There’s nowhere quite like London as Christmas approaches. Grand department stores, historic churches and elegant streets are thronged with locals and visitors alike; but it is the Christmas lights for which the city is particularly renowned at the festive season. If you’re heading to the British capital for the holiday season, check out the top spots to create your very own London Christmas light tour!
Where to see the best Christmas lights in London
The biggest and best winter lights in London are concentrated in the downtown area. Read on for details, or check out the contents list below!
All photos in this post are of the 2018 Christmas lights; displays change every year.
The shopping heart of the city, Oxford Street has a reputation for being trendy yet local, with high street stores abounding. Check out the Oxford Street Christmas lights whilst getting a little shopping done at affordable prices!
One of the most elegant streets of the city, Regent Street is arguably the best place to see Christmas lights in London. Strung high above this historic thoroughfare, the lights are magical – but don’t let that distract you from the high-end shops and stunning architecture that line the broad sweep of the street all the way to Piccadilly Circus.
Once the hangout of the alternative set in the 1960s, Carnaby Street today is trendy but polished. Check out the quirky Carnaby lights in this hip district which runs parallel to Regent Street.
Heading past Chinatown and through the heart of the West End’s theatre district, you will come to Seven Dials, where streets lined with shops and restaurants fan out in a star shape. Once one of the poorest areas of the city, Seven Dials today is a classy distrcit of shops and restaurants, and the area goes all out with its Christmas lights; in the early evening, check out the swarms of black cabs dropping off theatregoers for one of London’s many world-class shows.
Historic Covent Garden is another area not to be missed in the runup to the holiday season. The most famous of London’s many markets, Covent Garden has a beautiful Christmas tree and gorgeous decorations to welcome visitors come to shop and eat, or even to take in a ballet at the Royal Opera House. The Covent Garden Christmas lights offer something a little different and are certainly worth a detour.
Trafalgar Square is famous for the towering Nelson’s Column, but in December it is better known for the huge Christmas tree which is presented each year to the city by the people of Norway in recognition of Britain’s role in liberating the country during World War II. The tree looks splendid again the backdrop of the floodlit National Gallery, while the beautiful church of St Martin-in-the-Fields adds an equally atmospheric note to the scene.
Heading east from Trafalgar Square past Charing Cross station, the final stop on your tour is the Strand, a long road running parallel to the River Thames and home to theatres, restaurants and the world-renowned Savoy Hotel. Check out the Christmas lights which run along the length of the street, as red double-decker buses and black taxis swarm by below.
Other notable London lights
It’s not just the Christmas lights which set London aglow during the festive season. Busy Chinatown, a hub of dozens of authentic Chinese restaurants (and a surprising number of Chinese tourists), might be one of the more unusual places to go at Christmas time, but the district is ablaze with oriental colour, with traditional lanterns strung across the street. Meanwhile, London’s theatres with their neon signs add another dimension to the spectacle; easily rivalling Broadway for quality and diversity, it is a crime to visit London and not take in such shows as Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables or even Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – all productions which started life here in the West End.
When do the London Christmas lights begin?
The London Christmas lights switch on takes place in the first half of November: dates vary from street to street.
Getting around the lights of London
The whole route described in this post can be walked on foot in the order shown. Start at Oxford Circus tube station and finish at Charing Cross or Embankment; total walking distance is approximately 2.5 miles (4 km).
What about other Christmas attractions in London?
The Christmas lights in London are spectacular, but there are so many other things to do in London at Christmas. Check out the posts below for more ideas of what to do in London at Christmas and New Year!