There’s so much going on in London this month! Yes, it’s the festive season but we’ve got a mix of recommendations to embrace Christmas and to find enjoyable distractions.

Robert Rauschenberg

At Tate Modern you can see the first retrospective of this American pop artist’s work since his death in 2008. Robert Rauschenberg opens on 1 December 2016 (and runs to 2 April 2017).

He blazed a new trail for art in the later 20th century, refusing to accept conventional boundaries in his work and his life, and moving between painting, sculpture, photography, print-making, installation and performance.

I mentioned his goat last month referring to Rauschenberg’s iconic work Monogram 1955-59 which is a classic example of one of the artist’s famous Combines. These works were hybrids between a painting and a sculpture which Rauschenberg developed in the 1950s and which were arguably his greatest achievement. Assembled from materials including a stuffed angora goat (bought for $15 from a furniture store), a rubber tyre, a tennis ball and a shoe heel, the work demonstrates Rauschenberg’s bold challenge to the hierarchical distinction between traditional art materials and everyday objects.

Monogram will take centre-stage in a room dedicated to Rauschenberg’s Combines all of which are significant international loans.

Robert Rauschenberg Retroactive II

Retroactive II by Robert Rauschenberg (1963)
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, partial gift of Stefan T. Edlis and H. Gael Neeson, 1998.49
Photo: Nathan Keay © MCA Chicago

Real to Reel

Real to Reel: A Century of War Movies has been on at the Imperial War Museum since July and closes on 8 January 2017. It explores how film-makers have found inspiration in compelling personal stories and gripping real events from wars of the past century.

The exhibition brings together a unique combination of film clips, costumes, props, scripts, sketches and designs, alongside original archival material and artefacts from IWM’s collections.

Featuring over 200 objects, the exhibition includes items from films such as The Dam Busters, Where Eagles Dare, Apocalypse Now, Battle of Britain, Casablanca, Atonement and War Horse.

Reel to Reel - Imperial War Museum

Peter Pan

Peter Pan is on at The National Theatre (Olivier Theatre) until 4 February 2017. This is a co-production with Bristol Old Vic, based on the work by J.M. Barrie.

When Peter Pan, the leader of the Lost Boys, loses his shadow during a visit to London, headstrong Wendy helps him re-attach it. In return she is invited to Neverland – where Tinker Bell the fairy, Tiger Lily and the vengeful Captain Hook await. Exploring the possibilities and pain of growing up, it’s a riot of magic, mischief, music and make-believe.

Anna Francolini plays Captain Hook and Mrs Darling, reinstating the double casting intended by J.M. Barrie for his original production.

Peter Pan - National Theatre

Bank of England

With the launch of the new £5 note earlier this year, the Bank of England Museum has relaunched its Banknote Gallery.

The Bank of England has been issuing banknotes for over 300 years. During that time, both the notes themselves and their role in society have undergone continual change. Discover the origins of paper money, banknote design, counterfeiting and the move to polymer in the newly refurbished gallery space and this permanent display.

Over the festive season there are Crafty Christmas and Creative New Year events for families to make gold bar money boxes to take home after you try lifting a real gold bar.

Bank of England old note

The Little Matchgirl

On at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse until 22 January 2017, The Little Matchgirl and Other Happier Tales is inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Matchgirl, and combines Andersen’s other tales, The Princess and the Pea, The Emperor’s New Clothes and Thumbelina.

As the destitute heroine struggles to survive, she strikes her matches to keep warm. Each match will conjure a new story, a new vision, and the audience will tumble down the rabbit hole with her.

Not just for the children, adults will adore the music, puppetry and dark magic.

Little Matchgirl

The Spirit Show

Nothing to do with the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, The Spirit Show is on at the Business Design Centre in Islington on 9 and 10 December.

It’s being billed as an ultimate tasting event and features craft, unusual and interesting premium spirits from around the world. There are workshops and masterclasses, plus The London Cocktail club in the ‘Winter Wonderland Bar’ offering innovative cocktails created specifically for the Show.

The Street Food Village ensures you’ll eat well, and you can buy exclusive blends for home delivery meaning you can do your Christmas shopping too.

