Twinkling lights, festive window displays, ice-rinks and markets aplenty – London is a fabulous city to visit any time of year, but it really excels at Christmas. I’ve photographed and written about Christmas in London a number of times over the years – I love it that much – yet I’ve somehow never managed to photograph the two most famous Christmas lights displays in London, namely Regent Street and Oxford Street. This year I was determined to set that right and arranged an evening out with friends. Here’s our route through the streets of London to see the best of the city’s Christmas Lights.
The best Christmas Lights in London, a self-guided walking tour
1. Angel in the Fields, a great pub and an excellent pint in Marylebone
We met at a great little pub, The Angel in the Fields. While nothing much to look at from the outside, step inside and you’ll find a cosy pub with wood panelling, stained glass windows and, at this time of year, a real fire blazing. It’s a Sam Smith’s pub, serving their own organic beer. We intentionally got there early so there’d be time for a pint. I opted for an excellent chocolate stout which was smooth and full bodied. It really was superb but it’s at the next stop that the Christmas lights walking tour really begins.
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2. Saint Christopher Place
This narrow pedestrianised alley is lined with high-end shops and restaurants, linking Wigmore Street and Oxford Street.
3. Oxford Street
Famous for its many shops and restaurants, Oxford Street always puts on a fine Christmas display.
4. Burlington Arcade
For a more exclusive shopping experience don’t miss the Burlington Arcade, although most of us will just be window shopping here. This elegant, covered arcade celebrates its 200th birthday in 2019.
5. Piccadilly Arcade
In comparison, the Piccadilly Arcade is a youngster, having opened in 1909.
6. Fortnum and Masons
Located at 181 Piccadilly, this British institution was opened in 1707 by William Fortnum and Hugh Mason. You can read all about it and see more of my photos in my post, Fortnum and Mason at Christmas.
7. Jermyn Street
In the heart of St James’s, one of London’s most historic and fashionable districts, Jermyn Street dates back to 1664. Today it is home to some of London’s finest tailors, food and wine merchants, restaurants, hotels and art galleries.
8. Piccadilly Circus
Built in 1819 Piccadilly Circus links Regent Street with Piccadilly and to the theatres on Shaftesbury Avenue in London’s West End. It’s famous for its neon sign and hectic traffic, hence the phrase ‘It’s like Picaddily Circus!’
9. Carnaby Street
Pedestrianised Carnaby Street dates back to the late 17th century. Today it is known for its independent fashion boutiques and its party atmosphere. It’s a great place to finish your walk with a drink or a bite to eat. However, when it comes to Christmas lights, save the best until last and end at Regent Street.
10. Regents Street
The highlight of our walk was undoubtedly Regent Street, which we saved until last. The road’s annual Christmas lights display dates back to 1954. Today, a spectacular series of giant spirits hover over the crowds, cars and buses below. With a wingspan of 17 metres, and with 15-metre trains flowing out behind them, they really are an impressive sight and a must see if you are in London.
The total route is less than 2 miles and should take about an hour, although we were much longer as we continually stopped to take photos.
Every year I like to visit in a different city at Christmas to see their festive lights and markets. Last year I went to Paris, the year before it was Lisbon, and previous trips include Brussels and Winchester, not to mention London’s Winter Wonderland and Covent Garden. This year I saw Christmas in London again, and finally got pictures of the most famous Christmas lights. Do you have a favourite city at Christmas? Where should I visit next year?
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