If the Oxford Street Christmas lights just aren't cutting it this year, get yourself to one of these dazzling light festivals instead. They're running throughout the winter, from early November until the end of January, and two of them are completely free — plus, they'll give your Instagram feed some serious pizazz.
Enchanted Woodland at Syon Park
Brentford's Syon Park is lit up every year with this family-friendly illuminations festival. Take a stroll round the lake and see the trees and plants floodlit in all different colours along the mile-long route. The beautiful Syon House is usually lit up with strobes, and there are several smaller displays to see along the way. Mulled wine, hot chocolate and other treats are available
Enchanted Woodland at Syon Park, £10/£5, book ahead, 10-26 November
Christmas at Kew
An annual event, Christmas at Kew sees the world famous botanical gardens illuminated with all manner of light installations, featuring more than 1 million individual lights. It's a clever way to keep the visitors coming when the gardens are looking a bit weather-beaten. The favourite every year is the oh-so-Instagrammable light tunnel, but don't miss the more subtle installations too. The conservatory is colourfully illuminated from the outside, but you can't go inside — no matter how tempting the warmth may be on a winter evening. Here's what Christmas at Kew 2016 looked like:
Elsewhere, food and drink stalls serve up hot drinks, snacks, and that all important mulled wine. Be warned, it's not a complete escape from all things Christmassy; children can have a go on the funfair rides and even meet Santa in the North Pole village (extra charge).
Christmas at Kew, from £10-£16, book ahead, 22 November 2017-1 January 2018
Enchanted Eltham Palace
New for this year, the delightful Eltham Palace is hosting a fairy lights trail through its gardens. Expect strings of lanterns and twinkly lights — and then warm up with mince pies and mulled wine. It's one of several English Heritage properties getting an 'Enchanted' makeover this winter.
Enchanted Eltham Palace, £12, book ahead, 15-23 December 2017
Chiswick Magical Lantern Festival
The Magical Lantern Festival pitches up at Chiswick House again, although this year it's landing before Christmas, rather than in January. The theme, therefore, is Christmas, and we're promised lifesize (and larger than life) reindeer, and plenty more festive illuminations.
We went to the January 2017 event, when the theme was the Silk Road, and although the lanterns were undeniably impressive the event management could do with some improvement — we encountered some dangerously lit paths and toilet and catering facilities unable to cope with the sheer numbers of ticket holders. Hopefully things have improved this year, but you'd do well to take a torch, and be prepared to do a lot of walking on uneven ground.
Magical Lantern Festival at Chiswick House, £10/£16.50, book ahead, 24 November 2017-1 January 2018
Canary Wharf Winter Lights
This one's another one that pops up year after year — and we're big fans. The free exhibition is spread across the Canary Wharf estate, both inside and outside. 2018's installations have yet to be announced, but in 2017 we encountered ethereal angels, glow in the dark benches, and a hypnotising field of light on Westferry Circus roundabout.
Canary Wharf Winter Lights, free, 16-27 January 2018
Lumiere London 2018
We were beyond excited here at Londonist HQ when we found out that the fantastic Lumiere London is coming back in early 2018. The January 2016 edition was an absolute treat, with free light art lining the streets and parks of King's Cross, Mayfair and the West End, and plenty of roads pedestrianised to allow 1.4 million people to see it. This next instalment will be even bigger, extending down to South Bank, Victoria and Waterloo, and across to Covent Garden — sounds like the perfect post-Christmas pick-me-up. We. Can't. Wait.
Lumiere London 2018, free, 18-21 January 2018