Christmas is a fantastic time to come to London – and not just for the great shopping opportunities. There are lots of places to meet Father Christmas and I’ve put together some ideas to get you in the festive spirit.
The best grotto in London is at Harrods but it can be hard to get a booking as tickets go on sale at the end of summer. But everyone can enjoy the Harrods Christmas Parade which is on Saturday 2 November in the morning before the store opens at 10am. It’s truly magical and the store has many events over the weekend.
My daughter adores visiting Hamleys to help write her Christmas list as it is the largest toy store in London. Hamleys don’t have a grotto but instead you can book to have a meal with Santa from breakfast through to dinner.
A more unusual place to find Santa is at London Zoo. The ‘Meet Santa Experience’ includes meeting reindeers and their keepers as well as storytelling with Mother Christmas and Christmas craft activities.
London has many temporary ice rinks that appear for a few months in winter. Most require children under 12 to be accompanied and many have skating aids for younger skaters. One of the best for families is Somerset House Ice Rink which, as well as being a beautiful location in the 18th century courtyard, has a training rink and Saturday morning Penguin Club and Skate School. The Penguin skate aids are also available during normal skating sessions too but cannot be pre-booked.
Natural History Museum Ice Rink is also a wonderful location, right in front of the museum, and also has some penguin skate aids. Eyeskate at the London Eye is a small rink but has had seal skate aids on previous years but do note under children under the age of 4 years are not permitted on the ice here.
Tower of London Ice Rink is in the dry moat and has double blade overshoe skates for young skaters as does Hampton Court Palace Ice Rink too. These really helped with my daughter’s confidence and she was off in the middle of the rink while I was still clinging to the edge.
This form of British family theatre is silly and great fun. Usually based on a nursery rhyme and often with some ‘celebs’ you’ll find men dressed as women and women playing men plus a lot of audience participation as we get to call out, “It’s behind you!” There’s a list of all of the pantomimes on in London during the festive season on visitlondon.com.
See the West End Christmas Lights
Christmas lights adorn the big shopping areas in central London from early November. It can be lovely to walk along Oxford Street and Regent Street in the evening and see the shop windows too but if you have younger children a nice way to see the lights is to ask a black cab to take you on a tour for an hour or so. This can be easily arranged by your hotel concierge.
Festive Afternoon Tea
While it’s cold outside there’s something even more special about being in a luxury location enjoying the splendours of afternoon tea and the Red Carnation hotels in London all add a festive twist to their sweet treats at this time of year. Try the richly iced Christmas Cake or Mince Pies (that have no meat but are full of dried fruit and sugar) with ice-cream. It’s a wonderful meal to enjoy with children as they can feel very grown up and everyone gets to indulge in delicious cakes. Perfect.