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 2018 (check back for future updates).
With all venues and events, check specific dates and any closing days in advance if making a special trip.
Winter at the Southbank Centre, until Jan 2019
For a few frosty weeks, the world-famous multi-venue arts complex becomes host to festive events and installations including, this year, a turn-of-the-century circus with sensational animal puppetry, performances of Rumpelstiltskin, and one of London’s best Christmas markets, offering artisan gifts, global street food, craft beers, cocktails and more.
Where to Stay: The Premier Inn London Waterloo has a plum position on York Road just a two-minute walk from the London Eye – of which there are views from some of the rooms. Expect comfortable family rooms and decent breakfasts including pancakes and a buffet of cooked items perfect for filling you up for sightseeing.
Harrods Christmas Grotto, until 24 Dec 2018
Love it or hate it, Harrods can’t be beat for its ice kingdom and frozen Santa’s grotto – although tickets do sell out at a breakneck pace.
Somerset House Ice Rink, until 13 Jan 2019
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 2018 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, until 5 Jan 2019
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 vintage fairground. But it’s even better after dark, with a glittering night-time trail including a scented ‘garden of fire’ and the new-in-2018 Laser Garden, accompanied by festive singing from a choir. Entry is by timed ticket, with advance booking essential.
The Snowman, The Peacock Theatre, Sadler’s Wells, until 6 Jan 2019
This stage show based on the Raymond Briggs book is a Christmas family classic now in its 21st year, mixing storytelling, spectacle and magic in the tale of friends who embark on an adventure to the North Pole to meet Father Christmas.
Christmas Carols, Trafalgar Square, 10-21 Dec 2018
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, until 6 Jan 2019
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. New for 2018 are ice-sculpting workshops, The Snowman immersive cinema, a Teletubbies Christmas show and Peter Pan on Ice. See our review of Winter Wonderland.
Winterville, Victoria Park, until 23 Dec 2018
Describing itself as the ‘London’s alternative festive experience’, this South London answer to Wonderland also includes a fairground, circus and ice rink, plus a kids’ drag cabaret and Mexican wrestling show, puppet shows and workshops, a roller disco, crazy golf and even a huge maze with two cinema screens showing festive family films.
This nature reserve and conservation centre is hosting 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, until 7 Jan 2019
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 secrets of how the filmmakers created fire, snow and ice.
Shrek’s Adventure!, South Bank, until 24 Dec 2018
This walk-and-ride attraction featuring 12 shows gets a festive makeover in December, with a Santa's Grotto and gift-giving in Shrek's swamp and the chance to have their photo taken with him.
Christmas at LEGOLAND Windsor Resort, until 27 Dec 2018 (selected dates)
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.
See more on what to do, where to eat and where to stay with kids in London.