What's on at London's Southbank this Christmas?

Enjoy the magic of Christmas this year on London's Southbank, from a chilly stroll along riverside Queen's Walk, to theatre-in-the-round at Shakespeare's Globe.

Come the holidays, the capital transforms into a festive hub, with plenty of fun ways to get into the seasonal spirit. The West End and London’s wider theatreland is full of shows, from spectacular musicals and family-friendly entertainment to that most traditional of festive viewing: the pantomime. London’s many attractions are particularly enticing during this winter wonderland time, including festive additions like huge lighting displays and unmissable Christmas markets – ideal for stocking up on presents, as well as treating yourself. Follow our London holiday guide for all the jolly fun.

Be Illuminated

Once darkness falls (which is alarmingly early these days), look out for the incredible – and free – light displays popping up all over Southbank. Ten contemporary artists have created mesmerising works that you can spot around the site, from a huge rotating neon sphere in the Blue Side Foyer of Royal Festival Hall to the beautifully lit-up trees along riverside Queen’s Walk. The other works of light art can be discovered around Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Hayward Gallery. Until 7 January.

Take in some Theatre-in-the-Round

Take Shakespeare’s Globe theatre and add a family-friendly production of Hansel and Gretel, and you’ve got the perfect Christmas treat. This new production is based on Simon Armitage’s poem, and is sprinkled with a hefty dose of music, magic and songs, with a good dash of hope. It’s less ‘Grimm’ than the original and suitable for those aged 5+. Booking until 7 January. Book at shakespearesglobe.com.

Visit Proper Christmas Markets

The Christmas by the River markets have been given a shiny new revamp for 2023, and are now known as Winter by the River, a proper Christmas market with all the festive trimmings, right by London Bridge. With spectacular Tower Bridge as the backdrop, it promises a huge array of stalls stuffed full of beautiful crafts, pop-up bars and food stalls, music and general merriment. What more could you ask for? And if the weather turns, pop into the stunning (and covered) Hays Galleria, which is right nearby. London Bridge City, SE1 2DB, until January 1, 2024. Open daily from noon until 10:30pm.

Catch a Christmas Classic

If cosying up in the cinema to watch a Christmassy classic, then the BFI has you covered. From It’s a Wonderful Life and Meet Me in St Louis right through to Bill Murray’s Scrooged and 80s stalwart, Gremlins, there really is a festive flick for all tastes. You could even go extra-large and see either Elf, The Polar Express 3D or Die Hard on the huge IMAX screen. See listings at whatson.bfi.org.uk

Indulge in Festive Foodie Heaven

Possibly one of the coolest – yet also cosiest – places to be at Christmas, is in one of the cute snow globe dining pods along the river. It’s also definitely one the tastiest! Fire & Fromage, run by Jimmy’s Pop Up, recreates a magical alpine setting from which to serve unlimited raclette (that melted cheesy delight) and toast-your-own marshmallows over warming firepits. The menu also includes burgers, steak, hotdogs, schnitzel, mulled wine and hot chocolate. Until 31 Dec (closed Christmas Day). Book at jimmyspopup.com/fire-and-fromage.

Photo credit: London's Southbank

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