There can be few places better for a Christmas city break with kids than London, but do bear in mind that your offspring – depending on their age and/or gender – probably won’t want to schlep around lots of shops, so don’t make that the focus of your trip. Make sure you save time for all the other things to do in London at Christmas: an ice-rink, a festive show, a visit to Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland, and ogling the tree and listening to carols in Trafalgar Square. Alternatively, London is a great bet for a solo shopping trip, a weekend of retail therapy with friends, or a short break with your partner.
By supporting the museum shops listed below, you’re helping to contribute to the upkeep of some of our greatest national institutions, most of which are free to enter.
WITHOUT THE KIDS
Even if you just get a day or two without the kids, you can get a huge amount of Christmas shopping done if you plan carefully and don’t spend too much time on public transport getting from one part of the city to another.
If you only have time for one department store in London, make it this swoon-worthy emporium in its iconic mock-Tudor building on Regent Street. The emphasis on great design reaches across all departments, from fashion to books and toys with a classic, old-fashioned feel.
This Oxford Street department store is worth visiting for its Christmas lights and window displays alone, but step inside and you’ll find mountains of choice to solve all your Christmas list dilemmas.
The shop for travel-mad adults and kids alike, this Covent Garden store has a fantastic array of maps, guides and travel-writing books, plus travel accessories from the practical to the fun.
A gift source so good you won’t want to tell your friends about it, the Victoria & Albert Museum’s shop is chock full of design-led products, from jewellery to old-fashioned toys. It’s also a great source for Christmas decorations.
The Tate Modern and Tate Britain shops are also fantastic spots for gift ideas and decorations, from wonderful arts and crafts materials to art- and design-related books, games and even clothing.
WITH THE KIDS
The Christmas grotto at this world-renowned department store always gets booked up months in advance, it’s that fantastic. But even if you’ve missed out this time, there’s plenty to delight kids across the various floors and departments, including Harrods Toy Kingdom – vast, with some of the world’s most expensive toys, a Disney café and an ice-cream parlour.
You may love or hate this seven-storey giant, but just knowing they're in one of the world’s biggest toy shops – if not the biggest – is a thrill in itself for children.
Natural History Museum Shop
This mighty museum’s awardwinning gift shop is full of goodies inspired by nature, including educational toys, puzzles, models, soft toys, eco-friendly gadgets, prints, posters, books and DVDs. For junior prehistory fiends, there’s also a Dino Store just outside the Dinosaur Gallery.
Science Museum Shop
Another fabulous museum shop, this has presents for ‘gadget gurus’, ‘young scientists’, ‘space explorers’ and other junior science lovers, and is especially good for inspired stocking fillers.
One for slightly older kids (although it does have some bits and pieces for tots), this is a treasure trove of sci fi and fantasy toys and actions figures, comics, DVDS and movie and TV merchandise.
Read more about things to see and do and family-friendly places to stay and eat in London.