By Madeleine Duxbury
If the cost-of-living crisis means your festive merriment is waning before the season’s even begun, get yourself along to one of these free events taking place in central London over the coming weeks…
1. Christmas by the River | from 15th November – 2nd January
Held in London Bridge City (the section along the Thames that stretches from London Bridge to Tower Bridge) Christmas by the River is pretty meta in terms of event titles. Running from 15th November until early January, the much-loved festive experience is now in its eighth year and offers a hefty dose of seasonal joy alongside England’s longest waterway. You can skip spending at the food and craft market and pop-up bars, and head straight to the big screen to watch a free classic Christmas film. Plan your visit to coincide with one of several choir performances and take part in a free craft workshop to create a “unique” gift for your S/O. The iconic city backdrop provides plenty of Insta-worthy inspiration but for an additional festive hit, check out the huge Christmas tree in Hay’s Galleria and the enchanting woodland animal light installation outside The Scoop.
Sunday – Wednesday: 11:00 – 21:00
Thursday – Saturday: 11:00 – 22:00
Christmas Eve: 11:00 – 17:00
Christmas Day: Closed
New Year’s Eve: 11:00 – 20:00
2nd January: 11:00 – 17:00
2. Miracle on Leake Street | 15 December
We could all be forgiven for being a bit Grinch-like at the end of another tough year, but the Waterloo community will ensure no-one actually steals Christmas – with their alternative festive street party. Shunning the traditional fireplace setting, Miracle on Leake Street is held in the graffiti tunnel that was made famous by Banksy. The award-winning queer artist, Pi the Mime, will kick off proceedings with a cabaret performance before guests settle in for a screening of the Jim Carey classic. Additional sparkle is available at the free face painting stand and you can try and charm a free sample or two from the food traders at the Christmas market.
Thursday 15th December: 6-9pm
More info: Miracle on Leake Street – 2022
3. The Peter Pan Cup | Christmas Day
Whilst you couldn’t pay most people to go for an outdoor swim on Christmas Day morning, you quite literally can’t pay to take part in this annual dip in Hyde Park’s lido. However, you do have to be a member of the Serpentine Swimming Club. That being said, anyone is welcome to watch these hardy folks get their kit off for their cold-water kick. No money taken – no questions asked. And no, it’s not weird.
Sunday 25th December
More info: Serpentine Swimming Club
4. A South London Makers Market Pop-Up | 24-27 November
Don’t let the name fool you, sisters Daisy and Liv are bringing their South London Makers Market into Zone One with a 4-day Christmas pop-up in Selfridges. Bringing together 14 of the most exciting, creative, and innovative London-based small businesses, it’s the ideal place for sustainable gifting inspo. And yeah, we know, a shopping trip isn’t the obvious choice for a free day out but the Christmas season in London’s famed department store is like stepping into an advent calendar – with a free entertainment surprise behind every door (including choirs, DJs and Santa meet & greets).
Thursday 24th – Sunday 27th November
More info: A South London Makers Market
5. Christmas Carols in Trafalgar Square | 11-12 December
If you don’t want to pay for one of the more “polished” choir recitals, head to Trafalgar Square where over 40 choir groups have once again been given a one-hour slot to perform at the base of the Christmas Tree during the festive period. What the experience lacks in equipment and staging, is made up for in community spirit…wrap up warm, grab a loved one and go feel the feels.
Sunday 11th – Monday 12th December