Family Christmas guide 2019: Things to do with the kids in London over the holidays

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It might be the most wonderful time of the year, but keeping the little ones occupied over Christmas is never easy.  Sometimes the lure of presents just isn’t enough – thankfully, London has families covered. Whether it’s getting hands on with craft workshops, visiting Santa or enjoying a seasonal show, there are plenty of things going on in the city for children and parents to enjoy together. 

These are our picks of the best family-friendly things to do in London this Christmas.

Grab tickets to a Christmas pantomime 

If you’re after a big, old school family show, highlights this year include Goldilocks and the Three Bears at the London Palladium – with Paul O’Grady and The One Show’s Matt Baker – Snow White at the Richmond Theatre – with Jo Brand as the Evil Queen – and Cinderella at Croydon Fairfield Halls with Tim Vine. Read our full pantomime guide here.

Feel the festive cheer at a Christmas market


London’s best Christmas markets 2019


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1/6 Winter Wonderland (November 21 — January 5)

IMG

2/6 Christmas in Leicester Square (November 8 — January 5)

David Jensen

3/6 Southbank Centre’s Winter Market (November 8 — January 5)

India Roper-Evans

4/6 Kingston Christmas Market (November 14 — December 31)

5/6 Hampstead Village Christmas Fair (12-5pm, Dec 1)

6/6 Belgravia Christmas Sunday (11am-5pm, Dec 1)

1/6 Winter Wonderland (November 21 — January 5)

IMG

2/6 Christmas in Leicester Square (November 8 — January 5)

David Jensen

3/6 Southbank Centre’s Winter Market (November 8 — January 5)

India Roper-Evans

4/6 Kingston Christmas Market (November 14 — December 31)

5/6 Hampstead Village Christmas Fair (12-5pm, Dec 1)

6/6 Belgravia Christmas Sunday (11am-5pm, Dec 1)

Kingston market is a good option for families, with fairground rides and activities to keep the kids entertained. Southbank Centre’s Winter Market is one of the cosiest spots in the city, while Winter Wonderland has something to offer everyone – there are Mr Men & Little Miss shows and circus displays for the kids, plus rides and ice rinks, and a huge beer hall just in case the adults fancy a treat too. Read our full Christmas markets round-up here.

Visit Santa himself

Santa’s a busy man at this time of year, but he’s still finding the time to meet boys and girls across the capital. He’s popping up at the Royal Albert Hall with his North Pole friends from December 5-22. A Santa’s Grotto can be also found at the Christmas market at Leicester Square and at Hamleys until Christmas Eve. 

Skate at stunning locations across London


Ice skating in London: The best winter ice rinks across the capital


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1/7 Natural History Museum

Ice skating at the Natural History Museum has grown into something of a London institution: the scenery is overwhelmingly beautiful, the lights frame things like it’s a film, and the 1000 square metre rink holds its own.

The fairground carousel makes a gorgeous sight, too. The first floor cafe/bar makes for a good spot to watch other skaters once your session is over and there’s plenty on, with live acoustic sessions and choir nights throughout the season, as well as weekly chocolate workshops from Hotel Chocolat. Saturday mornings host a penguin skate club for the little ones to learn, and there are wheelchair skate sessions throughout the rink’s run.

Cromwell Road, SW7 5BD, October 19 until January 12

2/7 Bar Elba

New this year, Waterloo rooftop spot Bar Elba is turning into a little winter haven from November 13.

Expect plenty of mulled wine and mugs of hot mugs, as well as blankets to cosy up into on festive evenings. Best of all? Skating on the rink in November is totally free for guests visiting the bar – booking ahead is still required though.

From November 13, 109-117 Waterloo Road, SE1 8UL

3/7 Skate at Somerset House

The efficiently named ‘Skate’ at Somerset House comes in two forms: during the day, it’s a gorgeous spot to glide about in the ever-impressive courtyard, while in the evening, they host Skate Lates, which see top DJs and musical acts take over the ringside. They’ve got some good names, too: Mercury-nominated Wild Beasts will appear alongside the likes of LoneLady and club night Supa Dupa Fly. As ever, Fortnum & Mason are providing refreshments: there’ll be lashings of champagne and a winter arcade if you need to do a little Christmas shopping.

One of our favourites.

Strand, WC2R 1LA, November 13 until January 12 James Bryant

4/7 Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park returns for its eleventh year with its picturesque open-air ice rink, which also happens to be the UK’s largest. A Victorian bandstand, which will host live music, is the centrepiece, and the ice is illuminated by more than 100,000 lights.

Skating runs from 10am until 10pm, with 50 minute sessions running every hour on the hour. There’s a photographer on hand if you want a souvenir, but if you’re just watching, there’s a spectator’s stand serving hot chocolate and festive drinks.

Knightsbridge W2 2UH, November 21 until January 5

5/7 Tower of London

They call this ‘London’s most dramatic rink’ and in fairness, with the Tower of London as a backdrop, is certainly is gorgeous. Pretty with fairylights, the Tower of London’s offering also features an ice bar and cafe to go with its stunning views.

Tower of London, EC3N 4AB, November 16 until January 5

Getty Images

6/7 Hampton Court

Henry VIII’s magnificent 500-year-old red-brick Tudor palace makes for a spectacular backdrop for skating, and there’s an ice bar and cafe for afterwards. In the day time, it’s family-friendly, while once night falls, it becomes more date friendly as they light up the ring with hundreds of coloured lights.

East Molesey, KT8 9AU, November 22 until January 5

7/7 Skylight

Skating up high? Why not?

