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Light Graffiti at London Lumiere 2016 (Photo: Matthew Andrews/VisitLondon.com)

The London theatre guide to Lumiere London

Robin Johnson

By Robin Johnson Published 16 January 2018

For many people across the country, the lights will be coming down in January – but in London, we’re only just getting started. This weekend, Lumiere London, the festival of light, returns for 2018!

Lumiere London sees the streets decked with swathes of incredible outdoor light installations, all free to the general public. These can be anything from standalone set pieces, to full displays adorning whole roads. Visually spectacular against the night sky, and stunning in their imagination, the Lumiere lights are a must-see for every January visitor to the capital.

The Diver installation in London Lumiere 2016 (Photo: Matthew Andrews/VisitLondon.com)

The Diver installation in London Lumiere 2016 (Photo: Matthew Andrews/VisitLondon.com)

Fortunately for London theatregoers, a huge number of these lights can be found in and around London’s world-famous theatres and venues. So wrap up warm and head into the West End; it’s the perfect opportunity to take in the lights on the street – before taking in the lights of a London show!

What’s more, you can get last-minute discount tickets in person at the TKTS Booth in Leicester Square Gardens, or, alternatively, the London Lumiere festival coincides with our New Year Sale. Either way, with thousands of discounted theatre tickets available for top London productions, you’ll have both great pre-show entertainment and great value theatre tickets to look forward to this weekend!

When is Lumiere London 2018?

This year’s Lumiere London festival will take place over four evenings this week: from Thursday 18 to Sunday 21 January, with the lights running from 5.30pm to 10.30pm each night.

The Lumiere festival started life in Durham in 2009. First conceived by London-based creative company Artichoke, the lights are inspired by Lyon’s Festival of Lights (or “Fête Des Lumières“!), and came to London for the first time in January 2016, before returning this month having been commissioned by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.

Last time around, 1.3 million people attended Lumiere London. An ever bigger audience is anticipated this year over the four nights, so it’s all set to be a vibrant weekend on the London streets.

Which installations should I see before the show?

There’s rarely a better time to visit London’s Theatreland than under the stunning Lumiere lights – so to familiarise yourself with Central London, be sure to check out our Visit Theatreland page for exclusive guides to the various districts beforehand.

With many central venues close together, you’ll be able to take in plenty of the Lumiere London installations before your show of choice.

Leicester Square Gardens

Garden Of Light at Leicester Square Gardens in London Lumiere 2016 (Photo: Matthew Andrews/VisitLondon.com)

The Garden Of Light installation at Leicester Square Gardens during London Lumiere 2016 (Photo: Matthew Andrews/VisitLondon.com)

At the very heart of London’s Theatreland lies the greenery of the Leicester Square Gardens. Home to the TKTS Booth, where you can get last-minute and discount theatre tickets in person for performances today, tomorrow and the next day, Leicester Square is the central hub of the London theatre scene.

The Gardens also promise to house some of the most spectacular illuminations of the Lumiere festival this year, making it a must-visit site this weekend.

2018 Lumiere Installations Nearby: 

Nightlife, by Jo Pocock and the Lantern Company, will remould the bustling surroundings of Leicester Square into an illuminated world of natural serenity and beautiful wildlife; it’s set to be a stunning transformation.

Just a short stroll away, you can also witness a spectacular fantasy escape route in the form of Echelle, a pink neon ladder which dissolves into the ether above, in Trafalgar Square, along with the spectacular Child Hood, a cloud made up of a large number of luminous balloons floating above the iconic London landmark.

Heading towards Regent’s Street, you’ll be able to see Reflektor, a fractured surface which casts intriguing patterns on the buildings and roads below near Haymarket. And suffice to say, there are plenty of West End shows around to get your theatrical fix!

Shows nearby participating in our New Year Sale include: 

 

Piccadilly & Regent’s Street

Les Lumineoles at London Lumiere

Les Lumineoles installation at London Lumiere 2016 (Photo: Matthew Andrews/VisitLondon.com)

Piccadilly Circus may be renowned for its night-time lights all year round, but during the Lumiere London festival, the culmination of its stunning screens and the spectacular accompanying installations is nothing short of jaw-dropping.

Just a short walk away from Leicester Square Gardens, you’ll find no shortage of world-class theatre shows and brilliant spectacles to keep you entertained in Piccadilly, before you make your way up the world-famous Regent’s Street for an unmissable shopping scene.

2018 Lumiere Installations Nearby:

Too many to count in Piccadilly Circus – it’s a real hot spot within the West End! Take your pick from moving refugee tribute My Light Is Your Light in St James’ Churchyard (best seen from Church Place), the extraordinary time/space journey piece Voyage (projected onto the Hotel Cafe Royal building), a light and shadow video piece Frictions (on the corner of Regent’s Street), and the romantic Love Motion at the Royal Academy of Arts. And in St James’s Square Gardens, you can enjoy the striking spectacle of Spectral.

