It's no secret that London loves the holiday season. Christmas shopping starts every year in October with special Christmas stores popping up in Liberty, Harrods, and Selfridges before anyone has even celebrated Halloween. There are many places to spot magnificent holiday lights around the British city, from Oxford Street and Regent Street to Kew Gardens and London Zoo.
Oxford Street is one of the most popular places to go Christmas shopping so it's no surprise that the area keeps things festive during the holiday season. This year the holiday lights will involve 27 energy-efficient LED screens made of 220,000 sparkling lights hanging throughout the street. They'll be ceremoniously switched on Nov. 21 with a big event in partnership with Capital Xtra that usually features musical performances from well-known artists.
Bond Street featured peacock-themed lights in 2018, a perfect accompaniment to the posh shopping area. Not only are the street lights impressive, but many of the designer shops along Bond Street create memorable holiday window displays. Don't miss the windows and lights at Selfridges, a historic department store just north of Bond Street on Oxford Street.
The shopping area of Carnaby Street hangs an ornate, themed display of lights every Christmas. In 2018, the lights centered on Queen and the lyrics to "Bohemian Rhapsody," and past years have featured tropical, carnival-inspired displays. It's always colorful and fun with a kick-off party featuring music and fireworks. This year's sustainable, eco-friendly lights were created in partnership with ocean conservation charity Project 0, and they have an underwater vibe, with whales, dolphins, and a hammerhead shark hung alongside the message "One Ocean, One Planet." The lights are on from Nov. 7 through the holiday season.
Each year, London Zoo, located in Regent's Park, puts on "The Magic of Christmas" featuring wild, animal-themed displays and family-friendly activities. In 2019, the lights will be switched on from Nov. 30 through Christmas Eve, and visitors can even meet Santa. Check the zoo's website for a calendar of events, which includes free screenings of festive films (visitors will need a ticket booked in advance even though the films are free). Entry to the zoo requires a paid ticket, and it's recommended to look online for off-peak times when entry is cheaper.
The unveiling of Covent Garden's massive Christmas tree, which is on display in the Covent Garden Piazza from Nov. 12, is a big to-do every year. For 2019, the tree will be covered in 30,000 lights, which will glow alongside another 115,000 lights throughout the busy shopping area. Don't miss the nearby lights along The Strand as well.
Regent Street typically takes a more classic, traditional approach to its ornate holiday lights, which have recently featured massive flying angels. For 2019, the lights will be illuminated in a grand ceremony on Nov. 14. The ceremony involves shutting down the giant thoroughfare to all traffic from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. so that people can properly celebrate the holiday season. The best places to get good photos are just north of Piccadilly Circus and just south of Oxford Circus (watch out for traffic).
Kew Gardens went big in 2018 with a million lights to celebrate the holidays, and this year the botanic gardens will go even bigger. Entrance to the impressive displays is included with a ticket to Kew Gardens. Time your visit to arrive in the late afternoon to take advantage of the last hours of daylight before checking out the Christmas light displays. The lights are illuminated from Nov. 20, and tickets can (and should) be booked in advance online. The Christmas at Kew events also include street food options, fire pits for toasting marshmallows, and a possible sighting of Santa and his elves.
Seven Dials, an area of Covent Garden, features its own Christmas Lights display every season, including a turn-on party on Nov. 14 with festivities for all ages. The lights are usually quite whimsical, featuring wintery decorations like snowflakes and icicles, and the best photos can be taken by the Seven Dials Sundial Pillar monument. While in the area, check out the Seven Dials Market, a food hall featuring restaurants, market stalls, and bars.
Enchanted Woodland at Syon Park
Syon Park plays host to an annual event called the Enchanted Wonderland, which opens Nov. 15. You'll follow an illuminated trail that winds around the lake and through the historic arboretum of Syon House, ending at the Great Conservatory. The Wonderland is only open on Fridays and Saturdays through December 1, so grab a timed ticket online quickly. Be sure to arrive on time, and be prepared to walk for a mile to complete the route.
Marylebone High Street
Marylebone Village will light up their Christmas lights on Nov. 13, filling the neighborhood's high street with sparkling holiday lights. The switch-on event is always a big party, featuring musical performances and an appearance from Santa. The best way to experience the lights is to stroll along Marylebone High Street, which is also a great place to go Christmas shopping for your loved ones.