The legendary 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 will soon be bursting into colour all over town, and we know when. Get these dates in your diary if you can’t wait for that sweet hit of festive cheer!
1. Oxford Street Christmas Lights, now on
The grand mack daddy of Christmas lights are always keen to get the festivities started: they’re the first to put them up and the first to switch them on. With a theme of ‘Christmas is calling’, the display features over 750,000 LED lights and 1,778 baubles, dazzling Oxford Street’s many visitors.
2. Carnaby Street, now on
Last year, the wonderfully alliterative Carnaby Christmas Carnival saw colourful paper parrots floating over the street, inspired by Christmas celebrations in warmer climes. This year, it’s a neon sensation inspired by the lyrics of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.
3. Bond Street, early November, now on
The luxury shopping district of Bond Street got cocky last year 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.) Expect something equally outlandish in 2018!
4. Enchanted Woodland, Syon Park, now on
A longstanding west London rival to Kew’s display, the woodlands of Syon Park will light up for the winter with an array of colourful lighting displays. This one’s ticketed – book yourself in on their website.
5. Covent Garden, November 13
There’s usually a lot of pomp and circumstance when Christmas officially returns to the busiest garden in England, and don’t expect 2018 to change that. A magnificently sparkly reindeer statue and forty illuminated mistletoe chandeliers form the basis of their display – so nothing too extravagant, then. No word on the celebrity button-pusher, but Kylie Minogue did the honours last year, so expect them to bring out the big guns once more.
6. Marylebone High Street, November 14
In the boutique-filled and hard-to-pronounce London neighbourhood of Marylebone, their festive Christmas lights will be switched on at a party on November 14. There’ll be live music and other entertainment between 3pm and 7pm, with a yet-to-be-announced celeb doing the honour of switching on the lights at 6pm.
7. St. Christopher’s Place, November 15
This cute-as-you-like pedestrianised shopping street just north of Bond Street station dusts off its decorations in November. If last year is a guide, you’ll see gorgeously fragile female figures perched above glowing orbs, while shining, shimmering baubles decorate the nearby alleys.
8. Regent Street, November 15
Regent Street started off this whole Christmas lights tradition back in 1954, and their angelic design is a charming addition to the scene. Their usual formula is to pedestrianise the entire street for the evening whilst hosting musical performances, and we don’t foresee much deviation this year. ‘The Spirit of Christmas’ is the biggest display in central London, so don’t miss out!
9. Seven Dials, November 15
The lovely little roundabout next to Covent Garden celebrates the beginning of the Christmas season with a charming switch-on event and a one-night Christmas shopping event.
10. After Dark, Chiswick, November 15
Not exactly traditional, but stunning nonetheless. Chiswick House & Gardens will host slick, modern light installations and a curated soundtrack that you’ll experience on a leisurely evening stroll around their splendid gardens.
11. Chelsea Christmas Lights, November 17
The Duke of York Square and Sloane Square are getting lit for Christmas, bringing Christmas cheer to Chelsea. Expect glowing trees, reindeer, Father Christmas, and a special helper – a local child nominated by friends and family – who’ll be flicking the switch in Sloane Square. Makes a nice change from your average Made in Chelsea cast member, mind you.
12. The Royal Exchange, November 21
Christmas tree, carolling, celebrity guest, and mulled wine. The Royal Exchange have a simple formula, but it works pretty nicely for a cosy Christmas lights event in the heart of the city.
13. Kew Gardens, November 22
Kew is not known for half-assing Christmas, what with the ONE MILLION lights they’re promising. They’ll be spread over a two-kilometre trail, along with ribbons of light, giant baubles, and a scented fire garden. New for 2018 is a moonlit Laser Garden, and they’ll be launching a flotilla of glowing boats on the lake. Sounds dreamy!
14. ZSL London Zoo‘s Christmas Lights Trail, Regents Park, November 22
Swapping ostentatious animals for ostentatious lights (not literally – the animals aren’t going anywhere), ZSL London Zoo are putting on quite the show. A mile-long trail of illuminations will have the zoo sparkling, complete with illuminated animal sculptures, a ‘light vortex’, and singing trees.
15. Alice In Winterland Trail, Southwark Park, from November 28
160 giant lanterns depicting scenes from Alice in Wonderland will be glowing in Southwark Park, south London, until January 5th. There’s a Santa’s Grotto, too! It does cost money though, so you’ll need to get tickets here.
16. St. Martin’s Courtyard, Covent Garden, late November (date TBC)
This cute courtyard in the heart of Covent Garden provides a neat little companion to the big show. The celebrations feature music, cute installations, and events and deals in the surrounding shops and restaurants.
17. The Shard, December 3
Western Europe’s highest festive light display is back with a brand new theme. ‘Reflections’ will highlight the colours of a typical London day, from sunrise to sunset, and through to midnight. With the top twenty floors illuminated, it’s unmissable in every sense of the word.
18. Trafalgar Square, December 6
It hasn’t always received the warmest welcome, but Norway’s annual present to London is pretty iconic. 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 is usually early December, making it the last major arrival amongst London Christmas lights.
There’s a lot more Christmas in London this year – see our guides to the city’s ice skating rinks, festive markets, and fabulous winter pop-ups.
Featured image: @barryscowenphoto
Also published on Medium.