London Christmas Lights 2021
With Christmas ski getaways looking uncertain again this year, 2theAlps has been searching closer to home for some festive spirit with a walk around the capital's Christmas lights.
We’ve added a couple of extra displays to our usual top 10 to enable us to cover some lesser-known locations. Click on our handy map to see the locations of this year's light displays and Christmas trees and plan your own festive walk. Wishing you a very Merry Christmas from Neil, Alan, Dennis & the team at 2theAlps:
This Year's Festive Top 12
12 Lancashire Court
Starting our countdown at 12 is Lancashire Court, a traffic-free link between Brook Street and Bond Street. The central section, ‘The Mews of Mayfair’, feels like a Parisien backstreet with giant blue sparkly bells suspended along its length. The restaurant at the Brook Street end deserves a special mention for its illuminated façade – a perennial highlight of the 2theAlps Christmas lights research team’s tour.
11 Motcomb Street
Motcomb Street (Belgravia) is a little distance away from our main central cluster of streets but still only a few minutes’ walk from Hyde Park Corner. This year’s display boasts a combination of elegant banner lights spanning the street and mini-Christmas trees clinging to the buildings on either side. Worth a visit for the proximity of two of London’s finest mews pubs – the Nags Head and The Grenadier.
10 Carnaby Street
Carnaby Street deserves special praise for providing a differently themed display every Christmas. This year the street is lit up with luminous butterflies, metaphors for some of the core emotions that have defined 2021 - rebirth, transformation, change and hope. It’s not quite as striking as previous years but still worth a visit - the adjacent Kingly Court is always beautifully lit, and a great spot to recharge one’s batteries with its fine choice of eateries and drinkeries.
9 Covent Garden
Covent Garden, London’s first ‘modern square’ and, arguably, best-known tourist destination boasts suitably impressive displays of lights in both its covered and open-air streets and piazzas, as well as 2theAlps’ favourite Christmas tree – a 60-foot beauty adorned with red and white twinkling lights. A traffic-free zone, the streets framing the main market area are particularly attractive with subtle strings of lights adorning their elegant facades. Our photo below is of a little passageway between Floral Street and Longacre.
8 New Bond Street
New Bond Street is a firm favourite on the circuit with its peacock-themed display (apparently inspired by the stylish folk found round these parts in the late 1700s). The lights are crisp, dazzling and quite unique stretching for nearly 700m between Oxford Street and Piccadilly. It’s a relatively quiet street for central London with wide pavements and just one lane of traffic, so a more pedestrian-friendly environment than most.
7 Oxford Street
Along with Regent Street, perhaps London’s best-known Christmas lights and this is the second year in a row when we’ve been treated to a completely new display. Last year’s LED banners are replaced by chains of blue and gold dangling stars, criss-crossing the street to beguiling effect. Spanning well over a mile from Tottenham Court Road to Marble Arch it’s the longest stretch of lights in central London.
6 Regent Street
‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ appears to be the thinking behind the Regent Street display but it’s hard to beat the sheer grandeur of the ‘floating angels’ which stretch for nearly a mile from Mortimer Street in the north, through the elegant sweep of the central section towards Piccadilly Circus, and onwards into St James. Regent Street was the first location in central London to display Christmas lights on a regular basis back in the mid-1950s - a response, apparently, to a Telegraph journalist’s observation that London looked ‘drab’ in the festive season.
5 Marylebone High Street
Unpronounceable it may be, but we still love to visit Marylebone at Christmas time and admire the sinuous elegance of its festive lights. The laid-back warmth of Marylebone High Street is just a few minutes’ walk from the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street but it feels a world away. Of particular interest to geographical historians may be Marylebone Lane (also part of the Christmas lights display), a street that follows the course of the long-lost River Tyburn that used to run from Hampstead Heath to the Thames at Westminster but was converted to an underground culvert in the late 1800s.
4 Seven Dials
Immortalised in Agatha Christie novel, ‘The Seven Dials Mystery’, and an infamous district in Victorian times, Charles Dickens once noted, “the stranger who finds himself in the Dials for the first time...at the entrance of Seven obscure passages, uncertain which to take, will see enough around him to keep his curiosity awake for no inconsiderable time.” We’d recommend he could at least narrow it down to the five streets that form part of the Christmas lights display, or even stay put at the junction itself where a glorious golden wreath of lights hangs suspended around the historic Seven Dials column.
3 Mount Street
A new entry at #3 this year is the relatively little-known Mount Street running parallel to Oxford Street, a few blocks to the south. The 2theAlps Christmas lights research team were bowled over by the beauty of these big blue bows! There’s also a multi-coloured Christmas tree towards the eastern end of the street, outside the Connaught Hotel.
2 Waterloo Place
If it’s the wow factor you’re after, then Waterloo Place is hard to beat. The most beautifully festooned of all the central-London Christmas trees combines with the stately backdrop of Regent Street’s floating angels to staggering festive effect.
1 South Molton Street
Although the same display as last year, we’re giving South Molton Street pride of place in this year’s list as we were taken by the sheer warmth and energy that these lights emit! With its northern end nudging Oxford Street (by Bond Street Tube), South Molton Street is a hidden-gem highlight on the Christmas lights trail, featuring a sequence of beautifully illuminated blue arches and criss-cross fairy lights along its 200m length down to Brook Street where it is bookended by a glittering frosty-blue Christmas tree. Claridge’s is a short walk down Brook Street to the west and well worth a wander to admire its traditionally festive frontage.
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All images copyright Neil Guthrie 2021