Create some sparkle over the 2022 festive season with our walking tour of the best London Christmas lights. Stroll past iconic boulevards, hidden neighbourhoods and famous stores dappled in illuminated cheer.
In a town that rarely shies away from putting on a show, the London Christmas lights is a yuletide tradition that illuminates the soul into embracing the festive season.
With Christmas window displays competing for attention, the scent of chestnuts roasting on corner stalls and London’s miscellany of architecture twinkling under the weight of synchronised fairy lights, there’s something alluring about Christmas in London that seems to affect even the biggest Scrooge.
London’s a big place, but fortunately, several of the best Christmas lights are centrally located within easy walking distance of each other.
So, slide numb fingers into warm mittens and let us take you on a journey past famous window displays, charming markets, sweeping boulevards and hidden corners to experience the best of the London Christmas lights.
For more inspiration, read our guide to the best places to visit in the UK.
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IN THIS GUIDE
BEST LONDON CHRISTMAS LIGHTS
WHEN ARE THE LONDON CHRISTMAS LIGHTS SWITCHED ON?
The switch gets flicked on most Christmas Lights in London by mid-November. They continue to light up the streets until around 6 January. Most of the main streets have a switch-on ceremony where they mark the occasion with music, mulled wine and a local celebrity doing the honours. The date for the switch-on ceremony changes each year, so check local press for information.
Christmas window displays start popping up in early November.
The best time to explore the lights are just after sunset (around 4pm in December) when it’s late enough for a mulled wine and early enough so that you have plenty of time to stroll through the magical streets. Most importantly, try and pick a day when it’s not expected to rain.
1 – OXFORD STREET & SELFRIDGES CHRISTMAS WINDOW DISPLAY
When Harry Goodridge Selfridge designed his Selfridge’s store in London he insisted on it having the largest windows in the world. Opening the store in 1909, he brought the concept of dressing windows for Christmas from his native America. And so, a great British tradition had begun. Harrods, Liberty, and Fortnum & Mason all quickly followed.
Today it still takes over 500 staff to dress the Selfridges windows in an often-quirky take on Christmas. Outside the store is the perfect place to start a stroll down Oxford Street for a dazzling display of Christmas lights in London.
Each year, the busiest shopping street in the UK is transformed with hanging golden stars, colourfully lit trees and shop fronts adorned with lights and featuring the most creative Christmas window displays.
2 – SOUTH MOLTON STREET CHRISTMAS LIGHTS
Just off Oxford Street, South Molton Street is a small shopping hub packed with exclusive brands and designer outlets. For a small lane, it packs a punch when it comes to Christmas lights, producing one of the most eye-catching displays in the city.
A row of towering blue arches connects two large trees at either end of the pedestrianised street. The effect is a framed promenade, decked out with gold stars and twinkling blue lights, creating one of the best places to photograph Christmas lights in London.
3 – NEW BOND STREET CHRISTMAS LIGHTS
Switch On – Early November (TBC)
Just around the corner from South Molton Street, New Bond Street is home to the flagships of some of the poshest brands in the world. Cartier, Fenwick, Fendi and Bvlgari try and catch the attention of passing foot traffic with some of the best Christmas window displays in town.
As a centre for high-end fashion, it’s fitting that the New Bond Street Christmas lights feature strutting peacocks. White feathers arc over the street and chandeliers hang above this beautifully lit road. It’s one of the more elegant Christmas lights in London, perfectly matched to the mood of the street.
Some of the best Christmas window displays are in New Bond Street. Each year, Cartier covers their front in a giant red ribbon and Tiffany & Co feature a whimsical theme.
4 – FORTNUM & MASON CHRISTMAS WINDOW DISPLAY
Fortnum & Mason has been a favourite of the Royal Family since Queen Victoria times. In the 1730s they started providing picnic baskets to the elite so they had something to nibble on while travelling to their country estates. Today, Fortnum & Mason ship around 120,000 picnic baskets a year.
Each Christmas they decorate the façade to look like a giant advent calendar, glowing a passionate red. In 2021, they collaborated with theatre set designers who were out of work due to the COVID pandemic to produce their famous Christmas window displays. Each designer created an eye-catching installation around the theme of personal interpretations of joy.
After Fortnum & Mason, wander across the road to inspect the Christmas decorations at Burlington Arcade.
5 – REGENT STREET CHRISTMAS LIGHTS
The tradition of Christmas lights in London began in Regent Street in 1954. From the start of the Regent Street Christmas decorations, the 19th-century architecture was adorned with angels playing trumpets. Now officially called The Spirit of Christmas, 16 “spirits” with an impressive 17-metre wingspan cover the street with a canopy of 300,000 twinkling lights.
A steady stream of red double-decker buses glowing under the Regent Street lights creates an unmissable London Christmas feel. The decorations stretch all the way from Langham Place down to Waterloo Place with smaller displays connecting some of the side streets. The best section is the main shopping strip of Regent Street from Oxford Circus to Piccadilly Circus.
6 – CARNABY STREET CHRISTMAS LIGHTS
The iconic Carnaby Street, birthplace of Mods, Punk and New Romantics was a popular hangout for Jimi Hendrix, The Kinks and the Rolling Stones. In 1966, Lady Jane Boutique had live models undressing in the shop window. The owner was fined £2 for obstructing the street due to the group of men congregating to catch a glimpse.
