

Find out more


A young boy is bestowed with an extraordinary gift; his bitter rival glowers from the wings. Watch Amadeus at the National Theatre. Peter Schaffer’s masterful play about Mozart and his rival composer Salieri is not just for fans of the pianoforte. It was first performed at the National Theatre in 1979 but came back to the London stage last year to great acclaim. This year, due to extraordinary demand, there are more performances. Lucian Msamati plays bitter rival Salieri to a dramatic crescendo in a note-perfect performance with all the pomp and powdered wigs of 18th century Vienna. Book as soon as you can.

When? From 22 January 2018

Where? National Theatre

Nearest Tube: Waterloo (Waterloo & City, Bakerloo, Jubilee and Northern lines)

Where to stay: Amba Hotel Charing Cross is in a Grade II listed building right by Charing Cross. The National Theatre is just across the river and you’re right in the centre of the action as soon as you step out of your door.

Find out more

Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year falls on Friday 16 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 2018, it’s the year of the dog. 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 16 February

Where? Trafalgar Square

Nearest Tube: Leicester Square, Charing Cross

Where to stay: Radisson Blu Edwardian Mercer Street is on Seven Dials in Covent Garden – a shopping hub not far from the delights of Chinatown.

Find out more