There is always so much going on during the festive season in London it’s hard to fit it all into a weekend visit. As each year passes we always visit as it’s so important to capture the magic of Christmas and create memorable moments that your children will not forget.
Here we’ve rounded up some of the best things to do in London with children for Christmas 2018.
1. Christmas Lights
When it comes to Christmas lights and decorations London really does pull out all the stops for a world class display. Starting with Oxford Street where their Christmas lights will be switched on the 6th November. This year’s display will feature 1,778 decorations and 750,000 LED light bulbs! inspired by falling snowflakes, plus the addition of new purple baubles.
Our personal favourite displays are at Regent Street and Covent Garden, they are just fantastic and we love walking down here admiring the elaborate decorations and lights.
This year’s display in Regent Street ‘The Spirit of Christmas’ starts on the 15th November with an incredible display of 300,000 sparkling LED lights.
The lights at Covent Garden get switched on the 13th November with a Mistletoe theme for 2018. The girls love having their picture taken by the giant silver reindeer which stand majestically on Christmas gifts. With over 40 beautiful mistletoe chandeliers hanging over the streets and market buildings it will be another memorable display at Covent Garden.
2. Ice Skating
There are many places to experience ice skating in London and we love to test ourselves on the ice during our Christmas visits to London.
Our favourite is the enchanting ice rink at the National History museum set against the backdrop of one of the most beautiful buildings in London and rows of trees dripping in fairy lights. The atmosphere here is really fantastic and gets you in the Christmas spirit especially afterwards with hot chocolate from one of the wooden cabins whilst listening to the Christmas music. Even if you are not skating it’s still worth visiting as it’s a spectacular venue for an ice rink.
Dates and Time: October 25th to January 20th , 2019 from 11AM to 9PM
Price £12.65 for adults, £8.80 for children
Another favourite of ours is Skate at Somerset House, with its ice rink set in a grand 19th century courtyard. The courtyard makes for a perfect spot for a skating rink surrounded by gorgeous architecture and one of the most stunning Christmas trees that London has to offer.
We like the atmosphere here especially as one of our favourite London stores Fortnum and Mason sponsors the rink and sets up a wonderful Christmas market to explore before or after your skating session. If you don’t like ice skating I would definitely recommend to see the tree and soak up the atmosphere and get a hot chocolate from the Fortnum and Mason lodge.
Dates and Time: November 14, 2018 to January 13, 2019 from 10AM to 10PM
Price: From £8.50 children and £11.00 adults
You are not short of ice skating options in London, with other ice rinks at the London Eye, Hampton Court Palace, Tower of London, Westfield London, Hyde Park, Canary Wharf and at Broadgate.
3. Leicester Square
Leicester Square is once more transformed for Christmas with a Santa’s grotto, a traditional Christmas market and inside the 1920’s inspired spiegeltent you will find a range of Christmas shows including the Showstoppers’ Christmas Kids Show!
The traditional Christmas market is also nice to browse with more than 25 stalls filled with handcrafted gifts, festive decorations and food stalls.
Tube station: Leicester Square
Entrance: Free but paid for tickets are required for some activities such as the grotto.
4. Southbank Winter Festival
This is a definite must do if you are visiting London. The children love the Victorian Carousel and the Christmas market with its pretty wooden chalets selling handmade and often unique Christmas gifts is enchanting.
Dates: From November 9 to January 6th, 2019
5. Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
Hyde Park is a dream come true for most children with the range of rides on offer. It’s one of the biggest fairgrounds we have seen and really well themed and perfect for children which is why the girls always insist on visiting Hyde Park.
Attractions here include a traditional funfair with over 100 rides and games, together with a giant Ferris wheel and Santa Land. Entry is free to Santa Land where you can visit Santa’s toy factory where Santa and his elves are making their gifts. Santa will also have a gift for children who’ve been good.
There is also the winter Wonderland’s ice rink, the biggest outdoor rink in the UK, this surrounds the Victorian bandstand and is illuminated with more than 100,000 lights.
Another favourite of ours is wandering around the 200 Bavarian-style wooden chalets offering unique Christmas gifts.
Dates: From 22nd November 2018 to 6th January 2018 10am until 10pm
Address: Hyde Park
Tube station: Green Park (Piccadilly, Victoria, Jubilee lines)
Entrance: Free park entry, but paying attractions
6. Best family-friendly shows
When spending Christmas in London with children, a great way to entertain your whole family is to go watch one of the many world class productions on offer. There are so many family-friendly shows in London that both you and your children will love.
Where: Apollo Theatre
Where: Piccadilly Theatre
Where: Prince Edward Theatre
Matilda The Musical
Where: Cambridge Theatre (which is on our bucket list for this year)
The Lion King
Where: Lyceum Theatre
Snow White Pantomine
Where: London Palladium
Where: The National Theatre
Where: The Peacock Theatre.
7. Visiting Santa
Harrods Christmas Grotto
There is no better way to start the festive season than honouring a family tradition of a visit to the Harrods Christmas Grotto. Apart from our visit to Lapland UK (you can read our review here) it’s the most authentic Father Christmas we have ever come across. The interaction along the Christmas journey and the interaction from staff with the children is just fantastic.
