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, prepare to soak up some seasonal illumination with our guide to London’s Christmas lights…
Psst… these are all the lights going up around London’s main streets. If you’re after the festive lights that pop up around London’s parks, gardens and stately homes, check out our Winter Light Trails guide.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of Carnaby’s Christmas lights, and to celebrate they’re putting together a dazzling smorgasbord of lights from previous years. You’ll see giant robins alongside the Rolling Stones tongue, Bohemian Rhapsody lyrics written in neon, sea creatures, globes, and shimmering palm trees. 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: 8th November, 5-9pm. Over 100 shops, bars & restos are taking part in the celebrations, with discounts, free gifts, glitter makeover stations, a free phone booth photobooth and complimentary cocktails. Register ahead HERE.
Creating possibly the most romantic spot in London, Covent Garden market will once more festoon its ceilings with 40 giant illuminated bunches of mistletoe, complete with 700 berries – so just be careful who you find yourself standing next to. In total, they’re promising 115,000 lights across the entire neighbourhood, with a fair few of them garlanding the market’s giant 60ft Christmas tree. They’re also bringing back last year’s surprise flurries of snowfall from 1st December, plus a winter warmer festival (8th – 20th November) with stalls around the Piazza hawking over 25 kinds of mulled wine…
Switch-on: Tuesday 8th November (please note the lights will be off on 11th November).
Belgravia’s streets will be decked with dozens of dazzling white lights this year – but the most charming ones will be those lighting up this city of gingerbread houses. There’ll also be a Christmas market held at Eccleston Yards during the switch-on, and on weekends in the run-up to the big day.
Switch-on: From 9th November, 6pm, with mulled wine, live music, and what we understand to be two actual reindeer.
This year, the Marylebone lights switch-on will feature a pop-up Christmas market, food and drink stalls, 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: 10th November, 3-8pm
Harking (ahem) back to their very first light display back in 1954, Regent Street’s lights are, for a seventh 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: 9th November, 3pm (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 lights, Christmas trees and mulled wine should be…
Switch-on: 16th November, 4-6pm – things kick off with a handmade festive lantern parade, followed by the switch-on and live choir & dance performances on stage.
Covent Garden’s micro-neighbourhood Seven Dials is launching its festive illuminations with an evening street party featuring carol singalongs around the sundial pillar; ‘LED performers’; drop-in masterclasses for candle-making, wreath-making and more; roaming artists; sake stalls; toasted chestnuts & marshmallows; complimentary cocktails; discounts; makeovers and a festive light tunnel which will require you to don special ‘diffraction glasses’ for the full effect…
Switch-on: 17th November, 5-9pm – 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, pine garlands, 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, firework fountains and singalongs.
Switch-on: 17th November from 5.30pm; switch-on at 6pm
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’ll also be roaming performers, Champagne, mince pies and horse carriage rides…
Switch-on: 19th November, more details coming soon
ST KATHARINE DOCKS
Like most places in London, the marina tucked next to the Tower of London will be getting a touch of festive cheer with a giant twinkling tree; Christmassy garlands decorating the old Victorian lamp posts; and fairy lights festooned across most of the buildings. Unlike most other places, though, Santa himself will be switching it all on, arriving via his preferred mode of transport: a reindeer-led river sleigh.
Switch on: 24th November from 6pm, with live jazz, mince pies, hot chocolate & mulled wine on offer.
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: 1st December, time TBC
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
Feeling festive yet? A trip to one of these cosy winter rooftops should do it…
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