If you have kids – or are a bit of a kid at heart yourself – you're probably scheduling in an appointment with ol' Saint Nick around about now. From the end of November through to Christmas Eve, that guy's grappling with a pretty hectic schedule, making appearances all over the country.
In the capital alone, Santa's got himself gigs at shops, department stores, historic palaces – even London Zoo. Truly, he's not leaving any stone unturned.
From a super-festive afternoon of storytelling to a thoroughly Victorian Christmas, we've rounded up the very best Santa's Grottos to get you and the family ready for the festivities this year (if all those Christmas lights and festive fairs haven't got you in the mood already)…
RECOMMENDED: Find more festive fun with our guide to Christmas in London
Where to find Santa's grottos in London
Needing very little introduction, Winter Wonderland opens its doors in November - but if you’re thinking of visiting Santa’s Grotto, bear in mind that he usually arrives a day after the launch. There's no fee to visit the S-man, nor an option to book – this is very much a first-come, first-served situation. Until Jan 5 2020.
With a mind-boggling number of toys up for grabs, Hamley’s gives even Santa’s workshop a run for its money – so we can understand why the big man likes to hang out there every December. Make sure to book ahead, as this one’s understandably popular! Until Dec 24. £20.
Where better to see Father Christmas than the glorious Royal Albert Hall? This theatrical walk-around event brings together puppetry and live music to paint a jolly picture of Christmas past – kids will encounter all kinds of North Pole creatures on their way to find the man in red. Dec 5-22. £39.24
Visit Saint Nick in his capacious North London rental this December – he’ll be happy to pose for a photo with young’uns, and they won’t leave empty-handed, either. While you’re at Ally Pally, why not expand your Christmas experience with a trip to the ice rink? Dec 5 - 23. £13.70.
Visit Hackney’s oldest house for a grotto with a difference this year. Visitors will be able to watch Christmas evolve over 500 years – from Tudor times through to a Georgian, Victorian and even a 1980s Yule. Father Christmas will be waiting in his oak-panelled grotto, to tell tales of the North Pole and treat each lucky little one to a lovely gift – while adults tuck into a mince pie and a glass of mulled wine. Christmas arts and crafts will also be on offer. Until Dec 22. Father Christmas is there on Saturday and Sundays only. £9.50.
Fancy combining a trip to see the animals with a chance to see Santa? At the heart of London Zoo, Father Christmas is hunkering down in his grotto until Christmas Eve, meeting and greeting the kids, jotting down gift orders and sending everyone on their way with a wrapped present. As if you needed another excuse to head to the zoo… Dec 7 - 24. £12.
Many of the traditions we now associate with Christmas got started with the Victorians (they didn’t have Ferrero Roche, mind you). From Christmas trees to crackers and a hefty celebratory meal, those guys really pulled it all together – and the Museum of London pays homage to that, by transforming their Victorian Walk into a winter walkthrough, ultimately leading to a rosy-cheeked Santa. From Nov 29 - Dec 23. From £10.
You can find Santa on Chelsea’s pretty Pavilion Road this year, for an hour-long grotto experience livened up by a collaboration with kids entertainers Sharky & George. There will be games a-plenty before the little ones enter Father Christmas’s workshop to behold the main man himself – and after gleefully opening gifts from beneath the tree, they can get stuck into some festive crafts, like bauble-decorating. Until Dec 23. £27.50
Kew Gardens transforms into a true wonderland come November, strewn with fairy lights, each path beautifully illuminated. In between walking, there is much to eat and drink, with a variety of vendors on standby (think cheese toasties, churros, pizza and mac ’n cheese) – and even a fire pit to huddle round with marshmallows. It wouldn’t be Christmas without Santa, so be sure to look out for him and his elves along the way... Until Jan 5. From £18.
Fulham Palace has undergone quite the makeover recently, with the latest renovation phase completed just this year. Come and see the medieval house in all its glory this Christmas, when Santa will be planting himself firmly in front of a roaring fire, with gifts for every lucky lad or lass. Beware though, as his ‘naughty and nice’ list will be displayed for all to see. Dec 1 - 8. £11.
Find more kids' christmas fun in London
December is never more exciting than when you're littler than Santa's elves. They've been waiting for this all year; help to make their festive dreams come true at these great Christmas events for kids. And there's lots more wintery fun to be had at London's ice rinks, Santa's grottos, Xmas lights and Christmas theatre shows.
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