There are many Christmas activities for the children to take part in as they make their journey through a magical experience to meet Father Christmas. The grotto is located on the 4th floor in Harrods beside the door 10 escalator. There is a £10 booking fee per child but all booking fees will be refunded onto your Harrods rewards card to spend in store on the day of your visit. We love picking up a Christmas ornament to put on our tree at home.
Dates: From 16th November 2018 to 24th December
Address: 87-135 Brompton Rd, Knightsbridge, London
Tube station: Knightsbridge
Entrance: £10 booking fee (although slots sell of fast its worth contacting Harrods as some spaces do become available)
If you are unable to get a ticket to the Harrods Christmas Grotto (which this year was basically impossible) I would also recommend.
Storytelling with Father Christmas at Fortnum & Mason
I like this as it’s different. Fortnum & Mason is running Storytelling with Father Christmas sessions in its fifth floor boardroom. Children get to meet Santa and listen to him as he reads you a story before giving him the all important Christmas list and getting a little gift to take away.
£25 per child (age 3-11), book in advance, 3-23 December
Westfield London’s Santa’s Grotto
At their Snowflake Grotto, children will be magically transported to a spellbinding Snow Factory in the North Pole, where Santa’s elves are making all the snow in the world. During their visit, children will create their own snowflake and explore the various activities within the factory.
You’ll meet Santa in his Snow Cavern, where every child will receive a gift and have their photo taken with him. The visit finishes with an opportunity to experience falling snow.
When? From 22nd November
Where? Westfield London, Ariel Way London, Shepherds Bush, W12 7SL
8. ZSL London Zoo’s Living Nativity
Get ready for stunning seasonal sparkle as Christmas comes to ZSL London Zoo like never before.
Discover our historic site and iconic buildings as a one-mile illuminated pathway winds its way through the Zoo in a magical after-dark experience.
With the animals tucked up in bed, explore the trail where fairytale meets fantasy and larger-than-life, illuminated wild animal sculptures rise high into the night sky.
Dates: From 3rd December until 19th December.
Address: Regent’s Park, London, NW1 4RY
Tube station: Regents Park
Entrance: £16.50 per adult £10.50 per child
9. Christmas Shopping
Even if you don’t manage to get tickets to see Santa at Harrods it’s still worth a visit to this fantastic department store. The atmosphere is amazing and really gets you in the Christmas mood with its fantastic toy department, Christmas department and food hall. Harrods also has world class window displays which are also part of the Christmas fun.
Address: 87-135 Brompton Rd, London SW1X 7XL, United Kingdom
Tube station: Knightsbridge (Picadilly Line)
Opening Hours: Monday through Saturday 10AM – 9PM. Sunday from 11:30AM to 6PM
John Lewis flagship store in Oxford Street is one of our favourites to visit in the lead up to Christmas. Along with a great toy and technology department, this year they have added the coolest feature – you can pick your own Quality Street chocolates to fill our own family branded 1.2kg tin. Don’t like coconut – no problem fill it with purple and gold sweets instead!
On the roof is a lovely little hideaway to skate on the sipsmith rink – you can also buy some hot gin and freshly baked pies to keep warm!
Don’t forget to walk through the Christmas forest and see if you can find the John Lewis secret cabin!
Address: 300 Oxford Street London W1C 1DX
Tube station: Oxford Street
Opening Hours: Monday through Saturday 9.30AM – 8PM. Sunday from 12.00PM to 6PM
Fortnum and Mason
Fortnum and Mason is one of our favourite stores at Christmas. It really gets you into the Christmas spirit as you enter their world class Christmas department and food hall featuring their famous teas, Christmas hampers and gifts.
Address: 181 Piccadilly, London, W1A 1ER
Tube Station: Piccadilly Circus Station (Piccadilly and Bakerloo lines)
Opening Hours: Monday through Saturday 10AM – 9PM. Sunday from 11:30PM to 6PM
Liberty is another upmarket department store with fantastic Christmas displays and a fabulous Christmas department.
Address: Regent St, London W1B 5AH
Tube Station: Oxford Circus Station (Bakerloo, Central and Victoria lines)
Opening Hours: Monday through Saturday 10AM – 8PM. Sunday from 12PM to 6PM
I know this is not a department store but it’s a must visit with the girls when we visit London. It’s Disney’s flagship store and the largest Disney store in Europe. Watching the girls faces as we walk through the doors and seeing the 267ft high Princess Castle with an animated clock is just priceless. Inside this store, you’ll find Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck dressed as The Queen’s Guard, a giant Cinderella carriage and a huge range of Disney toys and gifts.
Address: 350-352 Oxford St, Marylebone, London, W1C 1JH
Tube Station: Bond Street
Opening Hours: Monday through Saturday 9AM – 10PM. Sunday from 12PM to 6PM
10. Christmas at Kew, Kew Gardens
Now in its sixth year, Kew gardens is really magical at Christmas with the chance to explore the botanical gardens, the children can meet Santa, listen to Christmas carols and best o all from a children’s perspective enjoy the festive fairground. At dark it’s even better with a night-time trail which includes scented ‘garden of fire’, accompanied by festive singing from a choir.
Dates: 22 Nov 2018–5 Jan 2019, Kew Gardens is open daily from 10AM to 3:45PM. Closed on the 24th and 25th December.
Tube: Kew Gardens Rail: Kew Bridge
Price: On the day tickets: £21.50 on peak hours for adults, £12 for children above 4, £65 for a family of 4 (2 adults + 2 kids).