No other city does Christmas quite like London. The city has definitely mastered the holiday look. You’ll find streets decked in London Christmas lights decorations, shop windows turned into festive scenes, ice rinks in front of grand buildings and British Christmas markets popping up everywhere.
There’s so much to see! Even if you are staying for only a short time or even a layover, here is a list of the best spots so you know where to get your gloves and childlike wonder on.
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Should You Join a London Christmas Lights Tour Or DIY?
Are you visiting London just for a short time in December and have a full schedule? Don’t miss the best Christmas lights in London!
To really maximise seeing as many as possible, get a local guide who knows all the best Christmas light locations in London and its alleys.
Maybe you are visiting during chilly times and don’t want to be out in the open too long? Try this 60s Vintage Bus Open Top tour, which takes only up to 90 minutes.
Snuggle up warm if you decide to sit upstairs in the open top while the Christmas lights of Oxford Street pass by. The bus comes with audio guide and screens showcasing Christmases past of London.
For a more active stroll, take part in the 2.5 hour long Christmas Lights and Markets Tour. See available dates here.
This Christmas lights Tour through London will lead you to the cobbled streets of Covent Garden, Leicester Square as well as Charles Dickens‘ favorite pubs.
I believe mulled wine is in order and that’s best consumed in company. (Which can be tough for solo travellers. Which is why I love small group tours.)
Christmas Lights at London Markets
Notting Hill is simply glorious. Especially during Christmas the quiet streets and pastel doors seem even prettier.
Imagine white classy houses with black iron fences dotted by tasteful Christmas wreaths and blinking lights in the dark. To really feel festive, visit the Notting Hill Christmas Bazaar.
Times: 30 Nov – 2 Dec 2019
Nearest tube station: Notting Hill station
The Christmas Market in Leicester Square is something quite special. Right in the middle of London and with typical stalls and Christmas fare, you might not expect what’s coming: Drag Queen shows!
Check out the event calendar here. Those events incur a fee, the market itself is free to visit.
Times: 15 Nov 2019 to 6 January 2020
Nearest tube station: Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus
The Christmas Forest
There are various pop up Christmas forests across London. If you want the real deal tree for your home, this is the place to pick them up.
Plus, coming here, you will be supporting the Charity Tree Aid to regreen drylands in Ethiopia, Burkina Faso and Mali. Check locations here. (There is a delivery service, too.)
Christmas by the River market
If you want to combine London sightseeing with a German style Christmas market, head to the Christmas by the River market. It stretches along the River Thames. Treat yourself to a mulled wine and chocolate crepes.
Times: 26 Nov 2019 – 5 Nov 2020
Nearest tube station: London Bridge
Southbank Centre Wintertime Market
This is where foodies need to be: get raclette, German bratwurst, fondue and delectable international wines and cheeses. Warm up at the fire pits under the fairy lights.
Times: 8 Nov 2019 – 5 Jan 2020
Nearest tube station: Southbank
Please note that the Hyper Japan Winter market was cancelled for 2019.
Spirit of Christmas Market
Hosted at Olympia London, this market promises to be one of the biggest Christmas shopping events in London.
The Spirit of Christmas fair will give you access to 900 independent boutique retailers and designermakers as well as over 100 artisan food producers.
If you know you wanna go, get your advance tickets for 25% off with the code OLYMPIA25.
Times: 4 – 10 Nov 2019
Address: Hammersmith Rd, Hammersmith, London W14 8UX
Hyde Park is an oasis in the heart of London and with so much green space, you can bet there will be a Winter Wonderland happening.
Even if there is no snow, you can enjoy the mini theme park and UK’s largest open-air ice rink.
Plus, there are more than 100 spectacular rides and attractions. Entry is free but if you are keen on the themed bars, you need to get a ticket.
Times: 21 November 2019 – 5 January 2020
Nearest tube station: Marble Arch
Christmas Market at Tate Modern London
A carousel, German style Christmas market stalls and artsy and handcrafted items will tempt your attention in front of Tate Modern. This is how a lovely vintage Christmas might have felt like.
Nearest tube station: Blackfriars, London Bridge
Taste of London Winter Festival
This one only lasts for three days and is all about making your tastebuds sing!
