I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but summer is well and truly gone and autumn has passed us by too, somehow. The weather is cooling down, and the leaves have all abandoned the trees. Rooftops are undergoing festive makeovers, Winter Wonderland has opened, and December has arrived – it’s unavoidable: Christmas is here folks. Christmas markets are opening, festive ice-skating rinks are welcoming guests, and igloos are appearing across London venues. And, yup, the Christmas lights have been strung up and turned on up and down the streets of London.
Most of them already have! Many of London’s streets have already undergone a Christmassy makeover, but there are a select few still yet to turn on their lights (or even announce details!). But we’re putting on our detective hats, taking a look at years gone by, and making a few ‘in-the-know’ predictions. Here’s our rundown of lights you can see now, a few dates that you can pop in your diary, and what we’re crossing our fingers for.
1. Oxford Street (see them now!)
The famous Oxford Street Christmas lights have brought back their shimmering stars to glow softly above London’s busiest shopping street. This year’s Christmas stars will shine for a slightly shorter period each day in a bid to cut their energy consumption in the midst of the UK’s cost of living crisis. Moreover, the stars are comprised of 300,000 LED lightbulbs made from recycled polymer, which are 75% more efficient than standard lightbulbs. The Oxford Street Christmas lights aren’t just pretty, they’re also carefully considered.
2. Mayfair (see them now!)
We all remember the luminous triangular-shaped archways and magical fairy lights that hit South Molton Street, right? Well, they’re back once again! Accompanying them is a canopy of twinkling Christmas lights draped along the length of the pedestrianised street. Meanwhile, Mayfair’s Mount Street own dazzling Christmas lightshave also turned on, bringing with them the unveiling of the iconic Christmas tree from the Connaught Hotel! In keeping with an initiative from 2021, Mayfair’s Christmas lights will only illuminate from 3 PM – 12 AM, midnight, each day. While you’re in the area, why not also check out the Belgravia Christmas lights?
3. Carnaby Street (see them now!)
Carnaby Street‘s light display this year is a retrospective walk through their previous displays over the years. Encompassing the likes of a neon sensation inspired by the lyrics of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, and an underwater-inspired display made from entirely recycled materials, this year visitors can walk through the history of the Carnaby Christmas Lights. Head down to see if they’ve brought back your favourite from their 25 years of Christmas light displays.
4. Covent Garden (see them 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. This year, the tree tops the tree from 2021 by an extra five feet in height – at 60 feet tall it properly towers over the piazza. 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. Plus, for added festivity, they’re bringing snow back to Covent Garden for Christmas once again this year! Covent Garden’s Christmas lights always bring something special to London.
5. Regent Street (see them now!)
Regent Street started off this whole Christmas lights tradition back in 1954, and the famous Spirits of Chritmas 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 shoppers. This year the lights will only switch on from 2pm to midnight each day for a more sustainable display. Neighbouring St James’ gets some lovely spirits too, and it’s quick wander from the one to t’other. Check out our guide to the Regent Street Christmas lights here.
6. Belgravia (see them now!)
Belgravia’s Christmas lights have officially returned this year, and they brought a whole host of fun with them. The Christmassy wonderland sees dazzling white lights across Motcomb Street, Elizabeth Street, Pimlico Road, Eccleston Yards, and Halkin Arcade. Throughout the night of the lights turning on, the London Gay Men’s Chorus performed choral sets around Belgravia, while Father Christmas and two of his reindeer were also seen in the area. The night also marked the launch of the Belgravia Christmas trail – seeing festive displays hitting the windows of local establishments. There’s always plenty to enjoy from the Belgravia Christmas lights.
7. Marylebone (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. The night the lights turned on, the air was filled with cheer, with an evening of live music, festive activities, and more, to enjoy alongside the ocular delight of a display. Find out more about the Marylebone Christmas lights here.
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 are also offering special Christmassy menus and items throughout the season. Expect Sri Lankan or Nordic takes on British Christmas classics, and much more.
9. 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 makes it pretty unmissable, and they’re ready and waiting for your ‘ooh’s and ‘aah’s. Have you checked out London’s most Christmassy pub yet?
10. Kew Gardens (see them now!)
Kew Gardens have returned with another magical, twinkling, lights trail this Christmas, and as per usual, they’re going big. A million lights turn the UNESCO World Heritage Site into a dazzling wonderland, complete with fire gardens, larger than life illuminations 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? (And no, there’s no theme here of a particular Secret London writer loving mulled wine too much). Check out our guide to the Kew Gardens Christmas lights, and be sure to grab your tickets here.
11. Greenwich Market (see them now!)
Greenwich Market is pretty fantastic year-round, there’s no denying that, but chuck some lights up and hand out the winter warmers and it takes on a whole other level of charm. This year, visitors were also treated to a lantern procession, where children from five local schools paraded their handmade colourful lanterns around Greenwich and into the Market for the big Christmas Countdown and Lights On. Last year the market also hosted late-opening festive sessions every Wednesday through December (excluding Christmas Day), perfect for a festive evening market wander. No word yet on the late-night sessions, but for now they have opened their Greenwich Market Grotto for those looking to meet Santa himself!
