Christmas In London With Kids: The Best Festive Family Fun In 2024

Looking for things to do at Christmas in London with kids? Christmas is our favourite time of year in London. The twinkling lights and the smell of roasting chestnuts transform the city into a magical place.

We have been taking the kids to London every Christmas since they were tiny and they love it. It’s so heart warming seeing the joy and wonder in their eyes.

And even though we go every year, there is always something new for them to experience. A new show. A new light trail. A new grotto.

Christmas in London with kids is a time of pure enchantment.

With so much experience gained from our visits to London at Christmas with kids, we wanted to let you know about some of our favourite festive family days out in London.

So – here’s what’s on at Christmas in London this year.

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Family standing in the middle of Regent Street under the Regent Street angel Christmas lights at Christmas in London.

Just a quick couple of tips for visiting London at Christmas with kids.

If you are visiting London on a budget, take a bus instead of the tube (or walk). Number 9 and 11 London bus routes will give you great views of some of the amazing Christmas light displays.

If you want to do some of the usual attractions as well as some festive ones, here are some of the best things do with kids in London all year round.

We recommend looking into the GoCity London Explorer Pass or the All-Inclusive Pass. You can make big savings on entry into popular attractions like the Tower of London, London Zoo, the O2 climb, London Eye, Madame Tussauds and more.

Things to do at Christmas in London with kids

From traditional Christmas markets to enchanting ice-skating rinks. From fabulous Christmas shows to stunning festive light trails. The city of London at Christmas has something for everyone.

These are our favourite things to do at Christmas in London with kids.

Visit a Santa’s Grotto in London

If meeting Father Christmas himself is high on your London Christmas wishlist, there are lots of places to find him.

With so many options it can be hard to choose so we have listed the best Santa’s Grotto’s in London with over 28 options throughout the city.

What we have learned from experience is that some of them need to be booked many months in advance.

We have also learned that it is near on impossible these days to visit the Harrods grotto. In recent years, they made a new rule that you need to have spent at least £2000 during the year in Harrods in order to be able to even book. Alternatively you could be one of the lucky 160 lower-spending families allowed to book without having spent that amount.

Storytelling with Father Christmas at Fortnum and Mason also sells out very quickly. Tickets usually go on sale in August/September. Your best bet is to sign up to their newsletter to be informed of ticket release dates.

Whether it’s at Leicester Square or Winter Wonderland, a visit to Santa’s Grotto is a great way to create lasting memories of your visit to London at Christmas.

Two little boys in Christmas jumpers talking to Father Christmas at one of the Santa's Grottos in London - one of the best things to do at Christmas in London with kids.

Catch a Christmas show in London

Christmas Shows in London are nothing short of spectacular.

Immerse yourself in the enchanting world of Christmas theatre with a visit to one of London’s festive shows. From timeless classics like “A Christmas Carol” to whimsical tales such as “The Nutcracker,” or ultra modern pantomime, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

These shows are designed with kids in mind and are just lovely.

  • A Christmas Carol – running every year at the Old Vic Theatre in Waterloo (South London).
  • Potted Panto – we absolutely loved this 7 pantos in 80 minute one man (almost) show. So hilarious!
  • The Snowman – running every year at the Saddler’s Wells Theatre in Islington (North London).
  • The Nutcracker – Birmingham Royal Ballet’s performance running at the Royal Albert Hall.
  • Royal Albert Hall – Home Alone in concert
  • Elf The Musical – running every year at the Dominion Theatre (West End).
  • Shakespeare’s Globe – a very festive performance usually runs every December. Check back closer to the time.
  • Pantoland at the Palladium – the most star-studded panto in London.

Potted Panto actors on stage.

Enjoy the Christmas lights in London

The London Christmas lights (which usually start being switched on in the first or second week of November) are nothing short of spectacular. Whether you take a leisurely stroll around or an open top bus tour, they will entrall you.

Grab a sumptious hot chocolate if it’s a cold evening. There are some amazing places that make incredibly indulgent hot chocolates that are perfect for Christmas time.

