London's 2023 Christmas Lights Bitchily Reviewed

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 7 months ago

Last Updated 06 December 2023

London's 2023 Christmas Lights Bitchily Reviewed

Tis the season for goodwill to all men. But tis also the season to be a little bit bitchy about Christmas lights. If this article is too silly for your tastes, our straighter round-up of Christmas lights can be found here.

Bond Street Christmas lights

London Christmas lights 2023: a glowing golden crown suspended above Bond Street at night
Regal Christmas lights on Bond Street. Photo: Will Noble/Londonist.

Designed to celebrate the Queen's Platinum Jubilee year in 2022, by the time Bond Street's bling crowns were switched on that December, they'd inadvertently become a glitzy memorial to the late monarch. They've been hoisted back into the heavens in 2023, working their decidedly 1950s chic above the wealthy folk swinging their bags of Jimmy Choos below — this time, we suppose, as a doff of the crown to Charlie's coronation. Pretty as they are, we could do with a year off from Royal Family dramas in 2024, and we kinda hope they return to being those peacock feathers again. TL;DR: Like The Crown on Netflix, it's time to call it a day. Rating: ★★★☆☆

Belgravia Christmas lights

A woman having a photo taken with multicoloured angel wings
Image credit: Jeff Spicer/PA Wire.

Glow-up angel wings you can selfie with to your heart's content are an enchanting — if not exactly original — touch, but Belgravia's other illuminations are a mixed Santa's sack. The chandeliers provide Downton-esque razzle-dazzle, but thin on the ground in the air stars above Motcomb Street look like half have been pinched by an intergalactic thief. Maybe it's a comment on the Tories or something. TL;DR: It's beginning to look a lot little like Christmas. Rating: ★★★☆☆

Covent Garden Christmas lights

Huge bells and red baubles hang from the ceiling of Covent Garden Market
Image: Laura Reynolds/Londonist.

For years, Covent Garden Market was a prime smooching spot come yuletide, thanks to its gargantuan bunches of glowing mistletoe trailing from the ceiling. It was a stroke of genius; an overblown festive gesture with a wry nudge of the elbow. Maybe having several tonnes of 'kissing berries' dangling overhead was no longer deemed politically correct, or perhaps the market management simply stumbled across a job lot of f**k-off massive chintzy bells and oversized red medicine balls they couldn't say no to. Either way, 2023's display feels like a step backwards for what was one of London's most iconic glow ups. TL;DR: Mistle-no. Rating: ★★★☆☆

Harrods Christmas lights

Thousands of light bulbs illuminating Harrods
Image: Justin via creative commons.

Although Harrods' official motto is Omnia Omnibus Ubique, maybe If it ain't broke don't fix it would be more appropriate. After all, since 1959, the poshest shop in town has slathered itself in warm white bulbs, giving off a classy Christmas vibe that's less Lad Baby, more Dean Martin. Like any decent festive display, Harrods' has grown exponentially; in the early days there were just 1,100 bulbs — now there are some 12,000 (apparently 300 need changing each day, and we like to think that when alive, Mohamed Al-Fayed personally climbed out to change each and every one, although he definitely didn't). News in 2017 that a disgruntled employee had reconfigured the lights to spell out 'Fuck Off' were alas greatly exaggerated i.e. not true. TL;DR: A dream come true for E.ON, or whoever their provider is. Rating: ★★★★☆

Savile Row Christmas lights

London Christmas lights 2023 guide: a mock-up of the new Savile Row lights, of shears cutting a ribbon of 'fabric' light
Image: Savile Row.

