The 7 Best Alternative Christmas Events in London 2014

Grotto Outre Christmas pop up

1. Grotto Outré

This is a wholly different kind of Christmas pop-up. Enter through an icy kingdom where the stairway to Outré awaits. All week long Grotto Outré is giving you something special: kicking off with Festive Film Nights on Mondays, Bingo Bonanza on Tuesdays, Quizmas Wednesdays and on Throwback Thursdays the reigns are handed over to you to control the playlist, find the magical track and banish Scrooges ghost’s forever to win an Outré prize. On Fridays and Saturdays expect outrageous club nights with UK DJs including Grotto resident Mrs Claws, and when the jingle bells chime, be ready to Swap-a-HoHo – stay close to that festive washing line as an item of clothing must be exchanged. On Sundays, recharge with Smokin’ Bloody Marys and live acoustic tunes. If you’re good, then you get Christmassy cocktails like Mince Pie Martinis — made with mince mix, toffee vodka, plum, apricot, lemon and a touch of sugar. Or get a bit vegetal with The Fairy’s Kiss — a mix of gin, petit pois, lemon, sugar, cranberry sauce, cranberry and apple.  And if you want to go “Off Your Sled”, you can throw back a shot of tequila, cinnamon and a slice of orange.
Tickets range from £10 to £35.
28 November-21 December. Red Gallery, 1-3 Rivington Street, EC2A 3DT.

Hot Tub Cinema crowd2. Ho-Ho-Hot Tub Christmas

Hot tubs. Cinema. Music. Dancing. This is Christmas on another level. Grab a few mates and book a whole tubs (or risk it for a biscuit and make some new friends). If you like a bit more adventure and debauchery for your movie night out, then this is it. From screenings of Elf to Gremlins to Die Hard to Love Actually, there’s a taste of something for everyone. And if you love some karaoke, then book in for 14 December and sing your heart out with lucky voice. There’s plenty to drink and nibbles to eat, plus the end of the night usually results in an impromptu hot tub dance party. Never been to one? Well now’s your chance.
Individual tickets are £35.
2-18 December. Former Shoreditch Underground station, E1 5ER.

the little match girl passion and karolaoke3. the little match girl passion + Karolaoke

This ain’t your average Christmas concert, Opera Erratica and The Coveryard are putting on an all-interactive music theatre EXTRAVAGANZA. Staging an all-night transition from winter cold and isolation to warmth and festive cheer. Expect plenty of sing-a-long pop and classical crossover covers as well as carol arrangements.
Tickets are £15 (£18 on the door).
11-12 December, 7.30pm. Shapes, 117 Wallis Road, E9 5LN.

Nordic Yulefest pop up4. Nordic Yulefest

Things have gone a bit Scandi in London this Christmas season, and this one in particular is going all out. Expect a birch tree-filled fairyland with sheepskin-laden nooks, marzipan pigs and the charismatic Tomte (or Santa Claus as some may call him) leading the festivities. Your ticket will include a Christmas cocktail, four courses of Nordic feasting, games, dancing and plenty of unbridled tomfoolery. And if you just want the frolicking, then book yourself a “Late Night Frolic” ticket for £20 — lets you in after the eating and lets you stay for all the partying.
Brunch is £55 a head. Dinner is £75 a head. 
6-21 December. Every Saturday and Sunday for brunch and dinner. 1 Kingsland Road, E2 8AA.

Palace of the Snow Queen Christmas Cabaret5. Palace of the Snow Queen

It’s a Cabaret-cum-circus in a secret Shoreditch location. From wintery themed décor to gourmet winter fare to theatrical circus and cabaret performances, this is a one-stop shop.
Standard ticket is £79. Show and after-party only is £25.
4-19 December. 6pm-2am. Secret location.

Pop Up Screens6. Pop-Up Screens

An inside-out cinema, where the wardrobe is outside (aka the entryway) and the snow is IN. Screening films like National Lampoons: Chrismas Vacation to the Muppets Christmas Carol to Trading Places — you can go family-friendly or a bit edgy. There will be typical cinema treats like popcorn and bags of sweets. And also, there will be snow. Inside. Snow inside.
Tickets are £20.
12-23 December. 1pm and 8:30pm screenings. 20th Century Theatre, 291 Westbourne Grove, W11 2QA.

