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Christmassy things to do in London

(22 Posts)
Firewall Thu 18-Oct-12 22:52:38

We've booked a weekend break in London in December, taking a toddler but have no idea where the best places to go are or what the 'must do and see' things are. so any suggestions would be great.
We'd love to soak up the Christmassy atmosphere, and try loads of nice food! smile also if anyone has any nice reasonable child friendly restaurants or places to eat for lunch/dinner that would be also vbe really helpful.
We haven't been to London for years so am a bit lost already! But hoping that with careful planning it won be too manic with a toddler and that we won't just be running round like headless chickens and will have activities to keepus all entertained. TIA

Alonglongway Fri 19-Oct-12 00:29:31

The German market in the south bank is lovely. It gets very crowded but lovely and atmospheric after dark. They usually have old fashioned fairground rides and you can buy hot food from the stalls or there are lots of restaurants nearby

Sam100 Fri 19-Oct-12 00:29:55

Go to hamley's on regent st.

Go watch the ice skating at either the London eye/ Somerset house/ natural history museum.

Big Xmas tree in Trafalgar Square.

Lights on Oxford st/regent st.

Usually a German style Xmas market in Hyde park and on the south bank.

See Santa somewhere.

Superabound Fri 19-Oct-12 00:40:35

I think there is a winter wonderland type thing in Hyde Park, the ice skating and carousel etc at the nhm are really nice too, only advice I will give is bring lots and lots of money, last November ds and I popped into the science museum after a hospital appointment, thought we might ice skate ahem he was disappointed, very spendy.

Obviously you could also visit the nhm and the science museum at the same time which are free, I have to say after being forced into harrod's and hamley's by visiting relatives I was very underwhelmed, they are just shops, boring shops. Depends if you find looking at things you can/can't afford in shops to be entertaining or not.

janji Fri 19-Oct-12 04:57:05

We're doing Santana grotto in Harrids and Xmas tea at the ritz when we go in December. Hamlets great but very very busy!!

janji Fri 19-Oct-12 04:57:33

Santas grotto! Late night typing and sausage fingers!!

topsmart Fri 19-Oct-12 04:59:03

Panto at hackney empire! We've taken DD since she turned 2 and she loves it. As do I!

Firewall Fri 19-Oct-12 15:18:59

Thanks all, liking the suggestions. I think we will have to compile a list and see what we can do.

everydayaschoolday Fri 19-Oct-12 20:23:05

I second German Market on the South Bank next to Millenium wheel. DH had his work flat near there and we loved it every year. Not a massive market, but also nicely not overcrowded. DD1 (aged3 last year) loved the old fashioned carousel that daddy joined her on and we got lots of lovely warm food and some nice gifts. Small-ish but personal.

oh DD1 liked millenium wheel too. We pointed out all the landmarks for her.

DD1 and I also did The Snowman at the Peacock Theatre last year (matinee was popular) - DD2 (1YO then) stayed at flat with daddy for the afternoon. It was brilliant and I highly recommend. Geared for kids ie nobody minds background kid noise, lots of lightup glow-in-the-dark snowmen torch thingies bought at the box office being waved around. A ballet company, but the kids were engrossed. Good for adults too, really lovely.

I didn't like Harrods or Hamley's. Like someone else said, they are just shops. They were absolutely mobbed and not fun for kids. DD1 was desperate to get out of Hamley's and go back to the park to see the swans smile.

We love the science museum and the natural history museum - very kid orientated and interactive - esp science museum.

As for restaurants, I've BF in most of them smile. They have all been really good catering for the kids so I'm racking my brains for a negative recommendation - nope can't think of one. Italian restaurants are super-friendly and just lovely with kids, especially the small business ones.

Princess Diana Memorial Playground in the North East of Kensington Gardens is superb. Free to get in. Fantastic big wooden pirate ship to scramble around, teepees, big musical things to hit and jump on, swing park, fort for running round etc etc. Just wrap up well and have emergency change of clothing to hand (some water fountain things there!)

I wished we had went to Winter wonderland in Hyde Park - heard such great reviews. That's on my list next time we go back.

Finally(!) if you're going into London by train, always book as early as possible and check the prices for first class. I have found booking very early is the cheapest way and sometimes there's not a big jump in price to first class.

