After a year’s hiatus, sitting on a disguised stranger’s lap whispering your wants and wishes is back. Magical, endearing, festive and a priceless photo opportunity to boot, visiting Santa at his grotto’s is a classic family Christmas activity, and here’s where you can visit Father Christmas in London…
1 Storytime with Father Christmas at Royal Albert Hall, Kensington
Dates: 2-21 December
Settle into a very special storytelling session with Father Christmas, held in the resplendent Royal Albert Hall. The venue’s porch has been transformed into a winter grotto for the festive season, where children will be greeted by Father Christmas and his head elf Crumpet and will receive a gift at the end of the session.
Kensington Gore, South Kensington, SW7 2AP; royalalberthall.com
2 Shrek’s Adventure Grotto, South Bank
Dates: Selected dates 4-24 December
Even Santa sometimes gets sick of snow and winter. This year, the big man has teamed up with Shrek, the big green ogre, for a swampy grotto experience in Far Far Away, which is actually in South Bank. Shrek’s Adventure! London – a kind of Shrek-themed adventure set in Far Far Away – has added a Christmas Grotto to its list of attractions for December. Guests will get the chance to venture through the grotto and pose for a picture with Santa. Shrek will also be in the festive mood and ready to pose with guests, dressed in his finest Christmas outfit. Grotto entry is included in admission ticket.
County Hall, South Bank SE 1; shreksadventure.com
3 Strand Palace Grotto, central London
Dates: 17 November – 24 December
Strand Palace will be Christmas central this year as it brings the North Pole, Santa’s workshop and grotto to the capital for Christmas. Journey through Santa’s special ‘road-trip’ of enchanted lands including a snowy tundra of ice and snow where furry creatures play. Stumble across a quintessential Victorian toy workshop where you can see the Elves at work, before entering Father Christmas’s warm and inviting grotto. Santa will have a gift for every good boy and girl who visits, and if you want to continue the festive fun, the Strand Palace’s Christmas Afternoon Tea is delicious treat where children can decorate their own gingerbread man before devouring it.
372 Strand, WC2R 0JJ; strandpalacehotel.co.uk; tickettailor.com
4 Santa’s Grotto at Hard Rock Cafe, Piccadilly Circus
Dates: Weekends throughout December (4&5, 11&12, 18&19)
Ideal for a last minute plan or for those amongst us who are disorganised, Hard Rock Cafe’s grotto is free and no bookings are required. Here, you and your sprog can say hello to Father Christmas. You can also bring a gift that will be donated to Hard Rock Cafe’s charity partner Evelina’s Children Hospital. Good to know – these gifts should be new, in their packaging and unwrapped. Baby toys, play gyms, dinosaurs and farm animals, dolls and action figures are particularly welcomed.
Criterion Building, 225-229 Piccadilly, W1J 9HR; hardrockcafe.com
5 Winter Festival at Brent Cross Shopping Centre
Dates: 27 November – January 3
There’s a flurry of festivity happening at Brent Cross Shopping Centre. As part of the mall’s Winter Festival, you can say hello to Santa in his 20-foot tall light castle, go for an ice-skate and help Santa’s reindeer search for the missing key to Father Christmas’s sleigh. There’s also weekend storytelling sessions and from 4 December snow will fall across the centre’s Christmas tree forest for one minute, every 15 minutes, so kids can run through it and teens can snap a picture for their Instagram accounts.
Prince Charles Drive, NW4 3FP; brentcross.co.uk
6 Alexandra Palace Santa’s Grotto
Dates: 3-23 December
Santa Claus will be setting up camp at Ally Pally this Christmas from December 3. The East Court will be transformed into a festive grotto where little ones will get to meet Santa, have their photo taken and will receive a small gift. Adults must be double jabbed or have a negative test result taken within 48 hours prior to entry. Currently slots are sold out, but Santa’s helpers are working on extending his Alexandra Palace stay for a few days so head to the website to find out when tickets are back on sale.
Alexandra Palace Way N22 7AY; alexandrapalace.com
7 Santa Land at Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
Dates: 19 November – 3 January, 2022
Definitely the one-stop-festive-shop, Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park has transformed a corner of the royal park into the north pole for young and old to enjoy, and escape the ruckus of the main section. You can see Santa and receive a present, and you can also go on the various kids rides, scoff festive food and partake in an Elf Dance Off where you get to compare your moves to an elf’s.
Hyde Park, W2 2UH; hydeparkwinterwonderland.com
8 Santa’s Grotto Workshop at Hamleys, Regent Street
Dates: 20 November – 24 December
Every day is like Christmas at world-famous toy shop Hamleys, but that doesn’t stop them pulling out all the stops for the festive season. Taking place in The Hamleys Party Room (aka Hamleys North Pole), the wonderful workshop offers kid the chance to take part in seasonal activities, meet Santa and his elves, and take home a gift. Bookings are for three people, and you can add up to three more additional people to the booking.
188-196 Regent Street W1B 5BT; hamleys.com
9 Sharky & George at St. Pancras
Dates: 20 November – 23 December
Here’s your chance to say hello to Santa before he hops on a train to head back to the North Pole. Sharky & George elves will keep little ones entertained before Father Christmas sits down for a storytelling session. Children will also get the chance to tell him what they want for Christmas and take as photo with him. Finish with a festive treasure hunt to find Santa’s stash of presents. Grotto sessions are all ages, under 2yrs or for 2-4 year-olds.
Euston Road, N1C 4QL; sharkyandgeorge.com