We enjoyed a family Christmas city break in London last weekend. This article aims to provide ideas to other families who are planning a festive city break in the capital.
Our primary reason for visiting London was to meet with Santa in his Christmas grotto at Harrods. We have been eagerly anticipating our visit since we booked our tickets a few months ago. We were not quick enough last year and missed the opportunity to book as tickets sold out very quickly. We were therefore determined this year not to make the same mistake twice!
We travelled from our home in Gloucestershire to London by GWR train. As we have family and friends all over the UK, we regularly spend many hours on motorways stuck in traffic. It was a rare luxury to sit back and relax onboard the train without the worry of traffic, car parking issues and London congestion charges!
Charlie and Harry were highly excitable waving at all the passing trains and Harry did not stop ‘choo chooing’ all the way to London. It did not take long to make ourselves at home in the comfy leather seats and by spreading out our belongings across the spacious table.
Both boys were delighted to have our undivided attention for a few hours and fully made the most of the opportunity! (My husband bought a copy of the Sunday Times to read which was highly ambitious of him…. Of course the paper sat unread whilst we both repeatedly read Thomas the Tank Engine books!)
By the time we arrived into Paddington train station 2.5 hours later we had all enjoyed our onboard refreshments and were ready to experience Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park.
My husband hopped on the tube and dropped off our bag at the hotel whilst the boys and I walked the pleasant 20 minute walk to Hyde Park. Although it was only 2pm, the Christmas lights at Winter Wonderland were already creating a magical atmosphere. We only stopped by to watch Zippos Christmas Circus an entertaining 45 minute show, as we had plans to return in the morning to enjoy the park when it was less busy. Click here for our review of Zippos Circus.
Natural History Museum
Briefly breaking with the Christmas theme we stopped by the Natural History Museum for a couple of hours to get up close and personal with the dinosaurs. If you have children who are dino fans like my two sons, I cannot recommend this free attraction highly enough. The exhibits are very life-like and there are many interactive displays perfect for inquisitive little minds!
My husband and I were astounded at how much information Charlie could recite about the dino exhibits… clearly he has learnt a great deal from watching Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures! We only had time to explore the blue zone where the dinosaur exhibits are however the Natural History Museum is huge and we will definitely return to spend more time there. We were surprised that some of the exhibits did not scare Harry however he did not flinch, even when he came face to face with a gigantic T-Rex head!
Departing the Natural History Museum we stumbled across another magical Christmas event taking place in the grounds of the museum, with traditional carousel, ice skating rink and festive market stalls.
We were invited to review the Magical Ice Kingdom at Winter Wonderland on our second day and jumped at the opportunity to experience the largest attraction of this type in the UK. It is a unique experience and great for all ages, (ignore Charlie’s face on the image below, he did enjoy it, honestly!). We were amazed at the craftsmanship involved in carving and detailing the ice sculptures. Click here for our review of the Magical Ice Kingdom.
Harrods Christmas Grotto
After enjoying rides and festive treats from the market stalls we headed over to Harrods to meet with Santa. It took a while to make our way through the store to the fourth floor (the place is like a maze, especially when you have to navigate with a pushchair!) where we embarked on a magical journey through Father Christmas’ toy workshop before meeting him in his winter cabin.
The toy workshop was interactive and great fun for kids (and big kids!) We threw presents into baskets, had our photos taken, played on a floor piano and watched the Christmas cuckoo clock. The highlight of our time in the workshop was Charlie’s reaction when his Daddy was put on the naughty list. He quickly informed the Elf that the machine must be broken because his Daddy was not naughty!
Our visit with Santa in his winter cabin was very memorable. It was decorated beautifully and we were all made to feel incredibly welcome. We enjoyed personal family time with Santa for at least 20 minutes. Santa and Charlie had an adorable chat about how important it was to leave out refreshments on Christmas Eve and tidy his bedroom (thank you Santa!). Before departing we had our professional photo taken and left with special gifts for both boys, presented in luxurious keepsake bags. Charlie was delighted with his juggling set and Harry was quite smitten with his rattling cube.
As the regular grotto tickets had sold out within a couple of hours of going on sale we had booked a package with buffet in the Disney Christmas Café. The food was, as expected, tasty and very moreish! The boys loved the Christmas decorations in the Disney cafe and it was a lovely end to a very pleasant day. A couple of hours later we rolled out of the store and into a taxi to the train station after trying most of the dishes and desserts on offer!
We stayed at the Premier Inn, Kensington. This hotel is perfectly located within walking distance of the Natural History Museum and Harrods. With prices from £50 and rooms large enough to accommodate a double bed, single bed and cot bed, it is an ideal choice for families.
We have stayed in Premier Inn’s before and have always been very impressed with the general cleanliness, comfortable beds and how well they cater for children. The brand prides itself on providing free breakfast for children under the age of 12 and offering very reasonably priced kids dinner menus. We found there was a good variety of food for both breakfast and dinner with healthy options as well as your typical kids choices. We would not hesitate in staying at this hotel again for future family city breaks in London.
I hope this article helps you to plan a memorable Christmas family city break in London! If you need more inspiration check out My Travel Monkey’s top ten things to do in London this Christmas. Please do let me know if you have any questions, I would love to help if I can.
Disclosure – We would like to thank Winter Wonderland, GWR and Premier Inn for inviting us to review their services. All opinions and words are, as always, our own.
All images copyright Travel Loving Family