South Bank London

10 things to do during the Christmas holidays in South Bank

The last week of December is always a magical time to be in London. Twinkling lights, dazzling shows, quirky pop-ups, cosy pubs and world-famous attractions - there's plenty to keep you busy during the festive break!

Here's a look at what's on and who's open in South Bank during the Christmas and New Year's holidays.

Alternative festive fun at Humbug dive bar

Join Santa and a variety of Humbug dive bar regulars, including a changing line-up of the city’s finest cabaret, circus and musical acts, for a riot of great drinks, playful sing-alongs, nostalgia, live music and performance, followed by DJs and dancing on the dancefloor. Launched by Secret Speakeasy and hidden in the arches beneath Waterloo Station, Humbug is a super-fun alternative festive experience that will help you keep the Christmas cheer going right on through to January.

When’s it open? 
Performances on 21, 22 at, 27-30 and 2-6 Jan.

Contemporary Christmas at Nutcracker

Dive head-on into a glittering winter wonderland at this immersive reimagining of the festive classic at the Tuff Nut Jazz Club under the Royal Festival Hall. Brought together by Olivier Award-winning choreographer Drew McOnie and Mercury-nominated jazz artist Cassie Kinoshi, Nutcracker is a modern remake of Tchaikovsky’s iconic ballet hosted in an intimate and super-Christmassy setting with music by a live jazz band.

When’s it open? 
Performances 21-24 Dec, 27-31 Dec and 2-6 Jan

Blockbuster stage shows for kids 

Bluey’s Big Play, made by the creators of the hit cartoon Bluey, is playing throughout the school holidays at Royal Festival Hall. For older kids The House with Chicken Legs is another brilliant festive season production showing next door at Queen Elizabeth Hall and based on Sophie Anderson's young adults novel.

Tickets for the epic musical of Roald Dahl's The Witches at National Theatre have been selling like hotcakes. If you didn't manage to get your hands on one, you can still enjoy the interactive Witches Adventure Trail (daily except 31 Dec). The trail is free, although you must book in advance in order to receive the trail pack needed to complete the adventure.

When's it open?
Bluey's Big Play is showing until 7 Jan
The House with Chicken Legs is showing until 30 Dec
The Witches is showing until 27 Jan

Thrills and spills at The London Dungeon

See, hear, feel and smell the chillingly amusing characters of ye olde London as they come to life through 19 interactive shows and two underground rides at this wildly entertaining walk-through experience. This one's a fun day out for anyone with a taste for stomach for gruesome tales and stomach-churning rides, all themed around the darker moments of London's colourful history.

When’s it open? 
The London Dungeon is open daily except for Christmas Day. Make sure to book your tickets online in advance for discounted rates.

While away the chilly evenings at the cinema

There’s always something interesting to see at the BFI Southbank, one of London's most celebrated cinemas. Catch one of the special screenings from their latest themed seasons such as the Powell + Pressburger season (until 31 December) or the upcoming Werner Herzog season (January). Don't miss the eagerly awaited Studio Ghibli release The Boy and the Heron, which makes its debut at the BFI on 27 December and is showing throughout the holidays

When’s it open? 
The cinema is open daily. Closed 24, 25, 26 and 31 Dec.

A board games afternoon at Draughts

London’s original board games bar Draughts, located inside the famous Leake Street graffiti tunnel, is the ideal spot to while away a frosty day in cosy surrounds. Located inside one of the old railway arches, there are more than 1,000 different board games to choose from, covering every possible interest and there’s a full food and drinks menu to keep your satisfied. Gaming admission (for three hours) costs £7 per adult, £3.50 for kids aged 13–17, kids under 12 play for free.

When’s it open?
Closed 24-26 and 31 Dec

Visit the Hiroshi Sugimoto exhibition at Hayward Gallery

Don’t miss your last opportunity to catch this critically acclaimed retrospective of the work of the ground-breaking Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto. Featuring key works from all of the artist’s major photographic series, this is a hypnotic show that mesmerises with its grand images that playfully probe our concepts of time and space.

When's it open?
Hayward Gallery is open Wed-Sun. Closed 25, 26, 31 Dec and 1, 2 Jan. The Hiroshi Sugimoto exhibition is on show until Sun 7 Jan.

Journey to the land of Far Far Away at Shrek’s Adventure!

Ride the 4D flying bus, make your way through the Mirror Maze of Insanity and cook up a magic spell at this interactive adventure featuring 10 fairytale-themed live shows, based on the characters from the popular Shrek films. The experience is designed to lead children on a colourful fairytale journey where they are the central character. And, of course, every visit ends with a chance to meet Shrek himself.

When’s it open? 
Shrek’s Adventure! London is open daily except for Christmas Day. Make sure to book your tickets online in advance for discounted rates!

Go underwater at SEA LIFE London Aquarium

One of the biggest aquariums in Britain, the London Aquarium at County Hall is a must-see. Marvel at the biggest collection of aquatic creatures from tropical ‘nemos’ and colourful jellyfish to turtles and the cutest little penguins. The regular keepers' talks throughout the day are well worth making time for and you’ll be mesmerised by the immense stingrays and sharks swimming past your eyes in the aquarium’s biggest tanks.

When’s it open? 
The aquarium is open daily except for Christmas Day. Make sure to book your tickets online in advance for the best rates!

Get competitive at The Curling Club

Gliding into South Bank again this winter, the apres-ski-themed bar The Curling Club has returned and this year is staying open right through until February! Book a game and get competitive throwing some stones down the casual curling lanes and then top off the visit with festive drinks, ‘dirty raclette fries’ and banging tunes from the resident DJ.

When's it open?
Open daily. Closed 25, 26 and 31 Dec.

Top Free Things to do in South Bank

You don't need to spend a fortune to enjoy a great day out sightseeing in South Bank.

Read more about Top Free Things to do in South Bank

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