Christmas in London is always magical and it’s the perfect time to head out with your camera. Here are 10 of the best locations in London for Christmas lights to help you capture the city’s most spectacular displays.
London can be extremely busy at this time of year, so go early for morning blue hour to avoid the crowds and capture the lights at their best. Take a sturdy tripod and a wide angle lens. Shooting bracketed exposures will ensure you capture highlights and shadow detail. Do also try some long exposures; capture light streaks from traffic as well as moving crowds of people once they start to arrive. Have fun shooting 10 of the best locations in London for Christmas lights shared by some of the PhotoHound community…
1. Bond Street
Bond Street is the home of luxury shopping in London and the stores here go all out to impress at Christmas. Cartier is just one of the flagship jewellers on New Bond Street and notable for its elaborate festive displays. A well preserved traditional red phone box is opposite and can be used as a foreground interest. You will definitely need your wide angle lens here to get the whole building in, or take a tripod and get a vertorama to pack it all in.
2. Covent Garden
It doesn’t get more Christmassy than Covent Garden at this time of year. The eagerly awaited iconic decorations in the covered market and the famed Christmas tree never disappoint. Most years there are pop-up dining experiences and festive stalls in addition to the usual offering. Once you’ve captured the market traders setting up early in the morning, stick around for some street photography as the piazzas come to life with visitors and street performers.
3. London Eye
From Jubilee Gardens you’ll have a great view of one of the most impressive Christmas trees in London on display at the base of the London Eye. On a rainy night – and there can be many of these in London in winter! – you can capture the reflection of the London Eye in the puddles. Given the impressive size of the London Eye and your relative proximity, a wide angle lens is needed here to capture it all.
4. Fortnum And Mason, Piccadilly
The beloved London institution that is Fortnum & Mason knows how to do Christmas in style. Their entire shop front is transformed into a giant advent calendar leading up to Christmas. In addition the eight iconic shop windows are beautifully dressed in a suitably festive theme. Early morning blue hour is definitely the best time for this spot. Otherwise experiment with long exposures to ‘remove’ people, or make the window shoppers part of your composition.
5. Leadenhall Market
Leadenhall Market is located in the City of London, one of the busiest areas. However, it is usually empty here before the shops open. The Christmas tree is spectacular. This is oftend deserted on a Sunday evening. If the weather lets you down this is a good place to head; it’s covered and the public areas in the market are lit 24/7.
6. Regent St
At Christmas, Regent Street features many large decorations which are best photographed at blue hour and night. Take extra care if shooting from the central reservation as traffic is always busy. It’s not easy to capture two buses passing simultaneously. There’s always the option to stack images and create a composite if you don’t!
7. Carnaby Street
Christmas in Carnaby Street is always special. Each year they change up their festive theme, which is often also linked to a charitable cause. This year the focus is Choose Love, in support of refugees all over the world. This is a location where including the blur of Christmas shoppers can actually add to your composition. A tripod won’t be practical if it’s busy, so bump up the ISO and shoot hand-held.
8. Oxford Street
This street is never, ever deserted. To remove crowds, experiment with long exposures, or composite a series of shorter exposures.
Oxford Circus Tube station is one of the busiest so setting up a tripod here will present logistical challenges. To capture a true sense of place, embrace activity and movement in your shots.
9. More London
Christmas by the River is one of London’s prettiest festive markets. You’ll find a series of stalls offering seasonal treats and temptations from Tower Hill and along past More London. You’ll need to shoot hand-held here as this stretch of the Thames walkway is privately owned. It is carefully monitored by security guards. A friendly chat sometimes works and they may allow you to use your tripod. Usually you will be asked to put it away. Try moving around instead and focusing on interactions between stall holders and visitors. Take a zoom lens to capture fun, colourful details.
10. Renaissance St Pancras
The Victorian facade of the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel is one of London’s most photographed hotel. Inside you’ll find this grand staircase; during the Christmas period it is flanked by two stunning Christmas trees.
Those of a certain age may recognise this staircase from “Wannabe”, the debut single of the Spice Girls! Head through the archway and lobby, then to the left-hand side of the building . You can’t miss these stairs leading up to the bedrooms.
Let us know if you found our “10 of the best locations in London for Christmas lights” article useful. Find more incredible locations on PhotoHound. Be sure to share your festive shots with us on PhotoHound and tag us on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook – we can’t wait to see them. Happy shooting and good (festive) light!