England, UK, Wanderlust

The best Christmas markets in London with kids

Sleigh bells ring, are you listening? It’s the sound of Christmas approaching – and however Scrooge-like you’re feeling in the run-up to Christmas Day, there’s nothing to put me into a festive mood faster than a Christmas market.

Lit up carousel and crowd by the stalls in Leicester Square - the best Christmas markets in London with kids

Gluhwein and hot chocolate to keep out the chill, decorations and snuggly scarves among the potential presents, plus anything from ice skating and carousels to bigger rides and child-friendly events. Because it’s not all about browsing the stalls when you’ve got kids.

After taking my daughter to several markets in and around London – including Winchester, one of my favourite Christmas markets in the UK – I’ve made a list of the best Christmas markets in London with kids. I’ve even checked it twice… (Updated 2021)

For more of the best things to do for Christmas in London with kids, check out my top picks

Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park

I first went along to London’s biggest and best-known Christmas market before my daughter was born, squealing with glee on the rides whisking me high above Hyde Park and sipping a drink or two in Bar Ice. But even with a seven-year-old who’s definitely not a thrill seeker, there’s plenty to do at Winter Wonderland.

This year’s attractions include The Magical Ice Kingdom, Zippos Christmas Show, Cirque Beserk, the 70m high Giant Observation Wheel and an ice rink.

The red gate family entrance is back again, to take you straight into Santa Land, with Christmas themed rides and games, and Santa’s Grotto (open daily except Christmas Day, first come first served).

There are gentler rides for all ages, including a helter skelter and the Christmas tree ride, plus the chance to take on the ice slide, as well as more adrenaline-fuelled festive thrills.

Wrap up warm for the ice and snow sculptures of the Magical Ice Kingdom (it’ll be -10C, brr) then look down on the lights of London from the Observation Wheel before toasting marshmallows around the fire pit.

Cost: For the first year, it’s not free to enter Winter Wonderland (unless you go off-peak) – there’s an entry charge of £5 or £7.50, although if you book rides, attractions and games worth £20 per person, you get that refunded.

If you decide to go ice skating, you only need to add one or two extras to hit that amount, but otherwise you just pay for any activities and shows as you go.

There are timed slots to enter and for the various rides and attractions (some are several hours long so you don’t have to be too precise). Skating should also be booked in advance 

Click here to check out the prices for tickets, and there are also family passes available.

When? For six weeks from November 19 to January 3, 2022.

Illuminated big wheel and attraction at Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park - the best Christmas markets in London with kids

Southbank Centre winter market

The Christmas market and winter festival on the South Bank is one of my favourites and for the past few years, my husband and I have been joined on our traditional night out by Minnie. I can never get enough of the lights along the riverside, and could happily just wander between the stalls drinking it all in.

This being London, there’s far more to drink in than the views – and far more to eat than bratwurst. I still have fond memories of the confit duck burger we bought one year (so good, we went back for a second – you can see my video here).

But there’s a huge variety at the stalls among the Christmas trees, with plenty for less adventurous small eaters including crepes and some amazing hot chocolate, as well as foodie pop-ups which have included cheese-themed food, cocktails and the Circus bar housed in a circus tent.

There’s always something different happening beyond the food too, with family activities often taking place in December, including storytelling, music and crafts, as well as Christmas shows including puppetry at the turn-of-the-century Circus 1903.

Look out for the Winter Light display illuminating the trees on Queen’s Walk, plus a string of wooden huts selling the perfect tempting odds and ends for presents and the traditional carousel to ride on.

And if you really want an observation wheel, there’s always the London Eye…

Cost: Free to get in, cost for shows varies.

When? From November 4 to December 24.

Part of the carousel at the Christmas market on the South Bank in London with a Union Jack flag and giant candy cane against the blue sky - what makes a good Christmas market?

Leicester Square Christmas market

Right in the heart of London, Leicester Square’s makeover saw a new Christmas market in central London in 2017 and it’s back for 2021 too. As well as over 30 stalls and food at the traditional Bavarian-style market, there’s Santa’s Grotto and a string of events and Christmas shows to discover.

This year there’s magic, a new take on Sleeping Beauty, Baby Loves Disco and Comedy Club for Kids on offer – a great family-friendly version of the usual stand-up fun.

Previous family-friendly headliners for family entertainment have included top notch puppetry, children’s theatre company Les Petits and performances from theatreland’s best young performers, Kids of the West End, as well as interactive entrainment from Fun Kids Epic Roadshow Adventure, plus The Showstoppers Kids Show with their award-winning improvised show, where kids get to decide what happens next.

Basically plenty to make you laugh and your jaw drop. And you can normally book in to Santa’s Grotto for kids to hand over their Christmas list, receive a gift and listen to a festive story as well.

Cost: Free to enter, although with a charge for tickets for the grotto and for performances (prices vary).

When? Runs from November 12 to January 3, 2022 (with some shows running to January 9).

Check out these tips for the best hot chocolate in London with kids, if you’re looking to warm up after browsing

Christmas By The River at London Bridge City

Another fantastic London location, this time with Tower Bridge in the background and the skyscrapers of the city along the Thames. Christmas by the River is a quieter event that some of the others, but you’ll find free workshops as well as the stalls.

There’s usually a theme – this year promises to be London’s most scenic Christmas market under the stars, while previous years have seen a vintage ski theme, aiming to transport everyone to the snowy slopes of the Alps, complete with hot toddy at the apres-ski themed bar.

There’s also a series of workshops, tastings, and storytelling events planned, with previous festive crafts workshops including Christmas wreath and Christmas jumper decorating, many in support of charity.