Have a great time I'm so envy

everydayaschoolday Fri 19-Oct-12 20:23:51

sorry, that was a massive message blush. I'm just so excited for you grin

racingheart Fri 19-Oct-12 22:37:15

I agree - skip Harrods. We went to Santa there one year and it was a let down. But Hamley's kept them happily occupied for hours. Agree South Bank with the carousel is lovely. If you want a very child friendly restaurant, Smollensky's on the Strand is for children. They have a tableside magician who does conjuring tricks and makes balloon figures, and a large screen with cushions on the floor if the children finish eating before you. My kids still talk about it, years on.

Some lovely off-the beaten track places like Battrsea Park children's zoo or Mudchute City Farm are worth a visit if you are nearby. (For Mudchute you get to ride the train that has no driver, so if you sit at the front your DC can 'drive'. It fits well with a visit to Greenwich.)
The new cable car over the river is fun too and only a few pounds

Firewall Sat 20-Oct-12 22:35:46

Thank you everyone again!!

Everydayaschoolday- that's a really useful list! It would be fabulous if Hyde park has events as we are staying around that area. And huge thanks for train tips, we were planning on going by train so will check out the train timetable this weekend :D

Oh no, we had actually booked in for a harrods grotto visit, it's early in the morning so hopefully won't be too busy. At least we will know for future.
Thank you for restaurant name, that sounds amazing!

I really appreciate all the tips, you are all amazing smile am feeling a lot more positive about this visit already smile

everydayaschoolday Sun 21-Oct-12 01:10:19

tea at the Ritz was mentioned by janji. We did this for DH 'big' birthday (not christmas time) and they were lovely with DD1 who was 3 at the time. She loved swirling in corridors in her 'party' dress and having the staff open doors for her! Ritz staff love kids (or did for mine) so don't discount it if your looking for a 'luxury' treat with kids (who love to dress up 'posh') in tow smile.

everydayaschoolday Sun 21-Oct-12 01:16:48

East Coast trains used to offer complimentary food/meals and drinks in first class. So I timed our train journeys over lunchtime, and we'd all enjoy a freebie lunch on the train, which offset the cost of the first class fare.

everydayaschoolday Sun 21-Oct-12 01:18:35

last one, then I'm off to bed!

Winter Wonderland Official site:

ChippingInLovesAutumn Sun 21-Oct-12 01:32:30

London at Christmas time is lovely - try not to plan too too much, just have a few things up your sleeve and enjoy it smile

ChiefOwl Sun 21-Oct-12 11:00:36

Firewall how old is your dd/ds? May have more suggestions depending on age smile

KarenHL Sun 21-Oct-12 11:12:03

Get a bus up Oxford St to admire the Christmas lights, and the window displays (the bigger stores do amazing displays, often animated) - do bus or walk up Regent St to admire lights too. Although walking up both is possible, they are quite long streets and Oxford St tends to turn into a scrum, so bus will be faster! If you see anything you really want a closer look at later, you can always get off.

If you want something 'sitting down', it's worth checking out theatre/musical performances. You can get good offers sometimes.

Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park is great - DD's GPs have taken her for the past couple of years & she loves it. It does have a nice atmosphere too, but isn't cheap. If able to, a quick wander around the Christmas bits of Harrods and Selfridges. Next time I take DD, she will get to choose a Christmas decoration to take home for the tree (they do lovely ones). It's like a whole department of glittery Christmas things. If you keep your purse under a tight rein, you can leave without spending huge amounts!

If you like middle Eastern food, Edgware Road (at the end of Oxford St, nr Hyde Park) is a good place to go & we haven't found any that aren't child friendly yet. Plates of mezze are very reasonable.

hifi Sun 21-Oct-12 15:27:46

harrods is pants for santa,prefer selfridges but the arnt doing one this year. going to try london zoo.
when dd was small we walked from oxford circus to selfridges,she was absoloutly amazed by the shop windows and their xmas displays. a trip in itself.

janji Sun 21-Oct-12 20:14:06

Agree with everydayaschoolday, we went to the ritz in the summer and they were so attentive with both dc (6 & 8). It was because if this that we are going back for our London Christmas weekend!

GrandPoohBah Sun 21-Oct-12 23:21:59

I was about to suggest looking at the lights on Oxford/Regents Sts, also the window displays in Selfridges are usually worth a look.

Winter wonderland is good - DSS at 4 and 3 loved it, but it is VERY spendy.

Firewall Mon 22-Oct-12 09:44:45

Hi, thank you! Thanks for the link! Looks really good!
I think we'll have to research the buses to see the lights, our toddler (2) loves double deckers so would enjoy that!
Do you have to pay for kids at the ritz?

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