When you think of winter destinations, London probably doesn’t come to mind. After all, though there’s lots to do during winter in London, it’s as likely to rain as snow on any given day of the festive holiday season that ends each year. Not exactly the most cheery!
But don’t let that discourage you from visiting London around this time of year; there are plenty of incredible holiday-specific activities including Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, Christmas markets, and, of course, Christmas lights in London! Festive, luminous displays can be found all across the city, from private homes to bustling thoroughfares.
In this post, I’ll break down some of the best spots in London to see Christmas light displays. Some are well-known and popular, whereas others might surprise you and give even locals reading this a reason to seek out a new part of town to watch thousands of twinkling lights illuminate the dark winter nights.
This post was originally published in September 2021, and was updated most recently in November 2022.
1. Oxford Street
Locals who love grandeur and exuberance will argue that Oxford Street puts up the best Christmas lights in London. The truth is Oxford Street likes to go big in this festive season.
In 2020, Oxford Street unveiled 27 dazzling light curtains, replacing the 1778 baubles, which floated above shoppers for several years. The curtains consisted of more than 200,000 twinkling bulbs! In 2021, Oxford Street stepped away from the traditional decor and opted for a light display inspired by the Northern Lights to celebrate the jolly season.
For 2022, the theme will be ‘Sky full of Stars’ and the lights switched on November 2nd; they’ll stay on until early January, through the entire holiday season. Due to the energy crisis in the U.K. this year, the lights will only be on daily from 3-11pm, rather than 24/7 during that period.
2. Regent Street
The Christmas lights at Regent Street are doubly special since this street is where the sparkling tradition began. Back in 1954, the Daily Telegraph reported that London looked “drab” at Christmas. Facing such declarations, Regent Street decided to show the newspaper they knew how to celebrate Christmas and hung dazzling decorations across the entire street. Regent Street set a successful example, and many other parts of the city followed the tradition.
Today, the lovely decorations still hover above, invading this part of the city with an angelical and Christmassy atmosphere. In 2021, a big switch-on event was organized in the middle of November to kick off the festive holiday season in London.
In 2022, the Regent Street Christmas lights switched on November 9th. This year, the lights will operate between 3-11 pm only to reduce energy consumption, just like the Oxford Street lights.
3. Carnaby Street
Carnaby Street has always been home to unorthodox movements in every possible field. Their lights game follows the same path. Don’t expect to find charming angels or reindeer floating in the air. Instead, expect pop-culture-inspired light displays!
In 2020, Carnaby set up lights displaying messages of hope and kindness, with bright pink neon signs bearing words such as “love,” “hero,” “future,” and “London.” In 2021, Carnaby upgraded its game putting on a light display called Carnaby Kaleidoscope. Visitors enjoyed hundreds of shimmering butterflies hovering above their heads along with heart-warming messages of spiritual rebirth, transformation, change, hope, and life.
In 2022, the Christmas lights theme is ‘Carnaby Celebrates‘, and each light display will celebrate iconic moments from Carnaby’s past. Carnaby Street Christmas lights switched on, on November 8th.
4. Bond Street
One of the capital’s most luxurious shopping districts, Bond Street boasts some of the best Christmas lights in London. They are a clear example that when you do something right, there’s no need to change it. Year after year, spectacular peacock feathers light up along the glamorous street.
The designers had explained that their distinctive peacock-inspired design dates back to the late 1700s when Bond Street was the favorite haunt of ‘The Bond Street Loungers;’ dapper men who promenaded down the street and became the early fashionistas, or ‘peacocks’ of their day. I could say that the ‘peacocks’ essence never truly left as the cocky light design illuminates today’s fashionistas who pop into the fancy stores along the street looking for presents.
For 2022, the Bond Street Christmas lights illuminated for the first time on November 17th, one of the later switch-ons of the season.
5. Covent Garden
Visiting Covent Garden during Christmas is like entering a winter wonderland. Giant mistletoe chandeliers and over 115,000 twinkling lights illuminate the cobbled streets of this 19th-century Piazza.
What sets the Covent Garden light game apart is that it boasts the biggest hand-picked Christmas tree garlanded with 30,000 lights! How big? We’re talking about a whopping 60-foot tall Christmas tree and not just any tall tree. This one comes from the same farm that the Royal Family gets their trees from.
In 2022, Covent Garden will be illuminated from November 8th.
6. Seven Dials
When you finish absorbing the magic at Covent Garden, you can reach a new Christmas destination 6 minutes away: Seven Dials. These London Christmas light displays capture the intimate side of Christmas. The design is beautiful yet subtle, with white twigs featured at the famous roundabout, with pink and silver baubles weaving through.
Stroll around the cobbled streets and explore the quirky boutiques and eclectic eateries, who also dress up in their best Christmas outfit.
The Seven Dials switch-on event took place on November 17th.
7. Marylebone Village
Chic Marylebone Village also partakes in the festivities and likes to do it in style, pretty much like the luxurious boutiques you’ll find there. The designers set alight the streets with twinkling stars and garlands, bringing that Christmas cheer to London. There’s always a switch-on event with plenty of activities to keep guests entertained; shopping stalls, food, drink, a Santa’s Grotto, fairground rides, a tombola, and live music.
In 2020, celebrity Ricky Wilson from Kaiser Chiefs officially switched on the festive Christmas lights. If you’d like to splurge early this Christmas, the switch-on evening is the perfect opportunity, with discounts running across stores such as; John Smedley, J Crew, Rachel Riley, David Mellor, and Fabriano Boutique.
