Few things warm the winter cockles like a light festival. Strolling through enchantingly illuminated gardens and forests after dark, wrapped up in your winter woolies, hot chocolate in hand, is a top-notch way to spend a winter evening. Here's our pick of the best light and illumination festivals in and around London for Christmas 2022.
1. Halloween at Chiswick House and Gardens 2022
Light festivals are often associated with Christmas these days, but they don't have to be festive. Those clever bods at Chiswick House and Gardens know that, which is why they're hosting an illuminated Halloween trail this year.
Explore the gardens after dark, on this family-friendly adventure with glowing pumpkins, a fire garden and fire artists. If that doesn't warm you up, there's hot chocolate and toasted marshmallows too.
Halloween at Chiswick House and Gardens, 14-31 October 2022.
2. Enchanted Woodland at Syon Park 2022
Think of this as a mini version of Kew's famous offering (below), aimed predominantly at kiddies and their parents. A mile-long route winds around the ornamental lake where the trees are iridescent, before finishing in the historic arboretum. Drinks and snacks are on sale in the restaurant at the start and finish, so warm up with a hot chocolate before you set off, then indulge in a mulled wine on your return.
Here's what a previous version of the event looked like:
Enchanted Woodland 2022, 11-27 November 2022.
3. Christmas at Kew 2022
The daddy of London's Christmas calendar — and one our all-round favourite annual events in London — Kew Gardens' Christmas offering gets better every year. An atmospheric trail winds through the gardens after dark — perfect for a family-friendly night out, or a romantic date.
Over a million lights and thousands of laser beams go into the event, which also features a fire garden, light tunnel and illuminated trees. Food and drink stalls are dotted throughout, selling hot chocolate and other warming treats. Watch our video of a previous Christmas at Kew 2019 for an idea of what to expect. Tickets for this one do sell out (no surprise — they've been on sale since February!) so book soon.
Christmas at Kew, 16 November 2022-8 January 2023.
4. Lightopia Festival, Crystal Palace
Back in south London for a second year, Lightopia is a trail of large-scale illuminated installations, including a light dragon who dramatically breathes 'fire', and a magical forest display filled with mythical winged creatures. New for this year is a 40m wide, 15m high illuminated water show over the lower lake, with giant festive images of Santa, Rudolf, Christmas tree and snowflakes projected onto it. Kids will be fascinated by the interactive flooring, and there are food and drink stalls dotted along the trail.
Lightopia London, 17 November 2022-2 January 2023.
5. Illuminature at WWT London, Barnes
For a second year, the London Wetlands Centre in Barnes hosts Illuminature, a trail of nature themed sculptures aglow after dark. Follow the route past twinkling lights and giant illuminated sculptures of some of the creatures that call the wetlands home. Use night goggles to indulge in a bit of birdwatching, and keep your eyes peeled for the resident family of otters at dusk.
Illuminature at WWT London, 18 November 2022-8 January 2023.
6. Light Fantastic at Epping Ongar Railway
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We love illuminations, and we double love trains, so we're thrilled that Light Fantastic is returning to the Epping Ongar Railway on the London-Essex border.
Ride a special illuminated train on the railway's route, beginning at North Weald station. Ogle the train before boarding, then sit back and enjoy trackside illuminations from the windows as you wind through the Essex countryside on the one-hour trip. It's be like starring in your own version of the Coca-Cola lorry advert, but with train carriages.
Tickets for this will go fast, but if you miss out, rumour on the grapevine is that it's worth standing (safely) along the side of the route somewhere when the train's due to pass, as it looks rather spectacular going by.
Light Fantastic at Epping Ongar Railway, 18 November 2022-15 January 2023.
7. Enchanted Eltham at Eltham Palace
Eltham Palace is beautiful at the best of times, but it comes into its own when the gardens are illuminated at night for Enchanted Eltham.
The festival is back in over selected dates in December this year, with a colourful light trail through the gardens, including a couple of extremely photogenic light tunnels. Warm up afterwards with hot drinks and marshmallows in the Great Hall, or treat the kids to a go on the fairground rides. The gift shop is open and selling Christmas gifts.
Enchanted Eltham at Eltham Palace, 2-30 December 2022.
8. Christmas at Kenwood House, Hampstead Heath
Once again, a small corner of Hampstead Heath gets lit for the festive season, as Christmas at Kenwood returns. It'll take you about an hour to wander the full, family-friendly trail, which has colourful illuminations and installations, including light projections, and things to look out for in the trees and overhead. A Christmas Market is part of the trail, with several food and drink options — though there are stalls along the way selling hot and cold drinks and mince pies.
Christmas at Kenwood, 2 December 2022-1 January 2023.
9. Palace of Light at Hampton Court Palace
Following the success of last year's planet-themed Palace of Stardust event, Hampton Court Palace hosts Palace of Light for winter 2022. The festive lantern and light event is inspired by the Royal Beasts, a collection of heraldic statues which Henry VIII had commissioned for the Palace. Look out for lions, unicorns, greyhounds and panthers as you wander through the grounds, gardens and courtyards after dark — not to mention the 20ft tall Christmas tree.
If you fancy doubling up the festivities, Hampton Court Palace also has a seasonal ice rink.
Palace of Light at Hampton Court Palace, 7 December 2022-2 January 2023.
10. Winter Lights at Canary Wharf
You know what it's like — Christmas is over, then mid-January rolls around and it's cold, dark and miserable. Thank goodness for Winter Lights, the (FREE!) illuminations festival dotted around the Canary Wharf area for a couple of weeks. It's basically the only good thing about January, and it's back in 2023, with more than 20 installations planned this time round. Keep an eye on the website for updates closer to the time.
Winter Lights at Canary Wharf, 18-28 January 2023.
London's Christmas light switch-ons 2022
Of course, the world and his dog will be throwing parties and special events when Christmas lights are switched on in high streets and shopping districts around the capital. We'll be adding details of Christmas light switch-ons to this page as they're announced.