Along with the arts and crafts, you can try food and drink tastings with more than 70 pop-up stalls – plus traditional gifts galore to buy. And you could always hop on a river boat from London Bridge City Pier nearby to make more of a day out (wrap up warm for the river in winter though!)

Cost: Free

When? November 16-January 2, 2022

Illuminated Christmas tree with Tower Bridge lit up in the background - the best Christmas markets in London with kids

Greenwich Christmas market

Venture further down the river to Greenwich to discover how the regular market transforms in time for Christmas – its 150 stalls, with some fabulous things to buy year-round, get illuminated by the lights as well as the Greenwich Children’s Lantern Procession to kick everything off.

Greenwich itself usually has various festive events at the museums and the Cutty Sark during December – whether there’s something taking place or not, it’s worth climbing on board the Cutty Sark between Christmas market browsing, with plenty for kids of all ages.

Perfect if you’re looking for a day out with added Christmas markets in south-east London.

Cost: Free

When? The lantern parade takes place on November 17, when the Christmas lights are also switched on and Santa will be in his grotto. Previously, there have been Christmas late markets every Wednesday in December, from 10am to 8pm. The general market takes place every day, along with special November evens in previous years.

For more ideas of festive light trails in London with kids, check out this post

Battersea Power Station Winter Village

A relatively new festive addition in one of London’s iconic landmarks – December sees Battersea Power Station being transformed into a magical Winter Village with food and drink pop-ups, Christmas trees and cosy alpine wooden huts to snuggle up against the cold.

Previous years have also seen an ice rink, with riverside curling lanes as well as skate aids for kids, on the old Coaling Jetty alongside the Thames.

There’s also been festive films at the cinema and family favourites at The Turbine Theatre, plus wreath making workshops alongside the market stalls.

Cost: Free to visit, activity costs vary.

When? From November 2 to December 31, the River Walk market is due to on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 12-6pm until December 22. Dates for activities vary.

Kingston Christmas Market

Head out of the centre for one of the best Christmas markets in west London (well, south west) as Kingston’s Ancient Market Place gets its own traditional Christmas Market with a string of special activities for kids, as well as 40 decorated wood cabins selling gifts, stocking fillers and mulled wine.

As well as the stalls in the Alpine Village, there are also fairground rides, including a carousel, for kids, as well as street food and some live entertainment

In previous years, there have also been trails to get children exploring further including a Fairy Tale Trail, as well as a Letter to Santa competition too (with a reply and small gift back, plus prizes including ticket to Kingston’s Rose theatre) but any events are still tbc for 2021.

Cost: Free

When? November 18 to December 24 

Winterville Clapham Common

**Not taking place in 2021** Promising an alternative Christmas, Winterville is a long way from gingerbread hearts and traditional wooden stalls – instead the previous event had a family Christmas puppet show on a doubledecker bus, family raves from Big Fish Little Fish, magicians and live music, as well as a kids’ Mexican wrestling show and an outdoor ice rink.

There’s been UV powered Plonk Golf course to play crazy golf on, morning and mid-week matinees in Backyard Cinema, Fairground and Roller Disco, art and science workshops and a Big Wheel to observe it all from.

Food has been provided by Street Feast and Truck Stop so there’s anything from child-friendly pizza plus Chin Chin dessert bar to dumplings, seafood and jerk chicken. Not to mention frozen toffee vodka shots alongside the hot toddies and mulled wine for the grown-ups.

Cost: Previously there was free entry for local residents and one some weekdays (or if you had a specific attraction or event ticket), with a small charge at other times.

When? Winterville is not now returning for 2021.

Hampton Court Palace illuminated at Christmas, when its festive fayre and ice rink return - the best Christmas markets in London with kids

London Christmas markets with kids: best of the rest

  • Hampton Court

    Hampton Court Palace gets dressed up for Christmas with its Festive Fayre from December 3-5, where the palace courtyards are transformed with food and drink stalls, live cooking demos and carol singing.

    There are also more carol events in December, while the palace ice rink (check out my video from last year) opens between November and January.

  • Fulham Palace

    There’s a chance to stock up on some traditional Christmas food including Panettone as well as stocking fillers, fuelled by mince pies and mulled wine at the Fulham Palace Christmas fair. Running from December 5-6, the palace itself will be decorated too – free to visit but time slots must be prebooked.

  • Borough Market

    The market usually gets a festive facelift as well as longer opening hours, so it’s easier than ever to wander around picking up some of the wonderful food, while bells ring and carols sound, plus special events during December – tbc for 2021.

  • Crafty Fox Christmas markets

    Perfect if you’re looking for an unusual creative gift, the Crafty Fox markets are full of pieces from independent designers, with a different mix each time, including artwork, jewellery, children’s items.

    Takes place in November December, previous locations have included Mercato Metropolitano in Elephant and Castle, Canopy Market Kings Cross and The Department Store, Brixton, including a tassel-making workshop.

For more suggestions of the best Christmas markets in Europe for children, check out this selection from Suitcases & Sandcastles

PIN FOR LATER: CHRISTMAS MARKETS IN LONDON WITH KIDS

The best Christmas markets in London with kids - the perfect festive day out in the UK capital, whether you want the rides and attractions of Winter Wonderland, an alternative Christmas market, some of London's best street food, or a traditional Christmas market with kids' activities.

Images: South Bank and Hampton court, copyright MummyTravels. All others courtesy Depositphotos

LIKED THIS? SIGN UP FOR MY EMAIL NEWSLETTER