London's Christmas lights bring a little slice of magic to each festive season in the capital. They can transform a hellish gift shopping trip in the West End into something bearable — and they're free! You can see them from street level as you weave among pedestrians and shopping bags, 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 (Oxford Street and Regent Street), the 139 is your friend. It originates up in Golders Green, but we're only interested in it once it hits Oxford Street.
Hop on outside Selfridges. Ideally, you want a front seat on the top deck is ideal, but members of this hallowed quartet are difficult to obtain. To maximise your chances of getting that optimum view, avoid an evening rush hour trip.
Oxford Street's lights are the first ones you'll see, and they're new for this year. Gone are the purple and white orbs, replaced with 27 new high-tech, low-energy LED screens which show 'dynamic, curated content'.
As you zoom (or, y'know, crawl) down Oxford Street, keep an eye out for the peacock-themed New Bond Street lights on your right, back again for Christmas 2019. You might only be able to catch a glimpse from the bus, so make use of the bus hopper fare. Pop off, have a quick mooch, before catching the next bus that comes along.
Once you're back on the bus, you'll turn right onto Regent Street. For once, traffic is a bonus — if you get stuck at the junction for a while, the Oxford Circus lights will be right in front of (and above) you.
Regent Street is the land of luminescent angels. They glide gracefully in the air above you — if only buses had see-through roofs. The bus will heads down Regent Street, past the famous Hamleys Christmas windows towards Piccadilly Circus.
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 had a revamp in 2017, offering an interesting update to a London icon.
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.
Now the bus turns onto Strand, giving you a chance to see the Northbank lights along Strand. They're usually quite branded and fairly basic, so probably not worth getting off for a closer look.
You will want to hop off around Aldwych, before the bus turns right and carries on down to Waterloo. From here, it's a short walk to the lights in Covent Garden (and, if you're still feeling bussy, trips on vintage buses to see the Christmas lights).
Those giant disco balls and hanging mistletoe decorations are back for this year, along with plenty of Christmas trees dotted around the market and piazza.
Alternatively, you could always skip Covent Garden and instead stay on the bus until 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.
Here's what happened when we did London's 2017 Christmas lights by bus:
Get the full lowdown on when every Christmas light display in London is switched on for 2019, and find other things to do in London at Christmas, including ice skating rinks, Christmas markets and Santa's grottos. If lights are your thing, you need to know about these dazzling light festivals taking place across the capital.