LONDON’S BEST FREE CHRISTMAS DISPLAYS
From literary Christmas trees and giant advent calendars to hot air balloons and kiddie neons
Christmas is expensive, so save your lighting bill and head out to gawp at some of London’s prettiest Christmas displays and lights for free.
We’ve rounded up some of the capital’s merriest and most unusual festive displays. And we’re not talking street lights - we all know you can get your fix of twinkling pretties at London’s most famous lights, like Regent Street, Oxford Street, Bond Street and Covent Garden.
Below are some of the Big Smoke's shiniest baubles to officially switch on your Christmas spirit.
This private member’s club is deliciously extra. Previous years have seen its famous, Mayfair facade transformed into a Nutcracker theatre piece, a gargantuan gingerbread house and a vintage carousel of dreams. This year, guests enter via an enormous, new hot air balloon, which stretches beyond the building’s three floors, flanked by giant, illuminated stars. Annabel's say that the installation “serves as a symbol of hope and inspiration in a year where the world has faced many difficulties and hardships” and is “inspired by the idea that anything is possible when we come together we can rise above the difficult times and challenges ahead”.
Annabel's, 46 Berkeley Square, London W1J 5AT
The Churchill Arms
For many Londoners, Christmas has truly arrived when The Churchill Arms out-Christmases every other boozer in the world, with its grand switch-on, becoming the biggest and booziest decoration your eyes and liver could hope for. The Kensington pub drops £25k a year on covering the exterior in 80 Christmas trees adorned with 22,000 lights and we dread to think what their electricity bill will be this year. But Santa certainly won’t miss them from his sleigh up above.
The Churchill Arms, 119 Kensington Church St, London W8 7LN
Fortnum & Mason
Fortnum & Mason’s famous facade is synonymous with the festive season. And they have turned the Christmas dial up to 100 again, transforming the entire building into an enormous advent calendar, with festive surprises behind each window which might just beat the sweaty, foil-covered chocolate on your mantelpiece calendar. Inside, visitors can expect giant Christmas puddings, dancing above their heads.
Fortnum & Mason, 181 Piccadilly, London W1A 1ER
St Pancras Station Christmas Tree
St Pancras Station is very much of the go big or go home persuasion, when it comes to Christmas trees. Previous trees have been decked by the likes of Fortnum & Mason, Disney, Tiffany and Cirque du Soleil. Hatchard's booksellers have taken the baton this year, with a 12 metre tall, literary masterpiece, featuring a winding staircase and 270 shelves adorned with more than 3,800 hand-painted books, including timeless classics like Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" and C.S. Lewis' "The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe." The tree has eight cosy nooks where visitors can immerse themselves in the magic of Christmas, using speakers, which allow you to select from 16 different, festive audiobook excerpts.
St Pancras International, Euston Rd, London N1C 4QP
Soho Kids Christmas Lights
Soho’s lights are more famous for being of the red and saucy variety, but at Christmas, they go wholesome with impossibly cute lights designed by children. Started in 2021, Architecture for Kids and Soho Parish Primary School join forces again to create festive lights drawn by schoolchildren and transformed into hanging lights illuminating Soho’s streets. There are even walking tours of each, kid-created light.
Trafalgar Square's Thank You Tree from Norway
Every year since 1947, Norway has sent London a 25-metre tree - known as the ‘Queen of the forest’ - to thank the UK for our support in WW2. This year’s beauty burns brightly with fairy lights, illuminating its grand home in Trafalgar Square.
Trafalgar Square, London, WC2
This is the only Christmas lights street display we’re including in the list, because it deserves a special mention. This year, they welcome visitors to the Carnaby Universe, a cosmic riot of neon and light waves to create a moving vortex above the famous street. Carnaby Street, London
King's Cross and Coal Drops Yard
King’s Cross’s Granary Square and Coal Drops Yard have been transformed into an illuminated Apres Ski wonderland this winter, including a 50 foot Christmas tree, glowing winter sculptures along the canal steps, an alpine bar serving up hot toddies and cosy cocktails and a mahoosive curling rink. There is also a changing line-up of ten Christmas markets.
King's Cross and Coal Drops Yard, Stable St, London N1C 4DQ