Santa's grottos in London

Everybody's dying to meet the beardy man with the bag – here's where to find him

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Steve Finn

What could make Christmas more magical than an encounter with Father Christmas himself? Find out where to meet the man in red this winter with our guide to Santa's Christmas grottos in London.

Where to find a Santa's grotto this Christmas

  1. Attractions
  2. Shops and Christmas markets

Christmas at Kew Gardens

Kew's annual seasonal makeover is back. For 2014, a glittery, mile-long trail, guided by snowflakes, will wind its way through the landscape. Santa's Grotto will be no exception, decked out in snowflakes for the occasion. Visit Santa's Snowflake Grotto over in the Princess of Wales Conservatory during evening opening hours, when there will also be plenty of family-friendly attractions including a Victorian carousel and vintage rides, a boutique Christmas market with foodie treats and live festive music.

  1. Kew Gardens
  2. Wed Dec 17 - Sat Jan 3
More info

Duke of York Square Santa's Grotto

Those who visit Santa in this square just off the King's Road will be treated to seasonal stories as well as the chance to pass on their wish list and to take home a souvenir photo taken by the elves. Fully grown kids are welcome to pop in, too, and grotto guests are asked to make a donation to the Prince's Foundation. Visit the square on November 8 to see the Christmas lights being switched on and to meet Santa and his reindeer.

  1. Duke Of York Square King's Rd, SW3 4LY
  2. Wed Dec 17 - Wed Dec 24
More info

Father Christmas at the Rainforest Cafe

Who knew Father Christmas hung out in the rainforest? But there he is in his snowy grotto, where your kids will get a personalised invite from the portly one and a warm welcome from his elves, before being ushered into the grotto where they'll meet the man in person - who will give them a gift.

  1. Rainforest Café 20 Shaftesbury Avenue, W1D 7EU
  2. Wed Dec 17 - Wed Dec 24
More info

Hyde Park's Santa Land

  • Free

Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland is the perfect setting for a magical Christmas grotto. It’s free to see Father Christmas and every tot will walk away with a trinket and a photo memory. Last year the Big Man gave away 50,000 gifts. And no need to worry about the queue, as Santa’s little elves will be on hand to entertain your kids. The Grotto is located in Santa Land, which also has rides, a toy-making workshop and a little train.   

  1. Hyde Park
  2. Wed Dec 17 - Sun Jan 4
More info

Meet Santa at ZSL London Zoo

Help the animals have a merry Christmas at London Zoo this December as Santa and his elves take over. Children can make festive treats for some of the zoo's permanent residents before visiting Santa's grotto to share their Christmas wishes. The Animal Adventure area will become a magical town called Elfville, hosting Christmas activities and musical performers. Obviously the zoo's reindeer are getting set for their big night out, so they'll be tucking into extra snacks while the keepers talk about their ancestry. All activities are free with admission but it's a good idea to book a timeslot in advance on the London Zoo website.

  1. London Zoo Outer Circle, Regent's Park, NW1 4RY
  2. Fri Dec 19 - Wed Dec 24
More info

Meet Santa on his Floating Grotto

Given that Father Christmas has flying reindeer we're not sure why he'd pick the Regent's Canal to travel along this winter, but a floating grotto is a fairly exciting prospect so we'll go with it. Spend a whole hour in the company of the man himself as you cruise around the King's Cross waterways on this festive trip for all ages. As well as the traditional rubbish presents for the little ones, there'll be carol singing, free mince pies and a LOT of fairy lights. The narrowboat will set sail on the hour every hour between 11am and 5pm from Granary Square, but booking is highly recommended. Email lapwing@hiddendepthscanalcruises.co.uk or call 07456 084584.

  1. Granary Square Granary Square, N1C 4AA
  2. Fri Dec 19 - Tue Dec 23
More info

Nigel and Louise's Basement Grotto

Watch out for this one: Nigel Barrett and Louise Mari, two artists from brilliantly weird experimental theatre company Shunt, take on Christmas with this basement grotto show at Shoreditch Town Hall. This magical adventure show  should transport the whole family to the North Pole. If there's one thing these guys do well, it's creating weird and wonderful worlds. Head to the North Pole with your kids during the day on Tuesday to Sunday, or go to a late night session on the weekend, where you get a night out with Father Christmas.

