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 2018, get booking as tickets will sell out fast.
Santa's Grotto at Christmas in Leicester Square 2018
The Christmas festival is back in Leicester Square from November, including a Santa's Grotto. The man himself will hold "an audience with" style sessions with groups of up to 20 children, during which he'll tell a festive fairy tale. Kids also have the chance to meet him individually and receive a small gift.
Santa's Grotto at Christmas in Leicester Square. From £11.50, booking required, 10 November-24 December 2018.
Father Christmas at the Royal Albert Hall
Father Christmas's 'top-secret London headquarters' have turned out to be none other than the Royal Albert Hall. Take the kids along for an hour-long experience inside the world-famous building, including a chance to meet Santa, elves, toy soldiers, fairies and other characters from the North Pole. They can sit in Santa's sleigh, tuck into pick 'n' mix, and get a gift from the man himself.
Father Christmas at the Royal Albert Hall. £30.07 per child, booking required, 22 November-22 December 2018
Santa Land at Hyde Park Winter Wonderland 2018
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 23 November-17 December 2018, 10am-4.30pm Monday-Wednesday (followed by a parade) and 10am-6pm Thursday-Sunday. The queue may close earlier than this to make sure everyone is seen.
Santa's Victorian Grotto at Museum of London 2018
Christmas gets a Victorian makeover at Museum of London. Part of the museum is transformed into a Victorian walk, at the end of which you'll find Santa waiting to hear your Christmas wishes. All kids receive a gift from their meeting with Santa, and photos of the special moment are available at an additional cost.
Santa's Victorian Grotto at Museum of London. From £10, booking required. Selected dates 1-23 December 2018.
Santa's Victorian Grotto at Museum of London Docklands 2018
The set-up at Museum of London Docklands is much the same as Museum of London's Victorian offering (above). Sailortown, the museum's recreation of a Victorian street, is transformed with antique decorations and the sounds of carols to create a festive atmosphere, and every child receives a gift from Santa.
Santa's Grotto at Museum of London Docklands. £10, booking required (photos available at extra cost) Selected dates 1-23 December 2018.
Meet Father Christmas at Hamleys 2018
Where better to meet Father Christmas than at a world-famous toy store? Hamleys is offering 45-minute long group sessions led by the Hamleys elves, during which kids hear festive stories, and write that all-important Christmas list before posting it to the North Pole. After meeting Santa, they receive a balloon, stickers, sweets and a gift bag to take home.
Meet Father Christmas at Hamleys. £39.95, booking required. 24 November-24 December 2018 (only weekdays left at time of writing).
Santa's Snowflake Grotto at Westfield London 2018
Snow is the theme at Santa's Snowflake Grotto in this west London shopping centre. Visit the snow factory in the North Pole where Santa's elves make all the snow in the world (we've not heard that one before...). Kids can help out with the snow-making, including making their own snowflake, before meeting Santa in his snow chamber. They get a gift before heading back to London from the North Pole.
Santa's Snowflake Grotto at Westfield Stratford 2018
Like its west London cousin (above), Westfield Stratford has a Santa's Snowflake Grotto popping up for the duration of the festive season. The same snow-themed activities take place at both Westfield grottos, culminating in a chance to meet Santa and receive a gift.
Santa's Gingerbread Grotto at Camden Market 2018
Join the elves in their workshop in Camden Market and help them make gingerbread for Santa. Kids can get hands on with decorating gingerbread before meeting Santa himself and helping to fill his wish-o-meter with their Christmas wishes.
Santa's Gingerbread Workshop Grotto at Camden Market. £15, booking required, 24 November-23 December 2018
Meet Father Christmas at Fulham Palace 2018
Father Christmas is pitching up in the luxurious surrounds of Fulham Palace for a selection of meet and greet sessions. Knock on the door of the Tudor Great Hall and head in to meet him in front of a roaring log fire and decorated Christmas tree, see the wrapping stations where the elves wrap all the presents, and get a peek at the naughty or nice list on Father Christmas's desk.
Storytelling with Father Christmas at Fortnum & Mason 2018
For a more traditional Christmas event, head to Fortnum & Mason. Children on the Nice List are invited to meet Father Christmas (he's a regular shopper at Fortnum's, apparently), hear a festive story, and take home a goody bag.
Storytelling with Father Christmas at Fortnum & Mason. £25, booking required. Selected dates 1-24 December 2018 (many dates sold out at time of writing).
Santa's Grotto at Walthamstow Winter Wonderland -CANCELLED
***NOTE: THIS EVENT HAS BEEN CANCELLED***
Walthamstow Winter Wonderland is a new Christmas festival for 2018. It'll have an ice rink, fun fair and stalls, and most importantly a Santa's Grotto, all in Walthamstow Town Square. Each visit to see Santa includes a secret gift.
Santa's Grotto at Walthamstow Winter Wonderland, £10 per child, book ahead, 1-28 December 2018
Storytime with Father Christmas in Belgravia 2018
Belgravia's Father Christmas has upgraded to a cosy log cabin hidden in a winter forest on Elizabeth Street for 2018. Young Londoners are invited to visit him for two weekends in December, when they can sit by the roaring fire as he reads a story, before having a chat with him. The price includes a photograph and a Christmas treat to take home.
Storytime with Father Christmas, Elizabeth Street, Belgravia. £7.50, book ahead, 7-9 and 14-16 December 2018
The Harrods Christmas Grotto 2018
You're joking, right? This one sold out months ago, and ticketing was even more controversial than usual this year, with only families who have spent a certain amount in the department store throughout the year invited to apply for tickets. If you want a chance at getting in next year, might we suggest doing your Christmas shopping at Harrods this year, to start racking up some of that 'customer loyalty' they love so much.
Harrods Christmas Grotto 2018, 16 November -24 December 2018.