Where to find the best London Christmas lights
What are some of the traditions you enjoy in the run up to Christmas? For me, it’s seeing the streets lit up, well, like Christmas trees. The lights provide a gentle warm-up to the manic festive period that lies ahead.
The luminous display of sparkle in different colors also lets you enjoy Christmas well before it arrives. They’re perfect for people like me, who are slow runners when it comes to getting ready for the big day.
Christmas in London is a special time in general. Around the capital, streets, department stores and smaller courtyards, add their own festive displays.
If you’re planning on visiting, add some sparkle to your trip, with these 15 places to see the Christmas lights.
1. Oxford Street Christmas lights
Oxford Street is the principle shopping street in central London. A long stretch of road (1.9km / 1m), it’s where you’ll find flagship stores of big-name brands.
During the Christmas period, an estimated 30 million people are said to visit the famous street.
Oxford Street is also home to some of the biggest department stores in the capital, such as Selfridges and John Lewis.
A street to suit all pockets, there are also 2 branches of popular budget retailer, Primark, for the bargain hunters.
The nearest tube station’s Oxford Circus, which as you may imagine, gets crazy busy, especially during rush hour (5-7pm). Saying that, plan your visit accordingly.
See Oxford Street in a different light at Christmas
Oxford Street — London Christmas lights
The switching on of the Oxford Street Christmas lights is a popular annual event. It takes place in November (dates can differ), and usually on a Thursday night. This is traditionally late-night shopping and so happily coincides with the Christmas lights.
A well-known celebrity is usually on hand to do the honors and switch on the lights. On some occasions, there’s also been live music to entertain the watching crowds.
The Oxford Street Christmas lights typically follow a theme each year, such as a flock of birds. In 2019, the display consists of 27 LED light curtains made up of 220,000 sparkling lights.
London shopping streets come to life during the festive period — London Christmas lights
“The luminous display of sparkle in different colors also lets you enjoy Christmas well before it arrives.”
Where to find the Christmas lights in London
2. Regent street
Sharing a junction with Oxford Street is another iconic London shopping street.
Regent Street is also a top attraction for visitors and springs to life at Christmas too. Stores along this stretch are a little more highbrow, and will make probably leave a dent in your credit card.
Renowned toy store, and every kid’s dream, Hamleys, is on Regent Street, as are designer labels Burberry and Mulberry.
Regent Street — London Christmas lights
Like Oxford Street, the light switching ceremony typically takes place in November. In 2019, Regent Street is bringing back its popular ‘spirit of Christmas angels’ theme.
The street also celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2019, where it transformed the street into a pedestrian-only zone.
You can catch the Christmas lights in Regent Street up until after the new year.
Christmas lights on Regent Street in London
3. Carnaby Street
Home of the swinging 60s in London, Carnaby Street has always been the cool kid on the block.
And when Christmas arrives, you can be sure that the display at Carnaby Street will be unlike any other.
Take 2019. Its aqua-tastic ocean theme includes a 5m whale blowing bubbles alongside rows of luminous display. The theme’s in aid of Project 0, an ocean conservation charity, with the display representing different areas in need.
London Christmas lights — innovative Carnaby Street
Everything’s made from reusable and recycled material, helping to promote the ethos of sustainability.
As the photo shows, one of its past themes was all about the ‘love’ revolution of the 1960s. The fun display was to celebrate the opening of the exhibition ‘You Say You Want a Revolution?’ at the V&A.
What’s more, several of the shops along Carnaby Street also get into the festive lights mood. Many of the stores usually have special discounts and events to entice visitors inside.
Love, love, love for Christmas on Carnaby Street
4. St Christopher’s Place
Tucked between a narrow passage off Oxford Street is the slim entrance to St Christopher’s Place.
Though hidden away from the main shopping street, the area’s popular with visitors given its many shops and eateries.
Its Christmas lights display may not be as extravagant as its neighbor, but nonetheless they’re still a magical sight.
Look out for the arrow pointing towards the entryway on Oxford Street. Once you spot the visual display, you’ll know you’re in the right place.
With the title of the largest store on Oxford Street, Christmas is one of the biggest dates in the calendar for Selfridges.
Stretching across 650,000ft of space, Selfridges sells both luxury and affordable brands. Like most department stores, they also have several excellent places to eat, and a shoe display to drool over.
While the store’s very British inside and out, it was actually founded by a Chicago native. Harry Gordon Selfridge — after whom the store’s named — arrived in 1906 with a dream of opening his own store.
Selfridges Christmas window displays — London Christmas lights
Today, the store still maintains it reputation for flamboyancy and theater. Its finest example of this are the Christmas shop window displays.
