As soon as November rolls around London is filled with more Christmas Lights, Christmas Trees and Christmas Markets than you could ever imagine! It really is the most wonderful time of the year in London at Christmas!
Updated for 2018: Last Christmas my Brother and Sister came to visit me on a Saturday in December, they don’t live in London and don’t visit London that often. They wanted to get into the Christmas spirit as much as I did so I knew I had to take them to the best of what London has to offer in a just a few hours. When visitlondon.com challenged me to plan the perfect festive day out using the Visit London app, the timing was perfect!
We ended up seeing so much and we managed to see it all by foot once we were at our starting location of the Southbank Centre which I was really happy with. London is a big city but it’s good to remember, even for us that live here, that it’s also very walkable and taking the tube can mean missing out on gems in between stations.
We covered quite a bit of ground, the day flowed really well and I didn’t get any complaints from my Brother and Sister!
This is what we got up to and how we got from the Southbank Centre Christmas Markets to Winter Wonderland by foot and saw lots and lots in between!
My brother arrived into Euston train station where my Sister and I met him and from there we hopped onto the Northern Line down to Waterloo Station. We headed towards the River and London Eye which took us right into the middle of the Southbank Centre markets.
If you’re not in London already and need to book train tickets to London for Christmas time, be sure to check out The Train Line. I use them all the time to compare the best train times, journey lengths and prices!
The markets on the Southbank were good last year but they definitely seem to be even better this year. They are Nordic inspired with a huge amount of wooden chalets lining the river selling a huge range of foods from typical German Currywurst and Bratwurst to Belgium Waffles to English Fish and Chips, plus a big range of gifts and drinks.
The Southbank always has a good vibe surrounding it and the Christmas markets make it even more special. We watched some street performers close to where the all-year-round Carousel sits and took in the iconic view over the Thames. Big Ben and Westminster, unfortunately, are not looking their best right now surrounded in scaffolding but it doesn’t damage the skyline too much!
Our next stop was Covent Garden. I knew it was close by and I knew we needed to head over Waterloo Bridge to get there; however, I admit that I often think Covent Garden is literally just across the river and forget about the streets in-between. So I could reassure my Brother and Sister how long it would take (I am known for taking people on very long walks!) I had a quick look at the Visit London app, which due to the time of year automatically opens on everything Christmas-related in London. Useful!
I clicked on ‘Top 15 Dazzling Christmas Lights’ as I knew the wonderful lights in Covent Garden must be within these 15, scrolled down to Covent Garden and the app helpfully told me that I was just an 18-minute walk away!
We crossed the river and walked towards the Strand, turned right and continued down for a few blocks until we saw a handy sign pointing us left into Covent Garden Piazza.
The Apple Market in Covent Garden was of course the first place I took us to. The decorations are the same as last year but they are gorgeous – huge baubles and garlands of mistletoe decorating the inside of the market.
We walked through the different sections of the market, saw the Christmas window displays, listened to the live music and took in the scents from the mulled wine vendors temporarily set up in the middle of the market. Covent Garden also has its huge Christmas Tree one side of the markets and a huge Reindeer the other side so I made sure that we visited both of these too!
Leicester Square was next on our agenda as Covent Garden and Leicester Square are close together, we walked towards Leicester Square tube station and carried on down the pedestrian area of Cranbourn Street to the actual square that is Leicester Square. It was not hard to miss as it’s been transformed into a traditional Christmas Market.
The area is only small but I really love the feel of the square. The markets do feel a lot more authentic and traditional which I think is why I liked them. In fact, they are so traditional that there is a Santa’s Grotto within the square which is something that doesn’t seem to be offered as much these days. (Santa’s Grotto is a ticketed event though, incase you fancy visiting.)
From Leicester Square, I wanted to head towards Oxford Street but once again I took to the Visit London app to ensure that I didn’t miss anything on the way. This time I clicked on the ‘map’ side of the Top 15 Dazzling Christmas Lights and realised that we were very close to Piccadilly Circus and it reminded me that the Regents Street Christmas Lights were just up the road!
