All decked out for the holidays, the entire city puts on a show as only London can.
POSTED BY PINKY
Angels and snowballs and stars, oh my!
Thousands of twinkling bits of pure magic spread all across the streets of central London. I did not expect to be amazed.
“Woooow“, “amaaazing“, “beeeauuutiful” were all I could muster, over and over again, surrendering to its spell. Street after captivating street.
Ornaments obviously designed to stop us in our tracks, they manage to complement and enhance everything around them rather than overpower them – creating maximum impact without the gaud, if you will. And it really should come as no surprise.
This, after all, is the land of the theatah.
On its 57th year, these lights were the first to be switched-on in 2016. Featuring 1,778 snowball-like decorations containing 750,000 LED lightbulbs, the organisers also launched the Little Stars campaign where, on opening night, charity partner NSPCC asked Londoners to donate £5 to dedicate one of the star-shaped lights to a loved one.
In keeping with the glamour of Bond Street are these glorious “peacock feathers” bowing down to welcome shoppers.
Touted as its most ambitious installation ever, this year’s illuminations, dubbed as “The Spirit of Christmas”, were inspired by Regent Street’s very first Christmas angels in 1954. In 2016’s version, however, each spirit has a 17-metre wingspan and a 15-metre train. Using 300,000 LED lightbulbs in total, this display is absolutely magnificent.
This street is close to my heart because my dad took me here on my very first trip to London in the ’80s. Then the home of punk rock – think The Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me?” blaring in the shops’ speakers and sightings of Boy George wannabes – Carnaby has managed to keep its cool hip-ness over the years.
This year’s theme ties in with the Victoria & Albert Museum’s new exhibition, “You Say You Want A Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970”. Groovy!
2016 finds this shopping district, including the seven streets that radiate from its center, transformed into an enchanted forest. Illustrations of adorable woodland creatures are hung above the streets and can be enjoyed in the daytime as well.
A colorful and interesting area between Seven Dials and Covent Garden, Neal’s Yard is now a far cry from its past as a dark, rat-infested alley of warehouses that supported the Covent Garden fruit and vegetable market.
We had just missed the fantastic switch-on ceremony by a day. It would have been fascinating to have witnessed the Royal Opera Chorus sing excerpts from famous operas and the Royal Ballet excerpts of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, with the Sugar Plum Fairy herself switching on the lights as a finale. With 80,000 pea lights and 40 mistletoe chandeliers, they’re a sight to behold both day and night.
Given its proximity to Covent Garden and Trafalgar Square, it is quite surprising that the Strand’s illuminations only ever began in 2015.
You’ll find all of London decorated and lit up for the holidays. Trafalgar Square, St. Katharine Docks, Royal Exchange, Duke of York Square, Kew Gardens, and so much more. Not to mention the countless other buildings, bridges, squares, markets, parks, and major thoroughfares dotted all over the city.
When to Go
The switch-on ceremonies are held progressively from early to mid-November and the decorations are lit all the way until January 6th. These events are accompanied by live entertainment, parties, DJs, with shops, bars, and restaurants offering discounts.
If you want to join the party, make sure to check the switch-on schedule before you go.
Where to Stay
We prefer to stay in the Trafalgar Square – Charing Cross area whenever in London. It’s generally a quiet section in spite of it being in the thick of all the theatre and shopping action.
Within walking distance to most of the decorated streets, we thoroughly enjoyed taking after-dinner strolls in the cool, crisp November air, basking in the glow of all the things that make London definitely the loveliest city at Christmas.