12. Bond Street (see them now!)
The luxury shopping district of Bond Street saw a full-on overhaul of their Christmas lights this year, with a royalty-inspired display hitting the sky above the streets. The change sees the peacock feathers disappearing after an 8-year stint above the streets. Originally intended to celebrate the late Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee, it instead stands as a beautiful tribute to the deceased monarch. They’ve also overhauled all of the materials that go into the display to make it more sustainable and planet-friendly. Find out what else they’re doing to make the Bond Street Christmas lights environmentally conscious here.
13. King’s Cross (see them now!)
King’s Cross’ Coal Drops Yard is already one of London’s most picturesque places, with their year-round fairy light criss-crossing the space. But for Christmas the area, along with neighbouring Granary Square, has taken on a delightfully festive feel with their après-ski themed transformation. There’s the return of 2021’s popular Christmas-tree-inspired light and sculpture installation, Temenos, and there’s also an all-new ‘dream machine’ based 33-ft tall light and wind structure, elsewhere: a place to think about the world. They’re unlike any other Christmas displays in London. Oh, and there’s a massive 47ft tall tree decorated with neon ski accessories. Add to that curling, an Alpine bar, and plenty of Christmas market action, and you’ve got a full day of festive fun sorted!
14. Connaught Village (see them now!)
Connaught Village have given their Tree of Love, Joy and Hope a yuletide makeover. The new display sees the neon-trimmed tree taken over by an ‘All I want for Christmas is…’ installation. Not just content with a light display, however, the night also saw Connaught Village hosting craft workshops, live music, carolling, and a chance to meet and pose for a photo with husky dogs, aptly named Santa Paws. There was even a ‘Pawtrait‘ illustrator on hand for visitors to get an illustration drawn of them with their dog. It was all very doggy-themed, festive, and adorable, frankly at Connaught Village when they turned on the lights.
15. Seven Dials (see them now!)
Home to possibly the quaintest road layout in London, Seven Dials went all out for Christmas with delightful themed displays and a full on Winter Warm Up celebration. Last year saw the area transformed into a ‘festive woodland’ with zig zags of silver winter birch sprays festooned around. This year’s wintry celebrations saw attendants treated to festive workshops, seasonal food, on-street entertainment, and exclusive discounts. Now the area is positively humming with festive feeling and sparkling lights abound.
16. Leadenhall Market (see them now!)
Historic Leadenhall Market always rings in Christmas in a delightful traditional fashion. The Victorian splendour of the market is matched by illustrious guests, as last year saw the Lord Mayor of London switching on the lights. He returned once again this year to flip the switch and turn on the lights in the Grade II*-listed building. In classic Leadenhall Market style, they’re celebrating things in typically grand, and Instagrammable, fashion with their giant Christmas tree. Now that the festive Christmas makeover is in place, you’ll also get to enjoy such attractions as wreath-making workshop, and even “A Taste of Leadenhall” wine tasting sessions. Do you reckon they’ll have mulled wine at the tasting? We’ll just have to head on down and check out the Leadenhall Market Christmas lights ourself, to find out.
17. Chelsea Christmas Lights (see them 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. Saint Nick himself will be on hand to push the button and illuminate the lights. Be sure to take advantage of special discounts and offers on the day, and check out the festive Fine Food Market (yum) at Duke of York Square, and Christmas cocktails (double yum) at the Winter Terrace in Sloane Square. No word yet on the mulled wine sitch.
18. St Martin’s Lane (see them now!)
For the first time ever, this West End hot spot is getting in on the Christmas light game. The bustling theatre district saw singers from the West End regaling visitors as the switch was flipped for the suitably theatrical light display that drapes itself above the streets lanes of St Martin’s Lane. It’s the perfect complement to the area’s already colourful and lit up night sky. Much like many of this year’s displays, the lights are made of energy-efficient LED light bulbs and will only be lit during the area’s busiest periods from 3.30pm – 11pm each day.
19. Trafalgar Square (see them now!)
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. And the tradition isn’t about to be broken yet, with this year’s Norwegian Christmas tree standing tall (if a bit frazzled) in Trafalgar Square.
20. Soho Kids Xmas Lights (see them now!)
London’s most heart-warming and adorable Christmas lights display can be found scattered around the streets of Soho. A collaboration between Architecture for Kids and Soho Parish Primary School sees Christmas lights designed by schoolchildren lighting up the Soho walkways. Started in 2021, the initiative sees brilliantly accurately realized renditions of drawings from the pupils hanging among the best Christmas lights London has to offer. 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. There’s even a walking tour so visitors don’t miss a single kid-designed light, which you can find here.
21. The Shard (December 6)
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… Western Europe’s highest Christmas lights show is a regular feature in the capital, transforming the top 20 storeys of The Shard into a colourful spectacle. There’s also sure to be a glorious display when the clock strikes midnight and the new year gets ushered in. The Shard’s lights will turn on for their Christmassy display from December 6.
So there it is, a by no means exhaustive run-down of London’s Christmas lights this year. Time to grab the camera, figure out how to work your phone while wearing gloves, and get to heating the mulled wine!
Also published on Medium.