London is a fantastic city to visit, and there are always so many things to do and see. However at Christmas time the city turns into a spectacle of lights, decorated Christmas trees, and everything festive. In the recent 3 years (and probably because of Instagram) the decorations got bigger, brighter, and better every year. So much so, I believe a lot of tourists come to visit London just to see them, so here are my tips on festive places to see in London.
It is not only the Christmas lights above the streets that make a wow effect, there are also many restaurants which try to outdo themselves to have better decorations and get more Instagram-worthy photographs taken. If you are visiting London at Christmas time here is my list of must see places:
The best thing about Christmas lights and decorations is that they are on main streets, close to each other and they stay on for the whole of December and into first week of January.
Without further ado, here is where to find best Christmas decorations and places of interest in London in 2019.
1. Christmas Lights:
As I mentioned earlier majority of them are switched on at the end of November, and each street or area has a big 'switch on event' with celebrities in attendance.
Photo: Regent Street at 7 am
Regent Street - the most impressive, according to me, are these flying glittering angels playing trumpets that hung above the whole length of the street, and they are really impressive because of the size too - especially when you see them when it is at dark.
If you want to photograph them or admire in peace, your best bet is to do it in the early morning. You may have few delivery vans though. Regent street is the main shopping street of West End and shops close later during Christmas time so you have shoppers and tourists till the late hours of the evening. Did you know that regent street started tradition of Christmas Lights in 1954!
HOW YO GET THERE: Closest Tube Station: Oxford Circus or Piccadilly Circus
Oxford Street has some new lights display, sadly the huge baubles of previous years are gone in 2019 and are replaced by brand new LED Light curtains. The aim of the artist was to create the Northern Lights style- effect which I am yet to see. I have seen it at dark and it does not give me that impression. I am personally disappointed not to have big baubles which I thought were really cool and looked very festive to me in the previous years.
This street is again one of the busiest shopping streets especially at Christmas time, so if you would like to admire the beauty of this street, mornings would be best.
Photo: Cartier Shop gift wrapped - photo credit @londonianka
My hidden gem location I wrote about here, located off Oxford Street, St Christopher Place has also some great show of Christmas lights - this year you will see female figures perched above glowing orbs, while shimmering baubles decorate the nearby alleys. It is also a great hideaway from the madness of Oxford street shoppers! Although my secret is not so much of. secret anymore and I observe it being busier and busier!
HOW TO GET THERE: Closest Tube Station: Oxford Circus, Bond Street, Marble Arch, Tottenham Court Road.
For Christopher's Place, the closest is Bond Street Station.
Photo: New Bond Street at 7 am
New Bond Street - this luxury shopping street is way quieter than the previous two, but still a side street to Oxford street (close to John Lewis Department Store). The peacock feather inspired lights spread out over the street as a single feather or a unique circular peacock feather design. This may not be your festive connotation but it is a very unique decoration referring back to 1700s and early fashionistas who would have promenaded the street, they were peacocks of that day.
HOW TO GET THERE: Oxford Circus, Bond Street.
Carnaby Street - also has edgy and funky lights, every year with a different theme. Last year was all about The Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody. This year the focus is on sustainability and ocean conservation and the theme is called “One Ocean One Planet”. The display uses recycled plastic bottles as well as repurposed fishing nets. As it is boutique shopping street it also gets busy, especially in the evening with diners flooding to Kingsley court (worth visiting for a meal)
HOW TO GET THERE: Closest tube station: Oxford Circus, behind Liberty Department Store.
2. Ice-skating rings - each year there are ice-skating rings popping up. As a huge fan of ice-skating I am observing this trend with a close eye. National History Museum gives you great backdrop of a historical building, and definitely a photo worth sharing. But let's not forget other great building with beautiful ice-rings, as an example at Somerset House, which is my personal favourite, not only because great backdrop of a building or gigantic Christmas tree, but because they have the professional ice-hockey skates and not the plastic crap. My third choice for ice-skating ring, would be a bit further north and perhaps not with all the Christmas decor in Alexandra Palace ice-skating ring. An added bonus would be a panoramic view of London from the top.
Photo: Liberty Department Store at Christmas
2. Shops & Restaurants:
If you are looking for best decorated shops and their displays, there are plenty of them in London, but most impressive are probably Cartier's store, Harrods, and Liberty, as well as Fortnum & Mason.
Restaurants are also keeping the pace: as an example private member's club - Annabel's with it's gigantic Christmas Tree that keeps the shape but changes colour or decor every year, Ivy Chelsea Garden restaurants upped their game this year and they themed its decor with Frozen movie in mind. Ivy Market Grill in Covent Garden opt for nutcracker theme, Closs Maggiore penguins and Santa sledge, and Balthazar with cake looking entrance and a ginger man cookie.
At Liberty you can do your Christmas shopping and admire window display decoration. Also you will find a top floor converted into Christmas shop where you can buy all things Christmas (and trust me you will find things you never thought of)
Photo: Covent Garden Market
My favourite area and one I would strongly recommend visiting is Covent Garden - the reason is there is so much happening there, and you can also admire so many beautiful decorations, huge Christmas Tree, and shops getting all festive. For the past two years the biggest attraction on the piazza was giant reindeer; however this year we have Christmas trees, and Tiffany & Co Winter wonderland. The areas for great photo opportunity are: infinity chamber between Long Acre and Floral Street, that was so successful in 2018 that it stayed all year round to attract this Christmas too. Once you are on Long Acre, you cannot miss the decorations on St Martins Court which is also impressive and different every year.
The main attraction of course, is the inside of the market with giant mistletoes and huge baubles.
Photo: Trafalgar Square with National Gallery
Just 5 minute walk from Covent Garden Trafalgar Square has an iconic 25 meter high tree that is gifted from city of Oslo to the people of London annually since 1947 as a gratitude for helping Norway during the war years 1940 - 1945. The tree is chopped in November, to arrive in London via vessel as Vikings did in the past. This year you will also find Christmas Market style huts in front of National Gallery where you can have German Bradwurts, mulled wine, minced pies and hot chocolate to choose from.
Of course, there are plenty more beautiful places in London to see over Christmas period but these are mt favourite and one I think worth seeing. Have you got any other recommendations?