Northern Lights’ Borealis lights up the skies of London this festive season

Northern Lights’ Borealis lights up the skies of London this festive season: Borealis 2   credit GDIF 2021   Helen Boast

17 November 2021

Image credit GDIF 2021 / Helen Boast

  • Mayor of London launches new Winter Lights season to celebrate the most magical time of the year, with a host of outdoor festive events and activities for visitors to enjoy
  • Experience the magic of the Northern Lights in London for free with ‘Borealis’ lights display, by renowned artist Dan Acher
  • See thousands of illuminated white roses displayed in Grosvenor Square for the ‘Ever After Garden’ by fashion designer Anya Hindmarch
  • Other attractions include unique illuminations along the Southbank, DAWAAT poetry and dance performances, Canary Wharf Winter Lights Spectacular, and more

A free Northern Lights-inspired spectacular in the heart of London has been announced today by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. It is part of a series of exciting festive events and attractions taking place throughout the winter season to celebrate the most magical time of the year in the capital.

The ‘Borealis’ lights display will recreate one of the seven Natural Wonders of the World in the capital’s skies from the City of London Corporation’s Guildhall Yard this December, with free tickets available online from today. The spectacular installation, by renowned artist Dan Acher, will allow thousands of visitors to experience the magic of the Northern Lights right in the city centre between 11-22 of December and is one of a number of fantastic experiences on offer in London this winter.

The light works will be created along the River Thames, with London’s landmark bridges, buildings and trees illuminated as part of the Southbank Winter Lights outdoor exhibition.

Other eye-catching attractions will include an enchanting animal-themed winter light display at the Tower of London and a free Canary Wharf Winter Lights Spectacular, which will feature 20 new light commissions by some of the most innovative artists across the globe, an ice rink and outdoor food market.

Thousands of illuminated white roses will be placed in Grosvenor Square as part of an Ever After Garden display by fashion designer Anya Hindmarch. Illuminated River, a free public artwork, Thousands of illuminated white roses will be placed in Grosvenor Square as part of an Ever After Garden display by fashion designer Anya Hindmarch. Illuminated River, a free public artwork, brings moving light and colour to nine of London’s bridges and is set to be the longest public art project in the world, and a Circa commission by Hetain Patel will use the Piccadilly Lights to explore themes of immigration and identity.

The Winter Lights programme will also celebrate the return of the West End’s pantomime season, family favourites like Hyde Park Winter Wonderland and seasonal attractions, including winter markets and ice rinks at iconic locations like the Natural History Museum and Somerset House. 

London’s iconic red buses offer a brilliant way to see the capital’s Christmas lights, with routes 12, 94, 98, 139 and 390 all travelling through Oxford Circus and offering great value for money to see all the best festive sights thanks to the Mayor’s Hopper fare.

Winter Lights is the latest season of the Mayor’s Let’s Do London campaign - the biggest domestic tourism campaign London has ever seen – which is championing the capital’s businesses, cultural institutions and attractions.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said: “London is the best place in the world to celebrate the festive season and my Winter Lights programme is bringing our world-renowned arts, culture and heritage together to ensure our city sparkles and enthrals this year.        

“The Borealis spectacular will bring the magic of the Northern Lights to our city, London’s landmark bridges, buildings and trees will be illuminated along the Southbank and our world-famous Christmas lights, ice rinks and markets will ensure our city is gloriously decked out for Londoners and visitors to enjoy.

“All this and more is taking place in the heart of our great city as part of my ‘Let’s Do London’ campaign. From our world-class shops and attractions, to our incredible restaurants and bars there is so much to see and enjoy this festive season and that’s why I’m urging Londoners and visitors to experience the best our capital has to offer and support our hospitality industry as much as possible.”

Laura Citron, CEO of London & Partners, which runs Visit London, said: “We want to invite people from all over the country to celebrate the festive season in London this year. London's Christmas offering is unique, and this year, we are going bigger and better than ever as we celebrate the return of winter cheer after a difficult 2020.

“London has the perfect seasonal activity for everyone, from Christmas market fun for the whole family, to raising a glass of mulled wine at elaborately decorated bars and restaurants. The magic and sparkle of the festive season covers practically every street in central London, so it’s impossible not to get into the Christmas spirit when you visit for a day trip or a weekend away.”

 Wendy Hyde,  Chair of the City of London Corporation’s Culture, Heritage and Libraries Committee, said: “It’s exciting to be hosting this remarkable take on the Northern Lights here in the heart of the City - sure to become a big talking point for Londoners in the Square Mile and beyond. There is energy flowing back through the centre of our capital, and cultural spectaculars like Borealis are key to creating that feeling. London is coming together, with the arts playing a leading role in our recovery from the pandemic.”

Tom O’Leary, Director of Public Engagement at Historic Royal Palaces, said, “We’re really looking forward to welcoming families to the Tower of London to enjoy the festivities this December, which will be suitably dressed for Christmas with historic royal decorations to get visitors into the spirit! We remain hugely grateful to the Greater London Authority for their support as we continue to welcome our visitors back to the fortress after a challenging few years.” 

Cedar Lewisohn, Southbank Centre Curator for Site Design said: "We are extremely pleased to welcome audiences back to Southbank Centre to view our Winter Light project. We hope the artworks by UK based and international artists will be both thought provoking and illuminating."

