Christmas is a super-magical time when you have children, and even more so when you happen to be in one of the world’s coolest capitals. Whether you are a London resident or just in town for the weekend, there are a wealth of activities to keep you and your little elves busy and merry throughout this winter season. Below are a few of my favorite things to do, ensuring that you enjoy a huge amount of festive family fun in the Big Smoke during the run up to Christmas.
1. Get your Skates on at Somerset House
Out of all the capital’s outdoor ice-skating rinks, the one at Somerset House just always takes the biscuit. Maybe it’s the spectacular setting of the beautiful L-shaped historical building that encompasses the ring, or the towering Christmas tree at the entrance, decorated top to toe with Fortnum & Mason goodies? Either way, a trip to Somerset House is sure to tip both you and your children over the edge in terms of getting into the real Christmas spirit.
Whether you and the kids are avid skaters or complete novices, it makes no difference here. There is a toddler’s skate school and Polar Club to boost beginner’s confidences and improve techniques, and a special training rink so that tiny ones can avoid being wiped out by show-offs on the main area.
When the blades come off, you can all enjoy some apres-skate fun in the Fortnum’s Lodge, where you can drink champagne and eat smoked salmon blinis, whilst the kids enjoy hot cocoa and munch on Welsh rarebit slices. There is also a Christmas Arcade—the perfect place to pick up delightful stocking-fillers and Christmas candy canes.
Tel: 020 7845 4600
2. Ho Ho Ho with Harry Potter
With its festive makeover, The Harry Potter Studio is an extra-special delight for Hogwarts’ fans this Christmas. Picture the Gryffindor common room dressed with home-made Christmas cards and decorations made by original cast members, along with garlands, gold baubles and flaming Christmas puddings in the Great Hall.
There will be a special focus on fire and ice this year, so you and your tots can discover how the film’s Special FX team carefully sprinkled snow mixture onto the set by hand using a special formula that never melts, and also work out how the Goblet of Fire’s burning flames change from blue to red.
Following your journey around the studio, finish your trip with a round of “Butterbeers” in The Backlot (don’t worry, they are non-alcoholic) or a feast of scones and clotted cream in The Studio Cafe.
Studio Tour Drive
Tel: 08450 840 900
Open daily. Times vary seasonally.
3. Enjoy Christmas Magic at Kew
Christmas at Kew… ahhhh how divine! Best enjoyed in the evening, the stunning gardens come alive with illuminations and festive frolics in the form of gigantic Christmas trees, a vintage carousel and a Snowflake Grotto, where your kids can meet Santa himself!
Moms and dads can enjoy a mulled wine while the little ones sip on hot chocolate as you all meander your way through the scented fire garden and look out for Santa’s elves hiding in the North Pole village. You can all gather to toast your own marshmallows before stopping to glimpse the Tunnel of Lights, twinkling with over 60,000 lights making patterns and pictures to a soundtrack of festive favorites.
The twilight trail is open for 5 pm until 10 pm, so you can pop for dinner first before descending on the gardens for an evening full of enchantment and joy.
Royal Botanic Gardens
Free for children under 4
4. Check into Brown’s Hotel, Mayfair
There are hotels and there are marvelous hotels, and Brown’s Hotel is most certainly one of the latter. Rightfully recognizing that the smallest guests often need the most attention, Rocco Forte has thrown in a whole lot of extra special treats, and around Christmas-time the treats just get even better.
From the kids check-in cards and embroidered pirate/princess sheets, to the personalized gingerbread men and monkey teddy bears waiting in their room, Rocco Forte really have thought of everything to make sure your juniors are pampered just as much as you are during their stay. The interconnecting suites are ideal for families wanting ample space, but still allow for those intimate and cozy moments, where you can enjoy a Christmas family movie along with a cup of cocoa and cookie just before bed time. Rooms are set-up with children laundry bags and coat hangers, and books, magazines, games, games consoles and content protected Wi-Fi are available upon request.
Why not enjoy a festive afternoon tea, whilst the piano tinkles away some well known carols, or gather round the Smythson-adorned Christmas tree for a good-old family selfie? Check your family into Browns this December and you might never want to leave.
Tel: 020 7493 6020
Doubles from £420
5. Enjoy an 8-Course Festive Dinner at Tredwells
Contrary to what many people might believe, Marcus Wareing’s Covent Garden venture really is informal enough to brave a lunch out with a young family in tow, and is perfect for a post-skating, festive, weekend feast.
In his most casual eatery, Wareing has a pro-kid offering that consists of an eight-course tasting menu, reasonably priced under £20, and which features nutritious and delicious bits and pieces, delivered in fun and interesting ways—enticing even for the pickiest of eaters!
There is also an a la carte children’s menu, offering favorites such as roast beef, cheesy pizza and crispy chicken breast, all served with a host of scrummy veg, and topped off with a pudding list of pretty pineapple & coconut mousse and sipped down with a fruity mojito (minus the rum of course).
4A Upper St Martin’s Lane
Tel: 020 3764 0840