London's Christmas Lights 2023: Where, When And How To See Them This Year

Laura Reynolds
By Laura Reynolds Last edited 8 months ago

Looks like this article is a bit old. Be aware that information may have changed since it was published.

Last Updated 27 November 2023

London's Christmas Lights 2023: Where, When And How To See Them This Year
London Christmas lights 2023 guide: glowing golden angels above traffic on Regent Street
Christmas lights appear all over London at this time of year. Photo credit: PA

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, as festive light displays switch on all over town. If you want to bask in the glow of the holiday season in London, here's the lowdown on when, where and how to see the best Christmas lights this year.

Where are London's Christmas lights and what do they look like?

There are Christmas lights across London, both central and further afield, with each area, district or high street taking responsibility for their own illuminations. The West End Christmas lights are the most illustrious, drawing huge crowds each year to Regent Street and Oxford Street, and were all switched on in November for Christmas 2023.

Oxford Street Christmas lights 2023

London Christmas lights 2023 guide: light-up stars criss-crossing above Oxford Street
A Sky Full of Stars is back for 2023. Photo: Oxford Street

After going through a couple of changes in recent years (LED screens in 2019, messages of thanks to key workers in 2020), the 2023 Oxford Street Christmas lights are the same as those which debuted in 2021 — and are some of our favourite to date. Rows upon rows of golden stars — more than 5,000 in total — dangle above shoppers' heads, forming an astral curtain the length of the street, officially known as 'A Sky Full Of Stars'. Those stars can be sponsored in the name of a friend or family member, in support of children's charity Starlight, and there's a special 'Starlight Faerie' sculpture located at the junction of South Molton Street and Oxford Street as part of the campaign.

In order to save energy, the Oxford Street Christmas lights are only on between 3pm-11pm daily for 2023, as they were last year (as opposed to all night in previous years). See them until early January 2024.

Regent Street Christmas lights 2023

London Christmas lights 2023 guide: buses driving underneath glowing angels on Regent Street
The Spirit of Christmas angels above Oxford Street. © The Crown Estate.

Regent Street's heavenly festive illuminations are aglow again for 2023; the 44 'Spirit of Christmas' angels spread their wings over the busy shopping street once more, running from Langham Place in the north down beyond Piccadilly, into St James's. For the first time ever, there are installations along Glasshouse Street, Swallow Street and the Quadrant Arcade too.

They're made from 300,000 LED lights, with 64 canopies forming a twinkling 'net' over the West End. We've got a soft spot for the Regent Street lights, especially as they look decent even when viewed in broad daylight — and you get a great close-up view from a bus.

If it's a photo for the 'Gram you're after... well, far be it from us to suggest any mad, bad, or dangerous behaviour, but if you did find yourself in a safe spot (traffic island or central reservation) in the centre of the street, look up and shoot away. But also, check for traffic, please.

Like nearby Oxford Street, they're also on 3pm-11pm daily. See them until 7 January 2024.

Covent Garden Christmas lights 2023

London Christmas lights 2023 guide: giant golden bells and red baubles suspended from the ceiling of the Covent Garden Market Hall building
New Christmas decorations in Covent Garden this year. Photo: Londonist

It's all change at Covent Garden this year, as brand new Christmas decorations have gone up inside the Market Hall building. The oversized mistletoe of previous years has gone, with 40 oversized bells taking their place, along with 12 giant red baubles. The disco balls remain, eight of them spinning constantly to add to the lighting effect, and there's a decorative Santa's sleigh at the western end, free to sit in for a festive photograph.

The 60ft Christmas tree is back too, planted in a comically oversized pot in the piazza at the western end of the market building and drenched in tiny red and white lights. The lights are on daily 11am-11pm until 7 January 2024.

Carnaby Christmas lights 2023

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

Nowhere commits to a Christmas theme quite like Carnaby, switching up its overhead decorations with a brand new theme each year. For 2023, they've gone hard on sparkles, with a glittering and neon 'moving vortex' running the length of the street.

