London’s Best Christmas Lights 2018
Last Updated: 29th November 2018
All too often, they’re just a 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 – because these installations are ready to sleigh…
We will be updating this as Christmas lights go up around the city, so keep checking back…
Harking (ahem) back to their very first light display back in ’54, Regent Street’s lights are, for a third year running, taking the form of 17m-wide angels sweeping down the street. Their biggest installation yet, 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: Thursday 15th November 2018, 5.30-6.30pm, with surprise music performance
This year, Bond Street are paying homage to everybody’s favourite Christmas bird.
That’s right, the peacock.
Like Regent Street, they’re also bringing back last year’s decor, including the giant twinkling plumes and huge chandeliers lighting up every crossroad – though they don’t hold a candle to those feathers.
Switch-on: 8th November, from 4pm
‘Christmas is Calling’ is the theme of the Oxford Street lights this year, manifesting itself in 1,778 LED-lit baubles and multi-coloured neon rays, which may or may not represent festive radio waves.
Switch-on: Already lit up
Open your eyes, look up to the skies, and seeee… a full set of lights inspired by Bohemian Rhapsody, with neon lyrics straddling Soho’s most famous shopping street.
Switch-on: Lights are on now, but Carnaby’s Christmas event is on Thursday 8th November, 5-9pm, with complimentary cocktails and 20% off in the shops. Pre-register HERE.
Seven Dials are kicking off their festive illumination with a street party featuring a live orchestra, complimentary drinks, drop-in activities and a load of discounts across the boutiques, restaurants and bars there. So your wallet might look a little lighter, too.
Switch-on: Thursday 15th November, 5-9pm – register ahead HERE.
Creating probably the most romantic spot in London, Covent Garden market has festooned its ceilings with a staggering number of giant, illuminated bunches of mistletoe – so just be careful who you find yourself standing next to.
Switch-on: Tuesday 13th November
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 concerts and a nativity procession with a full brass band taking place below it over the following weeks.
Switch-on: 6th December, from 6pm
Who’s switching on the Marylebone lights this year? Sorry – The Who’s switching on the Marylebone lights this year, with frontman Roger Daltrey pressing the button amidst a street party with food stalls from the likes of Fischer’s, Trishna and The Providores and Tapa Room; a charity tombola with prizes from The Ivy Café Marylebone and Neal’s Yard; and an Iron Maiden-conducted Rock Choir.
Switch-on: Wednesday 14th November, 3-7pm (lights on at 6pm)
Kew’s totally low-key, understated light installation will involve you taking in a mere million individual lights, exploring a flickering fire garden, and toasting marshmallows in a garden festooned with twinkling lights before making your across a lake covered in hundreds of glowing boats.
Details: 22nd November – 15th January. Tickets from £16.50, find out more HERE.
ALICE IN WINTERLAND
160 huge handmade lanterns touch down in Southwark Park to tell the story of Alice in Wonderland – with a bold combination of mulled wine and teacup rides to see you on your way.
Details: 28th November – 5th January. Tickets from £15 HERE
ENCHANTED ELTHAM PALACE
Half medieval castle, half art deco country pile, Eltham Palace and its gardens (complete with actual moat) are about to be given a festive illuminatory makeover for a second year, with projections onto the ancient buildings themselves, a light and fountain show in the moat, mulled wine, a maze of lights… and a talking tree.
Details: 6th-9th December, tickets from £12 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: 3rd December – early on 1st January, from 4pm-1am daily
A grand series of bespoke light installations dotted about the 18th century gardens of Chiswick House, plus a light show projected onto the house itself…
Details: 15th November – 30th December (Thurs-Sun). Tickets from £8.50-£14 HERE
SYON PARK’S ENCHANTED WOODLAND
You know how it is – you wait for one suburban London historic mansion to get an enchanted lights trail, and then three come along at once. Joining the fold is Syon Park, whose trees, ornamental pond and winding pathways are also getting the illumination treatment, plus the obligatory mulled wine pitstop.
Details: Fridays-Sundays until 25th November – get tickets (£10-12) HERE
CHRISTMAS AT THE ZOO
If you’ve always wanted to visit the zoo, but aren’t keen on all those – ugh – animals, ZSL are giving you the perfect opportunity to visit while they’re all tucked up in bed. Because they’ve created an after-dark trail filled with over lights, which are variously illuminating singing trees, light tunnels, giant animals and a fountain show in the Grade I listed penguin pool. And naturally, there’ll be mulled wine and roast chestnuts to see you on your way.
Details: Throughout December, tickets from £16.50 HERE
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 see their newly relaunched food hall, featuring 150 chefs and a vegetable butcher.
Details: Open Mon-Sat 10am-9pm, Sun 11.30am-6pm
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 fuelled Wednesday lates should be… after which you’ll probably find yourself visiting 240 stalls.
Switch-on: Lantern parade & lights switch-on 21st November 2018 – find out more HERE
COAL DROPS YARD
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a modular lighting installation by Netherlands-based design duo, Studio Mieke Meijer. Suspended over the newly unveiled shopping and dining area at King’s Cross, it’s an abstract design that mirrors the fluid curves of the surrounding architecture – a fact probably best appreciated from the terrace of the new Casa Pastor, margarita in hand.
Details: Until 6th January
ST KATHARINE DOCKS
Getting ready to dock the halls is Wapping’s own glittering marina, which will not only be swathing its industrial warehouses and various decorative anchors with lights, but also encouraging boat owners to do something a little festive with their rigging. Plus, there’ll be a live carolling choir and mince pies to keep you company at the switch-on.
Switch-on: Thursday 22nd November, from 6pm – find out more HERE.
NOTE: Want to catch the lights from a slightly different perspective? Take a tour from the London Transport Museum on an original Routemaster bus, with craft workshops and mulled wine beforehand. Find out more HERE.
Main image: Regent Street
Feeling festive yet? A trip to one of these excellent winter rooftops should do it…