Taste of Londons Winter Festival is catering to foodies. Try international dishes and learn new skills at the cocktail masterclasses at Wapping’s Tobacco Dock. Prices start at £15.
Times: 21 – 24 Nov 2019
Nearest tube station: Shadwell
Not in the centre of London but worth a visit if you are planning a longer stay, Winterville is ridiculously charming. This isn’t just an ordinary Christmas Market, this is a full blown experience.
Spend your entire day here and dine in the Street Feast, sit back at Backyard Cinema, play Plonk Golf, skate on the Ice Rink and stock up on presents at the Solo Craft Fair Christmas Market. Entry prices start at £2 (£5 after 5pm on weekends).
Times: 23 Nov 2019, 1-8pm (parade at 2pm)
Nearest tube station: Clapham South/Clapham Common
London Christmas Lights in the Streets
Oxford Street Lights
Imagine a carpet of light softly floating above the busiest London streets. The iconic red buses are whizzing by and you catch the reflection of twinkly lights.
Most popular of all is Oxford Street, not only because of its shop window displays. This year things are different as the lights have all been replaced with 27 new, energy efficient LED screens.
Times: 21 November 2019 – 6 January 2020
Nearest tube station: Marble Arch, Oxford Circus
Did you know that the first switching on of the festive London lights on Regent Street happened in 1954? The style of thi street is more elegant and vintagy with garlands hung above the street and giant angels above. There will be a switch on event with celebrities on November 15 at 5:30 pm.
Times: 14 Nov 2019 – 5 Jan 2020
Nearest tube station: Oxford Circus, Piccadilly Circus
One of the prettiest Christmas lights in London are on show at Carnaby. The street is usually reserved for high end fashion and thus it’s not surprising it welcomes its first illumination with a big street party. The theme of the Christmas lights changes every year.
Tree lighting: 7 November 2019
Times: 7 Nov 2019 – 5 Jan 2020
Nearest tube station: Oxford Circus
A little further, you can catch different but just as unique light installations on The Strand, another popular shopping street. The holiday lights here are far from subtle hanging down like neon rain with giant baubles. The switch on is on 14 November.
Nearest tube station: Charing Cross
Unlike the previous lit up streets, the Marylebone Christmas Lights come with a full on show and market stalls. Lights will be turned on at 6pm and activities are held from 3 to 7pm.
Official switch on: 13 Nov 2019
Nearest tube station: Baker St
The Enchanted Woodland
A not so typical Christmas event is The Enchanted Woodland. It takes place in 600-year-old gardens and tickets can sell out, so reserve yours in advance. Prices start from £10.
Times: 15 Nov – 1 Dec 3019
Nearest rail station: Syon Lane
Covent Garden Christmas
One of the fanciest displays of Christmas lights in London is at Covent Garden. Like in 2017, this year will also feature the wonderful mistletoe chandeliers above the streets.
And there will be another huge, real Christmas tree again. Mark your calendar for the switch on event.
Times: 12 November 2019 – 5 Jan 2020
Nearest tube station: Covent Garden
Christmas at Kew Gardens
Gardens might not be on your minds when visiting London in winter. But Kew Gardens out on a remarkable light show. Follow the trail that stretches across a mile and make your way to the glowing boats and Laser Garden. Entrance price for adults is £18.50.
Times: 20 Nov 2019 – 5 Jan 2020
Nearest tube station: Kew Gardens, Kew Bridge rail
I seriously love window shopping during a visit of glorious Christmas lights. Leadenhall Market is ideal for that. It comes decorated with wonderful light garlands and a 20-foot Christmas tree. London’s Mayor himself will turn on the lights at 6:30pm on November 16.
Times: 16 Nov 2019 (6pm)
Nearest tube station: Bank, Monument
Fancy spending Christmas among cute animals? How about visiting at night when only nocturnal friends are awake?
You follow the London Zoo Light Trail for a fascinating and unique experience. Overall, there are 100,000 lights. Prices start from £16.50.
Times: 30 Nov – 24 Dec 2019
Nearest tube station: Camden Town, Regent’s Park
The square in front of the Royal Exchange isn’t big but it gets its very own 25ft high Christmas tree.
