The Best Christmas Lights Around The World

A little sparkle for Christmas

Christmas Lights around the world

As the nights draw in and the evenings turn wintery, Christmas lights bring a bit of sparkle back to the streets. If you’re in the mood for a bit of festive globetrotting, here’s our guide to the world’s most dazzling light displays - the best Christmas lights on the planet.

1. Stockholm, Sweden

Christmas lights in Stockholm

You can’t beat the Nordics when it comes to festive winter magic, and Stockholm’s annual celebrations include a beautiful 120-foot high Christmas tree erected in the old town each December. The whole city comes into its own in the winter with scintillating white lights festooning every street, Christmas markets, spiced glögg and - if you’re very lucky – the possibility of some Christmas Northern Lights in the sky!

2. Lisbon, Portugal

Christmas lights in Lisbon

Over two million bulbs will light up the Portuguese capital from the end of November, and Lisbon’s riverside Comercio Square will be illuminated with giant light installations and multimedia projections from the 13th to the 24th December. Previous displays have included filigree hearts (inspired by Portuguese jewellery), giant baubles and a huge illuminated tree in the Parque Eduardo VI.

3. Medellin, Columbia

Christmas lights in Medellin Image by Augusto Serna under Creative Commons license.

Medellin, in central Columbia, hosts one of the biggest annual festivals of Christmas lights in the world, with millions of lights hung in striking themed displays. The festival, located on and around the Medellin river, began in 1965 and is sponsored by utilities company EPM. Last year’s display attracted 60,000 visitors to view the 27 million bulbs and 472 miles of light hoses; this year’s should be even bigger.

4. Champs Elysees, Paris, France

Christmas lights in Paris

One of the loveliest boulevards in the world, the Champs Elysees in Paris takes on an extra dimension at Christmas with a beautiful display of lumieres that brings added twinkle to the City of Light. Coupled with one of Europe’s largest Christmas markets with gifts, fine foods and a flying Santa, the lights on the avenue make Paris well worth a December visit.

5. Tokyo, Japan

Christmas lights in Japan

As you'd expect from the tech-loving capital of Japan, Christmas lights here are sophisticated and ultra-modern. Head to the Carretta Shiodome for a futuristic ocean-themed LED display; or up to the Roppongi Hills for a glittering galaxy-themed light installation. A surprising addition, but some of the best Christmas lights you'll ever see.

6. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Christmas lights in Rio de Janeiro

Rio may be a balmy 26C in December, but that doesn’t stop the party-loving second city of Brazil celebrating the winter festival. Christmas is now as big as Carnival in Rio, and holiday festivities include the lighting of a giant floating Christmas tree and a huge fireworks display at the start of Advent. All this and Rio's famous sandy beaches attract over 100,000 people annually – could you be one of them this year?

7. New York City, US

Christmas lights in Paris

It might not be Lapland but New York City certainly gets into the Christmas spirit from November to January each year, with lights strung over the downtown shopping streets and the huge illuminated Christmas tree at Rockefeller Plaza topped with a sparkling Swarovski star. A skate on the rink at the Plaza is one of New York’s must-do Christmas activities; and while you're there, why not visit the show-stopping Garabedian House on Pelham Parkway North in The Bronx, home of one of New York’s most dazzling private light displays for over 40 years? New York City is magical at anytime of year, but with some of the best Christmas lights - you can't beat a visit to 'The Big Apple' during the festive season.

8. Covent Garden

Christmas lights in London

You don't need to travel overseas to enjoy Christmas lights – some of the world’s best are here in the UK. The lights on London’s Regent Street and in Covent Garden are enchanting; or if it’s scale you’re after, head to Ellesmere Port shopping centre in Cheshire, where Britain’s largest sustainable Christmas tree stands 90 feet tall and lit with 100,000 bulbs. And while you’re there, you can pick up a bargain party outfit, too!

Those are our picks for the best Christmas lights in the world! What destination would you add? Let us know in the comments below.

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Written by Lise Smith, a former contributor to Lonely Planet's India guidebook - she's seen her fair share of hotel rooms (both grotty and glamorous!). She learned to walk in a hotel corridor in Tunisia, and at the age of three had been on more aeroplanes than buses. Lise writes for a number of local news, technology and arts publications.

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