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Things to do in London over the Christmas holidays

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The festive season is well and truly upon us, with schools closing for the holidays and offices winding down for the year. We’ve rounded up the top pick of things to see and do in the capital over the next few weeks.

1. Ice-skating
Skate away for an hour before warming up with an overpriced hot chocolate. If you’re really terrible, don’t worry; you can always get one of those push-along penguins they give kids. The best rinks are at Somerset House, The Natural History Museum, Canary Wharf, Winter Wonderland and Hampton Court Palace. It’s especially pretty after dark, but be sure to book in advance, as that’s when the activity is most popular.

2. Christmas shopping
Get fully into the spirit of consumerism with a trip to Oxford Street or Regent Street. Expect to spend most of your time being held up by crowds of other last minute shoppers/January sale-ers like yourselves, but the area is at least well lit.

3. Christmas lights
Join the aforementioned crowds on the aforementioned well-lit streets. Even if you eschew consumerism, you’ll appreciate the festivity of the place. Alternatively, try Carnaby Street, Covent Garden, Bond Street, or Seven Dials for your Christmas light fix.

4. Christmas markets
If you don’t mind paying over the odds for mediocre gingerbread, there’s a lot of fun to be had at Christmas markets. Take your pick of genres: there’s a Tudor market at Tower Bridge/City Hall; Victorian rides at the Tate Modern market and Kew Gardens; traditional German markets at Winter Wonderland and some parts of Southbank; all things Japanese in Tobacco Dock.

5. Shows
There are an infinite number of shows and pantomimes on at theatres all across London, ranging from the traditional to the more meta (Cinderella and the Beanstalk, really?) offering fun for all the family. Probably best just to Google this one.

6. Visit the big department stores
You may not be planning to buy anything there, but just visiting the large and festively decorated stores can be exciting in itself. Harrods, Selfridges, Fortnum and Mason and Hamley’s are all worth wondering round at Christmastime (even if it does mean getting in the way of actual shoppers).

7. Winter Wonderland
It deserves a mention in its own right, really. Based in Hyde Park, it’s a fun fair, market and food arena rolled into one. It’s worth a visit, if only to wander around and soak up the festive atmosphere. It’s free to enter, but don’t get caught out: the stalls and rides mostly require cash, and the on-site ATMs will charge you £3.50 for a withdrawal.

8. Christmas at Kew
More of a pretty light trail than anything else, the trees and glasshouses of Kew are all aglow, and guide you between Fire Gardens, Light Tunnels, karaoke, and other festive delights.

9. Trafalgar Square
The people of Oslo have given London a Christmas tree every year since 1947, as a thank you for Britain’s support during the Second World War. Admittedly, this year’s tree has been subject to a lot of Twitter trolling for being underwhelming and gherkin-like. But it was still nice of the Norwegians, and you should still go and see it – if only to decide for yourself which vegetable it most closely resembles.