We walked in the direction of Piccadilly Circus and I was pleased to see that the iconic, curved screens surrounding Piccadilly Circus are now back as they were taken away for renovation earlier in the year. We spotted the famous street, Regent Street, really easily thanks to the huge and beautiful angels that line the street during the Christmas period.
Regent Street takes you right up to the crossroad of Oxford Circus however, we didn’t walk all the way up as the beautiful area that is Carnaby is hidden behind the streets between Oxford Street and Regents Street. I had an idea of where we needed to turn off but luckily there was a huge ‘Carnaby This Way’ sign pointing us right so we dipped off of Regents Street into the narrow streets of Soho before turning left up the oh so colourful Carnaby Street!
Carnaby Street mixes its lights up each year, which I love. It’s known for its quirky lights each year and this year doesn’t disappoint. The lights are a carnival theme featuring tropical birds, palm trees and a lot of colour! They are quite random if you ask me but I do love how different they are to any other Christmas lights I have seen in London and in the UK before.
We headed through Carnaby Street, past the Liberty store and onto Oxford Street where Oxford Circus is. Oxford Street is busy all year round but it is especially busy during the Christmas period. By keeping my head up and looking at some of the 1,778 baubles and 750,000 LED bulbs that are lining Oxford Street it made it that bit more manageable as once again the lights this year are stunning both during the day and at night.
We headed West a long Oxford Street until we reached Bond Street which is just before Bond Street tube station. I feel that the Bond Street lights aren’t as well-known as some other lights in London but this is probably because Bond Street is lined with designer stores and not somewhere a lot of us would usually need to visit. However, I know that at Christmas it’s well worth veering off Oxford Street which is what we did and we were treated to the sight of the peacock themed installation which seem very sophisticated and perfect for this area of London.
From Bond Street we continued up Oxford Street to Marble Arch. We crossed over the road into Hyde Park and the lights and the tops of the rides of Winter Wonderland showed us the way!
I’ve been to Winter Wonderland quite a few times now, before I lived in London I would usually have a Christmas day out in London and Winter Wonderland would be the main place we would visit. I don’t know whether I find it more manageable each time I go or it’s a better set up each year but I seem to enjoy it more each time I visit!
We had a walk around the rides, gasped at a few rides that there is no way we would get on and made our way to the Bavarian Village. I love this part of Winter Wonderland and even on a Saturday, although it was busy there was plenty of seating free both inside and outside of the bars which was really great. I had my first mulled wine of the season whilst my Brother had a beer and my Sister a coffee and we warmed up inside listening to some Christmas songs… Perfect!
Once we were finished in Winter Wonderland we headed back to Marble Arch station but as it was now dark, instead of taking the tube from here we walked down to Bond Street station so I could show my Brother and Sister the lights along Oxford Street all lit up. I love the area around Selfridges; the store is covered in purple lights and the trees outside are all lit up too!
Overall, we had a great day and it was so great to see as much as we did in Central London without having to take the tube. We definitely missed a few things out, ice-skating at Somerset House, the lights at Seven Dials for example, but sometimes it’s best to see slightly less and enjoy taking your time.
Our route took us about 4 hours. We started on the Southbank just after lunch so by the time we got to Winter Wonderland the sun was starting to set, meaning we got to see the beautiful sunset across Hyde Park and Winter Wonderland that you can see in the pictures above. This is something I have witnessed a few times over the years and I still find it as gorgeous and magical each time!
If you are visiting London for the day in December or you live here and have a day free to spend in Central London I would really recommend following the route I did, so download the Visit London App and plan your perfect day out!
For more Christmas in London related goodness check out:
This is Why You Need to Visit Kew Gardens this christmas!
For more things to do in London check out my London page here!
Merry Christmas x
This post is in collaboration with visitlondon.com however all thoughts, opinions and ramblings of Christmas lights are my own.