Last Updated on February 3, 2022 by CanaryDevelopmentAdmin

canary wharf winter lights festival

Free winter light festival

Canary Wharf estate — 2022

Winter Lights 2022 Cancelled

In January the Canary Wharf Group announced the unfortunate cancellation of 2022’s Winter Light Show.

We’re sorry to announce that, as several of our international artists are unable to travel to and from the UK due to current COVID-19 restrictions, we’ve taken the unfortunate decision to cancel this years event.

Canary Wharf Group

However, Canary Wharf’s Ice Skating Rink remains open. We’ve also added a couple of extra events below that you might enjoy. before the return of Canary Wharf’s Winter Lights festival later this year.

Other Canary Wharf estate events you might like

2022’s Winter Lights Festival might be cancelled but there are plenty of year-round art exhibits to see.

Several lit exhibits from 2021’s Connected by Light Festival remain as permanent art features, scattered around the Canary Wharf estate.

The estate is also hosting the second iteration of it’s Summer Lights Festival in 2022.

With a focus on rebranding Canary Wharf as an interesting place in London in its own right — not simply a business district — the group have held free events on the estate for most of the last decade!

The culmination of the years free event schedule is usually the Winter Lights festival.

  • The Winter Lights festival has been held annually since 2014, growing in popularity each year.
  • Despite coronavirus restrictions placed on indoor events, and mass cancellations of other events, the Canary Wharf Group managed to continue their tradition in 2020-21
  • While this years winter show — branded Connected by Light — was a more low-key affair, the 2022 Winter Lights festival is promised to return in a shorter, more action-packed format!

What is the Winter Lights festival?

The Winter Lights festival is a family-friendly event, spread over the entirety of the Canary Wharf estate. There are usually around 30+ exhibits of various sizes, displayed both indoors and outside.

The art exhibits are all illuminated, similar to the Lumiere festival that runs across the UK, and was displayed in London during 2018. For that reason, it’s normally held in the darkest part of the year, running between December and January.

Canary Wharf winter lights exhibit depicting glowing benches

2021’s winter lights festival, Connected by Light, operated in a reduced, outside-only format to heighten coronavirus safety measures. 9 large scale exhibits were displayed to view at a distance.

Winter lights 2022 promises the return of up-close viewing, 20+ illuminated exhibits, with some specially commissioned new artwork to be enjoyed by all.

Winter light festival exhibit showing lit up stars in front of One Canada Square in Canary Wharf

The spectacle will showcase stunning illuminated installations by some of the most innovative artists across the globe working in light art today.

Canary Wharf Group

If you want to pre-plan your route — or are short on time and want to go straight to the newly commissioned works — the Canary Wharf Group will make the printed map handouts available online beforehand.

One canada square Canary Wharf winter lights exhibit
One Canada Square previously featured as a exhibit!

When is the light festival held and how do I get there? (2022 update)

Previous year’s Winter Lights festivals have traditionally straddled the calendar year — Connected by Light ran from early December 2020 to late February 2021. This worked great for reducing crowds during coronavirus, but it can be hard to sustain that special event feeling over such a long duration.

For 2022, the organisers are trying something different. The Canary Wharf light festival will return in a short ten-day format between Wednesday 19th of January – Saturday 29 January.

Sunset for London throughout January is around 4:15 pm, so ideally you will want to visit after then. The lights are switched off at 10pm.

The exhibits are scattered around the Canary Wharf estate and start near Jubilee Place, Canary Wharf’s tube station.

There are several ways to get to Canary Wharf, the quickest and easiest from most parts of London being the Jubilee Line.

However, if you are worried this year about crowds, one suggestion would be to look at getting the DLR to Canary Wharf. You could also get off one stop earlier and exit at the northern end of the estate in West India Quay. In the evenings after rush hour, the DLR is usually significantly quieter than the Jubilee line.

Connected by Light’s best exhibit (2020-2021)

Murmuration a light festival exhibit with custom soundscape at Canary Wharfs Winter Lights in 2021

This years top pick! — Murmuration by Squidsoup

The one to watch this year is arguably the easiest to find!

Located immediately outside the eastern exit to the Jubilee line station in Montgomery Square is an exhibit titled Murmuration.

The suspended bulbs each contain speakers, and the interconnected lights mimic flocking starlings with accompanying musical sounds.

6 top tips for Canary Wharf’s winter lights festival

If you haven’t been to Canary Wharf or the festival before, it’s well worth checking out. It’s also rare to find free things to do in London!

Here’s 6 top tips to help you navigate the Connected by Light event:

1 – Bring comfy shoes

Everyone talks about warm coats and jackets — which is true — but the lights’ festival usually involves a surprising amount of walking!

The light features are scattered across the estate, so covering them all involves quite a trek.

There are plenty of places to sit though, glowing colour-changing benches are frequent exhibits!

Canary Wharf Winter lights festival indoor exhibit
Previous iterations of the Winter Lights festival have involved large indoor exhibits

2 – Combine lights with some ice skating

Also making a return in 2021-22, Canary Wharf’s ice skating rink is back! The outdoor ice skating rink is the perfect pairing with the winter lights festival and is located in Canada Square park.

This year the rink is fully-covered, so is also a great last-minute substitute if the weather turns on the largely outdoor winter lights festival!

Tickets are available on the door and to book in advance.

3 – Don’t worry about printing a map or working out a route

Like the Canary Wharf Art Trail, the Canary Wharf Group also offers a downloadable map with all the exhibits and a suggested routing for their Winter Lights events on their website. However, if you don’t have a printer I wouldn’t worry about it, as there are several support staff on the night outside the main tube and DLR stations, handing out pre-printed maps.

Occasionally, exhibits change last minute or get moved. So picking an exact route or singling out specific exhibits you want to see isn’t advised, as they may change anyway. (This is a bonus of picking up a pre-printed map from the staff — with any unavailable exhibits on the day crossed out!)

4 – Go on a weekday

The busiest time for the Canary Wharf light show is always Friday and Saturday evenings. There can be huge crowds, hence last year’s decision to postpone the traditional festival and create a smaller outdoor-based event.

Some people love the buzz, but to get the best views of the exhibits and not be quite as packed-in, avoid weekends and arrive early. With sunset as early as 4:15 pm in January, there’s plenty of darkness to enjoy the exhibits before the after-work crowds begin!

crowds flocking to canary wharf’s winter light show
The 2019 Winter Lights festival found huge popularity — attracting thousands to Canary Wharf

5 – Bring a flask!

There is a thriving food scene at Canary Wharf, with food markets, café’s and bars scattered around the estate. In addition, expect to see plenty of pop-up food and drink vans set up stall around the exhibits.

However, as it is usually cold and this year 100% of the exhibits will be outside for social distancing, it’s probably best to bring a flask to keep your drink hot whilst you walk around to view the exhibits.

6 – Book early for food or drinks

Despite the reputation as a no-frills business district, Canary Wharf has a huge variety of food and drinks and some top restaurants — from newcomer Pergola in Crossrail Place, to award-winning ROKA and longstanding Boisdale.

If you are coming for the event it is nice to make an evening of it and get some food afterwards, but especially on weekends, it can be difficult to get a table. This has been less of an issue in previous years, with events spread out over 8+ weeks, however with 2022’s Winter Light Festivals shorter 10-day footprint, booking a table is arguably essential.