There will be decorative lights as well and you can witness the switch on by a secret, famous guest. Food and drink are also available.
Switch on: 20 Nov 2019
Nearest tube station: Cannon Street
Chiswick House & Gardens
Missed the main Christmas lights in London? You’re in luck because there are light installations in London after Christmas.
Check out the modern light installations at 18th-century Chiswick House & Gardens. It changes every year, such as After Dark in 2018 and Lightopia in 2019. See the calendar of events here.
Also, there are food trucks! Entrance fees start from £8.50.
Times: 22 January-1 March 2020
Nearest tube station: Turnham Green
This event actually takes place across both Sloane Square and Duke of York Square. The trees are hung with pretty fairy lights and carol singers will create a Christmasy atmoshpere. Switch on is at 5pm.
Switch on: 23 Nov 2019 2pm
Nearest tube station: Sloane Square
Please note that despite the light switch being in December, the Connaught Village Christmas Shopping Event takes place in November.
There are a lot of freebies to be gotten then, such as activities, mulled wine and prosecco.
Christmas shopping: 22 Nov 2019, 6-8pm
Nearest tube station: Marbe Arch
London Christmas Lights in the Malls
While you’re on Oxford Street, don’t be afraid of entering even the fanciest looking shops. Harrods is trimmed with a big red ribbon outside and within, it looks just as lovely.
Nearest tube station: Oxford Circus, Marble Arch
Selfridges always comes up with tongue-in-cheek window displays. Take your time as you stroll past on Oxford Street and have a closer look.
Nearest tube station: Oxford Circus, Marble Arch
One mall you should not overlook is John Lewis with its shimmering decoration in every room and a magical rooftop. It offers a great view over Oxford Street.
Nearest tube station: Oxford Circus, Marble Arch
Even More London Christmas Lights
Harry Potter Studios
Did you know that the Harry Potter experience at Warner Bros-Studio gets all festive as well? See the Great Hall decked out, candles floating, Christmas dishes on the tables and a tree beautifully decorated? Even Primrose Drive will see a little bit of snowfall!
If you are in a rush, you can race past the sets in two hours but honestly, you can spend an entire afternoon or day here. To get there is a bit of a hassle.
You have to catch a train, then the free shuttle bus and then queue for your tickets. Better get on a tour and have everything neatly organised so you can skip that. Check availability here. (It sells out fast.)
I haven’t skated on ice for way too long and next time I’m in London in December, I will rectify that. The one place that is highest on my list is the rink at Somerset House.
Icy blue lights on a white ice surface in front of a grand house by the Thames? Count me in! Of course, there are plenty more places to dust off your skating skills.
- Broadgate Ice Rink
- Canary Wharf Ice Rink
- Hampton Court Palace Ice Rink
- Natural History Museum Ice Rink
- JW3 On Ice
- Tower of London Ice Rink
- Westfield London Ice Rink
Christmas in England entails a pantomime. Though that’s more aimed at kids, you can take the idea and head over to a musical or theatre performance.
There’s always something going on and during weekdays, you can get tickets at about half price. The Globe is closed for performances in the winter, but you can see an indoor performance at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.
Is a Visit to the London Christmas Lights Worth It?
London is always a great idea for a visit but during Christmas it’s the absolute best! You can easily fly into London or take the train from ,ainland Europe. Click here for the cheapest prices on Eurail passes in case you want to see several European cities during Christmas time and save money.
If you fear that it will be very cold, that will most likely not be true. It will be chilly and probably slightly windy, but British winters are never super frosty and in London, there are so many stores and coffee shops around, you can always warm up.
But why would you want to do that when there are millions of lights twinkling above you and happy smiles out on the streets?
Would you come and visit England for the spectacular London Christmas Lights 2018 especially?
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More Christmas inspiration
- Where to visit Christmas markets in actual castles in Germany
- One city, 17 Christmas markets – how to get to Erfurt
- Visiting the historical Xmas market in Jena
- What’s the prettiest Xmas market in Austria?
- What’s Salzburg’s Christkindlmarkt like?
- Unusual Christmas traditions in Austria
- How to celebrate Christmas on Cathedral towers in Naumburg, Germany