Christmas lights are always a joy and nothing kicks off the festive season like a switch on. This year’s twinkling displays are set to illuminate London with light and cheer, so embrace the festive spirit (and dark nights) with these stellar displays…
1 Leadenhall Market, City
The Victorian splendour of Leadenhall Market will be sparkling with light as its giant Christmas tree, decorations and garlands are unveiled accompanied by firework fountains to kick-start Christmas. The evening starts with a sing-a-long and live music from interactive party starters The Super Tenants from 5.15pm. Following the switch on, a Christmas mash-up will provide a soundtrack to any dining, drinking and shopping you fancy partaking in. Also, on December 8 there will be a festive evening of late-night shopping and Christmas workshops with Leadenhall Market’s talented tenants.
Switch on: November 19, 6pm, entertainment from 5.15pm
2 Winter Light at Southbank
As part of its Winter Festival, the Southbank Centre will once again illuminate the site’s iconic buildings and the Riverside Walk with Winter Light, a free open-air exhibition featuring 10 lightworks from critically-acclaimed international artists including Jakob Kvist, Anne Roininen and Lis Rhodes. Each sculpture and installation uses light, colour and experimental film to touch on thought-provoking topics, from nature and technology to modern cities and spirituality.
When: November 4 – January 9, 2022
3 Belgravia, London
Discover a wonderland with dazzling white lights across Motcomb Street, Elizabeth Street, Pimlico Road, Eccleston Yards and Halkin Arcade, with plenty of Christmas gifts and experiences to enjoy. There’s also Eccleston Yards Christmas Market (11am–5pm) from Sunday November 14, and The Gingerbread City (from December 4)on at 6 Motcomb Street. Impressive, and hunger-inducing, the entire cake-made city was made by more than 100 architects, designers and engineers. There’s also gingerbread house workshops for the family.
Switch on: November 10
Cost: Free. The Gingerbread City tickets from £8.50
4 Winterfest, Wembley Park
Wembley Park’s Winterfest switch on will see London’s tallest LED tree light up, featuring artwork by Brent artist Yoni Alter in spectacular fashion. An illuminated outdoor gallery will feature works by 12 UK-based photographers, Reunion, a light installation from Kumquat Labs will make its premier and there will also be live performances from fire artists, roller skaters and areal acts throughout the night.
Switch on: November 25; 4.30pm-7.30pm
5 Lightopia at Crystal Palace Park
Set to dazzle, this is a two kilometre trail of vibrant, interactive lights and lantern installations and a sight to see. Each lantern is handmade and hand painted using traditional Chinese methods dating back to the Tang dynasty. On the trail, see a 10-metre-long Phoenix set on 50,000 square feet of light and digitally projected dinosaurs in the dinosaur park. There’s also 22 trees, symbolising unity and life, and 40×12 metre Palace of Lanterns created with 3D mapping projection.
When: November 19 to January 2
Where: Crystal Palace Park, Thicket Road, SE19 2GA
Cost: Advanced tickets from £19.50/£13 adult/child
6 Greenwich Market’s Lantern Parade
Head down to Greenwich Market to see the the joyus lanten procession and the market’s twinkling lights switch on. Led by a jazz band, children from schools in the borough will parade handmade lanterns through Cutty Sark Gardens and the ORNC grounds and into the market where there will be music and entertainment for the family to enjoy.
Switch on: November 17, 4pm
7 Oxford Street
A display to look up for, Oxford Street’s festive lights are always a delight, running the 1.5 miles of shopping heaven (or hell). Last year’s display played tribute to the pandemic’s heroes, and this year, while exact details are yet to be released, they’re guaranteed to be magical.
Switch on: November 12
8 Kaleidoscope at Carnaby Street
Always a cracking display, this year sees Carnaby lit up by 600 colourful, fluttering 3D and 2D butterflies in a vivid collaboration with Choose Love – a charity raising money and support for refugees globally. The hand-decorated butterflies are a metaphor for spiritual rebirth, transformation, change, hope and life – which might hit a chord with many of us, should you choose to ruminate on it. For the switch-on – expect discounts, events, free drinks, goodie bags, live music and Christmas workshops. There’s also dining deals so you can try out one or several of the strips fine watering holes or restaurants. It’s a free event, but you must register to get your discount ticket.
