Winter Wonderland: Where to See Christmas Lights in London
Santa Claus may not be coming to town just yet, but London’s famous Christmas lights will soon be bursting into life all over the capital. From twinkling illuminations crisscrossing Regent Street to the magnificent Christmas tree that journeys from Oslo to Trafalgar Square, London’s lights are legendary. Here are some important dates to put in your diary if you’re hoping to catch all the action!
Carnaby Street (7th November)
Carnaby Street’s Christmas lights are set to be bigger and better than ever in 2019. Whilst the popular shopping district’s displays are always eye-catching, this year they’ll be combining artistic flair with a showcase of an important issue: the preservation of the planet’s oceans.
Carnaby Street have partnered with ocean conservation charity Project 0 for a fishy-themed, sustainable display. From a floating ‘kelp’ forest to a 5-metre long whale blowing bubbles and 200 sparkling vampire squid, the entire light show has been constructed from recycled and reusable materials (including repurposed fishing nets and over 1,500 recycled plastic bottles).
Join the team at 6 pm on Thursday 7th November for the unveiling of this dazzling underwater display.
Covent Garden (12th November)
The cobbled streets of Covent Garden are always a treat to behold, but this time of year brings something even more special.
This year, the official illuminating ceremony will be held on the evening of November 12th. Visitors can expect a thrilling switch-on hosted by celebrity guests, at which time the piazza will twinkle into life: illuminated by a massive Christmas tree, complete with 30,000 lights, plus the famous reindeer sculpture and 115,000 other lights arranged across the square and surrounding streets.
Regent Street (14th November)
Though many of London’s Christmas displays are truly spectacular, Regent Street has a special place in our heart: after all, it’s where the tradition of festive illuminations began, way back in 1954.
In celebration of the 200th anniversary of Regent Street itself, this year the ‘Spirit of Christmas’ display will pay homage to the original 1954 lights – meaning that the famous twinkling angels will fly over the street once more. The display, which is the largest in the capital, will be illuminated on the evening of Thursday 14th November, during which the entire street will be pedestrianised. There will be musical performances, special appearances and shopping opportunities galore – it’s a treat not to be missed!
Kew Gardens (November 20th onwards)
If you thought the 100,000+ lights that twinkle over Covent Garden were impressive, think again. Kew’s ‘Christmas at Kew’ display will boast over one million lights dotted along a magnificent two-kilometre trail.
This festive ramble – which runs from 20th November 2019 to 5th January 2020 - will include a feast of visual treats: from twisting vines threaded with light to branches full of sparkling Will-o’the Wisps. There will also be a fire garden – aflame with ruby and emerald lights – and dynamic silver shards in the Treetop Walkway. Finally, in a dramatic conclusion, the walk finishes with a stunning laser show at the famous, all-glass Temperate House.
Oxford Street (21st November)
There were many disappointed faces in London last year when it was announced that Oxford Street’s popular Christmas lights would not be switched on due to ongoing Crossrail works. Fortunately, things are now back on track and the Oxford Street illuminations are set to re-launch with a new and improved display.
Replacing the purple and silver baubles of yesteryear is an innovative, energy-efficient showcase of light: 27 LED light ‘curtains’ that will hang above the street, and which incorporate more than 220,000 individual lights. Though the nature of these ‘curtains’ is yet to be disclosed, the inventive design will allow for ‘curated, dynamic content’, which could mean that custom messages will be displayed during the festive period.
All will be revealed at the switch-on event on Thursday 21st November. Attendees can expect live performances from rising hip-hop, R&B and grime artists throughout the night, as well as special shopping opportunities.
Trafalgar Square (5th December)
For a truly traditional festive experience, there’s nothing better than the switch-on ceremony in Trafalgar Square. Always held on the first Thursday in December (which falls on December 5th in 2019), this ceremony dates back to 1947, at which time Norway gifted a towering tree to London to commemorate the significant support Britain offered them during World War II. The tree still travels from Oslo to London every year, and the decorations on it are hung vertically in the traditional Norwegian style.
Head to the iconic square this December to watch the magnificent tree twinkle for the first time, and enjoy carols, mulled wine and plenty of festive cheer at the same time.