Even without stepping into the store, you’re immediately enticed by the bold displays to the outside world. Unique, experimental and always fun to watch, the Selfridges window displays are an event in itself. In fact, the store had their first unveiling of the windows in 2019.
In 2018, the Christmas windows had a rock n roll inspired Santa Claus for every frame. For 2019, they unveiled their ‘Christmas for modern times’ theme, with a purple-coat wearing Santa, riding a scooter.
Wrapped up like a Christmas present — London Christmas lights at Selfridges
6. New Bond Street
Another shopping district that branches off Oxford Street is New Bond Street. This plush district is lined with expensive designer shops, and leads to the high-end area of Mayfair.
The Christmas lights display are definitely worth a look along New Bond Street. They add an extra dash of glitter to the already glamorous street.
7. London Christmas lights — Harrods
A short tube or bus ride away in Knightsbridge, is one of Selfridges’ main rivals in the department store stakes.
Harrods is the glitzy, ritzy and ostentatious of them all, with a blinding Christmas lights display to match.
Founded in 1849 by Charles Henry Harrod, the store started life selling groceries. It holds the title of the largest department store in Europe, with 330 departments occupying a 5-acre (20,000 m2) site.
Like Selfridges, Harrods also has a themed window display, which for 2019 is all about The Kingdom of Christmas.
Christmas lights, glitz and expensive brands at Harrods in Knightsbridge, London
8. Covent Garden
One of my favorite places in London at Christmas is Covent Garden.
A popular destination for shoppers, as well as for night owls, there’s plenty of festive traditions to enjoy.
The area, near to the heart of London Theatreland, is bursting with bright lights in the piazza and surrounding streets.
In the piazza are several shops, restaurants and the Covent Garden market. And it’s usually here, where the baubles, ivy and lights come together to create a magical display.
Covent Garden Christmas lights — Christmas lights in London
Just a few minutes’ walk from the piazza is Long Acre. Not only is it where you’ll find more shops, but it’s also the setting of even more Christmas lights.
I particularly like the short, yet, impressive set that you each year on Slingsby Place. The side street leads onto St Martin’s Courtyard, where a wine bar, several restaurants and lights await.
9. Seven Dials
Not far from Long Acre and Covent Garden is the small, yet very charming, Seven Dials. Its name comes from the fact that 7 streets converge at one road junction. At the center is a pillar with 6 sundials — the 7th being the column.
Its unique converging center, plus the surrounding boutique shops and restaurants, make Seven Dials a firm local favorite.
At Christmas, the area blossoms even further with its light display. Sophisticated and timeless, Seven Dials is the ideal trigger to boost your festive mood.
The pillar where 7 roads converge — Christmas in London at Seven Dials
10. Trafalgar square
Despite the grand space of the square in central London, there’s not so much in the way of Christmas lights.
However, Trafalgar Square does have another equally festive resident, and that’s the annual Christmas tree. The official lighting of the tree normally happens in the first week of December.
London Christmas lights — the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree
The tree in the square has been a tradition since 1947. It was a way for the city of Oslo to thank Britain for its support during World War II.
At the beginning of December, a Norway Spruce, usually over 20m tall makes its appearance in Trafalgar Square.
The tree, which is around 50 to 60 years old, remains up throughout the festive period until 6 January. After the festivities are done, the tree’s recycled, chipped and used for compost.
Trafalgar Square also has other festive events, such as Christmas caroling, which you can watch, or join in.
11. Hyde park — Winter Wonderland
Every December, the usually quiet tube station of Hyde Park Corner suddenly springs to life with crowds of people. The reason? The annual event that’s Winter Wonderland.
Stretching across Hyde Park, Winter Wonderland is free to enter, though there are ticketed attractions.
There’s plenty going on at the festive event, and it’s also suitable for all ages. Choose from over 100 rides, attractions and shows. There are also several places to eat and drink on site, as well as London’s biggest Christmas market.
For 2019, they’ve brought in the world’s tallest transportable observation wheel to entice even more visitors to the event.
Gather around the giant Christmas spruce in Trafalgar Square
Winter Wonderland ticketed attractions — London Christmas lights
The Magical Ice Kingdom
Experience the UK’s largest ice experience inside a crafted world of snow and ice sculptures. The Magical Ice Kingdom tells the story of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
Navigate your way through 500 tonnes of snow and ice sculptures of the wintry streets of London.
Take note, as the attraction has a setting of -10°C to maintain the icy temperatures. That said, wrap up properly if you plan to visit.