ChinChin Ice Cream in SoHo and The Parlour at Fortnum and Mason on Piccadilly are ideally placed to grab a hot chocolate and head for the central lights of Regent Street and Bond Street.

Our favourite spots in London to see Christmas lights are:

  • Regent Street – lights are usually switched on from the beginning of November to the beginning of January.
  • Carnaby Street – in contrast to the elegant angels that have lit up Regent Street for many years now, there’s something different to see every year on Carnaby Street and it is usually very vibrant.
  • Bond Street – for many years we enjoyed the dazzling peacocks of Bond Street but 2023 saw a change as Bond Street drew its inspiration from the Crown Jewels.

The great thing about the Christmas lights in London is that they are completely free to view. If you want more ideas for visiting London on a budget, make sure to read our post on free activities for kids in London.

Regent Street Christmas lights at dusk.

Ice skating at Christmas in London

During the Christmas period, a number of excellent ice skating rinks pop up around London. This is one of our favouirite things to do in the Christmas holidays in London with kids.

Ice skating outside surrounded by Christmas lights always makes me get into the Christmas spirit.

We have enjoyed skating at Somerset House, Queen’s House and Hampton Court Palace.

Sadly the ice rink at the Natural History Museum is no longer there. It had, in my opinion, the best backdrop to an ice rink anywhere in London.

The same goes for the ice rink at the Tower of London. But as one departs, another one comes along and the most recent one is at Battersea Power Station.

You can find opening times and prices for each of these recommended ice rinks on their websites:

Two boys standing with penguin skate aids at Queen's House Ice Rink in Greenwich.

Hogwarts in the Snow

The Warner Bros Studios are actually in Leavesden in Hertfordshire – not London contrary to popular belief.

So because lots of people consider it to be a London attraction, I’ll put this in here as a Christmas attraction in London for kids :)

It is actually easy to get to from London taking a train from London Euston to Watford and then a free shuttle bus. It is one of our top recommend days out from London for families.

But if you don’t want to do that, you can arrange a tour from London. We recommend this one.

The Harry Potter Studio Tour is magical at any time of year but it becomes even more special at Christmas when it receives a dusting of snow and a sprinkle of Christmas decorations.

It is absolutely one of the best experiences for Harry Potter fans but you need to book well in advance. I cannot stress that enough.

There is no particularly quiet time of year to go because people come from all over the world to visit it. Obviously during the UK school holidays it will be busier than term time but don’t expect it to ever be quiet.

If you don’t manage to get tickets on the day you want, I recommend booking the tour I mentioned above. They have a lot more dates available than buying direct from the studio.

Family of four standing in front of a snow covered Hogwarts at the WB Studios.

Follow an enchanted Christmas light trail

We love a winter light trail and London is lucky to have a few fabulous trails.

The Christmas light trail at Kew Gardens (Christmas at Kew) is by far the most well known and dare I say best light trail in London.

You will step into a world of enchantment at Kew Gardens with illuminated trees and dancing light projections. The gardens come alive with festive cheer and it is an experience that the whole family will enjoy.

It runs from mid-November to the beginning of January. More details can be found on their website.

Other lovely winter light displays in London are:

If you are willing to travel a little out of London, Glow at Wisley is absolutely stunning.

If you like Christmas light trails, take a look here to see where other Winter light trails are taking place around the UK.

Family taking a selfie in a colourful light tunnel during a Christmas light trail experience.

Catch the Santa Steam train

The Santa Steam Express is a vintage steam train that departs from London’s Victoria Station.

During the almost 2 hour journey you will receive festive snacks and meet Mr and Mrs Claus and the kids will receive a gift.

If you like the idea of taking a train at Christmas, make sure you take a look at this post to see if there is a Christmas train ride nearby or even a Polar Express train experience near you.

Visit Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

Experience the magic of Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, where a world of festive fun awaits.

There’s the largest outdoor ice skating rink in London, countless fairground rides and a festive market. There is so much to do that you could spend a day there.

And for families with little ones, head to Santaland where you’ll find rides for younger children and the big man himself in his Grotto.

