For visitors to London, Christmas is all about two things: festive shopping on Oxford Street and a photo-filled trip to Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland. Don't get us wrong, these are great in small doses and when not overrun with crowds, but there are a ton of better, quirkier Christmas attractions out there. This year, do as the locals do, and check out these genuinely cool pop-ups around the city.
Eis Haus Ice Bar
Where: Tower of London Ice Rink, Tower Hill, St Katharine's & Wapping
When: November 16 – January 3
To do nearby: Dine at nearby Darwin Brasserie – it's on the 36th floor, so views are epic
First off, who even knew the Tower of London had an ice rink? We definitely didn't, until just now. While Somerset House and the Natural History Museum are two of the most well-known rinks, the Tower of London's version is genuinely our new favorite, thanks to its gorgeous, historic castle setting. Even better is its Eis Haus experience that's on offer until January. More than just a simple ice bar, the pop-up is filled with a selection of insane hand-carved sculptures. Oh, and you get a complimentary shot upon arrival. You'll also get given a warm coat to wear inside, though it's unlikely you'll notice the temperature thanks to the host of other attractions: DJs playing vintage tracks, an alpine deck, cutesy gift shop, and more.
Gingerbread Winter Cabin
Where: 127-129 Parkway, Camden
When: November 3 - February 28
To do nearby: Sample amazing craft beers at BrewDog Camden
Winter calls for comfort drinking, which in turn calls for pubs. Now we wouldn't usually advocate heading to most of Camden's sticky-floored, try-hard haunts, but we've found a genuinely adorable holiday pop-up there, in the form of York & Albany’s Gingerbread Cabin. The restaurant it's attached to is a supremely stylish townhouse, serving tasty bistro-style cuisine. But what we're really going mad over is the cookie-covered gingerbread hut in the courtyard. It not only has the coziest interior around, but a deliciously comforting menu, too. Think anything from butternut squash soup to winter fruit crumble, plus the official 'Gingerbread Afternoon Tea' and a giant gingerbread man you can pre-order to decorate with a group. The winter cocktail menu won't disappoint either, unless you miss out on the incredible Gingerbread Espresso.
Rekorderlig Cider Lodge
As if the massive arts center by the Thames didn't have enough going on this Christmas (seriously, check out the itinerary), there's a brand new attraction that's as chic as it is tasty. We're talking about the Rekordelig Cider Lounge, a two-floor structure that's been styled to look like a Scandinavian house. We can't say it's the most authentic replica we've ever seen, but it is full of Swedish street food, cider, hot cocktails and a whole load of festive vibes. Bonus: it's literally right by the London Eye, so you can enjoy the giant Ferris wheel without having to spend both hours and life savings on actual tickets for it. Sweet.
Where: Shepherd's Bush Yard, Goldhawk Road
When: November 4 - December 23
To do nearby: Catch a show at iconic music venue, Shepherd's Bush Empire
In classic British fashion, this pop-up is a little modest in how it sells itself. Sure, it's called Little Feast, but the delicious selection of vendors at this west London wonderland means you'll be feasting in a big way. Like, really big. Since the start of November the site has been transformed into a mystical winter garden with trees, lights, and every other yuletide addition you'd expect. The seasonal street food it boasts can be eaten outside, since the seating area is both covered and heated, and when it comes to drinks, there's enough mulled wine to feed an army. Two of our favorite vendors are La Bao (fusion baos) and Cheeky Burger (try their peanut butter burger, for real). Check out all the food porn, ASAP.
John Lewis Roof Garden
Where: John Lewis, 300 Oxford St, Marylebone
When: November 7 – December 31
To do nearby: Escape the shoppers at Ethos, a delish veggie spot
Sure, we know that John Lewis doesn't conjure up the sexiest of images – the extraordinarily middle-class department store is something your mom loves far more than you ever could. But, bear with us, because this Christmas, their flagship store is hosting a damn good pop-up. On top of the central London store's roof, a whole festive forest has been set up, and it's known as Roof Garden. Not only does it have great views of the bustling streets below (and their Christmas lights), but it also has some exquisite dining options. Sit at the outdoor picnic tables and dig in to meat heaven from Mac & Wild's exclusive menu – we love the beef and venison burger – before checking out the VERY well stocked bar.
Where: 409 Clapham Road
When: October 21 - February 28
To do nearby: Down a ton of tequila at Tex Mex bar, Cafe Sol
Thought you knew where was best to satisfy your comfort food cravings? Think again. Or don't think, and just head straight to The Lodge, an alpine-themed pop-up in south London's Clapham neighborhood. Real effort has gone into the chalet-style décor here, and it shows – the restaurant is snug and wood-lined, vintage skis line the walls, and you basically feel like you're in some cute resort in the Swiss Alps. But realistically, you'll spend more time salivating over the menu than looking around. Yes, you could go for any of the meat-heavy small plates, but the gooey fondues really steal the show here. Come as a group of eight and you'll be eligible to try the steak and cheese fondue package (it's as fabulously unhealthy as it sounds). Eating away the winter blues doesn't get much better than this.
Winter Night Garden
Where: 42 Newington Causeway
When: November 23 - January 8
To do nearby: Head to famous Ministry of Sound club for the house music
We had to include Backyard Cinema's seasonal gem in this list, because is it really Christmas if you don't watch Love Actually a good 10 times? Here, you can, and in some pretty gorgeous surroundings. Winter Night Garden, to explain a little more clearly, is a cozy indoor garden (fake snow and all) where you can choose one of 29 iconic Christmassy films to watch. Both Elf and Frozen feature heavily in the lineup, thank God. You have to book in advance, but the fact it's a little pricier than usual shouldn't deter you – you get a free mince pie! Oh, and the giant bean bag loungers are crazy comfy, the pop-up cinema is just a five-minute walk from Borough tube station, and all in all, it's one of the most magical cinema experiences around this winter.
Vauxhall Winter Village
Vauxhall Street Food Garden has turned all Christmassy, and we're sure not complaining. The free Winter Village has done a great job of converting a little corner of south London into a piece of ski heaven. There are alpine cabin booths, a pop-up fondue lounge, a winter sports bar, and enough good food to give you a century-long food coma. Our pick of the goodies? Some traditional grub at Ye Olde Fish & Chips, followed by roasted chestnuts from Sweet Nothings. Don't head home without indulging in a healthy dose of vanity in the Cable Car Photo Booth. That's what pop-up alpine ski villages are all about, right?