While many festive events are being cancelled or scaled back this year, there are still plenty of places where you can add a bit of sparkle to your Christmas. These Christmas light trails and illumination festivals in and around London are still going ahead at time of writing.
Keep checking back for updates or new events, and do check with organisers for the latest information, as events are liable to be cancelled or postponed at short notice, or may change due to evolving government guidelines.
Christmas at Kew Gardens 2020
We know we shouldn't have favourites, but Christmas at Kew is absolutely one of our favourite annual events in London, and we're thrilled it's going ahead this year. Visit the botanical gardens after dark and follow an enchanting light trail, featuring illuminations choreographed to music.
The Tunnel of Light is an Instagram staple, and other highlights include a scented fire garden, illuminated trees and a grand finale laser show beamed onto the Palm House. Last year's new addition of the treetop waterfall is back, and the trail goes through the Rose Garden for the first time this year.
Warming food and drink is available from street food vendors along the route, or book yourself in for a full Christmas dinner at the Botanical Restaurant. Due to Covid restrictions, there are no plans to include the Victorian funfair this year.
Christmas at Kew 2020, 18 November 2020-3 January 2021.
Winterfest 2020 at Wembley Park
United in Light is the theme of this year's Winterfest, a free illuminations display in Wembley Park.
New for 2020 is Reflections of the Future, a 100-metre long corridor of light on Olympic Way, which uses lights, mirrors and sounds to immerse visitors within, and challenge perceptions of distance and space. Elsewhere, last year's walk-through Christmas tree returns. It's the tallest LED Christmas tree built in London, featuring 100,000 LED lights and located outside London Designer Outlet.
Winterfest 2020 at Wembley Park, 26 November 2020-17 January 2021.
Colourful Nights at Canary Wharf
Canary Wharf's annual Winter Lights festival isn't happening in January 2021, which is understandable when you consider the crowds it draws. But that doesn't mean things are going dark completely — a new light festival is coming to Canary Wharf this Christmas.
Colourful Nights takes place for the whole of December and January, and features nine new illuminated installations dotted around the Canary Wharf estate. Keep an eye on the website for more information.
Colourful Nights at Canary Wharf, 1 December 2020-30 January 2021. Free to visit.
Glow Wild 2020 at Wakehurst Place, West Sussex
Down in Sussex, Kew Gardens' sister site, Wakehurst Place, runs its own light festival in the form of a lantern trail. Glow Wild takes visitors on a wander through the gardens, past shimmering lake reflections and river of fire. New installations for 2020 include magical fungi lanterns, and illuminated barn owls swooping the trees.
The trail finishes close to the UK's tallest living Christmas tree, a lofty specimen which is often used by pilots to help them navigate into nearby Gatwick Airport.
Wakehurst is offering a few 'quiet sessions' aimed at visitors with disabilities, who may benefit from a calmer visit, and their families.
Glow Wild 2020 at Wakehurst Place, 26 November-30 December 2020.
Christmas at Hever Castle, Kent
One of Kent's most beautiful castles, Hever Castle is hosting a plethora of Christmas events this year, including a twilight trail through the grounds. Sadly, slots to see Father Christmas have sold out, but you can still get tickets to see the castle and grounds illuminated in the dark. Tickets to visit inside the castle are available separately too.
The theme for the whole season of events is Peter Pan's Christmas, with money being raised for Great Ormond Street Hospital, which now owns the rights to J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan.
Christmas at Hever Castle 2020, 21 November-24 December 2020.
Christmas at Bedgebury Pinetum, Kent
Deep in the Kent countryside sits Bedgebury National Pinetum and Forest, a gorgeous woodland area which hosts a light trail every winter. Follow the mile-long trail through colourful trees, accompanied by a festive soundtrack, looking out for colour-drenched canopies, neon strings, beams of colour, and waterside reflections.
The usual fire pits and funfair rides aren't making an appearance this year due to Covid restrictions, but takeaway food and drink, including hot chocolate and mulled wine, is available from the visitor centre.
Christmas at Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire
A winter lights trail fills the grounds of historic Waddesdon Manor this Christmas. Visit at twilight to see glowing suspended orbs choreographed to music, wander past a sea of flames, catch the manor's beautiful façade illuminated, and follow a trail of lanterns decorated by local school children. There's also a chance to step inside a giant illuminated Christmas bauble for a very festive selfie.
Christmas at Waddesdon 2020, 14 November 2020-3 January 2021.
Christmas at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
Always an impressive day out, Blenheim Palace gets even more beautiful at Christmas when an illuminated light trail weaves through the grounds. From a scented fire garden on the Water Terrace to shards of light scattered across the lawn and colour-changing neon tunnels, there's plenty to see, plus warming drinks including hot chocolate are available to buy along the route.
Christmas 2020 at Blenheim Palace, 20 November 2020-3 January 2021.
Other London Christmas light festivals
At time of writing, there are no plans for the following events to return this winter, though do keep an eye on the websites for updates: