It's no mean feat shutting down four central London locations and flooding them with a four-day-long light festival. But from 14-17 January that is exactly what's happening.
Taking place in what's being widely acknowledged as the gloomiest nights of January London Lumiere will see bits of the city aglow with 30 fantastical light installations.
We're particularly looking forward to seeing London reimagined in the spirit of the original Fête des Lumières, held annually in Lyon which dazzled us back in 2013 with its dramatic light and sound installations, witty storytelling told through animation projected onto historic buildings, and surreal sculptures that filled city squares with magical suspense.
Below we've put together a handy guide to help you navigate the festival, and even mapped out some walking routes for you to make the most of it all.
Click here to start planning your festival route.
When is Lumiere London?
14-17 January. It begins at 6.30pm each evening, with things wrapping up at 10.30pm.
Is Lumiere London free?
Yes. One of the joys of the festival is that you get to encounter the city, as reimagined by world renowned artists. This also means it's bound to attract big crowds. You have been warned.
Do I need tickets?
No. However, we advise you arrive early as transport routes will be busier than usual.
What's the best way to see Lumiere London?
Transport will be busier over the four-day event and especially so on the Thursday and Friday evening. Download the London Official City Guide app and set off on foot to make the most of the festival. The festival map is available to download and will be distributed to festival visitors in the West End and King’s Cross during the event.
Can I see Lumiere London all in one go?
If you really want to make the most of the spectacular displays we suggest spreading the route out over a couple of evenings, particularly as crowds might slow down the move between displays.
The website suggests these walking routes: from Leicester Square through to Trafalgar Square and Westminster Abbey; from Piccadilly Circus to Grosvenor Square via Piccadilly Arcade and St James’s; along Regent Street via Carnaby to Oxford Circus; and from Euston Road to King’s Cross, Granary Square and beyond.
What facilities are available at Lumiere London?
Many bars and restaurants will be preparing Lumiere themed dishes and drinks and Lewis Cubitt Square in King's Cross will host an array of food traders. Volunteers will also be on hand throughout the festival should you need assistance or directions.
How else can I get involved?
On 15 January there's a talk: The Heart and Soul of the City. Hear Lumiere London artists discuss and debate the life of the city, the public realm and how they can be transformed by communities and artists. Free, just turn up, 2pm-4.30pm
Alternatively if you'd like to volunteer to help out at the festival you can apply here.
How will Lumiere London affect me?
If you're a local resident or business, the people at London Lumiere have put together a handy page explaining road closures and changes to public transport.
Where is Lumiere London happening?
The festival features 30 artworks split across four main areas: King's Cross, Mayfair, Piccadilly/ Regent Street/ St James's Park and Trafalgar Square/ Westminster. Below we've outlined the art, installations and projections on display in each area with suggested walking routes.
- Begin at King's Cross station by walking through King's Cross tunnel which will be lined with a 100-metre-long wall of light. Emerge outside the station and on King's Boulevard you'll notice ethereal silhouettes of dresses.
- Proceed up York Way where you'll be greeted with a sculpture made from interlocking glowing rectangles. See if you can make out the dotted shapes projected on to the Grade II listed German gymnasium.
- We're particularly excited about Light Graffiti situated further along York Way. It's an interactive installation whereby the public can use lights from smart phone torches or any other source of light to paint onto their surroundings.
- But the installations at King's Cross are more than just pretty lights. As you cross Regent's Canal notice the reflection in the water of 40 illuminated panels created by Labu. Binary Waves translates the information from our phones, cars and radios into the language of LED lights with dramatic effect.
- The grand finale is a circus performance featuring acrobats, jugglers and performers which will be projected onto the Granary Building. Created by experts in video mapping, the projections interact with the building to tell the story which promises to capture all imaginations, whatever the age.
- Before you continue your voyage around the city head over to the 17-metre installation at King's Cross Pond Square, where an illuminated figure appears to dive into the water below.
From King's Cross station you can take the Piccadilly line to Leicester Square or Piccadilly Circus to see more of the festival, or return another evening.
Mayfair and Grosvenor Square
- Alight at Bond Street station where, if you follow the sound of bird song, you'll notice neon birdhouses in the trees; can you spot all 12?
- Admire them from the glowing benches before wandering over to Grosvenor Square where you'll be mesmerised by a red phonebox-turned-aquarium filled with swimming goldfish (see image above). We noticed this quirky installation at Fete des Lumieres in Lyon created by French artists Benedetto Bufalino and Benoit Deseille.
Once you've seen the installations at Mayfair which are a more intimate affair, walk along Brook Street towards Oxford Circus to make the most of the rest of the installations. (see below)
Piccadilly, Regent Street, Leicester Square and St James’s Square
- At Oxford Circus, you won't be able to miss the huge net sculpture strung between two buildings. Artist Janet Echelman was inspired by the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami.
- Walk down Regent Street towards Piccadilly Circus. On the way pass Liberty, which you'll notice is covered in intriguing stick men figures. These animated figures are created by Groupe LAPS who use light in urban environments to tell stories which enchant audiences.
- Once you've reached Piccadilly don't forget to look up — overhead glowing fish travel through the sky.
- Under the arches at Air Street Piccadilly stomps a creature from the wild which goes by the name of Elephantastic.
- Meander over to St James's Square to see surreal figures made of light, these are French artist Cédric Le Borgne's ethereal, illuminated Voyageurs (The Travellers).
- You'll find Leicester Square has been transformed into a garden of light with giant illuminated plant installations made from recycled materials.
Trafalgar Square and Westminster
- A lot of the installations have an ethical slant to them. In the fountains at Trafalgar Square you'll notice the usual coke cans and fag buts have been usurped by floating plastic islands which glow (obviously).
- Something else that might look out of place to discerning Londoners is the Centre Point sign (formerly of the Centre Point building) which is being temporarily displayed at Trafalgar Square especially for the festival.
- For the pièce de résistance make your final stop Westminster Abbey which will be lit up with multicoloured martyrs created by Patrice Warrener, recognised worldwide for bathing buildings in his detailed, technicolour illuminations.
Lumiere London is produced by Artichoke and supported by the Mayor of London.