The third Monday of the new year (16 Jan 2023), known as Blue Monday, is supposedly the most depressing day of the year: here’s our guide to surviving the gloomy day
Bank account feeling the effects of the festive period? Already broken a New Year’s resolution or two? All these factors and bad weather (though somewhat typical in London) all combine into a powerful concoction that may leave you feeling a little low. It’s not all doom and gloom though, especially in the world’s best city. Here’s our five-point action plan for beating the blues.
There’s no remedy better at clearing brain fog than a dose of fresh air. Reconnect with nature a go for a brisk run in one of the capital’s Royal Parks. St James’s Park is beautiful with its Canada geese strutting around the lake, or walk across Hampstead Heath as the Romantic Poets once did. Travel west to Richmond where a walk around the enormous Royal Park is sure to blow away the cobwebs. Alternatively, pay a visit to Kew Gardens where you can explore wild gardens, cultivated lawns and record-breaking Victorian glasshouses.
There’s nothing quite like interacting with animals to lift your mood. ZSL London Zoo is the world’s oldest scientific zoo, with more than 750 species. Highlights include Penguin Beach or the new Monkey Valley, where colobus monkeys now soar above your head at this walk-through experience. There are heaps of new friends waiting to meet you at a Battersea Children’s Zoo, designed with children in mind, while city farms are often a cheaper way to meet some furry friends. WWT London Wetland Centre is a 104-acre wildlife reserve with lakes, ponds and gardens and is home to more than 100 species of rare and wild birds. Take a break at the Water’s Edge Café.
Blue Bridge and Horse Guards Parade from St James’s Park © The Royal Parks
Push outside your comfort zone and be rewarded with the feeling of accomplishment. Go from sky-high views to pitchside pews in a matter of moments at The Dare Skywalk experience (weekends only) at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Although you don’t need to be a football fanatic to enjoy the thrill, some may prefer Up at The O2, where you scale the rooftop of the famous domed landmark. In Greenwich, climb to the Tops Platform of the Cutty Sark, the historic sailing ship and fastest of its time. The Rig Climb Experience is suitable for persons aged 10+ and is available on Saturdays only. At Go Ape in Battersea, Cockfosters and Alexandra Palace, you can zip through the treetops and test your head for heights.
Adding an element of healthy competition to a group activity is sure to put a smile on everyone’s face. At Monopoly Lifesized, you’ll play on a giant 3D board based on the famous family favourite. There are numerous activity bars around London too, which are the perfect place for fun and friendly competition. Bounce is the home of ping-pong, beer pong and more; Flight Club delivers fast-paced games of darts, cocktails and sharing plates; try your hand at mini golf with a modern twist at Puttshack, or have a go at Shuffleboard at Electric Shuffle. At Fairgame, which recently opened in Canary Wharf, you’ll find a playground for grown-ups. Think Prosecco-infused candy floss, a riverside terrace and traditional fairground games such as duck shoot, reinvented for the modern day.
For a big boost of happy hormones, visit the multisensory immersive experience, Dopamine Land, in South Kensington. There’s a ball pit for big and little kids, a room where you are immersed in the sight and smell of fresh popcorn and an infinity lights room covered with mirrors. These colourful installations, projections and nostalgic games are guaranteed to get your endorphins going. Alternatively, step into mind-altering immersive rooms and discover how your brain interprets reality at Twist Museum, the new attraction on Oxford Street.
Art lovers should visit Frameless, the largest immersive art exhibition of its kind in the UK, while Harry Potter fans should visit Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter to fully experience the Wizarding World in all its glory. For other film and TV-inspired immersive experiences, check out Faulty Towers: The Dining Experience and Mamma Mia! The Party, which have been entertaining audiences with slapstick comedy and foot-tapping soundtracks for years.
Dopamine Land is sure to boost your happy hormones © Fever Up
If you’re in need of cheering up, there’s no better place than the Design Museum in Kensington. London-born artist Yinka Ilori presents a free, vibrant display of more than 100 objects in Parables for Happiness (to 25 Jun), while WEIRD SENSATION FEELS GOOD: The World of ASMR is a playful exhibition that unleashes new sensations (to 10 Apr). Equally interactive, the Science Museum makes for a perfect family day out as all ages can enjoy the displays and learn something new.
Taking the theme of Blue Monday incredibly literally, the spiral staircase and Narcissus Hall at Leighton House both gleam in shades of blue and turquoise. Completely unexpected in the somewhat unassuming building in Holland Park. Talking of unexpected sights, Luke Jerram has transformed the already epic Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College into an out-of-this-world experience. Visit Museum of the Moon and stand beneath the ginormous moon before it departs in February.
The Museum of Comedy is housed in the repurposed crypt of Grade I-listed St George’s Church in Bloomsbury. Its state-of-the-art performance space hosts everything from stand-up shows to cabaret. Portraits of comedy stars, original Spitting Image puppet heads and the back door of Del Boy’s Robin Reliant are guaranteed to put a smile on your face too.
Visit the ASMR Arena at the Design Museum © Ed Reeve
Of course, a surefire way to catch a laugh is going to a comedy show – which London has plenty of! From the Comedy Store to a comedy club aboard a boat, there are so many to choose from. Many West End shows also provide plenty of laughs: Only Fools and Horses: The Musical is based on the 80s comedy sitcom (booking to 1 Apr), and Ms Trunchball in Matilda the Musical is a formidable but funny presence on stage in this ever-popular production that was recently readapted for the screen. Check out the winter shows worth seeing this season.
Finally, one of the biggest pop acts of all time made a triumphant return with their revolutionary, history-making new concert, ABBA Voyage, at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Anni-Frid perform for the first time in four decades via holographic avatars and are accompanied by a live 10-piece band. Blurring the lines between the physical and digital, the band have handpicked the setlist, which features their biggest and most popular hits. Nothing says feel-good like dancing to an ABBA soundtrack.
Matilda the Musical © Royal Shakespeare Company