I feel I should warn you in case you are not aware that Hyde Park Winter Wonderland can get extremely busy and there doesn’t really seem an ideal time to go to avoid the crowds.

It is free to enter (although you need to book tickets) but the costs will keep mounting. All of the activities are paid for (with the exception of the Grotto which is free).

The entrance to Hyde Park Winter Wonderland lit up at night.

Peruse the Christmas Markets in London

Indulge in some festive shopping at London’s Christmas markets, where an array of unique seasonal gifts and treats await.

Whether it’s the traditional chalets of Winter Wonderland or the charming stalls of Southbank Centre, there’s plenty to explore and discover.

There are lots of markets dotted around London. You’ll find the best ones at:

We personally love the one in the middle of Leicester Square with its traditional wooden chalets.

People queueing for food at a food stall at the Christmas market in Leicester Square in London.

Window shop the Christmas displays at the big departments stores

Rumours are that the big department stores start planning their Christmas displays in the summer, six months before Christmas. It’s a big deal.

Our favourite places in London for some Christmas window shopping are:

Don’t miss a wander down Bond Street as most of the high-end shops like Cartier, Chanel and Tiffany go all out with their displays.

And although not a shop, Annabel’s has a fabulous Christmas frontage every year that is not to be missed.

Annabels' Nightclub in London at Christmas decorated with a giant carousel.

Carol Singing in London

Join in the festive spirit with some carol singing at iconic London locations such as St Paul’s Cathedral or Trafalgar Square.

Carols by candlelight has been our favourite Christmas carol experience so far. Fever run various different concerts over the festive season (as well as lots of other amazing experiences like Bubble Planet and Van Gogh immersive experience.

  • Trafalgar Square – come along and watch groups of carol singers gather around the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree throughout December singing to raise money for charity.
  • St Pauls Cathedral – Christmas carol service on 23rd December and the Christmas Eve carol service on 24th December. There are no tickets, you just turn up very early and queue.
  • St Martin in the Fields – carols by candlelight in one of the most famous churches in London.
  • Royal Albert Hall – usually runs from mid-December to 24th December.
  • The Barbican
  • Up at the O2 – London’s highest carol singing on top of the O2.

Musicians arriving for a Carols by Candlelight performance at the Freemason's Hall in London.

Enjoy a festive afternoon tea in London

An afternoon tea is such a lovely indulgence at any time of the year but this British tradition becomes even more special at Christmas.

These ones are great for kids.

Charlotte Street Hotel – afternoon tea with a twist.

Brigit’s Bakery Christmas Afternoon Tea Bus – sightsee and enjoy a festive high tea at the same time! Children under 5 not permitted.

Ting at The Shard – enjoy afternoon tea with a view!

See here for our favourite places in London for afternoon tea with kids.

Festive afternoon tea at TING at The Shard in London.

Kingdom of Winter at Excel London

Discover a world of winter wonder at Excel London’s Kingdom of Winter, where ice skating, circus performances, and fairground rides await.

It’s the bigger indoor festive experience and a really fun festive family day out in London.

Christmas Movie Experiences

Snuggle up with your loved ones and enjoy a festive movie experience at one of London’s many cinemas. From timeless classics to modern favourites, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Luna Winter Cinema at Kensington Palace and Battersea Arts Centre.

Home Alone in concert at the Royal Albert Hall.

Closer to the time, more Christmas film experiences will be released so feel free to bookmark this post and check back.

Experience a white Christmas at Covent Garden

How can you make your visit to London even more Christmassy? Head to Covent Garden to experience a white Christmas!

Covent Garden is a fabulously festive part of London to visit at Christmas. The Piazza is adorned with huge Christmas decorations, the shops are brimming with Christmas gifts and there’s a giant Christmas tree.

Could it get any better? Well yes it can.  Every hour on the hour there is a flurry of snow. Gather near Ladurée by the large Christmas tree at the west end of the piazza and look up. It is magical.

Snow falling on crowds of people at Covent Garden in London at Christmas.

As the countdown to Christmas begins, let London be your playground and enjoy the wonder in the eyes of your kids as we do.

If you’re in Essex, check out our list of Christmas events in Essex this year.