London Christmas lights — Winter Wonderland additional attractions
Treat the little people in your life with a trip to the land of Santa Claus. Along with restaurants and cafes, there’s also the chance to meet the man himself.
The grotto’s open every day from 10am to 6pm, and it’s absolutely free to meet him. On top of that, Santa also gives out a special gift for children who’ve been particularly good.
Santa’s grotto is first-come first-served, so you may prefer visiting early, and on a weekday, to avoid the lines.
The Bavarian Village — London Christmas lights
Inject a little German into your festivities at the Bavarian village at Winter Wonderland. Expect plenty of traditional-style chalets and outdoor seating, plus tasty Bavarian food and drink.
Bratwurst, flame-grilled salmon, hot chocolate, mulled wine, and a range of German beers are all on the menu.
Bookings are essential for any of the restaurants at the Bavarian Village.
The Christmas markets are open from 10am to 10pm. There are over 100 wooden chalets at London’s largest Christmas market, complete with fairy-lights and plenty of great gifts.
Feast your eyes on everything from jewelry, to handmade crafts and traditional Christmas decorations.
Enjoy the many attractions, rides and seasonal festivities at Winter Wonderland
12. London Eye
The London Eye on London’s South Bank is an outstanding attraction that needs no introduction.
During Christmas, the individual pods on the giant Ferris wheel illuminate the night sky. With colors so blinding, and offering panoramic views of the capital, its popularity shows no sign of waning.
Lines are typically long whatever time of the year you visit, so booking ahead is well advised.
The nearest tube station to reach the London Eye is Waterloo.
13. London Christmas lights — South Bank
The same area that’s home to the London Eye, is also one of the best places to see Christmas lights.
Once the festive season descends upon the South Bank, so too, do numerous events.
Along with German-style yuletide markets, there are also live Christmas performances and family workshops. Above all, I most enjoy the light displays that dazzle along the South Bank. It’s simple, free, and brings out the Christmas mood.
Wander along the river, and enjoy the sights and all the activity illuminated by the lights.
Dazzling at any time of year, especially Christmas, the London Eye
14. More London
Admittedly, the area surrounding More London probably doesn’t feature on many Christmas lights list. However, if you’d like to momentarily escape the city center — and see some Christmas lights — it’s a good alternative.
London Christmas lights at More London
The riverside destination is part of London Bridge City, along with Hays Galleria and Cottons Centre.
More London consists of a pedestrianized area with open-air sculptures and fountains lit by colored lights. It’s where you’ll also find City Hall, an amphitheater called The Scoop, as well as the Hilton London Tower Bridge.
Another reason I suggest visiting More London is to see the wonderful Tower Bridge from another perspective. Enjoy uninterrupted views, and the chance to also take some excellent photos in the process.
15. Kew Gardens
The saying ‘save the best till last’ couldn’t be any truer than the Christmas light displays at Kew Gardens.
Escape the center of London with a visit to the simply sublime garden attraction. A short and straightforward train ride from Waterloo, the botanical gardens are even more spectacular when lit by Christmas lights.
The winter trail at Kew is a light show spectacle. Take in the installations and glittering spiral trees around the grounds.
Mesmerizing and very Christmassy — the tunnel of light at Kew Gardens
Christmas lights at Kew Gardens — Christmas lights in London
Stroll through the dazzling tunnel of light illuminated by thousands of pea-lights. Watch Temperate House transform by laser projections, and marvel at the singing holly bushes.
Festive events at Kew are bright, mesmerizing and screams Christmas. Tree canopies decked in seasonal colors, and a glowing treetop walkway are just a handful of other sights.
The trail ends with a show of jumping lights dancing across the water at Palm House Pond to Christmas songs.
Warm up on the trail with a mug of spiced cider, mulled wine or hot chocolate. There are also several stalls selling street food, such as sourdough pizza to pies.
Other activities to entice you to Kew at Christmas include a Victorian carousel and a helter skelter. Kew Gardens at Christmas is so popular that tickets sell out quickly.
If it sounds like something you’d like to visit, it’s advisable to book in advance to avoid disappointment.
Are you big on the Christmas lights? Which of these displays would you most like to see in London? Leave me a comment below!
Till next time, happy boutique travels x
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Welcome to my site! I'm Lisa, founder of Following the Rivera. I write primarily for a ‘flashpacker’ audience, a demographic (late 20s onward) that enjoys glamping over camping and staying at boutique/luxury boutique hotels. Flashpackers also like to indulge in the local food and wine, cultural activities, as well as a spot of wellness on their travels. Want to know more? Read on....