Santa’s Grottos 2023: Where To Meet Father Christmas In London This Year

Photo: Joshua Atkins/Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

Santa’s Grottos and meet-and-greets with Father Christmas are big business in London these days, and hugely popular. If your children want to meet Santa, his elves and his reindeer in London for Christmas 2023, get booking as tickets sell out fast. Oh, and be kind to the hardworking elves, eh?

Santa Land at Hyde Park Winter Wonderland 2023

Photo: Eric Aydin Barberini/Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

Winter Wonderland doesn’t just have a grotto — it dedicates an entire corner of the Hyde Park event to Father Christmas. Santaland bustles with family-friendly rides, attractions and activities, as well as the Grotto itself, plus ‘Santa Parades’ at 5pm-6pm on selected days (20, 21, 22, 27, 28, 29 November and 4, 5, 6 December 2023), where everyone can wave goodbye to the big man as he heads homes in his sleigh to see Mrs Claus.

The good news for parents is that this one’s completely free, and all kids get a small gift. The bad news is there’s no booking, you just turn up and take your chances. Be warned: the queue has been several hours long in past years, and they do close it when it gets too lengthy.

It’s also worth noting that for 2023, Winter Wonderland has retained its entry fees and the requirement to book your entry to the site in advance. If you can visit on a weekday morning in November or early December, entry is free, but other than that, you’re looking at a minimum of £5 per person to enter the site. Alternatively, buy your family a Santaland Unlimited Pass. It’s new for 2023 and gives families unlimited access to 15+ family-friendly rides in Santaland for £25 — and also includes free entry to the site, so you don’t have to buy a separate entry ticket.

Santa Land at Hyde Park Winter Wonderland. Free, no booking (but book for Winter Wonderland itself). Grotto open daily from 17 November 2023, 10am-6pm. The queue may close earlier than this to make sure everyone is seen.

Santa’s Grotto at John Lewis Oxford Street and Peter Jones Chelsea 2023

Image: iStock/DNY59

Father Christmas drops by loads of John Lewis stores across the country, for a variety of festive experiences this year. Oxford Street and Peter Jones are both graced with the Mission: Meet Santa event, where children have to crack a code — with help from the elves — to unlock a door and meet Santa. Certainly beats having to entertain them in a queue!

Elsewhere, Brent Cross, Canary Wharf, Kingston, Stratford and White City are among the branches hosting Santa’s Tea Party, where the Big Man fronts a festive storytime sessions accompanied by milk and cookies.

And now for the curveball. Dogs on the nice list can meet Santa at Oxford Street, Peter Jones, and selected other branches. Yes, dogs. For the fluffy price of £20 per dog, they can have a photo with Santa in his grotto (sure they’ll appreciate that) and receive a gift, which may be for them, or may be for you… details are fuzzy.

On a more serious note, the (human) grotto experiences offer relaxed sessions for anyone who would prefer reduced noise and lighting, and an altogether calmer experience.

Santa experiences at John Lewis. Selected dates 22 November-24 December 2023.

Victorian Santa’s Grotto at Museum of London Docklands 2023

As always, the Museum of London Docklands runs its charming Victorian Santa’s Grotto. It’s located in the museum’s Sailortown area, with Victorian carols being sung, and festive decorations strewn around. There might even be a smattering of snow on the ground as children head inside to meet their hero…

Victorian Santa’s Grotto at Museum of London Docklands. Various dates, 2-23 December 2023.

Christmas Grotto at Shrek’s Adventure, South Bank

Christmas, swamp style.

Shrek’s Adventure invites you/the kids on an immersive journey through Shrek’s swamp, where Santa Claus has landed his sleigh. The experience involves boarding a magical 4D flying bus to Far Far Away (with Donkey, naturally), journeying through the swamp, and down Drury Lane to the Muffin Man’s house. Each kiddo receives a gift, and a photo opportunity with the man in red (who might actually be green on this occasion). Note that you need to book attraction entry tickets in addition to grotto tickets.

Christmas Grotto at Shrek’s Adventure, 2-24 December 2023.

Santa’s Grotto at Hamleys 2023

OBVIOUSLY, Santa has to visit the world’s most famous toy store as he preps for Christmas, and this year, his elves have been busy building him a brand new grotto at Hamleys. Full 2023 details TBC, watch this space.

Santa’s a busy man, and some of his London appearances — including at Fortnum & Mason and London Zoo  — have already sold out for 2023. Get yourself on the mailing lists to hear when tickets for 2024 go on sale.

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