London enjoys some of the country’s most spectacular Christmas lights. While things have been scaled back somewhat this year, with no big celebrity switch-on events, London’s Christmas lights looks better than ever. Here’s where to see the best…
Lead image: Covent Garden Christmas Lights © PinPep
Switch on: 2 November
After a tough year, Oxford Street – Europe’s longest shopping street, with 1.5 miles of shopping running from Marble Arch to Tottenham Court Road – is paying tribute to the 2020 heroes who have helped strangers during the pandemic by literally putting their names up in lights. As part of the poem To London With Love, created in partnership with Selfridges, the public can vote for their hero’s name to appear in the iconic lighting display over the next seven weeks. You can also buy a To London With Love t-shirt as part of the Royal Voluntary Service’s 2020 Heroes Campaign.
2 Carnaby Street
Switch on: 2 November
The Carnaby Street Christmas lights never fail to send out poignant messages to passers-by. This year, the installation is titled Choose Love in Carnaby. Created in collaboration with charity Choose Love, a series of pink neon light boxes are suspended the length of Carnaby Street beaming out poignant words of hope and empowerment, like ‘believe’, ‘heal’, ‘brave’, ‘dream’, ‘faith’ and ‘family’. Plus, from 12 November, more than 100 retail stores, restaurants, cafe’s, pubs and independent businesses will offer exclusive promotions and discounts online.
3 Sloane Square, Duke of York Square, Pavilion Road and King’s Road, Chelsea
Switch on: 4 November
Chelsea’s Christmas lights went up a little early this year to spread some festive cheer during a difficult time. Bigger and better than ever before, the magical displays span Sloane Square, Duke of York Square, Pavilion Road and King’s Road. The much-loved Sloane Square installation has more lights this year, and the King’s Road’s regal Christmas lights are inspired by the crown of King Charles II (the road was originally built for him as a private route between palaces). King Charles II famously restored Christmas to the nation following Oliver Cromwell’s ban on festivities for over a decade, which seems particularly fitting this year. Only essential retail, virtual shopping appointments, takeaway food and click-and-collect services are available during lockdown, but the Fine Food market is still taking place on the running track each Saturday.
4 Marylebone Village
Switch on: 4 November
Marylebone Village’s annual Christmas celebrations launched early this year on 4 November. The switch-on of the Christmas Lights was accompanied by a day of exclusive online Christmas shopping discounts, free discounts cards and other special offers, with retailers like agnès b., Caroline Gardner, French Sole, Le Pain Quotidien, Rachel Riley, Daunt Books, Diptyque, The Ginger Pig and The Cavendish taking part.
For full details see marylebonevillage.com
5 Covent Garden
Switch on: 9 November
It took 300 hours of work to get the Covent Garden Christmas tree – the largest handpicked tree in London – installed and illuminated this year. Positioned on the West Piazza of the historical Market Building, the 60ft Norwegian Spruce was switched on to spread a message of hope for the nation and to spark some much-needed joy this year. Some 30,000 lights have been used to decorate the Christmas tree, weighing three tonnes, while the streets are adorned with a total of 115,000 lights – the equivalent of 95 Big Ben’s stacked on top of each other. Covent Garden’s 40 magnificent mistletoe chandeliers are also back.
6 Greenwich Market
Switch on: 11 November
The spectacular Greenwich lantern procession and Greenwich Market Christmas lights switch on didn’t take place this year, but the lights went up in the market on 11 November and the usual Christmas Shopping Lates will take place every Wednesday in December. Shop unique gifts and handcrafted pieces from independent businesses until 8pm in and around the market, with festive music and hot and cold food and drinks available.
7 King’s Cross
Switch on: 12 & 23 November
King’s Cross is ditching the Christmas lights in favour of three ‘traditionally untraditional’ Christmas tree installations. Granary Square will play host to the unique Electric Nemeton Tree in reference to ancient Celtic groves called Nemetons, which were constructed using the natural landscape and acted as sacred gathering places. In Coal Drops Yard will sit the Terrarium Tree, a sustainable creation comprised of 70 living terrariums surrounded by 168 mirrored baubles and illuminated at night. Battle Bridge Place will be home to the People’s Tree, an interactive multi-coloured installation illuminated by the steps and sensory movements of visitors. The site-wide festive lighting will be switched on on 12 Nov, although the trees won’t be officially launched until 23 Nov.
8 Regent Street
Switch on: 14 November
The Spirit of Christmas, the largest lights installation in the country with 300,000 LED lights, creates a cosy canopy of light above the streets of Regent Street and St James’s. While there’s no switch-on event, the 45 handcrafted spirits will still offer some Christmas cheer. Regent Street has long been famous for its spectacular festive lights display, being the first central London destination to introduce Christmas lights in 1954. The tradition has carried on and since influenced many other destinations worldwide to bring cheer to their local communities through celebratory lighting schemes. And if you can’t visit in person, you can still get a good look via the Regent Street and St James’s social channels.
9 Angel Christmas lights
Switch on: 14 November
Angel’s Christmas lights will illuminate Upper Street, Camden Passage, Chapel Market and Islington Green as dusk falls on 14 November. The festive displays, which include more than 500 decorations and 250,000 individual lights, have been organised by Angel.London, Angel’s Business Improvement District (BID), and paid for by local businesses and a donation from the Bob Borzello Trust.
10 Blackheath Village
Switch on: 3 December
Blackheath Village Day, with the lights switch-on ceremony, carol singers and a parade through the village, sadly won’t be taking place this year, but the Christmas tree and lights will be going up and from 3 December till 6 January. Small Business Day is Saturday 5 December and Blackheath Village’s shops will be full of tempting goodies for those more determined than ever to #ShopLocal.