One of our regular Christmas traditions has always been to take a Christmas lights drive through the best-decorated neighborhoods in whatever city we happened to be living in at the time. We crank up the heat in the car and drive slowly up and down the streets picking out the decorated houses we like best. Our favorites are almost always the over-achievers – those that have recreated the North Pole on their front lawn complete with a Santa and waving elves, or the houses that have their lights synced to dance in tune with a radio station broadcasting LMFAO’s Party Rock Anthem on repeat. (Way to make the rest of us look bad, guys!)
We knew we would have to alter our tradition a bit this year – not having a car sort of necessitated a change of plan – so I took to Twitter to find out from other Londoners where I could find the best Christmas lights in London. I got a lot of great responses, and with a little extra research I was able to pick the ones I thought we’d like best, and then handed my favorites over to my non-navigation challenged husband to map out our London Christmas lights walk. From start to finish it took us approximately three hours to complete the walk, but that included riding the (super delayed) tube from Covent Garden to Knightsbridge, and time spent taking loads of photographs of each street we saw. If the tube is on time and you’re not worried about perfect pictures, you’ll easily be able to complete this walk in around an hour and a half.
Knowing we’d be outside for a good bit, we bundled up nice and warm – this is a good time to keep a cup of hot cocoa in your hands – and set out on our first London Christmas lights walk!
A good starting point for our London Christmas lights walk was Trafalgar Square since so many tube lines run straight here. The square was crowded, as always, with people sitting around the fountains and taking pictures of the 65-foot tall Norwegian Christmas tree. A tradition since 1947, the tree is Norway’s gift to Britain to say thanks for their support during WWII. The tree is chosen a year in advance and watched over by foresters in Oslo before it is cut and delivered to London in November. Through the month of December, organized caroling is performed underneath the tree at evening.
Regent Street, also known as the Mile of Style, was my favorite street on our London Christmas lights walk. Rows of twinkling branches with scenes from the 12 Days of Christmas depicted in the center are suspended over the throngs of shoppers. Kids will enjoy the displays for Mr. Peabody And Sherman, this year’s sponsor of Regent Street’s lights.
On our way to Regent Street, we passed by the giant snow globe around the Eros statue in Piccadilly Circus, but since the fans weren’t blowing snow at the time, we were just looking at an oversized plastic bubble. If it’s on, this would make another good stop on a Christmas lights walk!
Known for their less traditional Christmas displays (last year’s celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Rolling Stones), Carnaby Street, right off of Regent, was our next stop. This year’s theme featured a flock of illuminated robins flying over the street. (Definitely not as cool as last year, but how can you follow up the Stones?) Even though it’s packed with people, there’s a definite village vibe going on here and I loved the festive atmosphere!
Getting back onto Regent Street from Carnaby, our next destination was Oxford Street which runs perpendicular to Regent. For the first time in five years, Oxford Street changed up their regular display and now hundreds (if not thousands) of snowballs hang playfully over the street. A few stores have gotten into the spirit as well and decorated their exteriors – John Lewis is looking particularly bedazzled!
When I left our blogger afternoon tea in the Seven Dials last month, they were just beginning to decorate the area for the holidays. I knew right away I’d be returning closer to Christmas to see it again. My second favorite destination on our London Christmas lights walk, the Seven Dials’ colorful stars and hanging sheets of lights bring a bit of festive cheer to an already beautiful area of the city!
(The Seven Dials is in Covent Garden. Were we to walk back to Trafalgar Square from here, we would have walked in a full circle.)
Walking to the Covent Garden piazza from the Seven Dials, we saw the 60-foot tall Christmas tree before we even arrived. Families were lined up in front for their chance to be photographed with the tree, but if you walk around to the back side, it’s virtually people-free.
Apple Market is also looking especially festive lately with apple-red ornaments hanging from the ceiling and a disco ball casting sparkles over market shoppers. (Word on the street is, some famous faces have been spotted in the market lately. Hang around long enough and you might get to see one!)
Even though we took the tube to get to it, it wouldn’t be a London Christmas lights walk if we didn’t make a stop at Harrods in Knightsbridge. It’s not only the lights that are worth a stop, but the store windows as well. This year they had a 1920’s Gatsby-esque theme. Had there been less window shoppers with their faces glued to the glass, I’d have been able to photograph them! For those of us who can’t even afford a tube of lipstick from Harrods, at least we have the outside to admire!
And this is where we concluded our London Christmas lights walk. If you’re looking for something to do to get the family out of the house or maybe burn off a few of those Christmas dinner calories, hopefully our walk will give you a few ideas of where to go!
For more Christmasy sights in London, click here for a guided walk through London’s best Christmas windows!
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