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London en famille: a winter guide

Twinkling lights on Oxford Street, Trafalgar Square's giant spruce tree, festive fairs and carol concerts: winter in London is definitely a family affair. Even in this big, bustling metropolis, there's a holiday welcome for everyone. The British Museum and V&A put on special children's activities. And many restaurants offer well-thought-out kids’ menus, with some – like Rainforest Café and Benihana – putting on a show to keep young diners entertained.

An all-ages outing to the theatre is an annual treat, from the madcap traditional pantomimes packed with quirky British humour, to glitzy West End shows such as Matilda or magical ballet The Snowman. The Harry Potter Studio Tour, known to make even the moodiest teenager smile, gets into the seasonal spirit with a special Hogwarts in the Snow experience. Each year pretty alfresco ice rinks pop up all over the town. Start with a spin in wow-worthy surroundings, then explore further afield.  

 

Festive London for the whole family

  • Natural History Museum ice rink

    Cromwell Road, SW7 5BD

    London’s pretty, seasonal skating rinks pop up everywhere from garden rooftops to historic landmarks these days. The Natural History Museum has one of the most atmospheric; it’s best at dusk or after dark when the building's dramatic facade is illuminated. Make sure to book ahead, and leave time to sample the hot chocolate and scrumptious cakes in the rinkside Café Bar. Until 20 January 2019

  • Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

    Stratford, E20

    It was created for the 2012 Olympic Games, but in this sprawling park the thrills continue. Take the adrenaline-fuelled plunge down the 176-metre tunnel slide from the top of the crazy ArcelorMittal Orbit tower (it's bright red and twisted, so impossible to miss). Inside the iconic sports arenas, book cycling in the Velodrome or tackle the inflatable obstacle course in the Aquatics Centre.

  • Benihana

    35-45 Carter Lane, EC4V 5AE

    Get ready for some Japanese culinary theatrics. Each table has its very own chef who will cook your food in front of you, flame-grilling meat, juggling vegetables, and (don't try this at home, kids) showing off some nifty knife skills. There's one near St Paul's – handy if you've been sightseeing at the cathedral or across the Millennium Bridge at Tate Modern.

  • Horniman Museum

    100 London Road, SE23 3PQ

    This charming South London museum is a perennial favourite for families in search of a little quirk and a lot of imagination. Top attractions are the butterfly house, aquarium, hands-on musical instrument gallery, eclectic World Galleries, and the famously over-stuffed walrus. Outside, there's an acoustic playground, farm animals, and stunning views across London.

  • Science Museum

    Exhibition Road, South Kensington, SW7 2DD

    There's no end of fun to be had at the Science Museum, from lunar modules to atomic inventions. Families should head to the aptly named Wonderlab, where older children can channel their inner Marie Curie with mind-blowing experiments, hands-on exhibits, and eye-popping live demos. For pocket-money gifts, stocking fillers and unusual presents, a visit to the shop is a must.

  • Warner Bros Studio tour – The Making of Harry Potter

    Studio Tour Dr, Leavesden WD25 7LR

    Less than 1 hour from London, the Harry Potter Studios in Leavesden are heaven for Potter fans and wizards in training. Discover secrets from behind the scenes, visit the sets and see costumes and accessories from the films. To find out more, have a look at our guide to the Studio tour.

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Infants can travel for free on an adult’s lap and just need a passport. You can only take one infant per adult.

Image credits: © LD Communications; © LD Communications; © Trustees of Natural History Museum; © Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park; © Benihana; © Andrew Lee; © Plastiques Photography; © Warner Bros