Skylight have given themselves a makeover for the winter and now boast London’s first rooftop rink – and besides skating, there’s a chance to do a little ice hockey shooting, too. You can fill up on street food too, and there’ll be DJs spinning to keep festive spirits high.

Tobacco Dock, E1W 2SF, from November 1

1/7 Natural History Museum

Ice skating at the Natural History Museum has grown into something of a London institution: the scenery is overwhelmingly beautiful, the lights frame things like it’s a film, and the 1000 square metre rink holds its own. The fairground carousel makes a gorgeous sight, too.

The first floor cafe/bar makes for a good spot to watch other skaters once your session is over and there’s plenty on, with live acoustic sessions and choir nights throughout the season, as well as weekly chocolate workshops from Hotel Chocolat. Saturday mornings host a penguin skate club for the little ones to learn, and there are wheelchair skate sessions throughout the rink’s run.

Cromwell Road, SW7 5BD, October 19 until January 12

2/7 Bar Elba

New this year, Waterloo rooftop spot Bar Elba is turning into a little winter haven from November 13. Expect plenty of mulled wine and mugs of hot mugs, as well as blankets to cosy up into on festive evenings.

Best of all? Skating on the rink in November is totally free for guests visiting the bar – booking ahead is still required though. From November 13, 109-117 Waterloo Road, SE1 8UL

3/7 Skate at Somerset House

The efficiently named ‘Skate’ at Somerset House comes in two forms: during the day, it’s a gorgeous spot to glide about in the ever-impressive courtyard, while in the evening, they host Skate Lates, which see top DJs and musical acts take over the ringside.

They’ve got some good names, too: Mercury-nominated Wild Beasts will appear alongside the likes of LoneLady and club night Supa Dupa Fly. As ever, Fortnum & Mason are providing refreshments: there’ll be lashings of champagne and a winter arcade if you need to do a little Christmas shopping. One of our favourites.

Strand, WC2R 1LA, November 13 until January 12

James Bryant

4/7 Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park returns for its eleventh year with its picturesque open-air ice rink, which also happens to be the UK’s largest. A Victorian bandstand, which will host live music, is the centrepiece, and the ice is illuminated by more than 100,000 lights. Skating runs from 10am until 10pm, with 50 minute sessions running every hour on the hour.

There’s a photographer on hand if you want a souvenir, but if you’re just watching, there’s a spectator’s stand serving hot chocolate and festive drinks.

Knightsbridge W2 2UH, November 21 until January 5

5/7 Tower of London

They call this ‘London’s most dramatic rink’ and in fairness, with the Tower of London as a backdrop, is certainly is gorgeous. Pretty with fairylights, the Tower of London’s offering also features an ice bar and cafe to go with its stunning views.

Tower of London, EC3N 4AB, November 16 until January 5 Getty Images

6/7 Hampton Court

Henry VIII’s magnificent 500-year-old red-brick Tudor palace makes for a spectacular backdrop for skating, and there’s an ice bar and cafe for afterwards.

In the day time, it’s family-friendly, while once night falls, it becomes more date friendly as they light up the ring with hundreds of coloured lights.

East Molesey, KT8 9AU, November 22 until January 5

7/7 Skylight

Skating up high? Why not? Skylight have given themselves a makeover for the winter and now boast London’s first rooftop rink – and besides skating, there’s a chance to do a little ice hockey shooting, too.

You can fill up on street food too, and there’ll be DJs spinning to keep festive spirits high.

Tobacco Dock, E1W 2SF, from November 1

Ice rinks are popping up all over London – read our full guide here – but the Natural History Museum is going a step further. The venue is hosting a Penguin Skate Club on Saturday mornings until January, helping four to eight-year-olds find their feet. Book a session while spots are still available. 

Visit the Coca Cola truck

For many, it just doesn’t feel like Christmas until the red Coca Cola truck is on the TV.

As with previous years, Londoners have the chance to go one step further and see it in person. The truck will be visiting Asda Leyton Mills (December 3), Asda Watford (December 4), Sainsbury’s Beckton (December 10) and the O2 (December 15) this year.

Go to a screening of a Christmas classic 

Backyard Cinema in Wandsworth has launched a Winter Night Garden, offering guests the chance to enter the venue through a magical wardrobe and discover an enchanted forest. More importantly, they’re screening Christmas classics throughout the festive season including Home Alone, The Holiday and The Muppets Christmas Carol.

Screenings are selling out fast, so grab tickets while you can.  Don’t forget, Frozen II is in cinemas now too. Read the Standard’s review here

See the creatures of Christmas at London Zoo

(Getty Images)

Get your fix of creature comforts this Christmas at London Zoo. Here you’ll find a Santa’s Grotto, as well as festive film screenings and a living nativity, where kids can meet the wise men and their camels, as well as Mary in the stable and the shepherds with their flock.

Mostly, though, it’s another excuse to see the zoo’s incredible wildlife.

See Hogwarts in the snow 

The Warner Bros. Studios tour in Watford is a must-visit for Potter fans all year round, but it really comes into its own in the winter. Many sets in the tour are transformed with snow and The Great Hall filled with Christmas trees, adding an extra touch of magic to proceedings.

Guests can also enjoy a seasonal feast in the hall from December 9-11, getting closer to the movies than ever before.

Build a gingerbread house

(Randalyn Hill/Unsplash)

The Museum of Architecture’s Gingerbread City is a chance for families to get hands on and craft their own personalised Christmas gifts.

The sessions, which take place in Somerset House from December 7 to January 5, will see guests explore an intricate Gingerbread City exhibition, put together by more than 100 architects and designers, before taking part in family masterclasses and building their own creations.

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