The 60s theme continues in the Carnaby Christmas lights with more poignance and less rebellion. Sparkling butterflies shimmer overhead in collaboration with charity partner Choose Love, who aims to raise awareness for the plight of refugees around the world. It’s a bright and colourful display with a message of change and renewal.
While in the area, don’t miss the cool lights along Ganton Street and the stylish Christmas window display at Liberty.
7 – PICCADILLY CHRISTMAS LIGHTS
Piccadilly has recently emerged from the shadow of the impressive Regent Street lights to install its very own Christmas spectacle. Featuring dramatic large-scale figures of Anteros, the Greek god of required love who has stood in Piccadilly Circus since 1893, the winged canopy is a spectacular display.
With old-school London glamour and some of the most prestigious addresses in the city, Piccadilly is a delight to stroll down any time of year. At Christmas, it’s just a little more magical.
8 – SEVEN DIALS CHRISTMAS LIGHTS
Seven Dials is something of an escape from busy central London with the feel of a local neighbourhood operating at a slower pace. The central focal point, a column bearing 6 sundials – an unfortunate early commission before the present 7 road junction was finalised – is adorned with a giant wispy star of lights. It’s a whimsical Christmas display in one of our favourite parts of London.
Wander off in every direction from Seven Dials to get a taste of some of the best of secret London. Pop into concept stores, try independent restaurants and inspect hidden squares to witness a very local take on Christmas lights in London.
9 – COVENT GARDEN CHRISTMAS MARKET
London’s most glorious Christmas tree is in Covent Garden. At the western end of the market, the huge tree with 30,000 red and white twinkling lights reaches into the sky from the ancient marketplace.
Behind the tree, beautiful decorations of massive baubles and mistletoe chandeliers continue the festive spirit in the North and South Halls. Look for Christmas present inspiration in the Central Avenue of the market. Neuhaus has excellent Belgian chocolates and Penhaligon’s is famous for fragrances.
Around the plaza you’ll also find temporary Christmas huts serving all the right cheer. There’s plenty of mulled wine, hot chocolate and wine bars with cosy interiors. Ramsbury’s Forest Domes has sheltered dining pods to eat amongst the Christmas decorations.
10 – CHRISTMAS AT KEW GARDENS
Every night from mid-November to early January, Christmas at Kew is cleverly illuminated by an array of flickering flames and lights. Well-marked routes transport you from one grand sight to the next with independent street food vendors keeping you sustained along the way. Just beware you must book weeks in advance, so be prepared. Tickets are £26.50 at peak times for adults.
11 – HYDE PARK WINTER WONDERLAND
Dates – 18 November 2022 to 2 January 2023
Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park has been entertaining London with energetic Christmas festivities since 2007. Half theme park, half Christmas market, it’s the most gaudy and dramatic set of Christmas Lights in London. Inside Ferris wheels, helter-skelters and roller coasters keep the adrenaline running. There’s an ice rink, shops and stalls, and more Christmas trinkets than you could possibly imagine.
It’s £5 for adults but it’s free if you spend over £20 on rides. Tickets must be booked in advance.
12 – WEMBLEY WINTERFEST
From late November to early January Winterfest comes to Wembley. A 25-metre Christmas tree made up of 100,000 lights accompanies circus acts, street theatre and art installations.
Reflections of the Future stretches 100 metres along Wembley Way and aims to create hope for the future after the recent period of uncertainty.
13 – CHURCHILL ARMS CHRISTMAS LIGHTS
This institution in Kensington spends a cool £25,000 decorating its façade in plants every year. At Christmas, it adds 80 Christmas trees and 22,000 lights to create an over-the-top display that can’t be missed.
It’s a fantastic addition to the London Christmas Lights and it’s a great pub for a festive pint, although it’s a popular place so seats can be difficult to obtain. They also do excellent Thai-inspired pub food.
14 – HARRODS CHRISTMAS WINDOW DISPLAY
Covering 5 acres and with 330 departments, Harrods is one of the largest and most famous department stores in London. It also puts on quite a show when it comes to Christmas lights and window displays.
Windows are lavishly decorated (often with the help of global brands) in the Christmas colours of red, white, and green. Inside there’s a whole floor dedicated to high-end Christmas decorations and the food hall is a wonderful place to stock up on special items.
A WALK AROUND THE CENTRAL LONDON CHRISTMAS LIGHTS
Visit all these central London Christmas lights on our walking tour, where you can get into the Christmas spirit without spending a penny. The entire walk is just over 4 kilometres. If you marched around quickly it would only take 1 hour, but it’s much better to amble slowly and savour the atmosphere.
You can find the walking route on the map below. We recommend starting at Selfridges and ending at Covent Garden – a great place to treat yourself to a post-Christmas drink. If you want to add an extra 10 minutes you could head to the Christmas Market at Trafalgar Square, although the spirit is much merrier at Covent Garden.
Alternatively, If you start at Covent Garden and end at Selfridges, you can extend the walk by 20 minutes and end at Hyde Park Winter Wonderland. This is a great option if you want to finish the walk by upping the adrenaline on theme park rides, rather than in a quiet spot with a glass of wine.
Despite the often gloomy weather, there are plenty of great things to do in the UK over the winter months, including plenty of great walks from London to get you out in the fresh country air.
Here are a few more suggestions from us that are well worth rugging up for.
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