A Long Family Weekend in London for Christmas 2020
Enjoy some Christmas cheer with your family in the nation’s capital city.
Let’s face it. 2020 hasn’t been the greatest of years for all concerned. But if anything can put a smile on everyone’s face, it’s the promise of Christmas. There’s no reason why you can’t see off the year with a little Christmas cheer for all the family. London is THE best city to be in at Christmas time. Walking around parts of London feels practically Dickensian at the best of times. With the lights of Oxford Street, holly on front doors and the smell of mulled wine in the air, even the most die-hard Scrooge will soon be feeling merry.
Our guide to a long weekend in London (arrive Friday, leave Monday) for you and your family features wallet-friendly, fun and entertainment for adults and children alike. As well as the best places to stay, eat, drink and be merry in the capital at Christmas. Let Berrys Coaches take the stress out of the transport, and get you from the West Country to London in no time. All you need to do is enjoy the festivities!
London isn’t a cheap city. If you are staying with a family of 4, the best option will usually be a family room, and its likely this will involve a pull-out sofa bed for the kids. We’d suggest cheap and cheerful is the way to go. If you’re visiting London at Christmas you haven’t come for the hotel room – it’s a holding place for your bags, and a place to sleep. The Holiday Inn Express London - Hammersmith is a bargain for 3 nights, for 2 adults and 2 children for £133. It’s less than 10 minute walk from the bus drop off. The room also includes a simple breakfast meaning you can start exploring straight away without the early morning hunt for food.
4 Day Itinerary
11.45am-Midday - Arrive in Hammersmith by Berrys Coach.
12.00 – Drop the bags at the Hotel
12.30 South Bank
TIME: 90 minutes
Take the district line from Hammersmith station through to Embankment. Get out of the station and head towards the river and the bridge. Cross the bridge to reach the South Bank, making sure you stop across the bridge to get the beautiful views of London down the Thames (London Eye, Houses of Parliament, Big Ben). If you are particularly lucky, you’ll find musicians playing on the bridge. Consider putting something in their hat for a request of Deck the Halls, if you want to turn the Christmas magic up to 11.
On reaching the South Bank, from the bridge turn right (or just follow your nose). You will find it has been transformed into several Bavarian-style log cabins selling all sort of international Christmas gifts and trinkets. Of course, you’re not obliged to buy anything, window shopping is fine, and enjoy soaking in the atmosphere of the music, lights and surroundings.
There’s plenty of options for lunch from the several street food trucks here. The German Bratwurst they serve is huge, and more than enough for one. Expect to pay around £5 for one.
2pm Ice Skating at the Queen’s House Ice Rink
COST: Adults £16, Children £8
TIME: 90 minutes
The Thames Clipper (RB1 service from the London Eye and get off at Greenwich) is the quickest, scenic and cost effective ways to arrive. Many tourists either fear or don’t know about the Thames Clipper, and end up paying a private boat company for a trip down the Thames. The same journey can be enjoyed for a fraction of the price, as well as effectively taking you to your next stop. Queens House is a 5 minute walk from Greenwich pier.
Queens House is one of the few ice rinks open this winter. The rink is great for adults and children alike. If you have very young children or nervous first-time skaters there is a skate-penguin (think of it as a penguin shaped Zimmer frame) to give you more stability and confidence on the ice. There’s nothing quite like skating around on the ice to bring a little festive cheer into the break. Just be sure to book in advance, as one of the few operating it’s bound to be popular.
4pm Greenwich Park
TIME: 90 minutes
From the ice rink it’s a short walk to Greenwich Park. If your legs can handle it after the skating, take a walk up the hill to the Royal Observatory. The observatory will be closed, but that’s not why you’re here. Once at the top of the hill take a look back down to see one of the best views of London city that the capital has to offer. By day the view is spectacular, by night it’s even more impressive as the lights look like one giant metropolitan Christmas tree. There are usually sellers offering glasses of something warm (mulled wine, coffee) or other refreshments (usually roast chestnuts) to enjoy while you take in the view.
Keeping things in Greenwich I’d suggest heading to Efe’s Meze for dinner. It’s a traditional Turkish restaurant serving delicious meats on a chargrilled stove. It’s unpretentious, and mains are around the £10-£13 mark.
Afterwards take the bus (129, 188) to North Greenwich (home of the O2 arena) take the Jubilee Line to Green Park before changing for the Piccadilly line which will take you all the way back to Hammersmith.
9am Breakfast at the hotel
10am Carnaby Street Christmas Lights
TIME: 120 min
Head to Carnaby Street via the Piccadilly Line, getting off at Piccadilly Circus. Forget Oxford Street, for picturesque Christmas lights and nestled amongst independent and high street stores, Carnaby Street is the place to go. A short stone’s throw away is Liberty department store. This Tudor building is full of kids toys, beautiful Christmas decorations, and exorbitantly priced Christmas crackers (no plastic toys, think watches and jewellery). The kids will love exploring, and the decorations take things to the next level. Afterwards take the 10 minute walk towards Trafalgar Square.
12.30 Trafalgar Square
TIME: 60 minutes
Trafalgar Square is rather beautiful in December, with the huge Christmas tree. It’s usually about as big as a 2-storey house and has been gifted to Britain every year from Norway since 1942. One could be tempted to sing a carol or two underneath the Christmas tree.
Grab a bite to eat from nearby Prezzo on Northumberland Square. You get views of the square, and they always have a voucher which discounts the full price menu – or redeem those Tesco vouchers for a free meal. Afterwards take a walk back towards Leicester Square, there will be more Bavarian huts in there if you missed any on the South Bank.
