Hidden gems: London’s best – and most unique – winter things to do

London Travel

Don’t doubt it; the insiders of London’s entertainment industry are the ones to listen to should you be on the look-out for a rare, nay unique day or evening spent in the UK capital. Here are some of the best according to the experts…

Make the most of the sales

An obvious starting point, but an irresistible one. While some of the capital’s major retail outlets may open on Boxing Day (the day after Christmas Day), many of the shops and boutiques kick-off their traditional winter sales during the week between Christmas and New Year or on New Year’s Day itself.

Warm up in a lovely pub

Trust us, there’s nothing like getting out of the cold (and probably out of the wet or even the snow) by escaping into a classic, old-fashioned city pub this time of year. A pint of ale or a glass of red or white can be the perfect tonic during a pause in your sales shopping. Plus, there are many watering holes steeped in history you might try, such as the Spaniards Inn in the charming Hampstead Village or the Jerusalem Tavern in Clerkenwell.

Pop into a theatre and see a panto

Early winter is panto season up and down the UK – and no more so than in London. And yet, with it being the nation’s artistic centre, the selection of pantomimes to choose from is eclectic to say the least. There’s everything from the big-budget traditional take on Cinderella at the London Palladium to the reinvented East End-version of Sleeping Beauty at the Hackney Empire. Alternatively, you may merely fancy a top show at a West End theatre – and why not? Indeed, it’ll make for the perfect night out should you be spoiling yourself by staying in one of the luxury hotels in London, such as The Montcalm Royal London House.

Enjoy a drink on a rooftop terrace

Having an alcoholic drink outdoors on a winter evening? Hardly an appealing prospect! Well, ordinarily no, but it certainly is when you enjoy one on a rooftop under heaters – and, if necessary, blankets. And the higher up the better; after all, the taller the building’s rooftop terrace the better the spectacular panorama of the capital you’ll have to enjoy.

Fancy a drink in a wigwam?

And speaking of imbibing, don’t for one second assume that London’s esteemed bar culture freezes to a halt in winter. Absolutely not. Indeed, the quality pub-cum-bar that’s The Queen of Hoxton (in, yes, Hoxton) features a roof that, from November, is taken over by a giant wigwam. Oh yes. Where you have to try out the open-cooked food from its delightfully named schwenkgrill.

After dark at Kew Gardens

Kew Gardens are always a place of glorious elegance, but thanks to this season’s after-dark openings, the venue might truly be described as magical. The highlight of the venue’s night-time experience is a vibrantly colourful mile-long path of light that illuminates all the buildings, sculptures, trees, plants and other natural delights that line its route, as well as eatable treats like roast chestnuts to dabble in along the way.