London in the run up to Christmas is pretty special and should really be experienced at least once in your life. I mean, yes it can get super hectic if you leave your Christmas shopping to the last minute. And obviously loads of people come to London before Christmas, so that the city is packed. But it can be pretty magical, if you just take your time. Rather than getting caught in the hustle and bustle, why not spend an hour or two slowing down and enjoying the Christmas lights? How about a little London Christmas lights walking tour? I mean, what better way is there to see London’s Christmas Lights if not on foot? And best of all, it is completely free.
Every year, London’s major streets dress up for Christmas and put up some rather impressive Christmas lights. Official switch on is usually somewhere in early November, giving you loads of time to get yourself organised for your London Christmas Lights walking tour.
But which is the best route if you want to see London’s Christmas lights on foot? Don’t worry, I’ve got your back. I’ve put together a suitable route for your London Christmas lights walking tour that will allow you to see the best of London’s Christmas lights on foot in around an hour (give or take).
London’s Christmas lights: Oxford Street
Let’s start our London Christmas lights walking tour at Oxford Street. If you’ve spent the day Christmas shopping, chances are you might already be there anyway.
For the last couple of years, Oxford Street had sparkling light baubles, resembling snow. Before that, we’ve seen huge stars floating above the street and even a selection of oversized parcels and umbrellas, all out of coloured lights.
For 2020 Oxford Street put up 27 light curtains, celebrating the 2020 heroes.
The Oxford Street Christmas lights span the entire length of the shopping street from Tottemham Court Road to Marble Arch, so you could start either end. Personally, I would recommend starting near Marble Arch, as that also gives you a chance to look at the Christmas windows at Selfridges.
Best route to see London’s Christmas lights on foot: Regent Street
Once you get to Oxford Circus, head down Regent Street to see the floating angels spanning across the entire width of the street. They’ve been on display for a few years now and they do look pretty spectacular.
Thanks to the street layout, it is fairly easy to step into the middle of the road to take photos (without being run over by a bus or taxi but do take care regardless).
London Christmas lights walking tour: Carnaby Street + Piccadilly
Rather than going all the way down to Piccadilly Circus, let’s turn left and head to Carnaby Street. Because if there is a Christmas light display in London that you don’t want to miss, it sure is Carnaby Street.
Unlike Regent Street and Oxford Street, that tend to have the same display for a couple of years and that usually go for white lights only, Carnaby Street has a different display every year. And you can count on it being colourful and bold. Not always particularly Christmassy, there were sea creatures in 2019 and the lyrics of Bohemian Rhapsody in 2018. But for sure spectacular.
Cutting across Regent Street, let’s head to Piccadilly. Although Piccadilly itself doesn’t really do much Christmas lights, the Christmas lights in the arcades (Burlington Arcade is my absolute favourite) are worth the little detour. As are the Christmas windows at Fortnum & Mason and the large Christmas wreaths at the Ritz Hotel.
The Christmas Tree at Trafalgar Square
Head back towards Piccadilly Circus and then either on to Leicester Square and down to Trafalgar Square or continue down Regent Street St. James’s and then across. Either way, the next stop on our London Christmas lights walking tour is Trafalgar Square to see the Christmas Tree. Since 1947, every year Oslo gifts a Christmas tree to Britain as a thank you for their help in WWII. And it stands proud in Trafalgar Square, at least 20 metres high and decorated in traditional Norwegian style with vertical light strings.
The Christmas tree has its own switch on ceremony early in November and remains on Trafalgar Square until the 6th January (the last of the 12 days of Christmas) before it is taken down. In the run up to Christmas there will be carolling around the tree.
Covent Garden Christmas Decorations
The last stop on our route to see London’s Christmas lights on foot is Covent Garden. To get there, our London Christmas lights walking tour takes us down the Strand (also beautifully lit up) and up to Covent Garden market. For the last couple of years, the market hall had been decorated with large gold and sparkling baubles and mistletoe. Along with a big tree in front of the market hall and a giant reindeer with red nose.
Obviously, this is only a small selection. There are loads more Christmas lights around London and if you still have stamina after Christmas shopping and our London Christmas lights walking tour, you could go on and include Bow Lane, the North and Southbank, Leadenhall Market, Spitalfields and many more in your tour to see all of London’s Christmas lights on foot.
So, tell me. Which is your favourite London Christmas light display? Or anywhere in the world really.