Somerset House Skate7. Skate At Somerset House

Now this might seem more classical than alternative, but with club nights, an après-skate lounge and Glad Tidings Tuesdays — you’ll do a bit more than just glide around in circles. Oh, and did we mention this is probably the most beautiful ice rink in London? Well now we did.
Tickets from £7.50.
11 November-11 January. Somerset House, The Strand, WC2R 1LA.

— Sasha Filimonov, @SashaSips

Paradise Palms

Paradise Palms EdinburghParadise Palms is a little bit of the Vegas Sunset Strip dropped into the centre of Edinburgh’s Potterrow area. The décor is a mixture which goes beyond the eclectic into the downright fun: neon, green foliage, disco balls, cabaret club velvet and a huge stuffed boar’s head above the bar to complete the theme of having almost no theme. Somehow it all gels into an environment which is unique yet comfortable.

The Palms have teamed up with local street food mercenaries Ninja Buns who have committed a full kitchen takeover. We tried one of their signature efforts, a Taiwanese steamed bun packed full of Aberdeenshire pulled pork marinated in soy, ginger, garlic and star anise – those sneaky Ninjas know their buns! The bar team have put a big focus on tequila and mezcal – so the Paloma, a thirst quenching mix of tequila, fresh grapefruit and Caribbean soda Ting, was their recommendation. But there’s a great selection of beers too if that’s your thing.

The Potterrow area is the heart of the local university district and students and locals alike flock here for a great mix of music, killer cocktails and gourmet street food. The entertainment on offer is a mix of fresh local bands, DJs and cabaret nights.

Best Bars tip: Check in and chill out. The Best Bars team could have spent all night here and will the next time. Enjoy the atmosphere and ask the guys what’s going on later at night as that’s when the stage comes to life.

— Martin Duffy, @DuffyDrinks

Paradise Palms Edinburgh food

CellarDoor

CellarDoor performers aldwych toiletCamp antics in an abandoned, underground Aldwych toilet – a trip to CellarDoor certainly offers light relief.

It’s a surprise to find this down and dirty dive bar serving some of the best cocktails in the vicinity. In the name of camp – original champagne cocktails take the names of famous French dames: the singular Coco Chanel is made from cognac, orange liqueur, Maraschino and Perrier-Jouët. The classics here are convincing – particularly the salt-rimmed Tommy’s Margarita. In further bohemian spirit, absinthe is also in abundance.

It’s a dark, seedy, neon-lit bar and you should plan your trip to coincide with a burlesque showcase, or better still, for when one of the drag DJs is on the decks – guaranteed fun.

Best Bars tip: Be sure to lock the cheeky toilet door after a trip to the bathrooms, otherwise the whole bar will see exactly what you’re up to in there – you naughty thing, you.   

— Laura Richards, @Lala_Richards

CellarDoor Aldwych toilet
© Andy Barnham

Smokestack

Smokestack, Leeds Once Leeds’ best-kept secret, modern speakeasy Smokestack is now firmly established as the go-to spot for cocktail aficionados and funk and soul enthusiasts.

Served up in vintage glassware, spirits and cocktails have not only been blind-tasted to offer up the best flavours, but are also ethically sourced (surely a very considerate plot to save your conscience for late-night antics). Talent is key at Smokestack, where bartenders demonstrate true showmanship – theatrically producing twists on the classics-based menu. Watch them set light to the passionfruit garnish of a show-stopping Hurricane or whip up an American-style Sazerac for those who savour a more bitter taste. Cleverly a weekend menu caters for busier bar times, so you’re never waiting too long for your serve.

Weekdays host a fun and laid-back crowd but come the weekend the bar’s two floors are taken over by resident DJs Chico Malo and Daley Smith for what is locally recognised as the city’s best funk and soul club night.

Best Bars tip: Break up your week with Smokestack’s Wednesday live music offerings. There’s free entry and the 300-year-old building provides ideal setting for amazing acoustics.

— Mieke-Kyra Smith, @mieke_chu

Smokestack, Leeds