The dazzling Christmas lights of London will soon switch on, brightening up those dark winter nights.
Even though Saint Nick is still a little way from donning his finest furs, Christmas is coming, and London is just itching to put on a show. A sparkling array of Christmas lights are beginning to burst into colour all over town, and we know when. From the bottom of Oxford Street, to the middle of Trafalgar Square, and all the way to the top of The Shard – London boasts some of the the best Christmas lights in the world. Take a tour of these beauties if you can’t wait for that sweet hit of festive cheer!
Last year, Oxford Street unveiled brand new Christmas lights, with twenty-seven LED curtains (made up of 222,000 lights) replacing the 1778 baubles which floated benignly above shoppers for several years. This year, the lights pay tribute to NHS staff and key workers, with the name of a ‘2020 Hero’ appearing in the lights each week. Read all about them and find out how to nominate your hero here.
Regent Street started off this whole Christmas lights tradition back in 1954, and the famous spirits are once again flying above Regent Street this year, with inspiration drawn from the street’s very first display. Neighbouring St James’ gets some lovely spirits too, and it’s quick wander from one to t’other. Find out more here.
Over 115,000 lights illuminate England’s busiest garden this year. Covent Garden’s Christmas display also boasts London’s biggest hand-picked Christmas tree, festooned with 30,000 lights (seemingly in the hope they will be seen from space). Lovers can steal a smooch beneath the giant mistletoe chandeliers in the Apple Market, meanwhile. Read all about the display here.
SEE ALSO: 62 Awesome Things To Do In Covent Garden
4. Bond Street
The luxury shopping district of Bond Street gets cocky with their distinctive peacock-inspired design. (The designers explain that in the late 1700s, Bond Street was the favourite haunt of ‘The Bond Street Loungers’; dapper men who promenaded down the street and became the early fashionistas, or ‘peacocks’ of their day.) These bad boys are shining bright, so if you’re in the area, do pop along and see them! Read more here.
Carnaby Street’s previous displays have seen a neon sensation inspired by the lyrics of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, and an underwater-inspired display made from entirely recycled materials. In 2020, they’re choosing to display a message of hope and kindness, with bright pink neon signs bearing words such as “love”, “hero”, “future”, and “London”. Read all about them here.
6. Chelsea Christmas Lights
Duke of York Square, Pavilion Road, Sloane Street, and King’s Road all get in on Chelsea’s Christmas lights action. The switch-on was brought forward a few weeks this year, to maximise potential exposure to festive illuminations. A wise choice, we reckon.
Illuminations on the Strand and Villiers Street are lighting up the Northbank right now. Less fanfare than some of the others on this list, but still free to enjoy!
8. Seven Dials
Home to possibly the quaintest road layout in London, Seven Dials goes all out for Christmas, and their lovely illuminations are now twinkling above the streets.
9. Marylebone Christmas Lights
In the boutique-filled and hard-to-pronounce London neighbourhood of Marylebone, festive Christmas lights were switched on early to bring much-needed Christmas cheer to London. Which really was jolly nice of them!
10. Greenwich Market
Having switched on their lights in mid-November, Greenwich Market is looking snazzy despite the absence of the usual market crowd. Their lovely lanterns have been handmade by local schoolchildren, so fingers crossed we’ll be able to get down and seen their creations!
Despite the cancellation of the South Bank Winter Market (still not over that one), the South Bank are still planning some illuminations this winter. Their new open-air exhibition, Winter Light, will gradually reveal fifteen commissions that’ll be dotted across the Southbank Centre’s buildings, as well as the iconic riverside walk – with the first ones shining now. Find out more here.
12. The Shard, November 26
The top 20 storeys of London’s tallest building will transform into a colourful spectacle once again this Christmas! This year, shades of blue and white will be used to pay tribute to NHS staff and key workers, in what amounts to Western Europe’s highest Christmas lights show. Make sure to look up on the NYE countdown, when there will be a unique display at the top of The Shard from when the clock strikes midnight until the early hours of New Year’s Day. More info here.
13. Canary Wharf, December 2
Though Canary Wharf’s excellent free light festival Winter Lights won’t take place this January, they’ve got a contingency plan in place. It’s called ‘Connected By Light’, and will see nine new illuminated installations arrive in Canary Wharf as a colourful replacement. Organisers say they have “specially chosen a small number of pieces that can be appreciated from a distance, allowing us to safely bring people together once again to experience some of the UK’s best light artists”, a neat way of putting on a show whilst keeping visitors safe. Find out more here.
14. Trafalgar Square, December 3
It hasn’t always received the warmest welcome, but Norway’s thank you gift to London (for the UK’s support in WW2) is pretty iconic, since it’s been happening since 1947! A 25-metre tree known as “the queen of the forest” gets the chop in November, before it rides the waves to set up camp in the UK. Just like the Vikings of old, but with way more fairy lights. The big switch-on breaks tradition this year, with an online ceremony in lieu of a large gathering. All the info is here.
15. Kew Gardens, December 4
Kew are back with another twinkling lights trail, albeit one that’s been a tad delayed by the November lockdown. One million lights are used to turn the UNESCO World Heritage Site into a dazzling wonderland, complete with laser shows, fire gardens, and a treetop waterfall. Exciting stuff! Read all about it here.
16. The Churchill Arms, December (TBD)
London’s most outrageously Christmassy pub is so committed to the Christmas lights game that, despite their current closure under lockdown rules, they’re still preparing the lights for a December switch on. Ninety Christmas trees, 12,000 lights, and plenty of festive cheer make it pretty unmissable, and whilst the exact date is still under wraps, it’s a display you’ve just got to see! See more about The Churchill Arms here.
For more Christmas magic, see our guide to the city’s charming festive shopfronts.
Also published on Medium.