The UK’s best light festivals this winter


Winter Light returns to the Southbank Center for a second year, with over 15 works of art and new commissions. As part of the Winter Festival (November 4, 2021 – January 9, 2022), he will transform the brutalist buildings of Thameside and the riverside walks into giant, luminous canvases. Head west along the Thames to Kew Gardens this festive Christmas season in Kew (November 17, 2021 – January 9, 2022). Spot the dancing reflections at the water’s edge and explore the tunnels of light before warming up in the Fire Garden and basking in the dramatic glow of the iconic Palm House. Meanwhile, in the east, Winter Lights of Canary Wharf features interactive installations by innovative international light artists.


Join the Chester Winter Watch Parade (December 9 and 16) to recreate a tradition dating back to the 1400s: after a procession around the city walls, the keys to the city would be officially handed over to the City Watch (a first police force) to secure the place for the winter. A parade of ghouls, devils and skeletons carrying torches and fire-eaters will join the ceremony on December 16, and this year revelers will dance in the light of a “traveling moon,” a new art installation illuminating the Chester sky. For six weeks starting November 25, the moon will rise above various iconic buildings, as part of a major new six-month program of community art projects exploring the natural world, called Chester Designed By Nature.


The annual City of Cheshire Lumen Festival of Lights turns into a self-guided trail this year, with a program targeting emerging and mid-career artists from the region. The bright sparks behind Blackpool Illuminations are the origin of the Twilight Adventure, which will feature a magical ‘Moon Folk’, TARDIS and sound and light projections along Earle Street. November 26-December 12, 2021.


This year’s Lightopia Festival features an illuminated trail in Heaton Park, lined with interactive multisensory lights, lanterns and installations. There will also be glittering art installations, mythical creatures and a glittering circus show. From November 18, 2021 to January 3, 2022, with additional events on similar dates at Crystal Palace and Alton Towers in London.

West Sussex

The gardens at Leonardslee Lakes & Gardens are set to come alive this winter with artistic illuminations, large-scale screenings, music and theatrical performances. Set out on a trail through the park before finishing with a fairground ride and a stroll through the Christmas market. Certain weekends between November 25 and December 22, 2021.


You don’t have to go to Stonehenge to enjoy the mid-winter celebration, as English Heritage is streaming the sunrise over the stones live on its YouTube channel... Otherwise, see if you can see the Solstice Sunrise from the streets of your city. Sztanko has painstakingly put together a website project that identifies streets around the world that line up as closely as possible with the solstice sunrise.

Published in the December issue of National Geographic Traveler (UK)

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