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Take the Family › Top 12 Things to Do in London this Christmas

Top 12 Things to Do in London this Christmas

© Kew Gardens.© Kew Gardens.

Whether you live here or are looking for the destination for an unforgettable seasonal city break with the kids, London pulls out all the stops for Christmas. We’ve shared our highlights for Christmas 2016. 

With all venues and events, check specific dates and any closing days in advance if making a special trip.

Harrods Christmas Grotto, 4 Nov–24 Dec 2016

Love it or hate it, Harrods can’t be beat for its ice kingdom and frozen Santa’s grotto – although tickets sell out at a breakneck pace, so move fast. Special pre-schooler visits run in November.

Somerset House Ice Rink, 17 Nov 2016–15 Jan 2017

The neoclassical courtyard of this arts and cultural centre is a family favourite year-round - for its 55 fountains in summer, and in winter for its ice rink, which offers skating lessons and courses for all ages. Other ice rinks in London in 2016 include the Natural History Museum, London Eye, Hampton Court Palace, Tower of London, Alexandra Palace, Westfield London mall and Canary Wharf.

Christmas at Kew, Kew Gardens, 23 Nov 2016–2 Jan 2017

Christmas at the famous botanical gardens is special by day, with the chance to explore the grounds, meet Santa, listen to carols and enjoy the festive fairground. But it’s even better after dark, with a glittering night-time trail including a scented ‘garden of fire’, accompanied by festive singing from a choir. Entry is by timed ticket, with advance booking essential.

The Snowman, The Peacock Theatre, Sadler’s Wells, 23 Nov 2016–1 Jan 2017

This stage show based on the Raymond Briggs book is a Christmas family classic now in its 19th year, mixing storytelling, spectacle and magic in the tale of friends who embark on an adventure to the North Pole to meet Father Christmas. Alternatively, book to watch The Little Match Girl in Sadler’s Well’s Lilian Baylis Studio, a moving piece of dance theatre by choreographer Arthur Pita.

Christmas Carols, Trafalgar Square, 5–23 Dec 2016

Free to visit and fiercely festive, London’s central square is a jolly spot for listening to traditional carols such as Good King Wenceslas, Ding Dong Merrily on High and The Holly and the Ivy, against the backdrop of the famous Christmas tree gifted by Norway every year since 1947. Donations go to charity.

Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park, 18 Nov 2016–2 Jan 2016

This popular annual event includes a giant observation wheel, Santa’s grotto, ice rink, ice kingdom with glacial sculptures galore, Zippo’s Circus shows as well as 100+ rides/attractions and a Bavarian village. See our review of Winter Wonderland.

Winterville, Victoria Park, 26 Nov–23 Dec 2016

Describing itself as the ‘antithesis of Christmas theme parks; intimate, engaging and creative’, this East London alternative to Wonderland also includes a big wheel, fairground, circus, ice rink and Santa’s grotto, plus a pantomime, crazy golf and indoor ‘woodland’ cinema. The Kids’ Shack will feature a children’s market and festive crafts workshops.

Winter Festival, Southbank Centre, 11 Nov 2016–25 Jan 2017

For a few frosty weeks, the multi-venue arts complex becomes host to festive events and installations including, this year, a big top with an immersive promenade show. The family area has free activities.

Winter Weekend, WWT London Wetland Centre, 3–4 Dec 2016

For an early Christmas encounter with Santa, head to this nature reserve and conservation centre, with husky sleigh-rides, donkey rides, a Santa’s grotto and elf-led craft workshops in its northern pine forest. Who needs to go to Lapland for Christmas?!

Hogwarts in the Snow, Warner Bros Studios, 15 Nov 2016–29 Jan 2017

Visitors to The Making of Harry Potter at Christmas can admire the sets decorated as they were for festive scenes and learn the behind-the-scenes secretes of how the filmmakers created fire, snow and ice.

Shrek’s Adventure!, South Bank, 1–31 Dec 2016

This walk-and-ride attraction featuring 10 shows gets a festive makeover in December, with Shrek dressing seasonally to give younger guests a Christmas treat and the chance to have their photo taken with him beside the tree.

Christmas Bricktacular, LEGOLAND Windsor Resort, 3/4, 10/11 and 17–24 Dec 2015

As well as visiting Santa’s grotto to receive a LEGO gift, LEGOLAND guests this December can enjoy 20 rides and attractions, an 8m-high tree, and elf workshops including Christmas card making, cookie decorating and letter-writing to Santa.

See more on what to do, where to eat and where to stay with kids in London.

By Rhonda Carrier

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