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Cool places to hang out on a cold winter's day

10 February 2016 Cat Byers Read time: 4 min
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Cat Byers

Things to do in London in Winter

With rain, wind and even snow clouding the sky, dark commutes in the morning and a distinctly broke feeling following the Christmas blow-out, it's no wonder that most of us fantasise about spending the winter months hibernating inside with a Netflix subscription and a full fridge.

However, London doesn't stop during the winter, so neither should you! There are all sorts of brilliant things to do in the city during the year's most arduous months, both indoor and outdoor. Many of these activities are also free (or cost the price of a pint) so you've got no excuse not to get out there and enjoy yourself in a warm pub, at an award-winning exhibition, or even exploring a rooftop wigwam. Grab your coat, get out in the city, and before you know it spring will have arrived while you were busy having fun.

Explore a food market

Eating is arguably the best winter activity, so make the most of the time spent under baggy jumpers and enormous coats by tucking into all sorts of delicacies at one of London’s amazing food markets, such as Maltby Street Market, Berwick Street Market, and Broadway Market. The most famous of London’s food markets is Borough Market, where you can pick up a steaming glass of mulled wine before exploring the hundreds of stalls selling everything from rare mushrooms to award-winning British cheeses. Make sure to pick up some treats to take home for the ultimate indoor picnic.


10115027703_958272658a_z Image credit: Aurelien Guichard


Find a cosy pub with an open fire

Few places are more appealing during chilly evenings than a cosy pub, but make your session even more comforting at one of London’s few drinking dens which still has a real fire. Our favourites include the Portobello Gold in Notting Hill, the Jerusalem Tavern in Farringdon and the Southampton Arms in Kentish Town. Settle into an armchair by the hearth with a glass of wine or a real ale, and winter won’t seem so bad after all.

Take a walk on Hampstead Heath 

While more usually thought of as a must-visit summer haunt due to the Hampstead Ponds and Parliament Hill Lido, there are few things nicer than a bracing walk across North London’s rugged Hampstead Heath on a crisp winter day. With a sprawling size of around 790 acres and home to one of the highest points in the city, you can enjoy a spectacular view over the London skyline after making your way up the hill. If it starts to rain pop into the Kenwood House gallery on the northern edge of the Heath, before popping into one of the many inviting gastropubs that surround the area for a hearty dinner - we particularly like the Bull and Last on Highgate Road, and the historic Spaniards Inn in Hampstead.


Image credit: Brett Jordan Image credit: Brett Jordan


See a West End Show

There’s nothing like a musical to warm the cockles of your heart on a horrid February evening, so make your way to London’s West End this winter for an award-winning show at one of the many theatres. Current song-packed highlights include Billy Elliot, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda, while if you’re looking for something a little more serious Romeo & Juliet, Dr Faustus (with Game of Throne’s Kit Harrington in the title role) and the creepy Woman in Black are also being performed at top London theatres this season.

Try an Afternoon Tea

There aren’t many activities that can brighten up a dull day quite like a luxury afternoon spent enjoying scones and champagne for AfternoonTea, and as the birthplace of this sophisticated occasion, there’s nowhere better to try this British institution than in London. All sorts of different teas are now available in the city, from detox options to Asian-themed spreads at the top of a famous skyscraper, but for the original version you can’t beat a traditional high-end hotel such as The Langham (where Afternoon Tea was allegedly invented) or Browns in Mayfair. Meanwhile for a modern twist, give the iconic Sketch restaurant a go, where the tea is served in a plush pink room decorated with original David Shrigley drawings.


Image credit: Elsie Hui Image credit: Elsie Hui


Visit an exhibition

Escape from the chilly weather and soak up some culture at one of London’s excellent museums and galleries, many of which are currently showing brilliant new exhibitions alongside their usual collections. If you’re interested in animal photography the Wildlife Photographer Of The Year exhibition at the National History Museum is a must-see, while history fans will love the Ancient Egyptian exhibition at the British Museum. Prefer something a little more abstract? The work of Alexander Calder, the artist who invented the mobile, is currently on show at the Tate Modern.

Indulge in a luxury hot chocolate

Forget the watery concoctions offered by your local Starbucks or Costa, and seek out some proper, thick hot chocolate to keep you warm while wandering around London. In Soho we love Paul A Young’s decadent cups of chilli-spiced chocolate, while in Belgravia the award-winning Rococo has an unmissable sea-salted variety. Want to combine it with a bracing walk by the river? Head to William Curley in Richmond for a rich mug made from Amedei Toscano 70% chocolate before wandering along the pretty riverside and up to Richmond Park.


Image credit: Macinate Image credit: Macinate


Check out the street food at Hawker House 

Street food stalls have been having a moment in London over the last few years, so if you haven’t given them a try yet, go straight to the top with the largest indoor market from the inimitable Street Feast Team. Open on Friday and Saturday evenings and located in Canada Water, Hawker House is two stories of nine fun bars specialising in different drinks including artisan beers and whisky cocktails, top-notch street food from the likes of B.O.B’s Lobster (lobster rolls), Mother Clucker (fried chicken) Meat Hook (steak and chips) and and Yum Bun (bao buns), as well as plenty of areas to sit back, relax and enjoy. You’ll never want a normal night out again.

Go on a Ghost Walk 

Make the most of the foggy, windy weather that conjures up images of Dicken’s London by going on a creepy Ghost Walk filled with stories of Victorian phantoms and present-day spooky sights. Join author Richard Jones, known for books ‘Walking Haunted London’ and ‘Haunted Britain and Ireland’ as he guides you around the city’s most haunted spots while dressed as a sombre Victorian undertaker. You can choose to talk a walk based on the ghosts of the City, the oldest part of London packed with historic buildings and dark alleyways, or a tour specifically based on graveyards, ruins and execution sites, taking in the remnants of Roman London and medieval churchyards among other things.


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Warm up in a wigwam at the Queen of Hoxton

The renowned four-storey Queen of Hoxton bar in Shoreditch are known for always making use of their enviable roof terrace, be it as a pop-up outdoor cinema in the summer or a snowy wonderland in the winter, and this year is no exception. They’ve transformed the space into the ultimate cosy destination with none other than a giant Wigwam and a magical fairytale theme running throughout. Climb up the vine-covered winding stairs, make your way through the enchanted forest and sit by the fire with a hot whisky cocktail and a slice of gingerbread. What’s more, unlike many themed pop-ups which finish in January, this one will be open until the end of March - giving you plenty of time to return to the magic more than once.


Main image credit: DnCnH


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