London gets fully lit up over the dark winter months, from central London to the suburbs: winter illuminations pour colour and sparkle over the city. New illuminations are popping up in and around London in a bid to be this year’s best display. We’ve covered everything from the Canary Wharf Winter Lights to Lightopia—so wrap up warm and take a wander to one of these London winter illuminations.
Looking for more festive fun? Be sure to check our top winter festivals and markets too!
Winterfest at Wembley Park
One of this year’s most impressive free light festivals, Winterfest at Wembley Park is set to wow tens of thousands this winter. This year’s theme is ‘Reunited in Light’, and the event will feature London’s largest LED Christmas tree and light-up art installations. One such installation is the ‘Reflections of the Future’ trail along Olympic Way that offers an ‘uplifting, multisensory journey using optical illusion, light and sound’.
Winterfest at Wembley Park
Canary Wharf Winter Lights
Probably the only time of of year for cheapos to visit Canary Wharf. Ignore the souless corporate towers, winter lights bring some much needed brightness to the post-New Year lull. The lights are among the city’s finest, with installations from multiple groundbreaking artists each year. Best of all, it’s free. You can just turn up between 5 pm and 10 pm to see installations, artworks and light technology.
Winter Lights at Canary Wharf
Lightopia now at Crystal Palace
The award-winning Lightopia returns with a new venue for 2021/22. It’s also opening as a pre Christmas event, rather than in early January. This year’s illuminated trail will light up Crystal Palace in south London instead of Chiswick House. One of the highlights of The Palace of Light includes seeing the famous Crystal Palace dinosaurs brought to life with colourful lights a recreation of the palace itself.
You can also expect to find magical creatures from brightly-coloured birds to giant butterflies. Visitors can also wander woodland trails and find beautiful hand-sculpted lanterns, lasers, water light shows and there’s plenty of festive refreshments and hot drinks to enjoy along the way.
Lightopia at Crystal Palace
Christmas at Kew
The return of a classic, Londoners’ Instagram feeds have been filled with pictures from Christmas at Kew for the past few years, but hurry, tickets go fast! Over a million flickering lights illuminate the woods, gardens and lakes of Kew in the winter months. This year’s theme leans heavily on myths and legends. So expect to encounter playful will-o-the-wisps, mysterious colourful flames and the legendary Bifröst—the rainbow bridge of Norse legend. Naturally, there’ll be mulled wine and roast chestnuts to enjoy as well.
Christmas at Kew
Syon Park Enchanted Woodland
The 600 year old gardens of Syon Park are once again transformed into an enchanted woodland. With interactive lights, a dedicated trail and beautiful displays it almost always requires booking in advance—so don’t just show up on the day! At £10.00–£15.00, it’s not the city’s cheapest offering, but it’s also a far cry from the bustling crowds of the usual London Winter lights. So it’s well worth the price of admission if you fancy a break from the norm.
Enchanted Woodland at Syon Park
Enchanted Eltham, Eltham Palace – Until December 30
Eltham Palace is one of the lesser-known places in London. The former Tudor royal residence was transformed into an Art Deco mansion by eccentric millionaire couple Stephen and Virginia Courtauld in the 1930s –so it’s fair to say its walls have seen a shindig or two.
But, it’s the palace’s great outdoor spaces you’re cordially invited to this year. Enchanted Eltham invites visitors to wander around an illuminated trail through the gardens and see the outside of the Great Hall bathed in light. There are also refreshments available as well as traditional fairground rides.
It’s open across specific dates in December, 9-12. 16-23 and finally 27-30, and will be shut on 25-26 for Christmas. The event runs after the normal palace opening hours and requires a separate ticket and allocated time slot.
Enchanted Eltham, Eltham Palace
Palace of Stardust at Hampton Court Palace – Until Jan 3
Henry VIII’s former residence is also getting its own light trail this year. The Palace of Stardust has a more celestial than Christmas theme, based on the famous building’s astronomical clock. The courtyard and gardens will be lit up with large moons, planets, clocks in the form of illuminations, projections and lanterns. Wander past ancient trees that have lived have stood tall through the centuries and experience a historic landmark after hours.
As with Enchanted Eltham, you’ll need to book a ticket to gain entry to the palace, but Historic Royal Palace members get half-price entry and under 5s go free and there’s no need to book a ticket for them.
Palace of Stardust at Hampton Court Palace
|Advance sales: £12.50|
|Advance sales: £8.00|
Illuminature, at London Wetland Centre – Until 9 Jan
Another new entry into London’s ever-expanding light trails – Illuminature at London Wetland Centre in Barnes invites people to explore nature after dark. The light trail will be filled with large-scale recreations of some of its resident wildlife, including a giant heron.
Visitors can also wander through rainfall lights,immersive light tunnels and hop past responsive lily pads. It’s a huge celebration of the wetlands rendered in colourful light and perfect for nature lovers of all ages.
Christmas at Kenwood, Hampstead Heath – Until 9 Jan
The Highgate side of Hampstead Heath is home to the beautiful former stately home Kenwood House. This year, its grounds will be bathed in light and sparkle for the first time. The light trail is a wintery wonderland, filled with forest walks, trees covered in sparkling stars, lasers and woodland animal sculptures. If you’re feeling chilly, you can grab mulled wine or hot chocolate or warm up at the fire garden and watch while puffs of flame shoot up from metal flowers.
Epping Ongar Railway Light Fantastic – Until 9 Jan
Take a ride on an illuminated train line through the Essex countryside. Take some time to watch the illuminated train go by from the platform at North Weald (on the London-Essex border) first. Then hop aboard for a winter journey with a festive soundtrack and dazzling trackside illuminations, featuring illuminated reindeer and brightly lit stations.
Some of the trains are steam trains, although some run on diesel. All passengers should wear masks on the train as well as the platforms and station buildings. Tickets are going fast, so get booking quickly if you want to bag a spot on the light-filled Essex express.
Epping Ongar Light Fantastic Illuminated Train Ride
|Advance sales: £20.00|
First published in November 2018. Updated in December 2021.