  1. Shoreditch Town Hall Old St, EC1V 9LT
  2. Wed Dec 17 - Wed Dec 24
More info

Santa at Battersea Park Children's Zoo

Santa's spending some time getting to know Battersea Park Children's Zoo's animals this December, and children are welcome to come and visit him. Visitors to his grotto can share their Christmas wish list and will receive a sticker, small gift, drink and Christmas treat. Times can be booked in advance on 0207 924 5826 or upon entry to the zoo, and the £5.50 ticket price is in addition to the usual admission fee.

  1. Battersea Park Children's Zoo Battersea Park, SW11 4NJ
  2. Fri Dec 19 - Wed Dec 24
More info

Santa's Floating Grotto

Father Christmas has made himself at home in a most unlikely setting this winter – a boat on west London's canalways. Thankfully children don't tend to mind where he's staying, and their accompanying adults (one travels free with each child ticket) will enjoy the hour-long cruise while tucking into wintry cakes and coffee. Elves will be on hand to teach kids how to make gifts, and the big man himself will lead the storytelling and carol singing. Every little visitor will go home with a personalised gift and a photo from their trip. Booking recommended.

  1. Little Venice between Blomfield Rd, Warwick Avenue and Warwick Crescent, W9 2PB
  2. Sat Dec 20 - Sun Dec 21
More info

Santa Saturdays in Hammersmith

  • Free

Santa's got more than elves in tow on these weekly trips to Lyric Square. Families are invited to meet his reindeer and even a snowy owl before having photos taken, and there'll be festive entertainment all afternoon.

  1. Lyric Square
  2. Sat Dec 20
More info

Victorian Santa's Grotto

Father Christmas has settled into a secret grotto on an atmospheric Victorian street, and has luckily stowed plenty of presents in there with him. Young visitors can tell him all their special Christmas wishes and can have their photo taken with the magical man himself. Each child will receive a gift, but photographs cost extra.

  1. Museum of London Docklands Hertsmere Rd, West India Quay, E14 4AL
  2. Until Tue Dec 23
More info

The Whippersnappers Winter Wonderland Experience

We never knew Father Christmas was so fond of Dulwich, but judging by the huge team of magical helpers he's brought with him for this festive experience in a Victorian park-keepers' lodge he must think it pretty special. Families will be welcomed to the grotto by elves bearing mulled wine, hot chocolate and mince pies, and a whole sackful of fun activities await once you're inside; children will help out in the toy workshop, decorate gingerbread decorations in Mrs Claus' Christmas Kitchen, work on crafts with the Christmas Tree Fairy, sing seasonal songs and meet the big man with the bag who'll be giving out enchanting presents. The whole experience lasts an hour, and profits will help fund Whippersnappers' work delivering activities for children with disabilities. Find more Christmas activities for kids in London

  1. College Lodge
  2. Sat Dec 20 - Wed Dec 24
More info

Winterville

  • Free

Combining east London’s creative energy and talent drawn from across Europe, this new winter destination is aimed at all ages. There will be a Santa’s grotto, horsedrawn carriage rides, an ice rink, roller disco and fairground rides including a huge Ferris wheel.

  1. Victoria Park Victoria Park Rd, E3 5SN
  2. Until Thu Jan 1
More info

  1. Attractions
  2. Shops and Christmas markets

Users say

4 comments
NewMumOnline
NewMumOnline

Don't understand this post at all. It starts with a Harrods' photo, yet I cannot find a paragraph about the Harrods' Santa?!?!? AND why is it a 2012 photo anyhow?

HOLLY M
HOLLY M

@Harrods, really annoyed, i book every year to take my son to visit santa at Harrods at a very special time of year for my family.

An this year u was given my email to book online to find out that had already been sold, unless i want to pay for a very expensive tea which i cannot afford.

Very disappointing to see they have done this and i will be making a compliant

Christina S
Christina S

@Harrods I am annoyed and disappointed that the Christmas Grotto 2014 is already sold out...unless I am willing to pay £118 for my family of four to have afternoon tea with Santa! I can't say I have ever been that impressed with their afternoon tea and can think of much nicer places to go for it! I will now have to look around for another Christmas grotto to take my children to! My family's Christmas tradition of visiting Santa at Harrods will now be broken this year due to the change in your Christmas Grotto! ...and the icing on the cake is. That there will not be a Harrods Christmas Parade this year! Harrods, you should be ashamed of yourselves! #greed

anne hannoun
anne hannoun

last year was briliant for my kids hopefully re do all these activities again !!