Then, when you make your way up Regent’s Street towards Oxford Circus station, you’ll be able to enjoy Origins Of The World Bubble 2018, a landmark interactive piece suspended high above the busy streets below. The installation responds to the movements of passers-by below – go along and try it out.

Shows nearby participating in our New Year Sale include:

 

Shaftesbury Avenue & Soho

Spectra 3 at London Lumiere 2016 (Photo: Matthew Andrews/VisitLondon.com)

The Spectra 3 installation at London Lumiere 2016 (Photo: Matthew Andrews/VisitLondon.com)

Shaftesbury Avenue is synonymous with the London theatre scene in the West End, and is the home of a number of world-famous shows and musicals.

Situated just outside the famous late-night atmosphere of Soho (important if anybody’s looking for a post-show drink…!), the area also features the culinary delights of Chinatown, which should offer enough choice to satisfy any pre-show meal cravings!

2018 Lumiere Installations Nearby:

Watch the lights take flight with Flamingo Flyway, located at the very heart of Chinatown, in which the spectacular birds parade down the street as if migrating.

Then head on towards Covent Garden, where you can lose yourself in an underwater world – inside a traditional red telephone box – with the absorbing Aquarium on Seven Dials.

Shows nearby participating in our New Year Sale include:

 

South Bank & Waterloo

The Diver installation at London Lumiere 2016 (Photo: Matthew Andrews/VisitLondon.com)

The Diver installation at London Lumiere 2016 (Photo: Matthew Andrews/VisitLondon.com)

A short walk across the Thames from the main West End district, there are few activities more enjoyable in London than taking a stroll along the South Bank, where you can get a spectacular view of London’s beautiful lights augmented by Lumiere.

From the panoramic London Eye to the all-encompassing London Aquarium and much, much more, there’s no shortage of fun things to do on the riverside before the lights turn on.

2018 Lumiere Installations Nearby:

With just one short walk from Lambeth (across the bridge from Embankment station) to Blackfriars, you can take in a whole host of installations glistening along the river, including the likes of triptych Ruby, Santiago & Adam (behind Waterloo station), the London Eye’s dynamic display Eye Love, playful typescript Raspberry Ripple (by the Royal Festival Hall), Sixty Minute Spectrum transforming the roof of the Hayward Gallery.

Continuing on past Waterloo Bridge, you’ve OSC-L transforming the National Theatre’s iconic flytower, a beautiful site-specific piece from famous dance company Rambert called Light On Their Feet outside the Rambert building, and a whole cluster towards Blackfriars: the interactive pattern-based The Wave, the recycling-crafted Bottle Festoon, the vivid Bough 1 on the Oxo Tower of the Bargehouse, and the magnificent Thames Pulse.

Shows nearby participating in our New Year Sale include:

  • Nearer London Bridge, the circus spectacular musical Barnum

 

Westminster & Victoria

The Light Of The Spirit installation at London Lumiere 2016 (Photo: Matthew Andrews/VisitLondon.com)

The Light Of The Spirit installation in London Lumiere 2016 (Photo: Matthew Andrews/VisitLondon.com)

If you’re prepared to stretch your legs a little more (or catch the Tube to Victoria station!), you’ll find yourself in the beautiful Westminster and Victoria region, where there are Lumiere, landmark and London show delights aplenty.

2018 Lumiere Installations Nearby:

Just outside Westminster Cathedral (near to Victoria Station) lies The Rose, a window with a breathtaking difference. Head further down Victoria Street and you’ll be at Asalto London, a part-video installaton which reimagines the iconic Westminster City Hall as a ‘climbing’ wall.

A little further away, the incredible The Light Of The Spirit (above) promises to prove a highlight of the Lumiere Festival once again, bringing the facade of Westminster Abbey’s Great West Gate to colourful splendour. It’s worth making the journey for!

Shows nearby participating in our New Year Sale include:

 

Travelling to the theatre?

With the Lumiere London lights running from 5.30pm each day, London theatregoers should be aware that public transport services are expected to be much busier this week, and some roads will be closed – so you’re advised to leave in plenty of time to get to and from your theatre of choice.

In the West End alone, there will be installations in Oxford Circus, Regent Street, St James’s, Mayfair, Leicester Square, Covent Garden, Piccadilly, Chinatown, Westminster Abbey and Trafalgar Square, so make sure you plan ahead: the TfL website has full details of the travel impact, along with the key times and areas to avoid during the event if you can.

Don’t fancy using public transport? With plenty of the Lumiere London installations most easily encountered on foot, it’s probably your quickest (not to mention economic!) way to travel around Central London.

However you choose to travel, we hope you enjoy the festival – and your show of choice too!

London Lumiere 2016 (Photo: Matthew Andrews/VisitLondon.com)

London Lumiere 2016 (Photo: Matthew Andrews/VisitLondon.com)

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