The 13 Most Magical Things to do at Christmas in London with Kids 2020
Christmas in London with kids is so magical, 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 visiting London at Christmas with kids with all of the twinkling Christmas lights and decorations is very special.
We’ve been taking our boys every year since they were tiny, more for ourselves than for them. But now they are 6 and 7 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.
**Please refer to the current government guidelines before organising your visit**
**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 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 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 2020 dates to be released and will update this post as and when the dates are released. POST LAST UPDATED ON 3rd DECEMBER 2020.
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.
CANCELLED FOR 2020
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.
CANCELLED FOR 2020
Tower of London Ice Rink – (CANCELLED FOR 2020) 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.
Winter Wonderland – (CANCELLED FOR 2020) 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).
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 £16.00 and children are £11.50.
CONFIRMED – 20th November to 3rd January 2021
Skylight – this is one of the least known ice skating rinks in London. 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. Here are a few of the best Christmas lights in London.
Regent Street – Our favourite Christmas lights in London. The switch-on date is 2nd November 2020
Oxford Street – probably London’s most famous lights. A long, long street of over 1700 installations. The switch-on date is 2nd November 2020
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 2nd November 2020.
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. 18th November to 3rd January 2021.
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 London Coliseum. Recommended for children 8+. Tickets prices start at £27.80 and performances run from 1st – 6th December 2020.
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. 10th December to 3rd January 2021.
The Nutcracker (at the Royal Albert Hall) – story as above. From 30th December to 2nd January.
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 – 3rd Jan. Limited early bird tickets are on sale from £22. THIS HAS BEEN CANCELLED
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. CANCELLED FOR 2020
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 18th November 2020 to 3rd January 2021 from 4 pm – 10 pm. Adults tickets are £19.50 off peak and £24.50 peak. Children 4 – 16 are are £14.50 and under 4s are free. Family tickets are £68. 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. We have a more detailed post on light trails if you’re looking for light trails around the UK.
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. It’s the best Harry Potter experience in London and possibly the best Harry Potter experience in the UK.
The special Christmas tour is on from 14th November 2020 to 17th January 2021. 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. It’s outside so wrap up warm (a great excuse to get the Christmas jumpers out!) and treat yourself to a festive mulled wine.
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?
In 2020, there is a Christmas at the (Snow) Globe at home from 21st December to 5th January 2021. Tickets to watch the online festivities from the Globe are £15 per family.
7. Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
**THIS EVENT HAS BEEN CANCELLED FOR 2020**
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. 2020 dates are yet to be announced.
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
Pantoland at the Palladium is going ahead in 2020.
Date: From 12th December to 3rd January 2021
Where:The London Palladium, 8 Argyll Street, Soho, London, W1F 7TF
Price: From £25.00
Date: From 5th December to 10th January 2021
Where: The Garrick Theatre, 2 Charing Cross Road, Charing Cross, London, WC2H 0HH
Price: From £17.50 per person. Family of 4 – £70.00
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. CANCELLED FOR 2020.
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. 5th November to 27th December 2020. CANCELLED FOR 2020
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. 8th November to 5th January 2020.
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.
2020 dates are yet to be announced
St Paul’s carols – from 12th December 2020. 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.
These performances will not be taking place in 2020.
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.
For 2020 they are doing virtual Christmas carols as are many of the large charity organisations.
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 18th to 23rd December 2020.
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. 2020 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 22nd November to 4th January from 10 am to 6 pm (apart from Parade days when it closes at 4.30 pm). CANCELLED FOR 2020
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? Tickets are £50 and this will include a gift for each member of the family.
Selfridges are also running a series of virtual Christmas events.
Royal Albert Hall – Storytime with Father Christmas – enjoy a reading of the Polar Express by Father Christmas in his Grotto. TICKET SALES OPEN 12TH N OVEMBER 2020
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.
2020 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!
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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