Spirit Show

Southbank Centre

I mentioned last month that Million Dollar Quartet is on at Southbank Centre from 17 December 2016 to 2 January 2017. It’s a musical inspired by the recording session in 1956 that brought together Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins for the first and only time.

Martin Kemp joins the cast as legendary record producer Sam Phillips, the man who brought the four recording stars together to create music history. Martin rose to fame as the Spandau Ballet bassist, and his TV and film credits include Eastenders and The Krays.

Million Dollar Quartet shines a light on a defining moment of rock ‘n’ roll history featuring a score of rock hits including ‘Blue Suede Shoes’, ‘Fever’, ‘That’s All Right’, ‘Great Balls of Fire’, ‘Walk the Line’, ‘Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On’, ‘Who Do You Love?’, ‘Hound Dog’ and many more.

Million Dollar Quartet

If the Spandau Ballet reference has got you thinking about the music of the 1980s you may well enjoy The Human League at the Royal Festival Hall on 13 December.

Medieval Christmas

As well as the Ice Rink in the moat (included in last month’s recommendations), there are more good reasons to visit the Tower of London this winter.

From 27 to 31 December (11.30am-3.30pm) there’s a Medieval Christmas theme at the Tower of London. Included in the standard ticket price, you can spend Christmas with King Richard III, Queen Anne Neville, and the knights and ladies of medieval England. The Tower was not just a prison and a fortress, but also a palace fit for royal celebration so expect jesters and minstrels to add to the entertainment.

Tower of London at Christmas

Romeo & Juliet

On from 15 November to 10 December 2016, a modern interpretation of Shakespeare’s greatest love story Romeo & Juliet is on at The Rose Playhouse.

Two warring families, the Montagues and the Capulets, find themselves far from home. Caught up in a greater conflict, they have been uprooted to a refugee camp. Before Romeo encounters Juliet, the family feud leads to a street brawl. But when they do meet, they fall passionately in love.

Over 21 million people worldwide are facing life as a refugee today. Over half are under the age of 18. Displaced people can often be portrayed as an undifferentiated mass, rather than as individuals. By using this setting for a familiar tale, this production draws attention to the complex stories of today’s refugees.

Romeo & Juliet - Rose Playhouse

Tower Bridge

Swans, Gloves, Roses and Pancakes: Photos by Martin Parr is a wonderful photography exhibition in The Engine Rooms at Tower Bridge, on until March 2017.

This is the first major photography exhibition at Tower Bridge and acclaimed British photographer Martin Parr captures the unique character of the City of London.

See Royal Swan Markers, Yeoman Warders, City dignitaries and Aldermen in Parr’s insightful take on the City, covering ancient and modern traditions, unseen private ceremonies and behind-the-scenes moments.

Swan Upping on the Thames

Swan Upping on the Thames (2015)
© Martin Parr / Magnum Photos

Even More

If you would like even more ideas for this month have a look at the Things to Do in London in December 2016 from Kensington House Hotel, our sister hotel.


It’s the London International Mime Festival from 9 January to 4 February 2017, and the London Short Film Festival on 6-15 January 2017.

The one I’m most looking forward to is in late January 2017 when the Charterhouse opens its doors to the public for the first time since its foundation in 1348 with a brand new museum.


Do check out the latest offers as London Bridge Hotel has weekend rates from as low as £99. You can sign up for special offer alerts here. And when you can’t be at the hotel, you can try making the Quarter Bar’s cocktails with these recipes.

Laura Porter writes and contributes to many other publications while maintaining an impressive afternoon tea addiction. You can find Laura on twitter as @AboutLondon and on Facebook as @AboutLondonLaura.


  1. Mark King

    01/12/2016 at 7:52 am


    Thank you for anither enjoyable blog. I would like to send you a copy of ‘The Blue Badge Guide’s London Quiz Book’ with my compliments, as you so clearly enjoy sharing your wide knowledge of London. Please let me have an address to send it – or perhaps leave a copy for you at one of the hotels mentioned in your blog?

    Best wishes.

    1. Laura Porter

      01/12/2016 at 10:07 am

      I’ve sent you an email. Thank you!

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