Lumiere London Festival: London All Lit Up!

London Lumiere - Two Traveling Texans
by Anisa // 27 Comments

In London there is always something going on.  Sometimes, it’s something that catches my attention and warrants a trip in from Norwich (where I live), like Lumiere London.  I saw the advertisements on facebook and immediately knew that I had to go.  The colors drew me in and I wanted to see the light festival in person.  

I thought I would share my experience along with a London Lumiere review and tips for future events.

IFO (Identified Flying Object) by Jacques Rival - Two Traveling Texans
IFO (Identified Flying Object) by Jacques Rival from London Lumiere

What is Lumiere London?

​Lumiere is a biennial light art festival that first started in Durham England in 2009, inspired by the Fetes des Lumieres in Lyon, France.  The Lumiere festival invites artists to light buildings and public spaces in a way that transform the space and challenges our thinking.  There were over 50 different artworks across six different areas for Lumiere London 2018 and it was the UK’s largest light festival.

If you like light festivals, then you should also consider going to the RHS Wisley Christmas Glow just outside of London.

The London Eye also joined in the Lumiere London fun. - Two Traveling Texans
The London Eye also joined in the Lumiere London fun.

Logistics for Lumiere London 2018

Lumiere London was free to attend and was organized by Artichoke – a registered charity that works with artists to create unique pieces that appeal to the widest audiences possible. The light festival would run four nights (January 18-21) from 5:30 pm to 10:30pm. The official hashtag for the event was #LumiereLDN. 

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You could get a Lumiere London map on the free Visit London app or you could purchase the guide at the festival for £5.  The art installations were grouped into six geographic areas (number of works in each area):

  • King’s Cross (11)
  • Mayfair (9)
  • Westminster & Victoria (5)
  • Fitzrovia (4)
  • London’s West End (15)
  • South Bank & Waterloo (10)

Lumiere Festival London Highlights

I was impressed with all the art we saw, but I wanted to focus on sharing my experience with my four favorites.

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Origin of the World Bubble – Oxford Street

We saw the Origin of the World from a distance as we approached Oxford Street.  You just can’t miss it.  It was nice that they closed off the street to cars so that we could stand in the street to get photos.  Plus, it made the crowds more bearable.

Origin of the World Bubble by Miguel Chevalier -
Origin of the World Bubble by Miguel Chevalier at London Lumiere

The Origin of the World made the news for the wrong reasons!  Strong winds in London caused this giant balloon to come loose from its cables.  It was dangling above one of the busiest parts of London.  They had to shut down the area but luckily no one was hurt.  Unfortunately, it was not repaired in time for the opening night, but we were lucky to see it when we went on Saturday.

Still, I loved this piece by Miguel Chevalier.  The ball was much larger than I expected and I was fascinated by the changing designs.  One moment it reminded me of a globe and then it changed into a disco ball.  Supposedly, the changes in the bubble was a response to the movement of the people below.  We saw the bubble change from black and white to psychedelic colors.

Voyage – Piccadilly Circus

Voyage was an animated projection (with music) onto the Hotel Cafe Royal that showed the timing passing on a station clock.  This work by Camille Gross and Leslie Epsztein shows the changing world from the time of the Industrial Revolution to today.  Check out our video below to get a better feel for this one as it hard to capture something animated in a still photograph.  

Voyage by Camille Gross and Leslie Epsztein - Lumiere London - Two Traveling Texans
Voyage by Camille Gross and Leslie Epsztein from London Lumiere 2018

Of course, the huge TV screens in Piccadilly Circus made it harder to see the installation.  I actually liked it better when we were further away as the colors seemed more vivid.  I wish those screens could have been dimmed.

Waterlicht – Granary Square

Pictures of this art installation in the Kings Cross area didn’t do it justice.  I felt like I was seeing the Northern Lights, but in blue and purple.  The lights were dancing in the misty air and it was just mesmerizing.

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The exhibit was supposed to make you think of a flood.  The message of the artwork by the Dutch artist, Daan Roosegaarde, was that we need to take immediate action to deal with global warming and the rising sea levels.

light art installation called waterlicht that looks like the northern lights but blue
Waterlicht looked a bit like the Northern Lights to me.

I had forgotten that the Visit London app had mentioned that you should use your mobile devices and headphones to tune into the soundtrack to get the fully immersive experience.  However, it was not clear how you were supposed to get the soundtrack anyway.

