The 13 Most Magical Things to do at Christmas in London with Kids 2021
Christmas in London with kids is so magical, and it’s when London really does excel as a child-friendly city.
It is one of the best cities in the UK to visit at Christmas with kids.
We’ve been taking our boys every year since they were tiny, more for ourselves than for them. But now they are 6 and 8 years old, they really get into the Christmas spirit.
They remember all the cool Christmas things to do in London from last year’s visit. They get particularly excited about seeing the Christmas lights in London and going ice-skating in London.
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**In case all of the Christmas events are cancelled this year, have you thought about how to have a virtual Christmas? Our post has some great alternatives, including a virtual Christmas panto, meeting Santa virtually and virtual Christmas carols**
We’ve been talking about taking them to a Christmas market in Europe to really get them into the festive mood and have tentatively booked a DIY Lapland trip but if we don’t manage to do these, we can rest easy knowing that there are some great Christmas markets in London too.
With so many cool Christmas things to do in London, 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 in London 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!
**If you’re looking for somewhere to eat with the kids in London, make sure to check out our post on the most child friendly restaurants in London, including information on where kids can eat for free. Looking for a special treat for the kids? We’ve listed the best child friendly afternoon teas in London as well as the best all-round places for afternoon tea in London including where to find festive afternoon tea menus**
These are some of the best things to do in London at Christmas with the kids.
Note that we are still waiting for some of the 2021 dates to be released and will update this post as and when the dates are released.
1. Ice-skating in London
Ice-skating is one of the really fun family things to do at Christmas in London. The general consensus seems to be 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 (and you can also read these 10 essential ice skating tips for beginners before you go).
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. Tickets are £11 for adults and £8.50 for children under 12.
Date: 17th November to 6th January 2022.
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.
Date: 22d October to 16th January 2022.
Tower of London Ice Rink – Another magical setting with the Tower of London as a backdrop.
This will not be taking place in 2021.
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).
Date: 19th November to 3rd January 2022.
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 from £16.00 and children (3-12) are from £11.50.
Date: 19th November to 2nd January 2022.
Skylight – this is one of the least known ice skating rinks in London and a real London hidden gem. It’s a rooftop ice rink where they also have igloos so why not combine the skating with an igloo dining experience? Kids are welcome during the daytime between 12.00 – 18.00. Dates to be confirmed.
See here for the 10 best places to go ice skating in London.
2. Christmas lights in London
The London Christmas lights are spectacular and change every year. We love to wander around the streets and soak up the festive atmosphere.
If you don’t want to walk, you can take guided tours. The Big Bus Tour company offers a Christmas Bus Tour where you will get amazing views of the main London Christmas light displays from the open top deck. See here for tickets.
Here are a few of the best Christmas lights in London.
Regent Street – Our favourite Christmas lights in London. The switch-on date is early November.
Oxford Street – probably London’s most famous lights. A long, long street of over 1700 installations. The switch-on date is early 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 date is early 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. 17th November to 9th January 2022.
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. There are lots of Christmas events for kids to choose from. Here are just a few ideas.
A Christmas Carol – a classic Christmas tale of the life of Ebenezer Scrooge from past, present to future. Showing at the Old Vic Theatre. Recommended for children 8+. Tickets prices start at £20.00 and performances run from 13th November – 8th January 2022.
The Nutcracker (at the London Colliseum) – in Edwardian London, a little girl receives an enchanted nutcracker as a gift. Together, they discover a magical world. This is a stunning ballet and a lovely family Christmas tradition. 16th December to 8th January 2022.
The Muppet Christmas Carol (at the Royal Albert Hall). Tickets from £25.00 to £68.50. There are two performances on 11th December 2021 only.
The Nutcracker (at the Royal Albert Hall) – story as above. From 28th December to 31st December 2021.
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 20th November 2021 – 2nd January 2022. Tickets from £18.00.
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 – TBC.
If all of the Christmas shows end up being cancelled and we all end up staying at home over Christmas, make sure to brush up on the best Christmas movies for kids!
4. Christmas at Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens lights up at Christmas with a dazzling display of lights and lasers and it’s one of the loveliest things to do in London during Christmas with the whole family.
You follow a mile-long route 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 17th November 2021 to 9th January 2022 from 4 pm – 10 pm. Adults tickets are £21.50 off peak and £26.50 peak. Children 4 – 16 are are £16.50 and under 4s are free.
Family tickets are £76.00. You must book in advance for this one as it is extremely popular and tickets sell out fast. They tend to go on sale towards the end of June but you can sign up to their newsletter to stay informed.
This is one of the best things to do at Christmas in London with kids if you want to ensure social distancing.
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 13th November 2021 to 16th January 2022. Tickets must be purchased in advance. Adults are £47, children 5 – 15 are £38 and under 4s are free. Family tickets (2 A and 2 C or 1 A and 3 C) are £150.
6. Christmas at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
Shakespeare’s Globe usually has a sing-along of your favourite festive songs in one form or another. It’s outside so wrap up warm (a great excuse to get the Christmas jumpers out!) and treat yourself to a festive mulled wine.
This year they are offering The Fir Tree – a telling of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale – The Fir Tree – told from the perspective of the trees. There will be singing and mulled wine afterwards.
