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 2023.
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 were turned on in November.
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 starts on the 9th November with an incredible display sparkling LED lights.
The lights at Covent Garden get switched on is still to be confirmed for 2023, but last year it was the 8th November. Covent Garden’s iconic 60-foot British grown handpicked Christmas tree is decorated with over 30,000 lights
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 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.
Dates and Time: November 15, 2023 to January 14, 2024
Price: Adult tickets from £11.00
You are not short of ice skating options in London, with other ice rinks at the London Eye, Battersea Power Station, Hampton Court Palace, Westfield London, Hyde Park and Canary Wharf .
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 La Clique and Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs: The Magic Cutlass 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 Southbank Centre’s much loved Winter Market returns from 28th October! It’s time to eat, drink and be merry alongside the River Thames. 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 October 28 to January 7 2024
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 to the Grotto is free but you will need to purchase an entry ticket to get into Winter Wonderland
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 17th November 2023 to 1st January 2024
Address: Hyde Park
Tube station: Green Park (Piccadilly, Victoria, Jubilee lines)
Entrance: Entry is free during off-peak periods and costs £5 or £7.50 for peak hours. Once you’re in, you can stay as long as you like!
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
Frozen the Musical
Where: Theatre Royal Drury Lane
Matilda The Musical
Where: Cambridge Theatre
The Lion King
Where: Lyceum Theatre
7. Visiting Santa
Santa’s Grotto at Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
Christmas at Hyde Park’s is one of the best places in London for festive fun for families. Head over to Santa Land where you will find Santa in his grotto along with fabulous Christmas market stalls. It is free to enter Santa’s grotto so make sure it’s checked off your list, you could even do it twice.
Santa’s parade is Monday to Wednesdays starting from Santa Land at 5.00pm returning to Santa Land at 6.00pm
Dates: from 17th November – Santa’s grotto is open every day from 10am to 6pm
Address: Hyde Park – Santa Land
Tube station: Hyde Park
Entrance: Entry to the Grotto is free but you will need to purchase an entry ticket to get into Winter Wonderland
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.
Santa’s Grotto at Hamleys
Santa arrives at London’s most famous toy store and it’s one of our favourites as you get a personal experience with Santa in his festive grotto . One ticket admits a group of three (extra people costing £15 each more). Kids leave with a Hamley’s goodie bag.
When? Mid November
Where? Hamley’s, Regent Street
8. The Magic of Christmas at London Zoo
Get ready for stunning seasonal sparkle as Christmas comes to ZSL London Zoo like never before.
Little ones can join in festive crafts before meeting Santa in his magical grotto at the heart of the Zoo and receive a special early Christmas gift to take home.
Across London Zoo this winter, you can enjoy Christmas festivities, animal crafts, Christmas-themed animal talks, marshmallow toasting* and much more. Plus, keep your eyes peeled for the big man himself, as Santa will be popping up around the Zoo throughout the day to feed some of their animals.
Dates: From 25 Nov – 1 Jan 2024
Address: Regent’s Park, London, NW1 4RY
Tube station: Regents Park
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, don’t miss where 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!
Don’t forget to walk through the Christmas forest.
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
Explore the kids get ideas for their Christmas lists across the 7 floors of toys and games at one of the world’s most famous toy stores.
Address: Regent St, London W1B 5AH
Tube Station: Regent Street
Liberty is another upmarket department store with fantastic Christmas displays and a fabulous Christmas department.
Address: Regent St, London
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
Kew gardens is really magical at Christmas with the chance to explore the botanical gardens. Enjoy their annual after-dark festivities with family and friends, and discover sparkling tunnels of light, dancing waterside reflections, and trees drenched in jewel-like colour on your way to the panoramic Palm House light display.
Journey through the mesmerising flickering flames in the Fire Garden, spot larger-than-life illuminations and say hello to Father Christmas along the way.
Dates: 15 November 2023 to 7 January 2024
Tube: Kew Gardens Rail: Kew Bridge