It might be freezing, but with London’s breathtaking winter events – who wants to stay home? Exploring the city during winter is fun: there are some wonderful family attractions during the season and beyond. Of course, the main event for those with young children is a visit to see Santa Claus – and rightly so – but don’t forget the Christmas carols, shimmering light displays, and festive performances.
London’s program of activities includes the much-awaited Winnie-the-Pooh exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the awe-inspiring Lumiere, and new West End shows that are running through 2018, such as Matilda. Be sure to book your stay at one of our central London homes.
Our classically British Macdonald apartment located in elegant Kensington is the perfect winter retreat. It’s a quick walk from a wealth of festive experiences such as the mighty Winter Wonderland. This luxurious, three bedroom apartment with a chic, traditional style, sits in a prime location.
There are a dizzying amount of events on this winter, so it’s important to be selective. With this mind, we’ve rounded up 14 of the best we think you should know about for your trip. Prepare to be dazzled by London’s bright lights.
1. Christmas lights in London
The magical Christmas light displays in London are so festive and there’s a big array to choose from, but we think Regent and Oxford Street are the best. What could be more cheery than seeing twinkling angel decorations in the sky? Just wandering through the glitzy displays is a perfect way to get in the mood and it’s completely free. Running through December and early January.
2. Christmas Carols at St. Paul’s Cathedral
Sing your heart out, be joyful and charitable: isn’t that what Christmas is all about? Help raise money for Unicef UK and the children of Syria, all funds raised will be donated to the cause. Listen to some choral classics and a performance by Jessie Ware. Some events ticketed; check the website for various timings. Running through December.
3. Father Christmas at Leicester Square
Santa is making many London appearances this Christmas, much to our delight. Leicester Square is right in the center of London so it’s a great place to see Mr. Claus on your day out. Seeing Santa at the beautiful Christmas market is dreamy for kids and a very reasonable price for London. This event is very popular and can be booked online. Tickets are £10.50; running through December 24.
4. Christmas at Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens is home to some delightful illuminations and Christmas happenings including its Christmas trail that has over one million lights. From trees draped in glittery baubles and ribbons to festive walkways – you may wonder if you’ve been transported to Narnia itself. There’s also a chance to see Santa and his helpers in Kew’s North Pole village and mulled wine for the adults. Prices: £18.50, £12 or free for under 4s. Running through January 1.
5. Winter Wonderland
Winter Wonderland is a massive event in Hyde Park with a huge market, grottos, and local handmade gifts. Families will adore this sprawling festive fixture: it’s perfect for little ones and older children and one of the largest Christmas events in the city. Stay at one of our apartments located in the vicinity to really make the most of it. Free; attractions and rides are ticketed and can be pre-booked. Running through January 1.
6. Winnie-the-Pooh exhibition at the V&A
At the Victoria and Albert Museum until April, the Winnie-the-Pooh exhibit illustrates the timeless appeal of the popular fictional bear Winnie-the-Pooh. Adults will also enjoy learning more about the man behind the story, A. A. Milne, and illustrator E. H Shephard. It’s a multi-sensory experience including sketches, letters, and photographs, which includes a sneak peek at the original toy bear that was the inspiration for the character. If it’s not a brilliant excuse to take everyone to the remarkable Victoria and Albert Museum, we don’t know what is. Tickets £8 for an adult, kids under 11 are free. Running through April 8.
7. Lumiere festival
Returning for a second installation, the 2018 Lumiere is the UK’s largest light festival. It starts in January 2018 and sees 40 UK and international artists casting their spell over the city of London, transforming the urban landscape into a living art exhibition. It’s amazing to see the streets of London reinvented in such a spectacular fashion. Free; running from January 18 – 21.
8. The Nutcracker
With a limited run of just four dates, the Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Nutcracker debuts at the iconic Royal Albert Hall for the very first time this year. The ultimate festive performance has been masterfully adapted for the venue, with Tchaikovsky’s thrilling score ever-present. Expect a spellbinding production at this utterly captivating ballet event. Prices: £35-85; from December 28 – 31.
9. Wintertime at Southbank Centre
Wander the Thames and stop by Wintertime at the Southbank Centre, which heralds the season with its pretty Christmas markets, events and its new Finnish sauna, perfect for warming up – or thawing out. Read our blog on the Finnish sauna experience and book your session in advance. Free; other events are ticketed. Running through January 4.
10. Pinocchio & Matilda the Musical
“When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true” is a famous lyric from Pinocchio. They certainly do come true for younger children this theater season. Pinocchio is being staged at the prestigious National Theatre and it’s directed by John Tiffany of Harry Potter fame. Children will love this enchanting production with shows on through April 2018. Prices: £15-62; half-price tickets for under-18s. Suitable for ages 8 and up. Running through April.
Matilda the Musical is a brilliant option for older children and one of the hottest tickets on the West End at the moment, featuring comedian Tim Minchin. Showing at the Cambridge Theatre this fantastic musical will leave all the family thoroughly entertained. Prices £20-67.50; running through 2018. Matilda the Musical can be reserved through London Perfect Theater Tickets – to get the best deals.
11. New Year’s Eve Fireworks
What better way to ring in 2018 than with a mesmerizing firework display? A popular option in the UK is to watch them in the warmth and comfort of our own home. Didn’t snag tickets in time? Have a little party with friends and family: the fireworks are televised on the BBC every year. If you’re staying at one of our apartments in the city, you’ll be guaranteed a cozy night in; so prepare some tasty nibbles and crack open the champagne. Free.
12. Paddington 2
Paddington Bear is back in movie theaters. We also found him recently at various London locations with Paddington’s Pop Up London. The cute bear is also the face of this year’s Marks & Spencer Christmas advert. Why not go and see Paddington 2 with the little ones at one of London’s many movie theaters? Prices vary; running through December.
13. Hogwarts in the Snow
For Harry Potter fans, the Warner Brothers Studios in London has had a festive makeover. With only a limited tickets remaining, the studio tour has transformed Hogwarts into a winter wonderland. See The Great Hall transformed, the Hogwarts castle model blanketed in snow and discover how the filmmakers create fire, ice, and snow that doesn’t melt.
Book onto our popular Warner Bros. Studio Tour, which offers guests all this and a glimpse into the making of Harry Potter. Adult prices start at £71, kids from £34-£66. Check out our other Harry Potter tours, for the ultimate Harry Potter experience. Hogwarts in the Snow is running through January 28.
14. Natural History Museum Ice Rink
Get your skates on at the ice rink at the Natural History Museum this winter. At the rink, there’s a backdrop of trees decked out in pretty fairy lights, making it incredibly festive. Warm up with a luxurious hot chocolate from the Hotel Chocolat pop-up. For those that like their feet firmly on solid ground, venture to the balcony and take in the frosty winter scene in all its glory. Prices: £12.65 adults, £8.80 for children and £39.50 for a family; running through January 7.
Stay at one of our luxurious London rentals during your vacation and benefit from having a cozy retreat after all your sightseeing – contact us today. We can also help with planning your tour itinerary and making reservations at the best restaurants in the city.
Additional reporting: Natalie Redman