As Christmas songs start creeping like Santa Claus back onto our radios, discover the winter festivities filling the streets of central London.  

London’s annual Christmas lights are now back up throughout the city centre. Adorning buildings and draped across streets, the vibrant decorations are free to see until the early days of January. Choose which displays you want to visit, or plan how to fit them all in, using the information below! 

For the Iconic Social Media Posts: Regent Street 

With mesmerising angels hovering above an amazing street for shopping, Regent Street is a must-see location for your festive expedition. Hannah Rhodes, who has visited London at Christmas time for several years running, says that this street is her “favourite area for lights,” due to the spectacular ‘Spirits of Christmas’ suspended from the buildings. Taking inspiration from the original trumpet-playing angels which lined the street in the 1960’s, the current spirits put a modern spin on the traditional holiday character. 

Next stop: Oxford Street 

The shimmering stars suspended above this street are only a few minutes' walk away from the previous angelic scene, making them the ideal continuation to your journey. Supposedly, these lights were only installed to compete with the Regent Street splendour, which had been the first commercial street in London to light up for Christmas. Make sure to pick your favourite of the two and continue the 80-year-old debate! 

Luxurious lighting: New Bond Street 

Housing an elegant assortment of the most prestigious fashion and jewellery houses, including Chanel, Cartier, and Tiffany & Co, this street is a unique hidden gem. Displays are known to change every year, so make sure to check out the 2023 editions of each store’s glamorous glowing accessories. 

This Never Misses: Carnaby Street 

Although this pedestrian shopping street looks fabulous year-round with permanent trails of tinsel and rainbow and massive 3D animals, it is a particularly remarkable sight during this season. With daylight saving now in place, there are plenty more opportunities to witness the fairy lights, bunting, and glowing figurines in all their glory. 

For Food and Firs: Trafalgar Square 

Home to the picturesque National Gallery, this classic square also hosts a gargantuan Christmas tree every winter. Gifted annually by Norway as a ‘thank you’ for the British efforts during the Second World War, this tree perfectly encapsulates the warm Christmas values of generosity and kindness. It also sets the scene for the pop-up Christmas market, where you can find last-minute gift ideas for an equally thoughtful present or fight the winter chills by grabbing warm spiced drinks and freshly cooked meals. 

Nearby Newbie: St Martin’s Lane 

Pretty chandelier-like threads of light cross this lively street. A recent participant in the capital-wide exhibition, the lane creates a peaceful atmosphere amongst the business at the heart of London. 

Heading West: Belgravia, Mayfair, and Marylebone 

Each of these West End locations has plenty of stunningly festive lanes scattered around. Exploring new areas in this treasure hunt (a Christmas egg hunt, perhaps?) can be a fantastic way to escape more overcrowded and touristic streets. Discover glistening canopies, glistening stars, and frosty coloured lamps. 

Heading East: Covent Garden 

Glamours and glitz mingle with tasty scents and flickering windows in this three-floored market. Nestled between the Royal Opera house, St Paul’s Church, and Jubilee Market Hall, it boasts dozens of minute cafes and restaurants which all individually add to the Christmas spirit with their cheerful decor. The alleyways between the stores boast baubles and mistletoe, perfect for your next romantic date. However, the star of the show must be the massive Christmas tree, placed between the church and sheltered marketplace, which is accompanied by snow flurries every hour, on the hour, from midday.  

For the Shoppers: Seven Dials 

A shining wreath crowning the central Sundial Pillar, this junction is a continuation of the shop-filled Covent Garden. Explore less crowded pedestrian lanes and independent stores in a flourishing area first established by Thomas Neale, MP, in the 1960s, after whom a street is named. 

Gateway to Magic: Leadenhall Market 

Here, you can stroll under crimson and golden baubles and towering translucent archways, which beckon visitors to the plump Christmas tree at the heart of the market. Shops and restaurants are nestled in walls of a colour scheme matching the baubles, making this a prime location for some winter wandering. 

Landmark Lighting: The Shard 

Always flitting between seasonal themes, The Shard is set to stun again with its annual Christmas update. Sure to feature classic colours such as red and green, this show is the highest light display in Britain, so be certain to keep an eye out for it as your stroll through the crisp London streets. 

This enormous array of Christmas lights attracts many visitors to the capital every winter. 

Hannah, who did her A-Level geography course at sixth form, agrees that “It is a tourist attraction. People commute to see these lights, in Covent Garden and Regent Street especially, as it's a well-known fact that during Christmas time London is very pretty and lit up.” 

“People stop in the middle of Oxford Street to take photos of the angels that hang above the road” 

While wetter and frostier weather over the winter season can deter some tourists from visiting London, the Christmas lights help counteract a drop in the numbers of sight-seeing travellers. Hannah has noticed that “In December, the streets are filled with people, so I do think that the festive season adds to tourism.” 

Although the glowing displays are sure to brighten the moods of locals and tourists alike, there can be some serious environmental issues related to London’s Christmas lights. 

With a current global focus being reducing our total energy consumption, the lights hinder our environmentally aware efforts. Hannah explains that when we are “using unnecessary energy, the energy is transferred from fossil fuel combustion which increases carbon dioxide emissions. This is a key contributor to climate change and global warming.” 

Some specific effects of global warming include “a decrease in biodiversity in the local area” due to habitat loss as well as “Increasing carbon dioxide emissions leading to ocean acidification” which specifically “limits biodiversity in coral reef habitats.” 

We can reduce these harmful consequences by prioritising the use of renewable energy sources, such as wind turbines and solar panels, to power the light shows. Furthermore, many owners of the tourist attractions turn their lights off between peak visiting time, ensuring less energy is wasted. 

Christmas trees are another festive staple which can harm our environment as excessive deforestation could further increase carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere. In order to increase the usefulness of the chopped down pine, the Covent Garden tree will reportedly be recycled into wood chips after the holiday season, making it a more meaningful use of a natural material. 

Bearing in mind the measures being taken to reduce harmful environmental impacts of London’s Christmas lights, make sure to head out on darker days and appreciate the shining collaborative display.