Switch on: November 4, 12pm-8pm
9 Marylebone Village
Switch on: November 10, 3pm-7pm
Marylebone Village’s annual Christmas celebrations launch with a switch-on in support of mental health charity partner Mind in Brent Wandsworth and Westminster. The village’s shops, cafes, bars and restaurants will open late offering special menus and discounts, and live music and charming decorations will put you in the festive mood. There’s also free festive workshops such as wreath-making, Santa’s grotto, snow machines and a Ferris wheel.
Across Soho, 21 light panels designed by children from Soho Parish Primary School will light up some of the area’s most iconic streets including Old Compton, Dean and Berwick Street. These charming illustrations were chosen as part of a competition judged by a panel featuring RIBA Architecture Ambassador Antonio Capelao, the National Gallery and Storm Flowers London. Each panel has a QR code with further information. Download a walking tour at ThisIsSoho.co.uk
Switch on: November 8
11 Chelsea’s Christmas lights
The light switch-on will kick off with celebratory performances on stage, roaming entertainment across the neighbourhood and a visit from Father Christmas himself for the magical moment at 5pm. Pick up artisanal treats from the festive Fine Food Market at Duke of York Square or enjoy Christmas cocktails on the Sloane Square Winter Terrace whilst soaking up the atmosphere on the King’s Road, part-pedestrianised for the very first time. The annual Christmas shopping event will take place on December 4 and will include the much-loved complimentary horse and carriage rides, along with the glittering host of offers, promotions and entertainment for everyone to enjoy.
Switch on: November 20 at 2pm
12 Covent Garden
The neighbourhood will sparkle with more than 115,000 lights, mirror balls and baubles, and the Covent Garden’s ginormous, 55-foot British-grown conifer returns, glistening with more than 30,000 lights. Head down to marvel in its beauty and to sneak in a cheeky kiss under one of the 45 mistletoe chandeliers which hang on the Market Building’s walls. For more festive cheer, the estate will also have late night shopping, pop-ups, Christmas markets, festive alfresco dining and a host of merry events. For even more festive cheer, regardless of the forecast, at Covent Garden, it will snow.
Switch on: November 9
13 Christmas at Kew, Richmond
For its ninth year, Christmas at Kew is a world-class trail illuminating the UNESCO World Heritage site with more than 1 million lights. Individual installations colourfully remind people of the vital role plants and the natural world play in our lives. There’s displays lighting up the Temperate and Palm Houses, a 15-metre dome siting on top of a reflective water pool, and installations set to classic festive tunes.
When: November 17 – January 9
Where: Kew, Richmond, TW9 3AE
Cost: Tickets from £21.50/£14/£65 adult/child/family
14 The Spirit of Christmas Regent Street and St James’s
The angelic Spirit of Christmas, the largest lights installation in the country with 300,000 LED lights, returns creating an ethereal canopy of light above the streets of Regent Street and St James’s. Regent Street has long been famous for its spectacular festive lights display, being the first central London destination to introduce Christmas lights in 1954. There’s no switch on event, and in an acknowledgement that Christmas lights are pretty, but also a strain on the planet, these lights will only be on for the evenings.
When: From November 13
15 Illuminature at London Wetland Centre, Barnes
Discover giant light sculptures of wetland wildlife and magical, playful installations such as light tunnels and responsive lily pads on this magical, after-dark trail. The illuminated walk includes huge, beautifully-lit models of floating swans, a family of otters, a flock of flamingos and Winifred the owl, all set among the reed beds, lagoons and gazing marsh of WWT London Wetland Centre. The centre is home to a variety of birds, water voles, bats and amphibians as well, so you might chance across a real animal too.
When: October 22 to January 9
Where: Queen Elizabeth Walk, SW13 9WT
Cost: tickets £17.50/£12.50 adult/child and must be pre-booked