Christmas is undeniably the most magical time of year, with snow-dusted towns, and charming markets galore. Below are Insignia’s picks for the best festive lights and Christmas tree displays.
COVENT GARDEN, LONDON
Amble around the cobbled streets of Covent Garden, which are transformed into a winter wonderland over the festive period. Marvel at mistletoe chandeliers and a huge 55ft (17m) Christmas tree, alongside the 115,000 twinkling Covent Garden Christmas lights that illuminate the 19th-century Piazza. This year, the Christmas lights were officially switched on by the cast of Last Christmas, including, actress Emilia Clarke, Dame Emma Thompson and director Paul Feig, alongside Magic Radio’s Ronan Keating.
OXFORD STREET, LONDON
This year marks the 60th anniversary of Oxford Street’s Christmas lights display. Boasting a new shimmering look, there are 27 LED curtains featuring a total of 220,000 individual bulbs draped along the length of the street. Take advantage of the festivities taking place on or near Oxford Street, such as the epic rooftop wonderland experience at John Lewis, filled with delicious food and drink alongside fun activities. Or, book in to experience the Christmas set lunch at Lucky Cat by Gordon Ramsay. If that’s not for you, try seeing a Christmas film at Selfridges, the first department store cinema in the world.
ROCKEFELLER CENTER, NEW YORK
A must-see for every Christmas fanatic, the tree at Rockefeller Center is wrapped with a whopping five miles of wire and decorated with some 45,000 lights. Adorned with thousands of ornaments, it is topped with a Swarovski star consisting of three million crystals. The first tree was lit in 1933, and now it is visited by more than half a million people every day. At its base sits an intimate ice-rink, where visitors can lace-up their skates and swirl away beneath the majestic 77-foot-tall spruce.
DYKER HEIGHTS, BROOKLYN, NEW YORK
Dyker Heights is a cosy Brooklyn neighbourhood famed for its Christmas lights extravaganza. Join a specialised tour under the iconic Brooklyn Bridge and around the most spectacular residential areas, with rows after rows of houses decorated for the holiday season. Catering to an audience of international tourists, the neighbourhood puts on a full display of beautiful nativity decorations, nutcrackers, inflatable Santas and more, all buzzing with bright lights and holiday music on full blast.
MANEZHNAYA SQUARE, MOSCOW
Enjoy a fairytale atmosphere in the heart of Russian capital, allowing the city’s Christmas and New Year’s light displays and markets get you into the spirit of the holidays. The ‘Journey into Christmas’ festival is spread across 38 venues in each district of the Russian capital, but the centrepiece is a giant glowing bauble boasting 9.5km of LED lights, perched in Manezh Square. Here you will also find the Fantastic Forest, a magical place decorated with huge resplendent snowflakes, twinkly lights and a gigantic ice slide.
AMSTERDAM LIGHT FESTIVAL, THE NETHERLANDS
As the title suggests, the Amsterdam Light Festival sees artists from around the world creating installations and artworks with light. This year’s theme is “DISRUPT!”, a high-concept idea put into practice through an alternative Christmas light display. The best way to view these mesmerising works of art is from the canals. There are several options, including a private-hire or glass-covered luxury boat, which can be enjoyed alongside a bottle of cava or an unlimited supply of mulled wine, all served by experienced and welcoming hostesses.
VILLAGE DE NOËL, NICE, FRANCE
Nice’s Village de Noël features an extensive programme of yuletide events, including 60 Christmas chalets offering arts, crafts and treats, as well as a large ice-skating rink under an impressive festive display. For the most dazzling of these, head to Place Masséna along the Promenade du Paillon, where hundreds of LED strands add an extra fairytale element, best viewed from the giant Ferris wheel that towers over this charming city. There are also plenty of festive gourmet stands and a host of child-friendly games and rides.
FLOATING CHRISTMAS TREE, RIO DE JANEIRO
Forget ugly sweaters and hot cocoa, in Rio Christmas celebrations are all about enjoying an icy caipirinha on a spectacular beach. The city hosts the world’s largest display of full-sized nativity scenes during its annual Festival de Presépios (“Crib Festival”), found at Jardim de Alah between Leblon and Ipanema. But for the very best display in town, ride a bike around the Rodrigo Freitas Lagoon and enjoy views of the world’s largest floating Christmas tree from every angle.
VANDUSEN FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS, VANCOUVER, CANADA
Easily one of the best holiday displays in all of Canada, the annual Festival of Lights at Vancouver’s VanDusen Botanical Garden is a true winter wonderland, boasting more than one million LEDs. The garden’s 15 acres are stuffed to the brim with yuletide cheer, from the carousel to the glittering trees and the dancing light displays that take place every 20 minutes on Livingstone Lake. There is also a Santa’s grotto with choirs, singers and bands playing festive music, and luxury tents heated with fire pits.
MEDELLÍN CHRISTMAS LIGHTING FESTIVAL, COLOMBIA
Known as one of the largest light displays around the world, the Medellín Christmas Lighting Festival boasts a mind-boggling 27 million LEDs creating giant illuminated hummingbirds, towers of yuletide gifts and huge glowing Christmas trees. This year, the event is split between two locations, primarily in the Parque Norte amusement park where it is traditionally held, and also a more picturesque setting along the riverbanks of Parques del Río. It takes a team of 200 artisans, welders, designers, architects and engineers to create this visual spectacular, giving some indication of the weight of the display.