Fair play to new kid on the block Savile Row for throwing its (bespoke) hat into the Christmas illuminations ring this year. With a none-too-subtle play on its tailoring heritage, massive pairs of glowing scissors hover ominously above your head, instantly calling to mind a mayor cutting the ribbon at the opening of a new supermarket. Any other time of the year, these illuminations would bring a sparkle to the beholder's eye, but Christmas calls for something properly special, and despite brandishing the word 'Christmas' they're distinctly, well, un-Christmassy. TL;DR: A cut below the rest. Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Oxford Street Christmas lights

Stars strung over Oxford Street - a red bus drives underneath
Image: Laura Reynolds/Londonist

Important enough to have their own title, we were about to snidely suggest that 'A Sky Full of Stars' is the sort of sickly name those Coldplay dweebs would christen one of their songs, until we realised it IS one of the sickly names those Coldplay dweebs have christened one of their songs. Fortunately, this display of over 5,000 stars strung up along the much-haunted thoroughfare are far more enchanting than their namesake; there's a positively charming 'school nativity' play vibe to these dangling celestial bodies — and we mean that in the best possible way. They're not new for 2023, but they are the best thing Oxford Street's done light-wise in a while. Don't go changing. TL;DR: Stars of wonder. Rating: ★★★★☆

Regent Street Christmas lights

Angel-shaped Christmas decorations over Regent Street
Image: Tabish Khan

Regent Street had the first official Christmas lights in central London back in 1954 — shaped like trumpet-parping angels. And though the curvy street's dabbled with everything from chandeliers to hot air balloons since, they smartly realised they got it right the first time, returning to the angelic theme, with those majestic 45 spirits soaring overhead, spewing out blankets of sparkly stuff from their angelic backsides. They look like Antony Gormley figures that've been mowed down by a double-decker, died, and are now tripping the light fantastic as they ascend into the ether (or maybe up to a nearby rooftop bar). They are truly the pigs in blankets of the Christmas illumination world. Sublime. TL;DR: Hark! The Herald Angels Win? Rating: ★★★★★

Carnaby Street Christmas lights

London Christmas lights 2023 guide: colourful and glittery lights over Carnaby Street, seen from above
Things get sparkly in Carnaby. Image: Matt Crossick/PA

Carnaby Street is the black sheep/rebellious teen of central London's illuminations — swerving stars and baubles for things like song lyrics and planets. This year, it's an incandescent, swirling 'vortex' of lights — the Solar System as if revamped by Ru Paul. Sounds try hard, and maybe it is — yet once again, Carnaby's dared to be different, and once again, it's dreamt up something that even Ebenezer Scrooge would have to whip out his phone to take a snap of. Those Regent Street angels had better watch their backs. TL;DR: The vortex with the more-tex. Rating: ★★★★★

The Shard Christmas lights

A glowing Shard top with snowman
Image: The Shard

If Raymond Briggs had created The Snowman as a computer game in the early 1980s, this is what it would have looked like. Although to be quite honest, when we were looking up at The Shard's new light display the other night, we wouldn't have had the foggiest what we were supposed to be looking at, had it not been for the press release they sent over. But everyone loves a snowman, and the fact this one melts (at least we think it was melting) makes it even, well, cooler. TL;DR: An ever-so-slightly less naff version of that naff Christmas tree that's always on Tower 42. Rating: ★★★☆☆

Northbank Christmas lights

Some uninspiring looking Xmas lights
Image: Londonist

You can picture the boardroom meeting: "No one's going for the whole 'Northbank' name thing, maybe we should just drop it?" "Have we tried Christmas lights?" "What do you mean Christmas lights?" "Christmas lights, man! EVERYONE loves looking at Christmas lights! We write 'Northbank' all over some Christmas lights, and suddenly... everyone loves 'Northbank'! It can't fail!" [Spoiler alert: it's failed]. TL;DR: Ho ho no. Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Churchill Arms Christmas lights

A pub smothered in fairy lights
Image: Matt Brown/Londonist

What beats a dazzling display of Christmas lights? Why, one you can drink a pint of beer inside, of course. Londoners differ on their favourite display of festive lights, until you mention Kensington's Churchill Arms and its annual OTT smothering of fairy lights/miniature trees, at which point they go "Oh yeah, that's the best!" If this pub was up to these tricks during the Blitz, Churchill would've personally thrown them in the slammer and chucked the key. TL;DR: Never in the field of Christmas was so much spent on leccy bills for so many lights covering such a small space. Rating: ★★★★★