How To See London's Christmas Lights By Bus

How To See London's Christmas Lights By Bus
Oxford Street. Photo: Eleana Overett

London's Christmas lights bring a little slice of magic to each Yuletide season. They're one of the only things that makes hellish gift shopping in the West End bearable. You can see them from street level as you weave among pedestrians whose heavy bags crash into you, and the frost bites at your ears. Or you can see a selection of the best from the warmth and comfort of a bus.

To see the major West End lights, start at Marble Arch and catch the 23. If there's a particularly long wait ahead walk five minutes further down Oxford Street and catch the 139 outside Selfridges.

Obviously a front seat on the top deck is ideal, but — because there are only four of them — difficult to obtain. To maximise your chances of getting that optimum view, avoid an evening rush hour trip.

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Oxford Street's small, lantern-style lights are the first things to greet your eyes. They're nearly always the first to hold the big annual switch on event — too early, some might say. The lights are part of a joint campaign with the NSPCC, attempting to "light up Christmas for children".

As you zoom (or, y'know, crawl) down Oxford Street, keep an eye out for the Bond Street lights on your right. You might only be able to catch a glimpse so make use of the buses hopper fare. Pop off, have a quick mooch, before catching the next bus that comes along.

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Then the bus turns onto Regent Street, the land of luminescent angels. They glide gracefully in the air above you — if only buses had see-through roofs. The bus will speed — or crawl (traffic dependent) — down Regent Street and end up at the bustling Trafalgar Square.

As you roll through Piccadilly Circus, it's worth checking out those world-famous advertising boards. There's nothing especially Christmassy about them — though we'd be shocked if a lot of the ads weren't Christmas themed — but they've recently been refurbed, offering an interesting update to a London icon.

Photo: Eleana Overett

Next, check out the iconic Norwegian tree in Trafalgar Square. Hype yourself up for what is just a really big tree, by following its Twitter account, @trafalgartree. Don't raise your expectations too high though — every year people remark on how underwhelming the large tree draped in simple lights is.

Next the bus turns onto Strand. Here's another cute set of lights, this time in the shape of baubles and snowflakes.

Photo: Eleana Overett

Finally get off the bus around Aldwych — if you're on the 23 it terminates here, but if you take a 139, it turns down to Waterloo. From there it's a short walk to the lights in Covent Garden.

Just outside the market there's a sparkly reindeer, a popular spot for festive selfies. Then, head inside the market for Covent Garden's lights. It's a deluge of mistletoe and disco balls — the perfect combination for what goes down at a school disco — which looks wonderful.

Covent Garden's light. Photo: Eleana Overett

If you took the 139 option you could always skip Covent Garden and instead head to Waterloo. From there make your way on foot to Southbank's Winter Market, where you can finish the evening with a steaming cup of mulled wine.

Check out what went down when we did London's lights by bus.

Last Updated 05 December 2017