Royal Albert Hall
For the first time ever, Birmingham Royal Ballet and the Royal Albert Hall present The Nutcracker using state-of-the-art technology to conjure a vivid and magical winter wonderland.
The Royal Albert Hall’s specially-adapted version blends the best of the old and the new. The innovative production uses 75kg of artificial snow for a magical transformation scene, along with ground-breaking new projections from the award-winning 59 Productions (An American in Paris, National Theatre’s War Horse, London 2012’s opening ceremony).
There are seven performances of this new version of the universally-acclaimed, quintessential Christmas ballet, suitable for all the family, from 28 to 31 December 2017.
Also on this month, rock legend Robert Plant returns for his first Royal Albert Hall show in four years. The electrifying former Led Zeppelin vocalist, now an accomplished solo performer, is performing songs from his latest album, Carry Fire, along with hits and rarities, at his one-off Hall date on Friday 8 December.
Special guests include Lakeman, Albanian cellist Redi Hasa, and Chrissie Hynde, who duets with Plant on Bluebirds Over The Mountain, written by rockabilly legend Ersel Hickey and later recorded by both Richie Valens and The Beach Boys.
And Christmas with Katherine Jenkins on 18 December is a wonderful way to get that festive feeling.
The landscaped grounds of Chickwick House are again host to a Magical Lantern Festival. On from 24 November 2017 to 1 January 2018, this year has a Christmas theme. There are life-size and larger-than-life lanterns from ‘Santa and his reindeers’ to a large-scale recreation of an ‘Ancient City from the Song Dynasty’.
As well as the lantern trail, there’s plenty of food and drink and a Santa’s Grotto if you need to check if you’re on the naughty or nice list.
The Queen’s Gallery’s new exhibition is Charles ll: Art and Power on from 8 December 2017 to 13 May 2018. It looks at the resurgence of art, under Charles’s patronage after the austere Cromwellian era.
After the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, the court of Charles II became the centre for the patronage of leading artists and the collecting of great works of art. This served not only as decoration for the royal apartments but also as a means of glorifying the restored monarchy and reinforcing the position of Charles II as the rightful king.
The exhibition shows the rich material world of Charles II’s court and the role of the arts in the re-establishment of the Stuart monarchy.
If you’re staying at the Kensington House Hotel this Christmas you’ll be able to take a Christmas Day morning stroll to the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park to watch the annual Serpentine Swimming Club Peter Pan Cup race.
Swimmers have met in London’s Hyde Park on Christmas morning since 1864 to compete in the Christmas Day swim. It became the Peter Pan Cup in 1904 when author J.M. Barrie donated the cup in the same year his Peter Pan play appeared on the London stage.
You can’t join in though as The Peter Pan Cup is only open to members of the Serpentine Swimming Club who have qualified during the season. Do be aware, the water is usually below 4C (40F) in the winter and I’ve even seen them have to break the ice just to get in.
The 100-yard race on 25 December starts at 9am and takes place on the south bank of the lake. Spectators are always welcome as everyone needs some encouragement on a chilly day.
Living with gods peoples, places and worlds beyond is at the British Museum from 2 November 2017 to 8 April 2018. Belief is a key aspect of human behaviour and the exhibition notes not only the mystical and sociological aspects of this but also the innate neurological and psychological triggers.
There is no known culture in the world or in history without religious beliefs. What sustains this worldwide phenomenon? The answer to this question is usually set out in terms of what people believe. By contrast, this exhibition explores the practice and expression of religious beliefs in the lives of individuals and communities around the world and through time. It also touches on the benefits and risks of these behaviours in terms of co-existence and conflict in societies such as 17th–18th-century Japan, China and the Soviet Union, as well as modern Europe.
The British Museum has taken a new, experiential and innovative approach to the design of this exhibition. It incorporates the sounds, music and silence associated with religious practice, with moments of surprise, achieved with atmospheric lighting effects.
Hampton Court Palace
Hampton Court Palace is welcoming in the holiday season with a series of Christmas-themed entertainment and activities, from carolling in the courtyards to a special Elizabethan Christmas.
Visitors can take a spin on the ice at the Hampton Court Palace Ice Rink (24 November 2017 to 7 January 2018), where the palace’s Tudor facade provides a suitably magnificent backdrop to this magical riverside setting.
The BBC Good Food Show Festive Feast returns for another year on 8-10 December, setting mouths watering with over 50 stalls featuring handpicked producers, all filling the palace’s historic courtyards. Tickets are included in palace admission or choose a Festive Feast Twilight Shopping ticket for just £5 for 4-7pm access to Base Court and Clock Court only.
It won’t just be delicious treats filling the air either, with the Christmas Music Weekend (16 and 17 December) promising traditional carols and sacred hymns within the walls of the Great Hall. Performed on traditional instruments just like those used at the court of Elizabeth I, this special event offers a wonderful mix of traditions old and new.
And on 22 and 23 December (and 27 December to 1 January), visitors can also be treated to an Elizabethan Christmas, with Tudor-style courtyard entertainment, live period music and dance conjuring up the Christmas of 1592 with Elizabeth I and her court. The Tudor Queen herself will even be in residence for the celebrations.
Kensington Palace is also suitably dressed for the occasion this month with a Victorian Christmas theme running throughout the palace from 1 December. Complete with stunning lanterns, a gorgeous 25ft Christmas tree and a display of illuminated Victorian scenes, the Palace always looks amazing at this time of year.
On 3, 10 and 17 December there are free festive Under the Christmas Tree family activities to experience the excitement of Queen Victoria’s Christmas.
And there is live music in the Queen’s State Apartments between Christmas and New Year, filling the palace with the sound of traditional festive music.
If you would like even more ideas for this month, have a look at the December 2017 in London blog post from our sister hotel, London Bridge Hotel.
Cirque du Soleil returns to the Royal Albert Hall in the near year with its OVO show. On from 7 January to 4 March 2018, the show is a colourful carnival of crazy crickets, amazing ants and flexible fleas. Crawling with fun, this show is a non-stop riot of energy and movement featuring many of Cirque du Soleil’s mind-blowing signature acts including a stunning 14m high flying trapeze act, the biggest of its kind.
If you enjoy the Charles II exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery this month (see above), why not find out more about his father? Charles I: King and Collector is at the Royal Academy from 27 January to 15 April 2018. During his reign, Charles I (1600-1649) acquired and commissioned exceptional masterpieces from the fifteenth to the seventeenth century. After he was executed in 1649, the collection was sold and dispersed across Europe. Although many works were retrieved by Charles II during the Restoration, others now form the core of collections such as the Musée du Louvre and the Museo Nacional del Prado. This exhibition reunites around 150 of the most important works for the first time since the seventeenth century, providing an unprecedented opportunity to experience the collection that changed the appreciation of art in England.
Opening on 3 February 2018, the V&A has the first ever exhibition to explore the design and cultural impact of the ocean liner on an international scale. Ocean Liners: Speed & Style explores all aspects of these mighty vessels, from the ground-breaking engineering, architecture and interiors to the fashion and lifestyle aboard.
Laura Porter writes AboutLondonLaura.com and contributes to many other publications while maintaining an impressive afternoon tea addiction. You can find Laura on twitter as @AboutLondon and on Facebook as @AboutLondonLaura.