Begin outside Liberty, and gaze south down Carnaby Street for the best view of this year's psychedelic Christmas installation, put together in collaboration with refugee charity Choose Love. The lights and decorations run the length of Carnaby Street, all the way down to the junction with Beak Street. Swivel your eyes left and right down the side streets for further illuminated treats.

Bond Street Christmas lights 2023

London Christmas lights 2023 guide: an illuminated crown above a junction on Bond Street
Bond Street has a regal makeover for Christmas 2023. Photo: Bond Street

Last year's new, Royal-inspired, jewel-themed decorations are back on Bond Street for 2023. They were originally designed to celebrate Christmas in the year of the Platinum Jubilee, but seem even more apt now in coronation year.

Four huge crowns reign supreme over four of the main junctions along Old Bond Street and New Bond Street — including right outside department store Fenwick. Between these, lights in the shape of platinum, gold, diamond and pearl necklaces are strung across Old and New Bond Street, with a tiara-inspired gateway at each end of the street. The lights are on 3pm-11pm daily.

Plenty of the shops in the area go hard for Christmas too, with some seriously impressive festive displays, including the Ralph Lauren Giving Tree, in aid of The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity. Cartier, Tiffany, Chanel and Dior are usually worth a look too, and if you've got a few minutes to spare, stroll around the corner to Annabel's in Berkeley Square, which has a giant illuminated hot air balloon facade for Christmas 2023. And if you've walked that far, you might as well continue to Grosvenor Square for a peek at the Ever After Garden (3pm-9pm daily, until 19 December) 2023.

Savile Row Christmas lights 2023

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

World-famous tailoring street Savile Row nods to its heritage with its Christmas lights, brand new for 2023. Look up to see giant shears cutting through swathes of illuminated 'fabric', with the words 'Savile Row Christmas' emblazoned across. Find them at the south end of Savile Row, running from Clifford Street to Burlington Gardens — it's only a minor diversion from Regent Street, or Bond Street in the other.

Trafalgar Square Christmas lights 2023

London Christmas lights 2023 guide: the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree lit up at night
The Trafalgar Square Christmas tree is a festive staple in London. Image: Shutterstock

In Trafalgar Square, it's more of a Christmas tree situation than a Christmas lights one. The Trafalgar Square tree has its own sometimes-maligned lights though — they're always switched on from the first Thursday in December — that's 7 December 2023. Before you get too critical of the cucumber-esque illuminations, bear in mind they're strung that way in a nod to Norwegian tradition, the country which has kindly gifted us a tree for the past 75 years.

Belgravia Christmas lights 2023

London Christmas lights 2023 guide:People walking beneath glowing stars
Belgravia's 2023 Christmas lights are sprinkled throughout the area.

Elizabeth Street, Eccleston Yards, Pimlico Road, Halkin Arcade and Motcomb Street have all been given a festive makeover in Belgravia, including glowing stars suspended overhead, glowing angel wings where you can pose for a photo, fairy-lit archways and more.

Harrods Christmas lights 2023

High-end department store Harrods is a popular place at Christmas, not least because of the soft golden lights which cover the front of the Knightsbridge building. Well worth taking a look if you're in the area — but tricky to photograph without putting yourself in jeopardy of passing traffic!

How to see London's Christmas lights

London Christmas lights 2023 guide: Christmas lights over a road, with a red phonebox in the foreground
London is aglow right now. Photo: Shutterstock

Visit London's Christmas lights on foot

The best and cheapest way to see London's Christmas lights is by walking. Many of the West End lights are fairly close together geographically, and you could fit several into one epic evening of sightseeing (in comfy shoes).

Map of London's Christmas lights

We've pinpointed some of London's best Christmas light displays on this map, to help you plan a festive route (you can find more Christmas light locations in our guide to switch-on events):

Some of them — such as Covent Garden and Carnaby — are only visible on foot, as they're located in pedestrianised areas with no bus route in sight. Otherwise...

