From the twinkling lights of Regent Street to the impressive illuminations in Covent Garden, there’s plenty to see in 2018. Most switch-on events take place in November, though some carry on into December. Here’s our guide to the best Christmas lights in town.
Christmas Lights: Now On
When it comes to Christmas lights, the Oxford Street team are always keen to get the party started: nearly always the first to deck out their street with illuminations and the first to get them switched on, this famous shopping street leads the way in seasonal cheer. We were expecting things to be a little different this year, as Crossrail (the famous #PurpleTrain under London) was due to be completed – a fact that was going to be celebrated with new festive lights. Crossrail is a little behind schedule, however, so the lights remain unchanged; though you may spot a hint of purple, new for 2018, which has been added to the impressive 1,778 baubles and 750,000 LED lights twinkling over Oxford Street this year.
Only a short walk from Oxford Street and well worth the trip, Carnaby Christmas is the alternative seasonal event. Quirky yet often moving, the street’s famous illuminations take on a neon feel this year for a special celebration of Queen’s famous hit – and the new film – Bohemian Rhapsody.
Often known as the busiest garden in London, it can be hard to remember to stop and take stock when you’re in Covent Garden’s bustling shopping area: but around Christmas time, it’s essential to do so! With a giant Christmas tree, 40 mistletoe chandeliers and a fetching sparkly reindeer statue to gaze at, you won’t want to miss the chance to see these iconic illuminations in their full glory.
Christmas Lights in November
There are a host of Christmas events still to come – promising afternoons and evenings full of festive fun, all to be enjoyed underneath the warming glow of some dazzling illuminations.
Regent Street Christmas Lights: 15th November
Even if you’ve not visited Regent Street during winter, chances are you’ve seen a photo of the famous angel illuminations that fill the skies above the popular promenade. This year, the grand switch-on event known as ‘The Spirit of Christmas’ happens on 15th November: and it’s set to be the biggest party yet, with the area cleared of traffic to make way for live music and other celebrations.
Seven Dials: 15th November
A hop, skip and a jump away from Regent Street is Seven Dials, where you can also catch some spectacular ‘switch-on’ action on 15th November. Gather around the iconic Seven Dials monument to view the illuminations twinkling into life, and then let the stunning lights guide you past the popular restaurants, bars, and shops where you can enjoy promotions and live music for the duration of the event.
Chelsea: 17th November
The fun starts early in Sloane Square on Saturday 17th November, with carol singers and street artists appearing throughout the area from 2 pm. Children can also visit Santa and pet real reindeer in Duke of York Square, and families can enjoy delicious food and beverages from the festive food market, as well as complimentary carriage rides. At 5 pm, Father Christmas will make his way over to Sloane Square to flick the switch, casting a magical glow over the historic South West London area.
Greenwich Market: 21st November
The illuminations in this popular market are always worth a look, but the switch-on event is a must-see. This year, the famous lantern procession returns to Greenwich, with four local schools – led by a jazz band – set to march through Greenwich with their handmade lanterns. The parade will pass through many of Greenwich’s most iconic sites (such as Cutty Sark Gardens) before finishing in the market ahead of the switch-on at 6 pm. Live music, Santa’s grotto, and plenty more will keep revellers entertained throughout the evening.
Royal Exchange: 21st November
Also on 21st November but in the centre of town, the imposing 25-foot Christmas tree outside the Royal Exchange will be switched on by television presenter Claudia Winkleman. Visitors to this cosy, free event can warm themselves with hot chocolate and mulled wine whilst listening to the sounds of local carol singers.
St Katharine Docks: 22nd November
Santa arrives by speedboat to kick off the party at St Katharine Docks – need we say more? Later in the evening, a carol concert will take place under a canopy of twinkling Christmas lights, with warming seasonal refreshments available throughout: a truly magical winter’s evening.
Christmas Lights in December
The Shard: 3rd December
The highest festive light display in all of Western Europe returns in 2018 with an intriguing new theme: ‘reflections’. The concept focuses on a typical London day, evoking the colours of a city sunrise, sunset, and the darker shades of midnight.
There’s no one moment at which the lights are switched on: instead, viewers should turn their eyes to the top 20 floors of the iconic building between 4 pm – 1 am to catch the show, which lasts for 30 minutes and runs every night from 3rd December.
Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree: 6th December
Not technically a huge display of illuminations but still an unmissable – and iconic – London Christmas event, the lights on the famous Trafalgar Christmas tree will be turned on on Thursday 6th December 2018. The Mayor of Westminster, the Norwegian Ambassador and the Mayor of Oslo will preside over this auspicious event to celebrate Norway’s annual present to the city.
If you’re planning a trip to the capital during the yuletide season, be sure to check out our blog ‘Festive Events to Book Now’, too, for more tips on exciting things to do and see over Christmas.