Looking for family-friendly things to do in London in the Christmas holidays? Check out our guide to Christmas fun in the capital, including child-friendly theatre shows and exhibitions, and London's winter ice rinks. Note: Venue opening hours tend to vary over Christmas, as does public transport, so check before you travel.
ICE SKATING: London's festive ice rinks are back for Christmas 2023. Take to the ice at impressive settings including Somerset House, Queen's House Greenwich and Hampton Court Palace. Some of the rinks have skate aids to help kids get their balance, or offer classes for budding Torvills/Deans, and most have cafes where you can warm up with hot chocolate (or mulled wine for the grown-ups) after your sesh.
PANTOMIMES: Panto season is back (oh no it isn't, etc, etc...), and London's full of the classics including Aladdin, Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella and Dick Whittington. Here's our guide on where to see pantomime in London this Christmas.
CHRISTMAS THEATRE SHOWS: Peppa Pig, The Snowman and Buddy the Elf are among the recognisable characters treading the boards this Christmas. Our pick of family-friendly festive theatre shows in London also includes traditional fairytales, circus and, our own perennial favourite, Disney On Ice. If you've got older kids or teenagers, these fantastically festive theatre and dance shows, including A Christmas Carol and The Nutcracker, make for a great Christmas day out.
FESTIVE FILMS: Elf, Home Alone and The Muppet Christmas Carol are among the family-friendly films being shown at these festive film screenings across the capital. Kick back with the family in an historic ballroom, a Royal Palace, or at one of London's best-loved independent cinemas. Check with individual venues for age restrictions, beyond those denoted by the film.
LIGHT FESTIVALS: Plenty of London's winter light festivals run through Christmas and into the new year. Christmas at Kew is a favourite of ours, with enchanting lights choreographed to music, and a laser show finale, but Christmas at Eltham Palace is also particularly family-friendly. Here's the full list of light festivals this winter.
CHRISTMAS LIGHTS: Sometimes it's the smaller (parents, read: less expensive) things which makes the biggest impression, and many adults talk of their memories of seeing the London Christmas lights as a child. If that sounds like something your family would enjoy, here's our guide to when, where and how to see London's Christmas light displays this year. Plus, if little legs are getting tired, we've put together some information on how to see the lights by bus — just remember to avert their eyes as you pass Hamleys, or that list for Santa will get even longer. Speaking of which...
SANTA'S GROTTOS: There are ample chances to meet Santa Claus/Father Christmas/however he's known in your household around London this year. Our pick of grottos spans departments stores and museums, but many sell out waaay in advance, so see what's still available.
WINTER WONDERLAND: The huge festive funfair has taken over Hyde Park once again, with fairground rides, circus shows, an ice kingdom, skating rink, Christmas market and Santa Land. If that all sounds a bit overwhelming, our handy guide to visiting Winter Wonderland 2023 breaks everything down. The most important thing to know is that you must book an entry ticket in advance again this year, even if you're just browsing. Until 1 January 2024
WALKING WITH THE SNOWMAN: Burn off any mince pie binges with the Walking With The Snowman art trail, which has popped up in the Fleet Street area. A dozen 1.6m-tall sculptures of Raymond Briggs' timeless character The Snowman are dotted around the area, each individually decorated. FREE, until 5 January
KINGDOM OF WINTER: New for 2023 is Kingdom of Winter, an indoor festival taking place inside ExCeL Centre (so no need to worry about the weather). It's been designed with families in mind, and includes an ice rink, Christmas market, fairground rides, circus show and ice expedition trail. 8 December 2023-7 January 2024
WISHMAS: Also new this festive season is Wishmas, a family-friendly walkthrough themed around (unsurprisingly) Christmas wishes. Travel through several themed rooms, see the robins safely stowing your wishes away, then watch your wishes take flight on board the train to Wishmas. Until 7 January 2024
GINGERBREAD CITY: Gingerbread? Lovely. Model towns? Cute. A combination of the two? Absolutely charming (and delicious-smelling) festive fun. Gingerbread City is exactly that — a scale city made from gingerbread and other sweet treats, designed and built by architects and engineers. This year's build can be seen in White City, until 7 January 2024
TITANOSAUR: Time's running out to see Natural History Museum's blockbuster Titanosaur exhibition, centred around the cast of the skeleton of a dinosaur which was eight metres tall and 37 metres long. Within the same gallery, you can follow the life of a titanosaur, from grapefruit-sized egg, to towering sauropod. Until 14 January 2024
DISNEY100: If you're heading to ExCeL Centre for Kingdom of Winter (above), consider swinging by the Disney100 exhibition while you're there. It celebrates the film studio's centenary with costumes and props from the likes of 101 Dalmatians, Cinderella and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Until 21 January 2024
For more festive inspiration, take a look at our guide to spending Christmas 2023 in London.