The Light of the Spirit – Westminster Abbey

While I loved all the art installations that I saw, the Light of the Spirit by French digital artist, Patrice Warrener at Westminster Abbey was definitely my favorite.  When we first approached the Abbey we saw the side door that was illuminated.  We were impressed, the colors were so vivid and you could see the design and architectural features well.  

The side door of Westminster Abbey - Lumiere London - Two Traveling Texans
The side door of Westminster Abbey was stunning!

Then, we walked to the front and were just blown away.  The whole facade was lit in bright colors.  In a way, it reminded me of Disney’s It’s a Small World. It was magical and definitely the highlight of the night.  I can see why they brought this art installation back from Lumiere London 2016!

The Light of the Spirit at Westminster Abbey by Patrice Warrener - Lumiere London - Two Traveling Texans
The Light of the Spirit at Westminster Abbey by Patrice Warrener

My Lumiere London Review

I was excited to go to London Lumiere after seeing the photos online, but I was worried about the crowds, weather, and if the artwork would be easy to find.  I am happy to report that while my festival experience was not perfect, it exceeded my expectations and I would love to go again.  

Droplets by Ulf Pedersen - London Lumiere - Two Traveling Texans
Droplets by Ulf Pedersen

The quality of the art was world class and I liked that you could read about the meaning of the art on the app.  I also loved that there was so much art to see.  

While the crowds were big, the security did a great job of keeping everything under control and organized.  Some exhibits had an entrance and an exit with one way traffic to keep everything flowing.  It was nice that they closed off some of the streets.  It was fun being about to walk down the middle of Regent Street and it also helped the festival feel less congested.

Feedback on London Lumiere

I saw a lot of people complaining on social media that the art was spread out over too wide an area.  I actually don’t think this was a bad thing.  Yes, it meant more walking and it took longer to get from one piece to another sometimes, but I think it did make the crowds more manageable.  

In 2016 they had 1.8m visitors, so spreading them out across a wide area this time was probably a good idea! I do wish the festival would have lasted longer so that we could have had more time to see more of the artwork.

The weather was a bit of an issue.  It was January so of course, it was cold.  We were lucky that it wasn’t raining.  I kept thinking it would be nice if they would have done Lumiere London when the weather was nicer, but then thought if that was the case, the crowds would have been at least double the size.  

We made sure to bundle up, so it didn’t affect us too much.  If you are not used to cold weather, check out my suggestions for a winter packing list that will keep you warm.  Also, get more ideas for what to do when visiting London in the winter here.

Lumiere London Selfie - Two Traveling Texans
Obligatory Lumiere London Selfie

Visit London – Lumiere London App

The app that you download to get the Lumiere London information is actually the Visit London app.  In addition to the Lumiere London details, you also get information about other tourist attractions and events going on in London.  I will definitely be using this app to plan future outings in London.

Lampounette by TILT - Lumiere London - Two Traveling Texans
Lampounette by TILT

I liked that the app included a GPS based map which was helpful in locating the artwork.  However, when I was trying to figure out which art installations I wanted to see it was difficult to use because on the map you could only see the details about one artwork at a time.  Also, some works were so close together it was hard to select the one hidden behind its neighbor.

The app also had a complete list of the art installations which was helpful.  However, I couldn’t figure out the order that it was sorted it and it wouldn’t allow me to sort it or filter.  This made it sometimes difficult to find a certain piece of art when it is in the middle of a list of over 50.

Lumiere London Video

Overall, I enjoyed my time at Lumiere London 2018 and would have loved to spend another night (or two) there to see more of the artwork.  I will definitely be keeping an eye out for other Lumiere festivals around the UK because I had so much fun at this one.  

Be sure to check out our video so that you can get a better idea of what the light festival was like.

Did you make it to Lumiere London or any other light festivals? What did you think of the artwork?


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westminster abbey during london lumiere

Expert Tips for the next Lumiere London

  • Download the app and develop a plan of attack so that you can see the art installations you are interested in.
  • Do NOT drive.  Many roads were closed.  Walking and the tube are the best ways to get around the festival.
  • Wear comfortable shoes.  You will be doing a lot of walking and standing.  We did not see many places to sit.
  • Dress appropriately for the weather.  The exhibits are all outside (except for the tunnel).

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Last Updated on November 19, 2021

About the Author

Anisa is an experienced international traveler with extra pages in her passport and stamps from 41 different countries across 5 continents (and counting). She was born and raised in Texas. After a 13 year stint in NYC, she moved to England to live with her husband.