Hetain Patel, Artist said: "After a hard year for artists, it has been an incredible opportunity for me to have my work shining on such a London landmark as part of the CIRCA art program. It is so vital in this moment we are all living to reconsider who gets to occupy iconic spaces like the Piccadilly Lights screen. In creating this film representing my grandmother Baa, I wanted to celebrate her, looking powerful in her domestic activity at home in Bolton as a giant matriarch. I’m doing this not just to celebrate her but to actively expand what we consider as Britishness today."

Anya Hindmarch Fashion Designer, said: “The Ever After Garden is filling Grosvenor Square for the month of December with 25,000 illuminated roses in support of The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity. Visitors can visit for free and can dedicate a rose to someone they have lost. It offers a reflective moment in amongst all of London’s Christmas cheer, which seems more apt than ever this year. We are so grateful to the Mayor of London and Let’s do London for the support to make this happen.”

Notes to editors

Notes to Editors

Photos for publication can be found here:


1Free tickets for Borealis by renowned artist Dan Acher have become available today for online booking A small number of tickets will be available at the entrance each evening and will be allocated on a first come first serve basis.

2 The ‘Hopper’ fare, which was introduced by Sadiq in September 2016, means passengers continue to benefit from unlimited bus and tram travel within an hour for the price of a single fare (£1.55). Since it was introduced, more than half a billion journeys have been made using the Hopper fare.

For more information about the best TfL routes to see Christmas lights visit

Let’s Do London is a £7m initiative launched by the Mayor of London, Visit London, Transport for London and backed by industry, bringing together the capital’s world-leading hospitality, culture, nightlife and retail venues to promote all London has to offer. Let’s Do London is reinvigorating central London and welcoming visitors from across the UK back to the capital with a curated programme of seasonal events and cultural activities designed to suit a range of age groups and interests. The campaign has included a major advertising drive supported by London & Partners and TfL, alongside new content on the Visit London website outlining all the campaign has to offer. For more information, please visit:


Event Listings:

  • Borealis - 11 to 22 December. Borealis by artist Dan Acher is a mesmerising installation which will bring to life the experience of the Northern Lights at City Corporation’s Guildhall Yard in the City of London.  Over 20,000 free tickets will be available from 11th to 22nd December. This outdoor event will run from 5:30pm to 10:00pm each evening, with tickets available in half an hour slots.
  • Winter Light at the Southbank - 4 November to 9 January. An awe-inspiring free outdoor programme of installations and video art projections themed around light and colour, illuminating Southbank Centre's 11-acre site throughout the dark months.
  • Christmas at the Tower of London - 1 December to 3 January. Celebrate Christmas with all the family at London’s iconic castle. Discover the iconic history of the Tower of London through the animals that once lived within these walls, brought to life through spectacular displays of magical, festive decorations.
  • Hetain Patel on Piccadilly Lights - 1 to 30 November. Manifesting in heroic scale a figure often overlooked by media and advertising, Hetain Patel broadcasts ‘Baa’s House 11’ a poignant new commission for CIRCA showcasing a first-generation immigrant matriarch towering over the streets of London, Milan, New York, Seoul and Tokyo throughout November every day at 20:21.
  • Ever After Garden - 1 to 23 December. London’s Grosvenor Square will be illuminated with thousands of white roses. Visitors will be able to dedicate their own illuminated rose to a loved one, in return for a donation to The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity. The Ever After Garden will be a reflective tranquil haven in the heart of Mayfair during the festive season, where everyone everywhere can honour and remember treasured friends and family they have lost.
  • Winter Lights at Canary Wharf - 19 to 29 January. Winter Lights returns to Canary Wharf for a seventh year to illuminate the dark January evenings. The area will be transformed by over 20 spectacular light installations, showcasing artwork by some of the most innovative artists across the globe working in light art today.  This free to attend light festival will feature some pieces never before seen in the UK alongside exclusive commissions.
  • Winter Wonderland - 19 November to 3 January. Located in the heart of London in Hyde Park, immerse yourself in all things festive for 6 weeks from 19 November to 3 January. After missing out last year, we are even more excited to be back and celebrating the festive season. Offering a wide variety of attractions, activities, entertainment, food, drinks and so much more, we guarantee there’s something for everyone!
  • Illuminated River – 6 November to 21 January. A free public artwork created to bring gently moving light and colour to nine of London’s bridges - from London to Lambeth - illuminating the city’s beauty and character at night for the benefit of residents and visitors alike. At 3.2 miles, Illuminated River is the longest public art project in the world.
  • London’s Chanukah Menorah - 28 November to 6 December. Celebrate Chanukah, with London’s Menorah in the heart of the city. A new light will be lit each day at nightfall.

More information on the Let’s Do London Winter Lights programme can be found here:


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FESTIVAL.ORG is one of the UK’s most ambitious and prolific outdoor arts producing organisations, setting out to radically raise the ambition, quality and diversity of outdoor performance produced in the UK. Beyond its flagship annual festival, the Greenwich+Docklands International Festival, FESTIVAL.ORG manages the nationwide Global Streets consortium and serves as a lead consortium partner on Woolwich Cultural Destinations. FESTIVAL.ORG plays a distinctive, strategic role within the wider outdoor arts sector by devising and producing large-scale work (including ceremony-scale spectacle), working with culturally diverse artists, introducing new artists into the outdoors who might previously have worked in building-based contexts, pioneering new approaches to access and audience engagement and developing new outdoor work with D/deaf and disabled artists. @festivaldotorg 


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