It’s the time of year when the pressure to drink is sky high. I mean summer was bad enough huh? But now there’s the office Christmas parties, the pre-Christmas “Christmas Day” hosted by your friends, that tempting mulled aroma whenever you walk into a pub, multiple boozy listings in the paper, free champagne with everything, supermarkets seemingly forcing it down our throats with booze in every aisle and Prosecco deals aplenty…it’s everywhere and it’s damn tough to say no without feeling like you’re missing out. With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of things to do in London during the lead up to Christmas, which don’t centre around drinking alcohol so that you can start getting into the spirit of things.
Don’t live in London? Just use the below pointers to give you ideas for your home city or town.
Film, theatre, opera and ballet are all fantastic ways of getting into the spirit of Christmas without the need for drinking. London Coliseum is showing Nutcracker and The Royal Albert Hall is showing Messiah but if that doesn’t float your boat, then try a good ol’ fashioned night at the movies at Prince Charles Cinema who always have the best festive film lineup. Die Hard and pizza anyone? Count us in.
Spent all your money on presents?
Obviously staying in with friends and family to watch Christmas films and stuff your face is super easy, cheap, warm and fun. You can stock up on your favourite booze-free drinks, switch on the fairy lights, rustle up a feast and get settled in.
Get Cultured ‘n’ Christmassy
As well as providing the best free access to hours upon hours of art, history and culture, many of London’s galleries and museums host great events and installations during the festive season – so you can get your fill of knowledge and creativity before immersing yourself in seasonal entertainment. The V&A has a great line-up including pop-up performances, choirs by candlelight and a Festive family rave. Tire yourself out by checking out one of Somerset House’s always-wonderful-exhibitions and then head out into the beautiful courtyard to skate your socks off. Or step back through time by visiting Geffrye Museum’s “Christmas Past” exhibition, taking you through 400 Years of Seasonal Traditions in English Homes.
Spent all your money on mince pies?
Many galleries and museums across London will have free-access to certain sections and occasionally specific exhibitions, so pack some lunch and take yourself on a walking tour to see how many you can visit, whilst checking out the Christmas lights en route. The Museum of London, The Barbican, Tate Modern, Southbank Centre, Wellcome Collection, Science Museum, Whitechapel Gallery and British Museum are all great places to start – and you could even walk the streets of Shoreditch to take in the colourful street art.
If there’s one thing London’s good at it’s alternative meetups, workshops and exercise classes which are all great ways to hang out with friends and meet new ones too. Try Xylem & Phloem London’s Yoga, Brunch and Wreath making workshop on Saturday 16th December where you can unwind and reconnect with your creative self in a nurturing environment. Try an alternative boxing class at Kobox, where “Fight Club meets Nightclub” and get a little competitive with your classmates in ultra-cool surroundings – stick around for a shake after your class to cool down and socialise. Learn new dancing skills, release some stress and connect with your soul at Dancing Tao’s “Sweaty Thursdays” every Thursday in Vauxhall.
Spent all your money on decorations?
Exercising is the easiest thing to do in London for free, either by yourself or with friends, so get out there and move around (just make sure you’re wearing suitable clothing.) Take a walk in Epping Forest which spans from Leytonstone to Epping in Essex – and includes the beautiful Hollow Pond lakes as well as numerous tea huts and walking trails along the way. Walk or cycle through the city – our parks and streets are even more beautiful at this time of year. Try heading to the Moorgate and St Pauls area at the weekend, when all of the city workers are missing and the rows upon rows of Prets are closed, leaving you free to slow down and take in the architecture.
Redemption Bar is the healthiest (and first alcohol-free) bar in London with two locations in Shoreditch and Notting Hill which serve up vegan, sugar-free and wheat-free food – plus delicious booze-free beverages. So you can socialise with your friends and get fully immersed in guilt-free grazing, without feeling out of place. Head for an exquisite fine-dining experience at The Great Chase in Clerkenwell – the venue is alcohol-free with an incredible range of drinks offering everything from Bees Knees Bubbly (don’t forget – you get 5% off everything at DryDrinker with our discount code “CLUBSODAVIP”) to craft sodas, inventive cocktails, cordials and rare teas.
Spent all your money on gourmet festive sandwiches and novelty coffees?
Cook at home (or suggest dinner at a friend’s house!) Make some delicious drinks, such as non-alcoholic mulled wine, put the Christmas playlist on, get some board games ready and laugh the night away. If you’re stuck for budget-friendly recipe ideas then BBC Good Food have some here.
Get to the Pub!
If you simply want to head to a nice pub or a festive bar where you know you’ll be welcomed with an array of great tasting alcohol-free drinks options, then head to clubsodaguide.com where we list the best pubs and bars for mindful drinkers.
We appreciate that not everyone wants to be surrounded by Christmas lights and irritating music, so here are some anti-Christmas activities to keep the festivities at bay. Check out Gilbert & George’s free exhibition at White Cube in Bermondsey, named “The Beard Pictures and their F*ckosophy” – not remotely festive and absolutely brilliant. Natural Museum’s Venom: Killer & Cure exhibition which explores venomous creatures and their connection to human health. Explore the dark, creepy, yet curious dwellings of The Last Tuesday Society’s downstairs museum displaying everything from skeletons, taxidermy and wet specimens to ancient art and literature – all for £5. You can ignore the upstairs cocktail bar on your way out, or settle down next to the taxidermied lion and ask them to whip you up something booze-free. Or you can wrap up warm and take a long walk in a cemetery – our favourites are the beautifully gothic Abney Park in Stoke Newington, wildly overgrown Tower Hamlets Cemetery in Mile End and the much tidier but just as majestic Nunhead in Peckham.