As the nights get longer and colder, Londoners take heart in the spellbinding Christmas light displays that pop up all over the city at this time of year, ushering in the festive season and providing some much-needed sparkle to dark winter nights. From enchanted woodlands and illuminated wetlands to dazzling shows at some of the city’s most iconic landmarks, London is playing host to some of the most magical light shows and trails this year.
The Best Christmas Light Displays in London
Crystal Palace will be turned into a mystical wonderland with Lightopia, an award-winning festival of lights featuring striking installations. The festival is a great choice for the whole family, bringing together traditional and cutting-edge features, with handmade, hand-painted lanterns that were created using ancient Chinese methods that date back to the Tang dynasty displayed alongside immersive, multi-sensory interactive lights displays. Wander along the routes through the historic park, enjoying some of South East London’s finest local food and drink stalls along the way, and head towards the spectacular finale — the palace, lit up like never before.
Thicket Road, Crystal Palace, London, SE19
Held after a year’s hiatus, the theme at this year’s Winterfest is ‘Reunited in Light’, which is centred around celebrating togetherness and feels more relevant than ever after the last 18 months. Featuring returning favourites as well as brand new commissions and art installations scattered throughout the neighbourhood, the highlight of the light trail is their showstopping 25ft LED walk-through Christmas tree – the largest in London – made up of 100,000 sparkling lights and dressed with a digital artwork by London-based artist Yoni Alter.
Wembley Park Boulevard, Wembley, London, HA9
One of the main attractions in Hampstead Heath, 17th-century Kenwood House is being transformed into a winter wonderland this Christmas, with a new light trail illuminating the house and grounds. The historic gardens will come to life with a whole array of festive activities, from animal sculptures and fairy walks to laser gardens and snowflake projections lighting up the house’s grand façade. Finish off with a winter cocktail at the terrace bar, which comes festooned with twinkling fairy lights.
Hampstead Lane, Hampstead, London, NW3
Alongside its perennially popular Christmas market, the Southbank Centre is playing host to a stunning display of lights this winter. Featuring new works and returning favourites, the exhibition runs across some of the Southbank’s most iconic buildings and all along the riverfront, harnessing the full spectrum of light and colour. There are 10 installations in total, ranging from electric neon tree canopies by David Ogle on Queen’s Walk to Tim Noble & Sue Webster’s flashing fairground-themed lights and Jakob Kvist’s multicoloured geometric dome, which is lit by a single energy efficient bulb. A dazzling display guaranteed to bring some highbrow culture to your festive frivolities this year.
South Bank, London, SE1
Barnes family favourite the London Wetland Centre is hosting a brand-new light trail this winter, dedicated to exploring nature after dark. Come to walk past sparkling lagoons and lit-up reed beds, which provide habitats for local owls, geese and otters, as the animals are brought to life through fantastical oversized illuminations. Dance under the rainfall lights, skip along with the fireflies, hop over light-up lily pads and play in the blue waters of an immersive light tunnel at this imaginative trail, which is just as magical for the adults as it is for the children.
Queen Elizabeth Walk, Barnes, London, SW13
Kew Gardens’ annual festive transformation returns this November, with the grounds lighting up into a wonderland of sparkling tunnels, dancing waterside reflections and trees drenched in jewel-like displays. Work your way around the paths, discovering the brilliant Fire Garden alongside an array of immersive installations on your way to the grand finale: the panoramic Palm House light display. Independent street food vendors will also be dotted throughout the route, offering festive treats and hot drinks, and Father Christmas will be waiting to say hello. It’s a beautiful family outing, and an opportunity to see the historic Kew Gardens through new eyes.
Kew Gardens, Richmond, London, TW9