The 13 most magical things to do at Christmas in London with kids
Christmas in London is so magical, especially for children and it’s when London really does excel as a child-friendly city. Of course, there are always great things to do in London with kids, but London at Christmas is very special.
We’ve been taking our boys every year since they were tiny, more for ourselves than for them. But now they’re 5 and 6 years old, they really get into the Christmas spirit. They remember all the cool things to do at Christmas in London from last year’s visit. They’re particularly excited about seeing the Christmas lights in London and going ice-skating in London for the first time.
We’ve been talking about taking them to a Christmas market in Europe to really get them into the festive mood but if we don’t manage that, we can rest easy knowing that there are some great Christmas markets in London too.
With so many cool things going on in London this Christmas, it’s a good thing we live very close by and can make a few trips in. It seems that the number of Christmassy things to do is getting bigger and bigger each year. Good news for the kids who can barely contain their excitement and have been on countdown since 26th December!
These are some of the things we’ll be doing in London over Christmas 2019 with the kids.
1. Ice-skating in London
Ice-skating is a fun activity with the kids. General consensus seems that kids from age 4 will pick it up quite quickly. If they’ve never been before, they get a push along penguin aid (or similar) to help if they need it. Come to think of it, if you’re not a natural, adults can use them too. The best places to go ice-skating in London this year are:
Somerset House – such a beautiful setting for an ice rink in the middle of Somerset House on the Strand. The rink is open from 13th November to 12th January. Tickets are £11 for adults and £8.50 for children under 12.
Natural History Museum – situated in front of the Natural History Museum and with a large Christmas tree in the middle to skate around, it’s a really magical setting. Penguin skate aids are £6 per hour and on a first-come, first-served basis. You can’t book them in advance.
You can book tickets in advance. Adults are £12.65 and children are £8.80. It’s open from 19th October 2019 to 12th January 2020 from 10.00-21.00 (although times may vary).
Tower of London – Another magical setting with the Tower of London as a backdrop.
You can book tickets in advance. Adults are £15 and children (3-12 years) are £10.50. It’s open from 16th November to 5th January.
Winter Wonderland – set in the grounds of the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, this is the largest of the ice rinks
You can book tickets in advance. Adults are £15.50 and children are £10.50 (cheaper if you go off-peak). It’s open from 21st November to 5th January.
Hampton Court – this rink is a little out of London, but how can you argue with the location when it is set in the grounds of one of the most impressive royal palaces in the world?
You can book tickets in advance. Adults are £15.00 and children are £10.50. They’re open from 22nd November – 5th January.
2. Christmas lights in London
The Christmas lights in London are spectacular and change every year.
Regent Street – Our favourite Christmas lights in London. There’s a star-studded switch-on event on 14th November.
Oxford Street – probably London’s most famous lights. A long, long street of over 1700 installations. The switch-on date is 6th November.
Carnaby Street – one of London’s coolest shopping areas. Lots of boutiques line the streets so why not enjoy a spot of Christmas shopping while admiring the lights? The switch-on ceremony is on 7th November.
Bond Street – ever so classy and worth checking out the extravagant window displays of the designer stores at the same time.
Kew Gardens – perhaps the most magical lights of all (although not in central London). You follow a one-mile route through trees adorned with lights and watch laser projections light up the Temperate House all while listening to classic Christmas music. Magical is the only word to describe it.
Harrods – the lights of Harrods are not officially Christmas lights as they are on every evening but if you are in the area, it’s well worth going to see the lights.
Also check out Covent Garden, Royal Exchange, Sloane Square and The Kings Road and this post has more information on where to find the best Christmas lights in London.
3. Christmas shows in London
Take in a Christmas themed show at one of the many London theatres.
Elf – The story of Buddy the Elf (based on the hit Will Ferrell movie). Showing at the Wembley Arena over 3 days from 21st – 23rd December. Tickets start from £39.50.
The Snowman – The animated timeless classic of a snowman that comes to life brought to the stage at the Peacock Theatre at Sadlers Wells from 21st Nov – 5th Jan. Limited early bird tickets are on sale from £22.
A Christmas Carol – a classic Christmas tale of the life of Ebenezer Scrooge from past, present to future. Showing at the Old Vic from 23rd November. Recommended for children 8+. Tickets start from £12 and there is a special child rate of 50% off Bands A–D (available on Monday –Thursday between 23rd Nov–3rd Dec and all January performances).
Father Christmas at the Hall – join Santa in his theatrical walkabout of the Royal Albert Hall. There will be puppetry, music and the chance to make a stuffed toy to bring home. Tickets are £39.24 for children and adults are free. The performances run from 5th to 22nd December.
4. Christmas at Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens lights up at Christmas with a dazzling display of lights and lasers as you follow a mile-long route through a past trees dripping with lights, through a tunnel of light and end up at the Palm House pond with dancing jets of light while listening to classic Christmas tunes.
There are rides for the kids (and big kids) and you can enjoy hot chocolate or mulled wine while toasting marshmallows around a fire pit. You may even catch a glimpse of Santa.
This is on from 20th November to 5th January from 5 pm – 10 pm. Adults tickets are £18, children are £11 and under 4s are free. You must book in advance for this one.
5. Hogwarts in the Snow
For the Harry Potter fans among you, experience Hogwarts at Christmas when you take a tour of the Warner Brothers Studios. See how the filmmakers created all the special effects for the Christmas scenes in the movies as well as the usual set tours, props, costumes. The special Christmas tour is on from 16th November to 26th January. Tickets must be purchased in advance. Adults are £47, children 5 – 15 are £38 and under 4s are free.