See London's Christmas lights by bus

Angel Christmas lights over Regent Street
Image: Shutterstock

To see the Christmas lights without wearing out your shoe leather, simply hop on a TfL bus and watch the illuminations glide past the window.

Bus is, of course, the cheaper option, and we've put together a guide to seeing the Oxford Street, Regent Street, and other major lights by bus, making full use of the hopper fare. TfL's Oxford Circus bus map is also helpful, and the key to success is to beg, borrow or steal yourself a seat at the front on the top deck to watch the angels and stars flying above you.

Note: A bus ride isn't an option for seeing the Covent Garden or Carnaby lights and decorations, as they're tucked away in pedestrianised areas, and the bus only briefly passes the top of Bond Street so you won't get a full look at those on the bus.

Alternatively, companies including Golden Tours and Toot Bus offer bus tours to see the Christmas lights. Naturally, they're pricier than taking a TfL bus, but you are guaranteed a seat, and the route is carefully planned for maximum sparkle.

Take a London Christmas lights bike tour

Several tour companies offer cycling tours of London's bike routes, including The London Bicycle Tour Company. Begin in Kennington, where you're supplied with bike, lights, helmet (optional, but be sensible here) and Santa hat. Then, in a group, wend your way up towards the West End at a leisurely pace, using quieter roads and cycle lanes. The tour leader's bike is equipped with a boombox which plays festive songs along the route.

Of course, there's nothing to stop you riding your own bike, or hiring one, and seeing the Christmas lights that way. Just bear in mind that the West End streets get very busy and may not be suitable for inexperienced cyclists, particularly in the dark.

When to see London's Christmas lights

London Christmas lights 2023 guide: a glowing angel over Regent Street at dusk.
The Christmas lights are switched on at dusk. Photo: Shutterstock

When are London's Christmas lights switched on?

The majority of London's biggest Christmas light displays are now illuminated and running for 2023 (here's our guide to when the remainder get switched on). They'll be on nightly until early January.

When's the best time to see the West End Christmas lights?

In terms of times of day, the lights go on late afternoon when it gets dark, so anytime in the evening is an option — although of course, in the run-up to Christmas, there's rarely a 'quiet' time to visit Oxford Street, Regent Street or Covent Garden... or anywhere in London, actually.

In terms of day, weekdays are likely to be slightly less busy than weekends. Also, the further away from Christmas (ie. earlier) you can go, the less busy it's likely to be.

When do London's Christmas lights end?

The other option for crowd-swerving is to wait until early January, as most displays tend to stay lit for the first few nights of the New Year. We know that the Regent Street and Covent Garden lights will be on until 7 January 2024. Others haven't confirmed an end date, but will be a similar time.

Do London's Christmas lights get switched off at night?

If you're not keen on crowds, but don't mind a late night, you may be thinking that the early hours of the morning are the best time to see the Christmas lights — but as we've said above, many displays won't be on all night this year, to avoid wasting energy. 11pm seems to be the cut-off time in most areas, though check with individual organisers before making a special trip.

Are London's Christmas lights energy efficient?

With climate issues at the forefront of everyone's minds this Christmas, the West End has taken steps to make the Christmas light displays as energy efficient as possible.

All West End lights (that's Oxford Street, Regent Street, St James's, Bond Street, South Molton Street and more) use LED technology, which reduces energy consumption by 75% compared to regular lights.

The new Oxford Street star lights are 100% recyclable,  made from recycled polymer and produced using 100% solar/photovoltaic energy, and will be reused in future Oxford Street Christmas displays. Similarly, the new Bond Street lights use energy-efficient LEDs, and are made from recycled materials.

If this has got you all festive, check out London's Christmas markets and fairs, or get your skates on at London's winter ice rinks.