Santa's Grottos and meetings with Father Christmas are big business in London these days — a far cry from being ushered behind a curtain in the school hall when we were kids. If you want your children to meet Santa, his elves and his reindeer in London for Christmas 2019, get booking as tickets will sell out fast.
Santa Land at Hyde Park Winter Wonderland 2019
Winter Wonderland doesn't just have a grotto — it dedicates a whole corner of the event to Father Christmas. Santa Land has family-friendly rides, attractions and activities, as well as the Grotto itself.
The good news for parents is that this one's completely free, and all kids get a small gift. The bad news is there's no booking, you just turn up and take your chances. Be warned: the queue has been several hours long in past years.
Santa Land at Hyde Park Winter Wonderland. Free, no booking. Grotto open from 21 November 2019, 10am-6pm. The queue may close earlier than this to make sure everyone is seen.
Meet Father Christmas at Hamleys 2019
Where better to meet Father Christmas than at a world-famous toy store? Hamleys' Santa's Grotto is returning for 2019, designed like Santa's workshop, where the toys are made. Take part in festive activities, spend time with Santa himself, and play games and sing songs with the elves.
Santa's Grotto Workshop at Hamleys, £39.99 per child. 23 November-24 December 2019.
Meet Santa at The Winter Forest, Broadgate
The man in red makes three one-day appearances at The Winter Forest, a snowy wonderland next to Liverpool Street station. Kids can meet him and tell him what they're hoping for this Christmas, and parents will be happy as it's completely free. That said, The Winter Forest supports mental health charity Mind in the City, Hackney and Waltham Forest, so consider making a donation.
Meet Santa at The Winter Forest, free, no booking required. 23 November, 10 and 19 December 2019.
Chelsea Grotto, Pavilion Road
Claiming to be 'London's most interactive grotto', Chelsea Grotto opens the day after the Christmas lights are switched on in the area. Kids are treated to an hour-long experience in small groups, transporting them to the North Pole to meet Santa and his elves. Entertainment comes courtesy of Sharky & George, with storytime, games, and a chance to each child to meet Santa individually. Plus, there's the option for parents to slip Santa a bit of intel before the session, to make the meeting more personal for each child.
Chelsea Grotto, from £27.50 per child. 24 November-23 December 2019.
Santa's Grotto at Christmas in Leicester Square
The Christmas festival is back in Leicester Square from November, and so too is Santa's Grotto. The man himself hosts an audience with small groups of fans (up to 20 people at a time), reading a Christmas story, before meeting them all individually and handing over a little gift to take home.
Santa's Grotto at Christmas in Leicester Square, from £11.50. 9 November-24 December 2019.
Father Christmas at the Royal Albert Hall
Father Christmas returns to his 'top-secret London headquarters' at the Royal Albert Hall for Christmas 2019. Kids age 3+ are invited to wander around his HQ, meeting various North Pole characters and enjoying puppetry and live music before meeting the man himself, and taking home a stuffed toy.
Father Christmas at the Royal Albert Hall, £39.24 per child. 5-22 December 2019.
Santa's Victorian Grotto at Museum of London and Museum of London Docklands
Christmas gets a Victorian makeover at Museum of London and Museum of London Docklands. Part of the museums are transformed into a Victorian walk, with Santa waiting at the end. He's once again taking up residence at both museums, to a soundtrack of Victorian carols and against a backdrop of festive decorations. A gift is included in ticket price. We tried this one out and had a very merry time (below).
Meet Father Christmas at Fulham Palace
Father Christmas pitches up in the luxurious surrounds of Fulham Palace for a selection of meet and greet sessions, and they're selling out fast. The whole place is fantastically festive, with roaring fires, a Christmas tree, and a chance to see his desk, where he writes the naughty and nice list.
Storytelling with Father Christmas at Fortnum & Mason
For a more traditional Christmas event, head to Fortnum & Mason. Father Christmas is a regular shopper at Fortnum's, apparently, and holds festive storytelling events for the young shoppers. Step inside the store's grand Boardroom for the encounter, and leave with a goody bag he's transported all the way from the North Pole.
Storytelling with Father Christmas at Fortnum & Mason, £25 per child, currently sold out, so keep an eye out if any other dates are announced. 1-24 December 2019.
Meet Santa at London Zoo
Once upon a time, in a distant December, a member of Team Londonist (not pictured) worked as an elf at Santa's Grotto at London Zoo. But we digress... our old mate Santa's back as part of the Magic of Christmas events at the zoo this year.
Book a slot to meet Father Christmas in his festive grotto on weekends throughout December, have a photo taken with him, and receive a small gift. For an extra special treat, book your child in for a VIP experience, where you can get into the zoo before it opens to the public and have breakfast with Mrs Claus, before meeting the man himself.
Meet Santa at London Zoo, £12 per child. 7-24 December 2019. Note: you need to pay for zoo entry in addition to the grotto price.
Breakfast with Santa at the Hard Rock Cafe
Tuck into an American-style buffet breakfast at Hard Rock Cafe's original Mayfair location, and join in with festive games and activities. Santa himself stops by to oversee proceedings and make sure all of the children are behaving.
Breakfast With Santa at Hard Rock Cafe. £5.95-£16.95, currently sold out, so keep an eye out if any other dates are announced, 14-15 December 2019.
The Winter Dream Garden
New for this year is family-friendly attraction The Winter Dream Garden on Bond Street. It's a theatrical experience, inviting families to wander through a Fairy Kingdom and meet Santa as he makes an appearances (a private audience with Santa is also available).
The Winter Dream Garden. £19.99, 21-22 December.
The Harrods Christmas Grotto 2019