London lights up: dazzling winter events

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Words by Helen Dorritt

'Tis the season to sparkle, and London has an excellent selection of events that are sure to brighten up the cold weather and get you in the festive spirit. We highlight six of our favourites.

Christmas at Kew

Kew Gardens is always a magical place but it becomes even more special in winter when an illuminated trail is created around the grounds to surprise, delight and enchant visitors. Christmas at Kew is returning for its seventh year, running until 5 January 2020, and promises a host of new installations as well as old favourites.

The Temperate House will be lit up by lasers, there are ribbons of light hanging in the Treetop Walk, you can hear holly bushes singing, and the trail culminates with dancing jets of water at the Palm House Pond.

Christmas lights at Kew Gardens

The Natural History Museum ice rink

Take to the ice this winter at the Natural History Museum’s ice rink, which is set against the majestic Waterhouse building and surrounded by fairy light-festooned trees. To warm you up after your skating there’s a cafe-bar serving mulled wine, hot chocolate and other delicacies.

Thursday nights see free acoustic music sessions next to the rink, and there are also a number of accessible skating sessions. The rink is there until 12 January 2020, so you’ve still got time to get your skates on.

The Natural History Museum's ice-skating rink

Oxford Street and Regent Street lights

London’s two biggest shopping streets are renowned for their festive lights, and a trip to the capital at Christmas time has to include a wander down the pavements to admire these illuminated installations.

As 2019 is the 200th anniversary of Regent Street's creation you can expect the best display yet: the theme this year is the spirit of Christmas, inspired by the 1954 lights.

Just around the corner, Oxford Street is also celebrating an anniversary: it’s 60 years since the first time the street was lit up, and this year the street is making the switch to LED lights. Expect to see 27 dynamic light curtains hanging above the street, made up of 220,000 individual lights.

Christmas lights on Oxford Street

Christmas lights at Leadenhall Market

Leadenhall is one of London’s historic covered markets and this ornate Victorian building makes the perfect backdrop for a picturesque Christmas celebration.

This festive season the market will be covered in thousands of lights, with a stunning Christmas tree at the heart. Events taking place in December include music, a virtual advent calendar and a visit from Harry Potter – the market was the setting for the magical Diagon Alley in the films.

Christmas tree at Leadenhall Market

Winter wonderland in Hyde Park

There really is something for everyone at Hyde Park’s winter wonderland, which is open until 5 January 2020. Skate on the UK’s largest outdoor ice rink, get your thrills on fairground rides, take in views of London from a 70m-high observation wheel and shop in the Christmas markets.

The MegaDome is hosting family shows, including Mr Men & Little Miss, Paddington on Ice and Zippos Christmas Circus, plus you’ll find a comedy club, alpine-cabin karaoke and ice-sculpting workshops. While the individual activities are ticketed, it’s free to wander around and enjoy the festive atmosphere.

Winter wonderland in Hyde Park

Christmas lights bike tour

Fancy seeing lots of lights in one go? The London Bicycle Tour Company is offering Christmas lights tours until 5 January 2020. This three-hour tour guides you around the city’s most brilliant displays, including Harrods, Oxford Street, Regent Street, Carnaby Street, Covent Garden and Seven Dials.

Bikes, helmets, lights and even Santa hats are all provided, and your guide will also be playing Christmas carols to get you in the festive mood!