In 2022, Marylebone kicked off the festive season on November 10th. There will be market stalls, wreath-making workshops, live music, and plenty of mulled wine.
8. King’s Cross
If you’re an arts and culture vulture, King’s Cross will have the best Christmas lights in London for you. Many designer businesses, as well as local architecture studios, have their headquarters in King’s Cross. That’s why the area tends to use the Christmas season to showcase its creatives. Instead of finding traditional mistletoes and garlanded Christmas trees, you’ll see “traditionally untraditional” installations– eclectic light displays with a somewhat futuristic look.
The Electric Nemeton Tree is the best example. Local architecture practice Sam Jacobs Studio designed this giant, walk-through sculpture, taking inspiration from fairy tale forests and the symbolism of the midwinter tree.
In 2022, King’s Cross light display will be on from November 15th.
9. South Bank
South Bank had been home to a lovely Christmas Market for years. However, due to the Grinch (aka Covid), the city decided to cancel the fabulous market, leaving Londoners in total despair. However, South Bank Centre found a way to fill this part of London with Christmas cheer and uplift the spirits of Londoners.
In 2020, South Bank hosted Winter Lights, an open-air exhibition along the riverfront featuring 17 thought-provoking artworks that take inspiration from light, color, and the poetics of space. As all pieces used light and some animations, the area glowed with beautiful lights.
In 2022, South Bank will illuminate its light installations for the first time on November 10th. There’ll be 11 LED light installations from ten acclaimed contemporary artists around the Southbank Centre.
10. Fortnum & Mason
“Come December, we’ll be celebrating the countdown to Christmas on a grander scale than ever before,” stated Fortnum & Mason last year. The truth is that the upmarket department store on Piccadilly takes Christmas with utmost seriousness. Inside, all boutiques feature Christmas decorations, Christmas cakes, Christmas tea, Christmas mugs, and Christmas everything. It looks as if you were entering Santa Claus’s workshop.
Outside, the department store transforms the façade into a giant advent calendar, and the windows of shops along Duke Street celebrate their season’s feastings, showcasing every delicious bite you’d like to serve for the big day.
The 2022 date for Fortnum & Mason’s Christmas lights is yet to be confirmed; if you know this info, please comment below!.
11. Shard Lights
Photo credit: It’s No Game (L) & alh1 (R) via Flickr
The Shard lights make those dark winter skies a whole lot brighter. Like many other Christmas light displays in London, the first phase of 2020, The Shard Lights 2020 display, paid tribute to the nation’s NHS workers, beaming a massive “thank you” in Morse code and lights in shades of blue and white. Then, the spire lights illuminated London’s evening sky with traditional gold, red, and festive green hues.
For the big switch-on event, find your spot and look up to see how 575 LED lights and fixtures across the top 20 stories of The Shard light up the London skyline. The Shard Lights in 2022 will begin at 6 pm on December 6th.
12. Motcomb Street
London’s fashionable Belgravia becomes a magical place when Christmas rolls around each year. Choosing a common theme, the streets of the lovely neighborhood decorate every nook with the usual glitter and sparkle. Last year, Belgravia chose a rainbow theme to ignite the festive spirit.
Belgravia’s Motcomb Street is the best starting point to explore the neighborhood’s light setup. Along the street, you’ll find rows of rainbow-colored LED banners brightening up this walkway. If you take your time, you might see the moment these beautiful rainbows turn to white.
13. Leicester Square
Leicester Square, one of the most famous squares in London, transforms into a Christmas wonderland. For the festive season, the square loves to shower the place with the Christmas spirit. Expect to see twinkling stars stretching along the area’s streets and all trees featuring colorful garlands and baubles.
While the lights are undoubtedly beautiful, people love Leicester Square for its iconic traditional Christmas market, where you can buy your own Christmas lights. The square also plays host to several Christmas-themed shows in the velvet-draped 1920s Leicester Square Spiegeltent.
Leicester Square’s lights will be shining from November 9th to mark the start of the festive season.
14. Kew Gardens
A recent addition, Kew Gardens also embraces the festive spirit and celebrates the jolly season with a wonderful display of lights.
The 300-acre botanic garden has designed a Christmas Light trail filled with twinkling art installations and glistening lights. Along the one-mile trail, visitors will walk under shimmering tunnels, enjoy laser projections, and marvel at towering trees drenched in colorful lights.
There will also be stalls selling winter snacks and a grotto where Santa will be waiting for the little ones to say hi.
Kew Graden Christmas Lights will be on from November 16th to January 8th, 2023.
15. Coal Yard Drops
Located right in the heart of King’s Cross, Coal Drops Yard is one of the new trendy areas in London. This cozy nook of the city transforms into a winter wonderland for the festive season. In 2022, they’ve decided to bring the Swiss Alps to London and turn the area into an Alpine Wonderland.
There will be light installations, glowing winter sculptures along the canal, markets selling handmade gifts, and even an apres ski bar serving wintery cocktails. Oh, let’s not forget the star of the show: the 35-foot Christmas tree that juts out of the ground in the middle of Coal Drops Yard.
The festive season at Coal Yard Drops kicks off on November 9th.
Do you know any other great spots for seeing Christmas lights in London? Share them with everyone in the comments!