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?
Tickets from £15.00 to £49.00. Standing tickets are £5.00. From 20th to 30th December 2021.
7. Hyde Park 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.
It runs from the end of November until the beginning of January (except for Christmas Day) so if you’re wondering what to do in London on Christmas eve, you could spend some time here.
It’s certainly one of the Christmas things to do with kids that we enjoy on the run-up to Christmas, but we tend to avoid weekends as it can get really busy.
Dates: 19th November to 3rd January 2022.
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.
Pantoland at the Palladium
Date: From 4th December 2021 to 2nd January 2022.
Where: The London Palladium, 8 Argyll Street, Soho, London, W1F 7TF.
Price: From £25.00.
The Lyric Hammersmith
Date: From 19th November to 2nd January 2022.
Where: Lyric Hammersmith Theatre, Lyric Square, King Street, London, W6 0QL.
Price: £15 / £23 / £32 / £42 – Family of 4 – £75.00.
Date: 11th December to 9th January 2022.
Where: The Garrick Theatre, 2 Charing Cross Road, Charing Cross, London, WC2H 0HH.
Price: From £20.00 per person.
Date: From 20th November to 2nd January 2022.
Where: Hackney Empire, 291 Mare Street, London, E8 1EJ.
Price: From £25.50 to £42.00.
Date: From 27th November to 31st December 2021.
Where: Theatre Royal, Stratford East, Gerry Raffles Square, London, E15 1BN.
Price: From £10.00 to £35.00.
Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch
Date: From 25th November to 2nd January 2022.
Where: Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch, Billet Lane, Hornchurch, RM11 1QT.
Price: From £13.15 to £34.65.
There are also some great pantos happening in smaller towns and cities around the UK. Take a look at the following guides in case you want to choose a panto near 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.
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.
Make sure to check out our Christmas Markets in London post for more info.
10. Carol Singing in London
If you haven’t managed to get into the Christmas spirit yet, joining in with some carol singing has to be one of the most traditionally festive things to do in London. Here are a few places to try it out.
Some 2021 Christmas carols in London dates are still to be announced
St Paul’s carols – 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. Christmas Carol Service – 23rd December 2021 and Christmas Eve Carol Service – 24th December 2021.
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.
Royal Albert Hall – sing along to all the favourites with world-class musicians. Ticket prices range from £22.49 to £73.50. Performances run from 18th to 24th December 2021.
There may also be some virtual Christmas carols organised by some of the large charity organisations.
11. Visit a Santa’s Grotto in London
Christmas days out in London would not be complete without a visit to see Father Christmas. Santa will be busy all over London this year, but we’ve picked the consistently best places to visit a Santa’s grotto in London.
Leicester Square – a chance to meet Santa, hear a Christmas tale and receive a gift. Tickets from £11.50. Book in advance. 2021 dates to be confirmed.
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 19th November to 3rd 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. Dates to be announced SOON. 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? Tickets are £50 and this will include a gift for each member of the family. TBC for 2021.
Selfridges are also running a series of virtual Christmas events.
The Magic of Christmas at London Zoo – little ones get to make festive crafts and then meet Santa in his Grotto. 4th – 5th and 11th – 24th December 2021. Exclusive dates available for zoo members. See here for Zoo Membership.
We also have a post with over 100 ideas for visiting Santa in the UK in 2020!!
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.
2021 dates yet to be announced.
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!
Family accommodation in London
Looking for the perfect, family-friendly hotel in London to complete your visit to London at Christmas?
We recommend the following:
The Athenaeum Hotel & Residences – Located in Mayfair, this is a 5 star luxury aparthotel with a difference. We find it so useful when staying in hotels in with kids to have a kitchen. They also have a kids’ concierge service where they arrange your kid’s favourite DVDs and treats for the room. Guest can use all of the hotel facilities and they have a pool.
The Ritz – Located on Piccadilly near Hyde Park Corner. One of the most well-known hotels in London. The Ritz being the Ritz, they have a Very Important Kids programme providing anything a child could want in their hotel room. Children under 15 stay for free with their parents in a Junior Suite or above.
The Rubens at the Palace – Located near Buckingham Palace. This boutique hotel has their own Director of Fun and Adventure to organise activities for kids. Children under 12 stay and eat for free and there’s a 6pm check out on Sundays.
St Ermin’s – Located near St James’s Park. They offer a kids concierge to take care of the kids needs with fun and games inside of the hotel as well as outside. They even have their own bee hotel within the hotel. There are 2 new rooms that cater for families of 6. They also do a fabulous afternoon tea for kids.
Park Plaza County Hall – Located near the London Eye, this is an excellent, centrally located mid-range family hotel in London. If booking the Family Getaway Package, they offer goody bags for kids at check-in and ‘Park Plaza money’ to spend in the Spectrum Bar and complimentary breakfast for children up to 12 years old. There are also interconnecting rooms for larger families.
Premier Inn Waterloo – Located by Westminster Bridge near the London Eye. Family hotels in London can be eye-wateringly expensive but the Premier Inn is a great, no-frills budget family hotel in London option if you are looking for a central location.
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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