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
Benjamin Pollock's Toyshop44 The Market, WC2E 8RF
With its crowds of puppets and marionettes, this vintage toyshop is sure to spark children’s imaginations – especially during the holidays. Come admire its Victorian model theatres, the trademark of the original shop opened by Benjamin Pollock in 1856. You might just fall under the spell of a pretty music box, a wooden nutcracker, or some old-fashioned decorations for your tree.
Horniman Museum100 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.
Benihana35-45 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.
Science MuseumExhibition 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.
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Image credits: © LD Communications; © LD Communications; © Sam Harris; © Andrew Lee; © Benihana; © Plastiques Photography