You’ve opened your presents, stuffed yourself with turkey and Quality Streets and probably have square eyes too from all your Netflix bingeing. So, what to do in those precious, peaceful days between Christmas and New Year?
Well, you’ll be able to enjoy London with less crowds and queues, so set your New Year’s resolutions now and restore yourself with some fresh air, nourishing food and a few fun days out before you see out 2022 in style.
You have probably shopped for your family and friends, but have you treated yourself yet? If you want to splash out in the New Year sales, you could brave Oxford Street and all its hustle and bustle. Many major stores and shops start their sales on Boxing Day, if not before, and there are few stores nowadays that wait until New Year’s Day.
Harrods in Knightsbridge is hard to miss on a normal day, its façade is lit by 12,000 bulbs but its festive gingerbread-themed decorations and sparkly Dior installation makes it even more eye-catching. With more than 300 departments selling everything from bespoke fragrances to clothes and caviar, you’ll find what you want and may even get up to 70 per cent off your purchases. One thing you won’t be able to buy though is a reindeer: Harrods’ exotic pet department, which once sold alligators and panthers, was replaced by a womenswear section in 2014.
Just over the river, you’ll find Battersea Power Station, the recently opened shopping and entertainment behemoth on the south side of the Thames. After browsing bargains in the 100 or so shops, including Zara, L’Occitane, Mango and Mulberry, you could enjoy a blast of fresh air at Glide, the three interconnected outdoor ice rinks overlooking the River Thames and all its landmarks. Afterwards, hop on a vintage fairground ride or warm up with some street food and a hot chocolate in the cute igloos (to 8 Jan).
Harrods © Shutterstock
Here are other rinks dotted around town: Skate at Somerset House on the Strand is set in a beautiful Neoclassical courtyard, and there’s a pretty rink built around the Victorian bandstand at Hyde Park Winter Wonderland. Further out of town you’ll find Canary Wharf’s covered rink, which is lit up by glittering lights and a giant mirror ball. There’s live music and a DJ on Wednesday evenings too. For a less Blade Runner setting, swap the towers of the Docklands in the east to the splendour of a Baroque palace in the west. Hampton Court Palace, Henry VIII’s favourite home (he had 60 to choose from!), has an outdoor rink so you can gaze at all that Tudor grandeur while you skate. After dark, you could see the Palace of Light illuminations, where you’ll encounter glittering unicorns, polka-dot panthers and galloping greyhounds (to 2 Jan).
Food-wise, you may fancy something light and healthy after the extravagance of Christmas. Detox Kitchen in Kingly Court, just off Carnaby Street, serves seasonal salads, stews, soups and vitamin-packed smoothies. All the food is free from wheat, dairy and refined sugar and there’s a range of plant-based milk for your tea or coffee.
Japanese cuisine is said to be one of the healthiest in the world, so you can eat well and spend less at the Japan Centre. Its branch in Panton Street has a classic ‘depachika’, a basement food hall with an open kitchen and central seating, where you can order anything from katsu curry rice to takoyaki octopus balls and grab something sweet from the mochi bar on your way out.
Japan Centre © Steven Joyce
If you want to take it easy afterwards, you could watch a film at the Prince Charles Cinema on Leicester Square, which has been screening indie films, blockbusters and cult classics for 60 years. You can see The Banshees of Inisherin (27 & 29-30 Dec), Aftersun (27-29 Dec) and the original Cape Fear (27-28 Dec) – ticket prices are great value too.
Or you could eek out that festive feeling at a traditional pantomime. With their songs, slapstick comedy and over-the-top costumes, you’ll love it. Ian McKellen and John Bishop star in the family-friendly Mother Goose at the Duke of York’s Theatre (to 29 Jan). Book ahead or wait until Thursday at midday when 80 stall seats are released for £25. At The London Palladium, you can see Dawn French and Julian Clary in Jack and the Beanstalk, where Alexandra Burke makes her Palladium panto debut (to 15 Jan).
If you’d prefer something more serene, the multi-dimensional art experience Frameless is sure to astound you. Whether you prefer the romance of Monet or the striking surrealism of Dali, you will appreciate timeless art not just by looking at it but by being completely immersed in it. It’s unforgettable. At The National Gallery, meanwhile, little ones can let off steam and explore the artworks using The Keeper of Paintings and the Palette of Perception, a mobile-based immersive adventure app.
You may choose to escape town completely in this Twixmas week. Golden Tours could show you the sights of Oxford, Stratford-upon-Avon, the Cotswolds and Warwick Castle. So, if you want to admire picture-postcard cottages and explore Shakespeare’s childhood home in a day, an adult ticket is £69.
Let’s hope you are ready to party on the 31st – if you haven’t got a sore head the next day, you could go and watch the London’s New Year’s Day Parade, a colourful celebration that winds through the West End from noon. Happy New Year!