3pm Prince Charles Cinema
COST: £12.50 per person
TIME: 120 minutes
The Prince Charles Cinema is something of an institution. Located just off Leicester Square, this beautiful independent cinema transforms into magical Christmas wonderland during the festive season. The films shown are often kid-friendly and so we’d recommend a showing of ‘Muppets Christmas Carol’. For central London the tickets are very competitively prices, and usually include a mince pie and a glass of mulled wine (for adults). Afternoon showtimes vary depending on which day you visit.
Evening (depending on show time)
Walk back through nearby Covent Garden. Not only will there be the huge Christmas tree on display, but the market and all its shops will be beautifully decorated.
Enjoy a glass of mulled wine, try some window (or actual) shopping in all the boutique shops in the market. There is usually a performer on the lower level of the indoor market doing opera, which at Christmas usually gives way to a ‘performative’ version of Christmas classics.
Grab dinner at Café Pacifico in Covent Garden – the nachos are great and more than enough for 2+ to share as a starter. Expect mains at around £13 for adults, which considering the location, is a steal.
Retire to the hotel.
9am Breakfast at Hotel
10am Kings Cross Station
TIME: 45 minutes
Everybody loves Harry Potter. If you don’t, your kids do. Sadly, Berrys don’t offer travel to Hogwarts at the moment (we’re working on it once we’ve perfected the flying coach). So instead swap the Santa hat for a wizarding one, and start the day than at Platform 9 ¾ at Kings Cross Station. Much of the Harry Potter film took place in snow and around Christmas time and there is something quintessentially Christmassy with the franchise. Kids will love taking photos with the trolley half disappearing into a wall (if you know, you know), and after its recent facelift the station itself is very imposing and dramatic. You’d easily believe you were on your way to Hogwarts. There’s plenty of shops around selling related merchandise so pop in or avoid, depending on your preferences.
11.15 - Charles Dickens Museum
TIME: 90 minutes
COST: Adults £9.50, Children £4.50
A short walk south in almost a straight line is the Charles Dickens Museum. Obviously, the focus here is ‘A Christmas Carol’. There are usually readings from the book itself by an appropriately dressed actor. In the former home of Mr Dickens, expect a walk through some of his other works, as well as well decorated Christmas themes in each room. Here is the opportunity for children to learn about other classics in a non-Muppet format.
1pm – Regents Park
TIME: 120 minutes
Walk back north towards Regents Park. Grab a sandwich from any of the 10s along the route (if you’re on a budget the £3 Tesco meal deal works well, for those with deeper pockets Pret a Manger do a great selection of Christmas cuisine). Enjoy your lunch in Regents Park, and walk around a few of its key landmarks (open air theatre, walk up Primrose Hill for great views over London. There’s plenty of children’s playgrounds if they need to burn off some energy.
The next stop is a little further out, but it’s worth the journey. Take the circle line back to Hammersmith from nearby Great Portland Street, then take the District Line to Richmond.
4.30pm Kew Gardens
TIME: 120 mins
COST: £57 – off peak family ticket (2 adults, 2 children)
There is something special about Kew Gardens. Under normal circumstances Kew is a botanical garden. Great, but not exactly engaging for children. At Christmas time however it transforms into a winter wonderland of lights and woodland trails. Creative music and light displays mean as soon as the sun goes down the place becomes full of light shows set to classical, but invigorating music. Kids will love it. A family ticket during one of the off-peak periods is the cheapest way to do it.
Afterwards I would recommend heading to Chatora, a nearby Indian restaurant. It is contemporary but very reasonably priced. It’s not a huge place so booking ahead is advised.
9am - Breakfast at Hotel
10am Shopping across Oxford Street and Harrods
COST: £0 in principle.
Oxford Street is never quiet, especially around Christmas, but going on a Monday is a better option than the weekend. The street is an experience in itself, home to some of the largest departmental stores, window dressing displays and high-end shopping experiences in the UK. While you may not have the bottomless credit card of Kevin McAllister in Home Alone, there’s still something magical about these stores at Christmas time. It’s also an opportunity to pick up a few Christmas gifts for people back home. From the UK’s biggest Primark to Selfridges - whatever your budget there’s something for everyone.
At the end of Oxford Street is Hyde Park. I’d suggest picking up a light lunch from any of the eateries you walk past and taking it to eat in the park.
On leaving the park by the south exit, continue your walk towards Knightsbridge (the upmarket shopping area) and head into Harrods. Harrods have the biggest toy selection you can possibly imagine. Children will love interacting with all the staff showcasing the toys, and the experience his highly memorable.
4.30pm Collect bags from the Hotel
Ahead of the coach departure between 5.30-6pm, pick all your belongings up from the Hotel.
We hope you enjoyed these ideas for your long weekend in London. If you want to bring this guide to life, Berrys Coaches is a convenient, affordable way to visit the capital. With our London Superfast service, you can be in the capital in no time at all. Why wait? Book now.
While the timings offer a rough guide, the time you spend at each activity will vary from group to group. You are ultimately responsible for getting back to the coach on time, so do make sure you give enough time for any potential travel delays. Passengers should be back at Hammersmith Bus Station (Stop D) at least 15 minutes prior to the pre-booked departure time. Unfortunately, the coach is not able to wait if you are running late.
London transport costs are a rough guide. The London Underground will usually be a lower-cost alternative to a taxi or Uber. The Underground is charged per person, whereas Uber is charged per vehicle. Depending on the journey, one may be cheaper than the other. Remember walking is free!
Prices were checked on writing this blog. Please always check venues prior to travel in case of any changes due to COVID-19.