Last year, I published an article about where to see London's Christmas lights. This included a map and a trail of London's Christmas lights. This year, I closely kept to this trail in order to see this year's Christmas lights. This year brought some new Christmas lights to London, but I felt some of the areas were a little under-whelming when compared to previous years, but a couple of areas that had not impressed me much in the past I thought were better this year.
I must start by saying that central London was the busiest that I have ever seen it. It was impossible to sit down to eat food or visit most shops anywhere in central London due to the sheer number of crowds. Walking was next to impossible; I managed to get around crowds by walking along the side of the street most of the time as the pavements/sidewalks were packed with people slowly heading in both directions with bottlenecks in some places (really, I don't think buskers should busk along Oxford Street). Quite a few tourists were out due to the cheaper pound; I'd like to know what the tourism percentage is now compared to last year at this time.
The map of the area that I cover in this post is below, with each number point as a stop-off to see Christmas lights. I started my journey in the mid-afternoon at the Covent Garden/Seven Dials area and finished at Selfridges department store at about 5:30. Note that I didn't take time to sit down to eat nor shop as the sheer number of crowds made this impossible. (I did actually arrive earlier with a view to get food, but every single place that I tried to get into had a queue out the door.) However, if you wish to start a bit earlier, make a reservation for a restaurant near to Covent Garden. Covent Garden's lights and decorations can be enjoyed before darkness sets.
1. Seven Dials
Just north-west of Covent Garden is an area known as Seven Dials, named after a roundabout with six points and a column in the middle (pictured below). For a few years, their Christmas lights were a colourful set. Last year, they introduced some new ones with white roses. This year, they've taken on a woodland theme with a mixture of colourful birds, foxes, bears, wolves, and other wildlife to turn the area into a woodland.
2. Covent Garden:
For the past three years or more, Covent Garden has used their mistletoe light decorations inside the Covent Garden market and on the exterior of the building. This year, I also noticed the mistletoe decorations on the streets that meet at the four corners of the entrance to the market. Their Christmas tree was back again this year, but overall, it was disappointing with favourite decorations missing. The giant silver reindeer and the Lego sculpture was missing this year. The giant reindeer was missing due to a new restaurant being constructed on Covent Garden, and I assume that the people who were responsible for creating the Lego sculptures in the past have spent their time building for the new Lego store in Leicester Square. The live reindeer are also not on display (although they probably got tired/stressed of being looked at and petted). However, I did see a couple of nice displays in front of a couple of restaurants in the Covent Garden area. (At the time of publishing this, a Lego sculpture has been added to Covent Garden only a couple of weeks ago and after the new Lego store was open in Leicester Square. I will be posting about it at some point.)
3. Leicester Square
Leciester Square now boasts a giant Lego store along with the M&M store, but the queues to get into the new Lego store were long. I did not bother. For the past couple of years, Christmas lights were hanging from the trees in the square itself. This year, the square was boarded up with a Christmas market and circus inside. On the outside of the square, wooden boarding was put up. This was decorated by illuminated drawings that school children had submitted featuring festive scenes.
4. Piccadilly Circus and Regent Street:
The lights between Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus are the same lights that have been in used for at least a couple of years. The statue of Eros in the middle of Piccadilly Circus used to be decorated festively, but it still has boarding around it. I do hope that they remove this. The road looking north onto Regent Street is worth looking at here. There's a good view of the Christmas lights on Regent Street, which are arguably the best in London this year with the past few years being a disappointment. The Christmas lights feature angels.
5. Picadilly Street for Fortnum & Mason:
There aren't any lights along Picadilly Street, but there's a nice market, bookstore, and Fortnum & Mason's. I like to see what the shop fronts look like and attempted to go into Fortum & Mason's, but the crowds inside were unbearable. These shops are worth a visit if it's not too busy and you have time.
6. Carnaby Street:
Carnaby Street has new Christmas lights every year in a unique design, and this year's features positive words of encouragement after what has been a difficult and disappointing year. Love, Hope, Wish, Joy, Kiss are some of the words formed in banners above the street. The centrepiece features the Carnaby Street name with "Carnaby Christmas Revolution" with birds and a design that reminds me of vinyl. Of course, Carnaby Street was made famous in fashion in the 1960s, so the design of the Christmas lights this year seem to be a throwback to that.
Don't forget that there are many nice restaurants/cafes/pubs here, and around the corner is Coccywoccydoodah. They always have a fascinating display of chocolates. The Liberty building is also worth a visit, and it's chocolate store is around the back (and Choccywoccydoodah is just around the corner from here.) Also, don't forget the window displays at Liberty.
7. Oxford Circus
Oxford Circus is a great spot to enjoy the view south down Regent Street (to see the angel lights mentioned above) and to see Oxford Street's lights. The past few years, Oxford Street have used silver and blue bauble lights. This year, their lights are joined by small stars in the same design. The NSPCC (children's charity) are raising money for charity for the lights. I always walk down Oxford Street toward Bond Street here in order to see the lights on the department stores. Also, don't forget to stop off at St. Christopher's Place to see the Christmas lights. It's a little hidden narrow street off the northern side of Oxford Street (a block from Selfridges).
8. South Molton Street and Bond Street
Near Bond Street station, I take a diversion to walk down South Molton Street and see the lights at Bond Street, which are the diamond and peacock feather designs that they have used for the past few years. South Molton Street has replaced its purple arch lights with pillars of twinkling white baubles, which were a bit disappointing.
After seeing the lights on Bond Street, walk back to Oxford Street and make sure to check out Selfridges Department store for nice window displays and the lights on Marks and Spencers across the street. Sometimes, Selfridges do have lights above the main entrance, but they don't this year.