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 about to burst into colour all over town, and we’re here to help you see every festive display in town. 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 best Christmas lights in the world.
When do London’s Christmas lights switch on?
Soon, is the short answer! Many of the city’s best Christmas light displays have already confirmed switch-on dates, so pop these dates in your diary if you can’t wait for that first sweet hit of festive cheer!
1. Carnaby Street (on now)
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 2021, they’ve festooned the Carnaby arch with a kaleidoscopic display of shimmering neon butterflies, all bearing a heartwarming message of transformation, change, and hope. More info here.
2. Covent Garden (on now)
Over 115,000 lights illuminate England’s busiest garden each year, and that’s before we mention London’s biggest hand-picked Christmas tree. The Covent Garden Christmas lights are quite the sight to behold, and once you’ve marvelled at the tree, you and your beau can steal away for a smooch beneath the giant mistletoe chandeliers in the Apple Market. Read all about the display here.
3. Marylebone (on 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.
4. Belgravia (on now)
After last year’s rainbow-themed display, the Belgravia Christmas lights are going classic and classy in 2021 with an all-white display. Motcomb Street, Elizabeth Street, Pimlico Road, Eccleston Yards, and Halkin Arcade are all aglow, and the Eccleston Yards Christmas Market is back from November 14, ideal for a spot of gift-getting.
5. Regent Street (on now)
Regent Street started off this whole Christmas lights tradition back in 1954, and the famous spirits are once again flying above shoppers. Inspiration is still drawn from the street’s very first display, hence the 45 ‘spirits’, which use some 300,000 lights to dazzle shippers. Neighbouring St James’ gets some lovely spirits too, and it’s quick wander from one to t’other. Find out more here.
6. Oxford Street (on now)
The famous Oxford Street Christmas lights are back, with shimmering stars now glowing softly above London’s busiest shopping street. They’re brand new for 2021, replacing the shimmering LED banners that have been favoured for the past two years, and it’s safe to say we’re starstruck by them! See more here.
7. Bond Street (on now)
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.) Find them glowing now, and read all about them here.
8. Mayfair (on now)
Mayfair is beautiful all year round, but their Christmas installation is simply breathtaking. Last year brought a series of luminous triangular-shaped archways and magical fairy lights to South Molton Street, and their contribution to London’s lineup of extravagant Christmas trees is usually a good un’ too.
9. Greenwich Market (on now)
Not content with just switching on the Christmas lights, Greenwich Market will also hold a lantern procession on the night of their switch-on event, featuring lanterns made by local schoolchildren. Wholesome stuff! Singer-songwriter Jack Rose will appear at the big Christmas Countdown event – between 4-6pm is the time to pop down.
10. Kew Gardens (on now)
Kew Gardens are back with another twinkling lights trail this Christmas, and as per usual, they’re going big. 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.
11. Leadenhall Market (on now)
Historic Leadenhall Market is prepping for Christmas in traditional fashion. The Victorian splendour of the market will be matched by the illustrious guests, amongst them the Lord Mayor of London, who’ll switched on the lights. You’ll find a giant Christmas tree here, along with live music, a festive sing-a-long, and plenty of food and drink. Oh, and we’ve also been promised ‘firework fountains’, which we’re obviously keen on!
12. Seven Dials (on now)
Home to possibly the quaintest road layout in London, Seven Dials goes all out for Christmas, beginning in style with their Winter festival earlier in the month. That’s about the time their lovely illuminations begin twinkling above the streets, so circle that date in your diaries. Traditional brass bands, wreath making, and a pop-up pantomime all form part of the attraction, and rest assured there’ll be mulled wine aplenty.
13. Chelsea Christmas Lights (on now)
A whole neighbourhood of twinkling light displays are on tap for Chelsea, with Duke of York Square, Pavilion Road, Sloane Street, and King’s Road all set for maximum wattage. The switch-on will take place at 5pm with Saint Nick himself pushing the button, whilst the kick-off event welcomes roaming entertainers to the neighbourhood, along with a festive Fine Food Market (yum) at Duke of York Square, and Christmas cocktails (double yum) at the Winter Terrace in Sloane Square.
14. Wembley Winterfest (on now)
Up in Wembley Park, free light event Winterfest is going all in on the LEDs. Not only will the neighbourhood boast London’s tallest LED tree (illuminating at 7pm), they’ll also host an open-air show filled with street theatre, circus acts, and illuminated roller skaters whizzing down Olympic Way. All in all, quite the spectacle… Read more here.
15. The Churchill Arms (on now)
London’s most outrageously Christmassy pub is so committed to the Christmas lights game that despite closing under lockdown last year, they still prepared the lights for a December switch on. Ninety Christmas trees, 12,000 lights, and plenty of festive cheer makes it pretty unmissable, and we’ve got an equally impressive display this year.
16. The Shard (December 1)
Western Europe’s highest Christmas lights show is a regular feature in the capital, and this year it’ll sparkle over the city from December 1. The top 20 storeys of The Shard are transformed into a colourful spectacle every Christmas, and this year’s theme will be one of togetherness after nearly two years of separation from one another. Keep your eyes peeled for a unique display when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, too.
17. Trafalgar Square (December 2)
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 breathtaking tree takes centre stage in Trafalgar Square and spreads festive cheer to all passers-by, and will illuminate from December 2.
Also published on Medium.