All too often, Christmas lights are just a long string of disappointments.
But all your festive anticipation is more than justified this year, because London is gradually transforming into a festive, wintry wonderland that would put the set of Elf to shame. So without further ado, here’s the best places to have a gawp at some seasonal illumination…
Looking for winter light trails rather than street decorations? We have a guide for that right here.
The collective term for a group of butterflies is a kaleidoscope – something Carnaby Street have embraced wholeheartedly with their shimmering sequin arches, rainbows and 3D neon butterflies. It’s all in partnership with the charity Choose Love, which supports refugees around the world, and there’ll be a pop up store to complement it all, staffed by a ‘constant stream of celebrity guests’.
Switch-on: 4th November, 12-8pm. Over 100 shops, bars & restos are taking part in the celebrations, with discounts, free gifts and live salsa & swing music all day. Register ahead HERE.
Creating possibly the most romantic spot in London, Covent Garden market has festooned its ceilings with 40 giant, illuminated bunches of mistletoe, complete with 700 berries – so just be careful who you find yourself standing next to. They’re also bringing back last year’s flurries of snowfall every day on the hour between 12-6pm, and new for this year is a forest with igloos for hire and a mini market of hot food & drink stalls.
Switch-on: Tuesday 9th November. There’ll also be a Winter Warmer Fortnight from 10th-24th December, with stalls around the piazza hawking hot cocktails, tea, and mulled wine.
Belgravia’s streets will be decked with dozens of dazzling white lights this year – but the most charming ones will be those lighting up the city of gingerbread houses, which is moving from its usual location at Somerset House to a spot on Motcomb Street this year…
Switch-on: From 10th November, no switch-on event
This year, the Marylebone lights will involve full-on fairground rides, plus food and drink, Santa’s Grotto, a good ol’ charity tombola, some live music, wreath-making and a little festive shopping with discounts, free gifts and complimentary drinks at over 50 shops, bars & restaurants.
Switch-on: Wednesday 10th November, 3-7pm (mystery celebrity switch-on at 6pm)
Harking (ahem) back to their very first light display back in ’54, Regent Street’s lights are, for a sixth year running, taking the form of 17m-wide angels sweeping down the street. The parade stretches from Langham Place down to St James’s Market, and involves a dazzling 300,000 LED lights which atmospherically ripple down the street. So they’re not just winging it…
Switch-on: 13th November 2021 (no switch-on event)
THE CHURCHILL ARMS
For context, this West London pub managed to attach 97 Christmas trees to its exterior during a global pandemic. So you can bet they’re going to be pulling all the stops out this year…
Switch-on: 15th November
If the 120 antique, vintage and independently run craft stalls aren’t enough to draw you in for a bit of Christmas shopping at Greenwich Market, then the twinkling trees and mulled wine should be…
Switch-on: 17th November, 4-6pm – things kick off with a handmade festive lantern parade led by a jazz band, followed by the switch-on with musician Jack Rose, and dance performances on stage.
Seven Dials are kicking off their festive illuminations with a three-day street party featuring pop-up panto; live music from brass bands and gospel choirs; mulled wine, roast chestnut & s’mores carts; drop-in wreath-making; ticketed workshops and a load of discounts across the boutiques, restaurants and bars there. So your wallet might look a little lighter, too.
Switch-on: 19th – 21st November – register ahead HERE.
Plastered in red and gold, this Victorian shopping arcade looks fairly festive all year round. So you can imagine how ridiculously Christmassy it gets when they throw festoon lighting, mini Christmas trees, a big Christmas tree, and wreaths into the mix. The Lord Mayor will be switching it all on this year, after which there’ll be live music and singalongs.
Switch-on: 19th November, free – just turn up; shopping evening 8th December with workshops, live music and a photobooth – register here
Chelsea’s streets will be festooned with glittering orbs of light again this year, with a giant Christmas tree popping up in Duke of York’s Square. The big man himself will be there to switch them on, and there’s an al fresco pop-up bar in the middle of Sloane Square, too.
Switch-on: 20th November from 2pm, switch-on at 5pm, followed by a festive shopping evening on 4th December with free horse carriage rides & discounts
Wembley’s outdoor light trail is back after a hiatus last year, and the 25ft, 100,000 LED Christmas tree is coming with it. Aside from that, some of their best-loved Winterfest installations will be returning alongside two new commissions; a tunnel of rainbow arches and a promenade of glowing mirrored pillars. READ MORE
Switch-on: 25th November from 4.30pm, 7pm switch-on. There’ll be loads of outdoor performances, too, with fire artists, stilt walkers, drumming parades, circus performers and live music. Register for your free ticket HERE.
Anyone who says there’s no point lighting up the Shard is about to be proven wrong.
Because the point itself (that is, the top 20 floors of the spire) will be home to a spectacular light show taking place throughout December, including rippling effects down the building itself as well as lasers radiating into the sky. Which’ll be useful if Rudolf fancies a night off.
Switch-on: 1st December – early on 1st January, from 4pm-1am daily
Every year since 1947, the people of Oslo have gifted London a Christmas tree as a thank you for Britain’s support for Norway in WWII. And all 25m of it will be draped in traditional vertically strung fairy lights, with regular carol singing and a torchlit nativity procession with a full brass band taking place below it over the following weeks.
Switch-on: Early December, date TBC
FORTNUM’S CHRISTMAS WINDOWS
Home to luxury foodstuffs and crackers stuffed with silver-plated tea caddies, Fortnum & Mason is a classic pit-stop on the London Christmas lights trail. And this year, their windows have been dressed up around the theme of ‘animal dreams’, with hedgehogs skiing down giant meringue kisses and an owl riding across a river of tea.
Switch-on: On now
Fine, so it’s not just strictly a Christmas display, given that they’re up all year round – but the 12,000 bulbs adorning the Harrods facade are more than just a touch festive. Plus, it’s an excuse to swing by their food hall, featuring 150 chefs and a vegetable butcher.
Switch-on: On now
Main image: Regent Street
Feeling festive yet? A trip to one of these excellent winter rooftops should do it…