Fancy a bit of culture at Christmas?

There’s only so much chocolate, panto, tinsel and inanity you can take over the festive period. At some point, the bloated brain cells protest and demand sustenance – and that doesn’t mean brussel sprouts. Here’s where you can go in London to blow the cobwebs out the breadbasket and get some culture at Christmas.

Leonardo: Experience A Masterpiece at the National Gallery

ART

Whitechapel Gallery

Anna Maria Maiolino: Making Love Revolutionary – With simple materials like clay, paper and ink, Maiolino (b.1942, Italy) constructs a world rooted in human conditions such as longing, fragility and resistance.

Until 12 Jan, 11am-6pm, £9.50, details

 

Barbican

Cabarets & Clubs in Modern Art – From London to Paris, Mexico City, Tehran, and Ibadan, see works of art, many rarely seen in the UK, as well as recreations of avant-garde spaces.

Until 19 Jan, £15, details

 

British Museum

Inspired by the East – how the Islamic world influenced western art for centuries.

Until 26 Jan, 10.30am-5.30pm, £14, details

 

National Gallery

Leonardo: Experience A Masterpiece – an immersive experience that helps you explore The Virgin Of The Rocks through four distinct spaces.

Until 26 Jan, 10am-4.50pm, from £16, details

 

National Portrait Gallery

Pre-Raphaelite Sisters – the first ever exhibition to focus on the untold story of the 12 women of the Pre-Raphaelite movement – models, artists, makers, partners and poets.

Until 26 Jan, 10am-4.45pm, £18, details

 

Tate Modern

Olafur Eliasson In Real Life – a series of installations from the Danish-Icelandic arts that heighten the senses and play with pattern and light.

Until 5 Jan, various times, £18, details

 

Tate Britain

William Blake – the painter, printmaker, poet and radical created some of the most iconic images in British art. Includes over 300 works.

Until 2 February, various times, £18, details

 

24/7 at Somerset House

 

EXHIBITION

Science Museum

The Art of Innovation: From Enlightenment to Dark Matter – studies the interactions between scientific progress and social change and how tools go beyond the human senses.

Until 26 Jan, 10am-6pm, FREE, details

 

Science Gallery

On Edge: Living in an Age of Anxiety – explores different personal experiences of anxiety and how the world around us can cause worry and why we’ve evolved to be on edge.

Until 19 Jan, 10am-6pm, FREE, details

 

Somerset House

24/7: A Wake-Up Call for our Non-Stop World – a multi-sensory journey from the cold light of the moon to the fading warmth of sunset.

Until 23 Feb, various times, £14, details

 

V&A

Cars: Accelerating the Modern World – explores the impact of one of the most influential innovations in the world, and how it has shaped cities, style, environment and economies.

Until 19 April, 10am-4pm, £18, details

 

Museum of London

Beasts of London – explores the role animals have played in shaping the capital through the centuries, narrated by the beasts themselves with voices of Kate Moss, Nish Kumar, Joe Pasquale and more.

Until 5 Jan, 10.15am-4.15pm, £9, details

 

Imperial War Museum

Rebel Sounds – discover artists who have risked their lives in time of conflict for the music they loved.

Until 5 Jan, 10am-6pm, FREE, details

 

Wellcome Collection

Play Well – explores how play transforms both childhood and social bonds using displays of historic toys and games.

Until 8 March, 10am-6pm, FREE, details

 

FILM

Royal Observatory

Moons Beyond Counting – A new 30-minute show at the Peter Harrison Observatory explores the moons within the solar system.

Until 29 Jan, 2.45pm, £9, details

 

Natural History Museum

Orbit: A Journey Around Earth In Real Time – in ultra high def, our home planet as see by astronauts on board the International Space Station. Also see Museum of the Moon, an artwork by Luke Jerram.

Until 5 Jan, continuous, FREE, details

Read more: Essential guide to festive shows in East London

3 of the biggest screen releases

Star Wars: Rise of the Skywalker

  1. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – mystery surrounds JJ Abrams’ mega release. Opens Dec 19
  2. Cats – the much-mocked trailer spooked prospective fans of this stage-to-screen adaptation. Opens Dec 20.
  3. Little Women – it’s been done before but ever better? The critics are drooling over Greta Gerwig’s take. Opens Dec 27

Coming in 2020

ART

Canary Wharf

Winter Lights – The award-winning and spectacular series of 25 installations returns for a sixth year, bringing a warm glow to the dull January nights. Some are old favourites, others are new.

16-25 January, 4pm-10pm, FREE, details

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