6. Christmas at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
Visit Shakespeare’s Globe at Christmas and join in with a sing-along of your favourite festive songs. It’s outside so wrap up warm (a great excuse to get the Christmas jumpers out!) and treat yourself to a festive mulled wine. Runs from 19th – 23rd December. Standing tickets are £5 and seated £15 and they have 2 pm and 6 pm showings.
Why not combine this with a visit to the Southbank Christmas market which is just down the river, about a 10 to 15-minute walk away?
7. Winter Wonderland
There’s so much more to Winter Wonderland than the ice skating rink mentioned above. It seems to get bigger each year – with ice sculptures, fairground rides, Bavarian food halls, traditional Christmas market, a 45-metre ice slide, shows and more. Entrance is free but you will end up spending on fortune on extra activities if you want to experience everything it has to offer.
8. Christmas Panto in London
Christmas is not Christmas in the UK without a Christmas pantomime. Oh yes, it is! Oh no, it isn’t! We haven’t come across it anywhere else in the world. If you haven’t either, then let us try to explain. The pantomimes are essentially plays based on popular fairy tales and are performed in the theatre. You will usually find a famous TV star in the leading role(s) and we can only imagine they do this because it is so much fun!
The plays incorporate song and dance, tom-foolery, slapstick, cross-dressing, topical references, and, most importantly, unsuspecting audience participation. It’s loud, it’s over the top. The kids will love it!
Popular pantomimes Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Aladdin, Dick Whittington, Peter Pan, Puss in Boots, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. The biggest and most star-studded production is at the London Palladium, but check the guide above for performances all over London.
9. Christmas markets in London
Winter Wonderland Christmas market – with over 200 traditional wooden chalets selling Christmas gifts, decorations and confectionary, there will be something for everyone at the Winter Wonderland Christmas market. Open 21st November to 5th January.
Southbank Centre Christmas market – you’ll find traditional wooden chalets with Christmas fayre, including lots of food stalls lining the walkway along the river and underneath the impressive London Eye at the Southbank. This year there’s an interesting retro circus show called Circus 1903 with daredevil entertainment at the Royal Festival Hall.
Leicester Square Christmas market – The market is a lot smaller than the others but offers charming hand-crafted toys, delicious food, ornaments and is close to the theatres if you are catching a show. It’s open from 8th November to 5th January.
10. Carol Singing in London
St Paul’s carols – 23rd and 24th December. This is a free service and it is very popular. There are no tickets so you would need to get here early to queue to get a chance of entry.
Trafalgar Square carols – Over the Christmas period, different carol singing groups sing in Trafalgar Square to raise money for their chosen charities. They gather around the Christmas tree which is gifted by Norway each year as a thank you for our help during the Second World War.
St Martin-in-the-Fields – the beautiful baroque church of St Martin-in-the-Fields is the perfect setting for enjoying a spot of carol singing. Set just off Trafalgar Square, there are a variety of carol singing sessions over the Christmas period. Why not break up your Christmas shopping and pop in on Saturday 7th December from 4 pm to 5 pm? Check their schedule for more performances.
Royal Albert Hall – sing along to all the favourites with world-class musicians. Ticket prices range from £22.49 to £70.50. Performances run from 21st to 24th December.
11. Visit a Santa’s Grotto in London
Santa will be busy all over London this year, but we’ve picked the consistently best places to visit Father Christmas in a grotto.
Leicester Square – a chance to meet Santa, hear a Christmas tale and receive a gift. Open from 9th November to 24th December. Tickets from £11.50. Book in advance.
Winter Wonderland’s Santa Land – Visit Santa in his grotto. It’s free to meet Santa and he will have a little gift for children. This cannot be booked in advance so best to get there early. It’s open from 22nd November to 4th January from 10 am to 6 pm (apart from Parade days when it closes at 4.30 pm).
Hamley’s Santas Grotto Workshop – children will become one of Santa’s elves, learn special elf songs and dances and meet Santa himself. Open from 23rd November to 24th December. Tickets cost £39.99.
Breakfast with Santa at Selfridges – as an alternative to visiting Santa in a grotto, why not join him at the Corner restaurant in Selfridges for a festive breakfast? Open from 7th to 22nd December on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 am to 11 am and weekdays from 1th to 20th December. Tickets are £55 for adults and £45 for children. This will include a gift for each member of the family.
You may also spot Santa wandering through the department store and you can take a selfie with him (for free).
12. Dino Snores at the Natural History Museum
We always like to think of something a little different to the mainstream activities and this year it’s a festive sleepover at the Natural History Museum. This is open to children aged 7 to 11 (with an accompanying adult). You get to enjoy an evening of activities with a festive twist:
- explore a torch-lit trail of the Dinosaurs gallery
- participate in a Christmas-decoration-making workshop
- learn about winter animals from a museum scientist
- watch a live animal show
- enjoy festive treats and a hot breakfast
At the end of the evening, you get to sleep under the Blue Whale in the Hintze Hall.
13. Harrods Christmas Department
Why not finish up your time in London with a visit to the Harrods Christmas shop? It undergoes the most magical transformation and is a delight to visit. You don’t have to be a millionaire to buy something in here. There are plenty of Christmas themed tourist gifts starting from £5. Try to go after dark and you will see Harrods lit up with 12,000 lightbulbs.
We guarantee you’ll find something fun for the family in London this Christmas. The only thing we can’t guarantee is that there will be a white Christmas in London this year!
If you’re looking for accommodation in London this Christmas, Booking.com has the best selection to suit every budget.
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In need of any more ideas for Christmas? Click on this inspirational Christmas planning post by Freddie’s Mummy who has pulled together over 100 Christmas blog posts to help with planning the perfect Christmas!
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