29/10/2012 10:24 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Christmas In The Capital: What To See And Where To Go In London

Christmas in the capital: Father Christmas PA

Whether you're heading to town for a day out, a weekend, or just for a few hours in the school holidays, there's a ton of festive fun to be had that doesn't involve traipsing through tinsel clad department stores to a rickety old Santa's grotto! (Santa can be found in MUCH more interesting places this year!)

If you've got...

A whole weekend

Forty-eight hours in the capital will certainly get you firmly into the Christmas spirit; just make sure you pack comfy shoes and plenty of stamina!

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland is an absolute must, and to really enjoy it, devote a day to its pleasures! This 'pop up theme park' in the middle of London's beautiful Hyde Park is an experience not to be rushed, and with everything from Santa Land for its littlest visitors, to family fun at Zippo's circus, the amazing observation wheel and a plethora of food, drink and German market stalls, it is a Christmas treat not to be missed. There really is something there for every age group (even petulant teens will not be able to resist the roller-coasters OR the celeb spotting!) and best of all, it's free to enter AND to visit Santa - you just pay for the rides you want to go on. (Ice skating, giant wheel and circus tickets need to be booked in advance - see website for details.)

Wander around the German Christmas Market on the South Bank
The smell of roasted chestnuts, sausages and mulled wine is a treat in itself as you walk along the South Bank at the moment - before you even stop to look at the dazzling array of stalls running from the Southbank Centre to the London Eye.

The German themed Christmas market has everything from jewellery, hand-made toys, food, candles and traditional German produce on sale, and is well worth a visit, whether just to amble around, or to do some serious Christmas shopping!

Have dinner with Father Christmas at the Rainforest Cafe!
The ever-popular Rainforest Cafe has a kids two-course-meal and visit to Santa offer on over the Christmas period, priced at £39.95 per child (accompanying adults must then order from the al a carte menu). Santa is in attendance throughout December, along with his band of elves - more details at

Panto time! Christmas is not the same without a family visit to the panto (oh no it isn't!) and there are a plethora of shows happening across town this year, from the traditional to the 'alternative' - check out Time Out's panto listings for bookings and availability.

Christmas in the capital: what to see and where to go in London West End media

If you've got 24 hours:

Have breakfast, brunch or tea with Santa!
This year, Hamleys the toy shop is hosting breakfast, brunch, lunch or tea with Father Christmas in place of a traditional grotto. The visits are bookable from 1 -25 December, and cost £45 per child.

Go on a Christmas walking tour! Capture the feel of Dickens' London and delve into Christmases past with a journey through Charles Dickens' world. See the London Walking Tours website for more details.

Pet reindeer in Covent Garden!
Santa's trusty sledge pullers will be hanging out in Covent Garden on Saturdays until Christmas - and are just waiting to have a pat on the head for all their hard work! Free, and fun for all age groups. The reindeer are situated in the Covent Garden Piazza - follow your nose!

Christmas in the capital: what to see and where to go in London PA

After school treat:

If you're looking to while away a few hours with a bit of Christmas cheer before school breaks up, or have a free morning or afternoon to fill in the school holidays, then head for one of London's outdoor ice skating rinks. There are open air rinks popping up across town for the festive period, from Somerset House, to the Natural History Museum and plenty of locations inbetween.

Go window shopping and light spotting - the Christmas window displays at Harrods and Selfridges are a treat in themselves, as are the beautiful Christmas light displays in St Christopher's Place off Oxford Street.

Explore Christmas 'how we used to live' at the Geffrye Museum - the wonderful Geffrye Museum has a festive display of over 400 years of Christmas traditions, with amazing room sets in 11 period rooms, bringing to life the history of seasonal celebrations in British homes.

Christmas in the capital: what to see and where to go in London Geffrye Museum/Jayne Lloyd

What are your favourite things to do in London over Christmas?