9 Things To Do In London To Brighten Up The Dark Nights

9 Things To Do In London To Brighten Up The Dark Nights
London can be just as fun in the dark. Photo: Alexander London on Unsplash

It's not quite light when you get to work, and the sun's long set by the time you leave. But it's not all doom and gloom. There are some things in the capital best done under cover of darkness. Here's how to make the most of the dark evenings in London, rather than hibernating away until spring.

Admire London's gas lamps

Did you know that London still has approximately 1,300 gas lamps — with around 275 of them in the Westminster area? A few years back, we met the team of gaslighters who keep them going:

Naturally, the dark evenings are the ideal opportunity to see these gas lamps in action — time it right and you might even see someone lighting them up. Londoners feel strongly about keeping these beacons of heritage; in 2022 there was a successful campaign to keep Westminster's gas lamps aglow.

...and other unusual lamp posts

London's lamp post game is strong. Photo: William Santos on Unsplash

London's gas lamps aren't the only interesting lights on our streets. In 2017 we put together a lamp post tour of London. We can't guarantee the eccentricities are all still in situ, but night time is certainly the time to see the ones which are as the designers intended. Oh, and these ridiculous lamp posts are worth a look, too.

Go stargazing

OK, so we can't guarantee it'll be quite this clear in London. Image: Pixabay

Cities and stargazing aren't obvious bedfellows, but if you manage to get a clear night, it's not out of the question to ogle the cosmos from London. Our tips? Watch the weather forecast for a cloudless night, and head up a hill above the main street level lighting if you can. Primrose Hill and Greenwich Park are ideal spots. Read up on more tips for stargazing in London.

Have a go at night kayaking

An oarsome experience. Photo: Secret Adventures

Secret Adventures is an events company offering unusual ways to explore London. One of their regular events is a night kayak across London, which sees you paddle out from Battersea in Greenwich. During summer months, part of the route is done in daylight, but over the winter, you're in full darkness (head torches provided), giving you a chance to see London's landmarks illuminated, from your watery vantage point. Keep an eye on the website for future dates when announced.

Learn the art of night-time photography

Maybe you'll take a photo good enough to be a stock image... Photo: David Marcu on Unsplash

As one of the world's most photographed cities, it's hard to find a new angle on London through your lens. Night time might just be that new angle. Plenty of organisations run night photography courses in the capital, including London Photo Tours and The School of Photography. Once you've grasped the basics of shooting London's landmarks at night, you can spend the winter practising at your leisure — and by spring, you'll be wishing the evenings would stay darker for longer. Maybe.

Revel in the Christmas lights

Haaaallelujah! Photo: Jamie Davies on Unsplash

London's Christmas lights turn on from early November, meaning most of central London is blanketed in a haze of twinkly fairy lights, expelling the darkness and ushering in festive cheer. Here's the schedule for switch-ons this year, beginning with Carnaby and Oxford Street on 2 November.

Wander around a light festival

London's light festivals - best seen after dark, for obvious reasons. Image: Londonist

Long gone are the days when the Christmas lights were the highlight of London's winter season. These days, you can barely turn a corner from November through to February without tripping over a light festival, illuminations trail, fire garden, laser route or other light-based festivity — and we absolutely love it. Here's our guide to light festivals in London this winter.

See the Illuminated River project

London's central bridges are so pretty at night. Photo: Illuminated River

If you've been down to the Thames after dark recently, you may have noticed the bridges have been pimped up with colourful lights. It's the Illuminated River project, which currently covers the nine bridges from London Bridge to Lambeth Bridge with light artworks by Leo Villareal.

Naturally, darkness is the time to see them at their best — why not head to one bridge per night over several days, or if you're feeling energetic, visit them all on one epic nocturnal walk? Or, to do it in style, embark on an official Illuminated River boat tour, which lasts about 40 minutes and takes in all nine bridges from the water.

Go to a museum late

Science Museum stays open late once a month

So the hazy days of hanging out in the park all evening are gone, and you need somewhere cheap (preferably  free), light and warm to socialise? Check out London's museum lates. The National Gallery stays open late every Friday, Science Museum's monthly Wednesday lates are back, and the Handel Hendrix House near Bond Street is opening late every Friday from 27 October-15 December 2023 and again from 12 January to 23 February 2024 — featuring live music jams.

Last Updated 31 October 2023