Christmas in London is especially magical. There is nothing quite like it. London is one of the most festive cities in the world and each year they put a monumental effort into their lights and decorations. Even the red double decker buses ooze Christmas charm as they amble their way through tree lined streets. It certainly isn’t Christmas without seeing the London Christmas lights.
Christmas lights tour in London is essential for those who love this magical season. You could join a group for your London Christmas lights tour however we’re going to guide you so you can take it in at your own pace and enjoy the best pockets in the city.
OUR GUIDE TO THE MAGICAL LONDON CHRISTMAS LIGHTS
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WHERE TO START A LONDON CHRISTMAS TOUR
The London Christmas lights tour starts on Oxford Street. The lights can be enjoyed from around 5pm as its fully dark. Full use of the cityscape is evident with lights strung across the street as well as trees decorated with fairy lights.
Oxford Street at Christmas is everything you’ve imagined. It’s not so much that each decoration itself is impressive, it’s the way that the Christmas lights all come together to create a magical glow. Great care is put into the Christmas lights on Oxford street. It’s an impressive site to stand on the edge of the footpath and look down the street to enjoy the display.
Retailers such as Marks and Spencers and Debenhams also join in. Their impressive displays feature lighting displays, fairy light filled garlands and of course meticulously decorated shop fronts. Start your walk at the top end of Oxford Street near Bond Street Station. Then walk towards Oxford Circus station. You’ll certainly get the best views of the Christmas Lights on Oxford Street this way.
PLAN YOUR TRIP TO LONDON
PLAN | Read our essential London itinerary
STAY | You’ll want to stay nearby. Check out current rates for hotels near Oxford Street
1. CHRISTMAS LIGHTS ON OXFORD STREET – A UNIQUE PERSPECTIVE
A little side stop on our London Christmas lights tour is to visit Selfridges. The winter forest on the Selfridges rooftop is the epitome of Christmas. The entrance can be difficult to find. The lift in cosmetics will take you to the rooftop. The lift information panel will list the rooftop as a stop.
You’ll instantly be transported into a magical wonderland when you exit the lift. The theme changes every year, but you can rely on there being luxe baubles, Scandi style birch trees and of course the famed outdoor terrace.
You will find traditional tables and chairs coupled with cabanas on the terrace. Mohair rugs are available to keep you cosy too. The entire rooftop is heated as well, so you’ll be warm no matter where you sit. Additionally the rooftop offers a unique view of the street below.
2. REGENT STREET CHRISTMAS LIGHTS
Walk down Oxford street at a comfortable pace. There’s lots to see on this Christmas lights tour but it’s all within a walkable distance. Take the time to especially enjoy the small details and shop fronts as you stroll down the street.
The Regent Street display is uniquely different to Oxford Street. For instance, there are no trimmed trees and the shop fronts are more subtle. Additionally many are trimmed with traditional wreaths and lush velvet bows.
Shop lights castle a subtle glow across the street. Look up to experience the most magnificent Christmas angels you’ve ever seen.
Sprouting broad wings and impressively long trains the angels are best viewed looking down the street on an angle. Unlike Oxford Street, Regent Street has a small paved traffic island. Safely walk into the middle of the street and enjoy the spectacular site of the angels en masse.
3. BOND STREET CHRISTMAS LIGHTS
Then stop by Burlington Arcade on your way through to Bond Street. Christmas trees line the arcade. It is a very festive sight.
It’s important to realise that its not just the main streets like Oxford and Regent street that are elegantly adorned. Additionally smaller scaled down decorations feature in thoroughfares. Take the opportunity to wander these small laneways and then rejoin the route.
The Bond Street Christmas lights are indeed the height of avant garde. Lush peacock feathers, chandelier inspired installments that hang over the roads and opulent garlands all feature. In fact the Bond Street decorations are spectacular from every angle.
Stores such as Fenwick also don’t disappoint with their beautifully adorned shop fronts. Take extra time to fully explore this area. Don’t be surprised if you have a sore neck from looking up! Utilise the cross walks to take photos down the streets. Keep an eye out for cars. Buddy up with a friend where possible.
4. CARNABY STREET CHRISTMAS LIGHTS
The Carnaby Street Christmas lights are bold, bright, themed and modern. Unlike the surrounding streets that are very traditional, Carnaby street take a unique look on Christmas. Each year their locale is decorated based on themes such as Queen, Love or the ‘Christmas Carnival’. 2018’s installations include neon coconut trees, tropical flowers, parrots, toucans and flamingoes.
It can feel like you’ve left the ‘Christmas zone’ when entering Carnaby Street. However, once you’re immersed in the change of scene you’ll appreciate that the creators use historical facts as inspiration. Parrots featured one year as a homage to Jimmi Hendrix.
With an open mindset, even traditionalists will love Carnaby Street. The neon spectacular is certainly a unique sight worth seeing.
5. DUCK INTO KINGLY COURT
Kingly Court is a small multistory shopping mall adjacent to Carnaby Street.
It features over 20 restaurants and is great place to eat and drink. Kingly Court features a more traditional Christmas tree and twinkling lights.
The winter rooftop keeps the court warm too. It’s the perfect spot to take a break from the cold and warm up with a hot drink or a quick meal.
6. ENJOY THE CHRISTMAS WINDOWS AT FORTNUM & MASON
This London Christmas Lights tour will take you around 2 – 2.5 hours if you’re walking at a steady pace and not making any long stops. In addition to the lights, you’ll pass some beautiful shop fronts on the way. Each retailer has a unique sway on Christmas. Some are ultra modern whereas many stick with tradition.
We particularly loved the styling and detail of the windows at Fortnum and Mason. In Australia one of our retailers has themed Christmas windows that are tradition for families to visit. In particular the windows at Fortnum and Mason reminded us of that.
Prepare for whimsy. Flying picnic baskets and brussels sprouts come alive. Each of the windows tells a story. Make sure you read the accompanying text on each window. Allow 15 minutes minimum to appreciate this stop.
London is certainly one of the the best places to spend Christmas in Europe
7. FINISH UP AT PICCADILLY CIRCUS
Picadilly Circus is always impressive at night. It’s interactive screens give this part of London its own unique feel.
Over Christmas the neon is at maximum, with a range of light installations strung across the intersection.
Large icicles and snowflakes glow bright and give this area a chilly wintery feel.
London Christmas Lights Tour – Overview
Its winter in London. With this in mind dress appropriately. Above all be prepared to be outside for 2-3 hours. The walking tour involves moving in and out of buildings. Clothes such as a hat, gloves and sensible shoes are essential. By all means stop for a drink or to warm up along the way. We’ve highlighted our favourite stops, however there are countless other options.
A DSLR will best capture the luminosity of the lights however great shots can be taken on a phone. The unique contrast between the different neighbourhoods make for diverse Christmas lights experience. Regardless of your preference for the traditional or modern, all of the streets are definitely worth visiting.
If you are in London from late November to mid January, ensure you include the Christmas lights on your to do list. Obviously it is the ultimate festive experience!
READ | Our guide on what to do in London at Christmas