London's Christmas lights bring a glimmer of magic to each festive season in the capital. They can transform a hellish gift-shopping trip in the West End into something vaguely bearable — and they're free! You can see them from street level as you weave among pedestrians and dodge shopping bags. OR you can enjoy them from the warmth and comfort of a bus.
Before you board, note that some Christmas lights can't be viewed by bus. Carnaby and Covent Garden are both pedestrianised. No buses roll down Bond Street either — though you glimpse those majestic crowns from any bus travelling along Piccadilly at the bottom end of Bond Street, or along Oxford Street at the top.
The best bus route to see London's Christmas lights
To see the major West End Christmas lights (Oxford Street's glowing stars and Regent Street's ever-popular angels), the 139 towards Waterloo 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 — stop BC on Oxford Street does the trick, but even better, head around the corner to stop BZ on Orchard Street. It's still outside Selfridges, but by boarding one stop before, you get ahead of the Christmas shopping masses. Ideally, you want a front seat on the top deck, but those four choice positions can be difficult to obtain. To maximise your chances of that optimum view, avoid an evening rush hour trip.
(Note: If you're aiming to see all the lights in one go, we recommend taking a wander around South Molton and Bond Street before you board this bus. The alternative is to hop off at the next stop, cross Oxford Street and wander round the South Molton Street and Bond Street area — don't miss the Ever After Garden in Grosvenor Square — before crossing back over Oxford Street, waiting for the next 139 and hopping back on — but really, who's got the energy for that?).
So, you've boarded the 139 on Oxford Street, which puts you right below the celestial-themed Oxford Street Christmas lights. Gaze up at the curtains of LED stars (glance right briefly along Bond Street — immediately after you pass the former Debenhams building on your left — for another view of those crowns and jewels).
The bus continues to Oxford Circus, where you'll bear 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 — if only these buses had transparent roofs. The bus 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 screens — we'd be shocked if a lot of the ads weren't Christmas themed.
After a quick glide down Haymarket, it's eyes left for the iconic Norwegian tree in Trafalgar Square, lit from 7 December 2023. It has its own Twitter account, @trafalgartree. Don't raise your expectations too high though — every year people remark on how underwhelming it looks, though the style is actually a nod to the tree's Norwegian roots.
After Trafalgar Square, the 139 finds its way onto Strand, giving you a chance to see the Northbank lights. The 2023 lights are the same basic, branded baubles (see below) as previous years — nice enough, but probably not worth getting off for a closer look.
Instead, hop off at the Southampton Street stop for Covent Garden, before the bus turns right and carries on down to Waterloo. From here, it's a short walk to the lights in Covent Garden, as well as other festive activities in the area (if you're an adults-only group, Miracle at Henrietta is worth a visit, for festive vibes by the shovelful). Covent Garden Market has changed up its decorations for this year, swapping the oversized mistletoe for oversized bells, though there's still a towering Christmas tree in the piazza as usual.
Alternatively, you could 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.
How to see Oxford Street Christmas lights by bus
If it's just those stars you're interested in, any bus route that goes down Oxford Street — and there are a lot of them — will do the trick.
TfL's Oxford Circus bus route spider map shows you your options. If you want to travel the whole length of the street, from Marble Arch out west to Tottenham Court Road in the east (or vice versa), the 98 bus is your best bet. Travelling east to west offers you the chance of scoring a good seat, as the route only starts a few stops before Tottenham Court Road.
How to see Regent Street Christmas lights by bus
Again, you can take any TfL bus that goes down Regent Street to see those angels by bus — some face north and some face south, so whichever direction you're travelling in, you'll come face to face with the ethereal illuminations, provided you can just get that top front seat.
The Oxford Circus bus route spider map once again comes in handy, showing several routes which run down Regent Street. The 88 and 453 both run the entire length of the street, from south of Piccadilly Circus, all the way up to where Regent Street becomes Langham Place, north of Oxford Circus.