Let’s face it – Christmas has pretty much arrived at this point. We’re mere weeks away from the celebration, Winter Wonderland is open, and the craving for mulled wine is now a nightly occurrence. That also means that London’s Christmas lights have been strung up around the city, and are cheerfully illuminating the cold winter nights. So bundle up and get on out into London to check out these gloriously festive displays.
1. Oxford Street (see them now)
The famous Oxford Street Christmas stars are perhaps the most iconic lights in the city and this year they brought them back nice and early. Just like last year, they’re only be illuminating the display for a certain amount of time each night, to ensure the display is as eco-conscious as its recycled materials. New for 2023 is Oxford Street partnering with children’s charity Starlight, which means members of the public can ‘sponsor a star’ and brighten up the days of children spending the festive season in hospital.
2. Covent Garden (see them now)
One of London’s most famed Christmas light displays came back with a bang for 2023, with an even bigger display than last year. 140,000 lights dazzle visitors to the area (an upgrade to last year’s 115,000), and central to it all is the Covent Garden Christmas tree. Standing 60 feet tall, the festive behemoth has been bedecked with 30,000 lights and giant baubles. As part of the new decor this year, there are also 40 giant bells with red bows, 12 giant baubles, and eight mirror balls filling the Market Building with cheer.
3. Carnaby Street (see them now)
Carnaby Street’s light installation this year is an out-of-this-world, galactic display. Huge glimmering planets, neon light waves, and a vast vortex shine above shoppers. Presenter and Choose Love ambassador, Vick Hope switched on the lights, immersing visitors in a dynamic and vibrant display of neon colour and light waves creating a moving vortex on Carnaby Street – plus there was plenty of live music and entertainment, as well as food and drink from over 100 retailers.
4. Regent Street (see them now)
Regent Street started off this whole Christmas lights tradition back in 1954, and the famous Spirits of Christmas are once again flying above shoppers. The lights make up one of the most iconic displays in all of London, perhaps even the world, so it makes sense that they’ve kept them much the same since they first premiered. There are over 50 of the magical spirits this year, spreading joy throughout the city.
5. Marylebone Village Christmas Lights (see them now)
In the boutique-filled and hard-to-pronounce London neighbourhood of Marylebone, this year’s Christmas lights are supporting mental health charity Mind in Brent, Wandsworth and Westminster. When they switched the lights on, visitors were treated to live music, festive activities, and more, as part of the Merry Marylebone event.
6. St Martin’s Lane, Leicester Square and Piccadilly (see them now)
A newbie to the Christmas lights game, this West End hot spot unveiled its display for the first time last year. The bustling theatre district saw singers from the West End regaling visitors as the switch was flipped for the suitably theatrical light display that draped above the streets lanes of St Martin’s Lane, Leicester Square and Piccadilly. In a drive to be more sustainable this year, the eight thousand twinkling lights decorating St Martin’s Lane are made of energy-efficient LED light bulbs and 100% recyclable PMMA coloured inserts. The lights will only be lit during times of high-footfall from 3.30pm to 11pm each day.
7. King’s Cross (see them now)
King’s Cross’ Coal Drops Yard is one of London’s most picturesque places to begin with thanks to their year-round fairy lights that criss-cross the space. But every year for Christmas, the area, along with neighbouring Granary Square, takes on a delightfully festive feel. They’ve dropped down an enormous Christmas tree in the middle of Coal Drops Yard, and are treating visitors to late-night shopping, curling, live DJs, pop-up bars, and much more.
8. St Christopher’s Christmas Place (see them now)
This little London oasis gets so into the festive spirit that they even change their name for the season! St Christopher’s Place, or St Christmas Place to use their Christmas alter-ego, is the perfect place for those looking for al-fresco dining with festive illuminations. Many of the area’s venues also offer special Christmassy menus and items throughout the season. It’s a bit of a hidden gem, and one sure to impress those who think they’ve seen all the lights London has to offer.
9. Kew Gardens (see them now)
Kew Gardens is back again with another magical, twinkling, light trail. And as per usual, they’ve gone BIG. A 2.7km trail sees over a million lights turning the UNESCO World Heritage Site into a dazzling wonderland. Sights include a fire garden, larger-than-life illuminations, the Instagram-dominating Christmas Cathedral, and plenty of independent street food vendors along the route to keep you fed and warm. Exciting stuff! How many are selling mulled wine do you think?
Be sure to grab your tickets here.
