Christmas is coming. London is starting to show signs of the season with trees popping up, markets opening, and lights switching on across the UK capital. Given my favorite way to see the city is on foot, today I want to share my free self-guided Christmas lights walk in London with you. There’s a map, too.
Christmas Lights Walk in London
The festive season is a great time to take in London’s annual displays, from outdoor lights to Christmas markets and shopping arcades. They’re an integral part of any London Christmas itinerary.
My London Christmas lights walking route focuses on the first of these, not least because the lights are some of the most popular things to see during the run-up to December 25th (and for a week or so after).
If you prefer to take a guided London Christmas lights tour, there are plenty of options. From walks to bike and bus tours, you have a lot of choices for seeing them with an expert. You can browse a variety and book your favorite here.
When to See Christmas Lights in London
So when can you see Christmas lights in London? They start going up in late October, and most get switched on in big ceremonies in early November.
The festive displays usually stay up through the first week of January. You can check online for exact dates before you go for a walk to make sure things are bright and twinkling when you’re out and about.
Some of the installations change every year, so it’s worth making this Christmas lights walk in London an annual tradition to see how things look. This is particularly true of places like Carnaby Street, which goes all-out each winter with a different theme.
As far as what time of day to see them, the good news is that the days are short in London in winter. It usually starts getting dark around 4pm in the festive season, so you’ll have plenty of time to see them each evening.
Tips for Exploring London at Christmas
Before you head out, keep in mind that the weather in London is unpredictable and it can get very cold in winter.
It’s a good idea to wear warm clothing and bring an umbrella with you. If you’re in the UK, I recommend this umbrella. If you’re in the US, this one is perfect. My winter packing list for London can help you with what to wear as well.
Additionally, the city is one of the best places to vist at Christmas in the UK, and it gets crowded. If you’re in town on a weekend, prepare for places like Oxford Street, Regent Street, Bond Street, and Carnaby Street to be extremely busy.
London Christmas Lights Walking Route
This Christmas lights walk in London starts at Green Park station in Mayfair. Exit on the north side of Piccadilly and turn left out of the station to walk east down the street. You’ll start to see the famous lights as you go.
When you get to Old Bond Street, turn left and walk all the way down it towards Oxford Street (the road will change names to New Bond Street in the middle, but keep straight and you’ll be fine).
Along the way you’ll not only look up to see Bond Street’s iconic Christmas lights, but also larger-than-life decorated shopfronts and the Royal Arcade with its festive trimmings.
When you reach Brook Street, turn left. Walk a short distance to South Molton Street and turn right. This pedestrianized road is always decorated with bright lights during the festive season, and it’s a fun place to take in the atmosphere.
Soon you’ll come to Oxford Street. This is one of the most famous places to see Christmas lights in London. Turn right and walk down to Oxford Circus, taking in the decorations, shops, and lights as you go.
When you reach Oxford Circus, turn right on Regent Street. This is another of the most popular places for a Christmas lights walk in London. The decorations here are amazing, and they’re beautiful to see at night.
When you reach Great Marlborough Street, turn left and walk past the iconic Liberty London department store to get to Carnaby Street in Soho.
Make a right on Carnaby Street and walk down its pedestrainiazed stretch to take in the unique Christmas lights. If you’re in a gift-buying mood, this is a great place to go Christmas shopping in London, too.
When you reach the end of the road, turn right on Beak Street and make your way back to Regent Street. Turn left when you arrive and continue taking in the lights as you walk down to Piccadilly Circus. You can do more shopping if you want to.
Once in Piccadilly Circus, walk through it, take in the decorations, and head east on Coventry Street. This road will take you into Leicester Square.
There are more lights here, and a big Christmas market where you can browse the stalls, pick up traditional British Christmas food and drinks, and take in the atmosphere.
When you’re finished looking around, exit Leicester Square on Bear Street, cross Charing Cross Road, and and walk down St Martin’s Court. Keep on it as you head across St Martin’s Lane and it becomes New Row.
New Row will bring you to Bedford Street. Cross over it as New Row becomes King Street. This festive road will take you to the famous Covent Garden Piazza. Here you’ll see hanging lights, fun decorations, and one of London’s biggest Christmas trees.
Christmas in Covent Garden is spectacular. It’s worth spending time taking in the lights and exploring the shops and markets around the piazza while you’re here.
When you’re done, exit the piazza on Russell Street. When you reach Wellington Street, turn right and walk down to the Strand. There are lots of lights and decorated facades to get excited about as you go.
When you get to the Strand, you can either take a detour to see the famous ice skating rink at Somerset House, or turn right and take in the lights above you as you make your way to Trafalgar Square.
There’s another Christmas market in Trafalgar Square, as well as a huge tree. You can walk around and take in the scene before continuing your Christmas lights walk in London by heading towards the river on Northumberland Avenue.
When you get to the Thames, walk across one of the Golden Jubilee Bridges to reach the South Bank. This part of the city is full of life and entertainment year-round, and Christmas is no exception.
From the London Eye to Borough Market, there’s a lot to take in here. You can admire the Christmas lights, get a traditional Christmas drink like mulled wine at the outdoor markets, and explore the annual Southbank Centre Winter Festival.
Don’t miss the seasonal decorations in Hay’s Galleria or the Christmas market by Tower Bridge while you’re in the area. They’re great places to take in the lights and get into the festive spirit.
This London Christmas lights walking tour ends on the South Bank, but you can explore as much of the greater area as you want to before moving on. From Tower Bridge to Bermondsey Street, there’s a lot to see around here.
London Christmas Lights Walking Route Map & Details
Time: 2 – 4 hours (depending on time in the shops and Christmas markets)
Map of the first half of the walk: https://maps.app.goo.gl/5VGa7Gwyxyfqvkc48
Map of the second half of the walk: https://maps.app.goo.gl/QGqYwZNWS2HfcAdX6
Self-Guided Christmas Lights Walk in London
I hope you find this Christmas lights walk in London as enjoyable for the festive season as I do. Going around to see the decorations is one of the the best things to do in London at Christmas.
If you want more, you can take a look at my Christmas walks in London, my London winter walks, my full list of free self-guided London walking tours, and my London walking map.
You can read about more great walks in London’s Hidden Walks, too. You can get it here. Happy Christmas!
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