10. Belgravia (see them now)
Belgravia beat out nearby Mayfair with its Christmas lights display this year, flipping the switch just one day before them! The Christmassy display sees dazzling white lights strung across Motcomb Street, Elizabeth Street, Pimlico Road, Eccleston Yards, and Halkin Arcade. The lights being switched on also marked the launch of Belgravia’s Christmas Trail of Cheer – seeing festive displays from the area’s florists hitting the windows of local establishments.
11. Mayfair (see them now)
Mayfair’s iconic blue lights are back again, lighting up the pavements and skies with their luminous display. Those triangular-shaped archways and magical fairy lights provide a wonderful twinkly canopy along the pedestrianised street. Mount Street’s display has also been switched on, with a staggering 63,000 lights lighting up the charming part of London.
12. Leadenhall Market (see them now)
Historic Leadenhall Market always commemorates Christmas in a delightful traditional fashion. The Victorian splendour of the market is matched by illustrious guests, with the Lord Mayor of London himself switching on the lights. They also get in on the tree action, with a giant Christmas tree that glimmers throughout the season. It’s all just rather gorgeous.
13. Savile Row (see them now)
This year saw Savile Row debuting a new Christmas lights display for the first time since 2019, with a twinkling tailor-inspired display. The display features pairs of giant golden illuminated shears suspended above the streets, paused mid-cut through a glittering pealight swathe of ‘fabric’. The lights can be seen from the corner of Clifford Street to the corner of Burlington Gardens.
14. The Churchill Arms (see them now)
London’s most outrageously Christmassy pub is so committed to the Christmas lights game that even while closed during lockdown in 2020 they still prepared the lights for a December switch-on. Countless Christmas trees, tens of thousands of lights, and plenty of festive cheer make it pretty unmissable each year. A visit to The Churchill Arms always ends with you standing outside going ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ for about fifteen minutes before heading inside for a pint!
15. Bond Street (see them now)
The luxury shopping district of Bond Street saw a full-on overhaul of their Christmas lights last year, with a royalty-inspired display hitting the sky above the streets. The change meant that the famous peacock feathers disappeared after an 8-year stint in the sky. And this year, they’ve brought the royally-good Christmas crowns back, to shine down over shoppers amidst the many lit-up shops along the street.
16. Chelsea (see them now)
Chelsea has once again been taken over by twinkling Christmas lights. They threw a big ol’ street party to celebrate the affair and Santa Claus himself was on hand to push the button and illuminate the lights. It’s now looking frightfully festive everywhere you look!
17. Soho Kids Christmas Lights (see them now)
Now, this iconic Christmas light display might just be the most heart-warming and adorable display in the whole of the UK. The Soho Kids Christmas Lights display has returned for the third year in a row, having started in 2021, and can now be found scattered around the streets of Soho. The collaboration between Architecture for Kids and Soho Parish Primary School finds Soho’s walkways lit up by designs from local schoolchildren. And the lights are delightfully true to the pupils’ own original drawings! It’s surely a moment of great pride for all of those kids to see their work shining so bright for so many to see.
18. Connaught Village (see them now)
Connaught Village always delights in Christmas, with their Tree of Love taking centre stage each year. Last year saw the neon-trimmed tree taken over by an ‘All I want for Christmas is…’ installation but this year they’ve kept it simple with a new display that lights up messages of ‘love in every language’. Throughout Connaught Village, lights have been strung up across shop fronts and over the streets for a gloriously festive setting.
19. The Shard (see them now)
Is there any other building that loves celebrating events with delightful light shows more than The Shard? Well, if there is, maybe we just can’t see it… (Fun fact: it’s actually visible from 40 miles away!) Western Europe’s highest Christmas lights show has returned for 2023, transforming the top 20 storeys of The Shard into a colourful spectacle. The new display cycles through three mosaic-style motifs, designed by the London School of Mosaic. With a special Shard Snowman, Festive Candle, and Festive Pattern lighting up the peak, you’ll want to keep glancing skyward to catch all of the designs.
The display will light up every night from 5pm, all the way through to New Year’s Eve.
20. Trafalgar Square (see them from December 7)
Norway’s thank you gift to London (for the UK’s support in WW2) is pretty iconic, as 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 tradition isn’t about to be broken yet, because this year’s Norwegian Christmas tree will land on the square in December.
So there it is, a by no means exhaustive run-down of London’s Christmas lights for 2023. Time to figure out how to work your phone while wearing gloves so that you’re all prepped to grab some festive shots. And don’t forget the mulled wine!
Also published on Medium.