Words and photography by Michael Barnes
When the Chinese New Year celebrations are in mid-swing, why not explore the wonders of the Magical Lantern Festival at Chiswick Gardens and embrace a beautiful and cultural tradition? The festival takes you on a journey through a gorgeous night-time path filled with bright, fun, enchanting surprises around every corner.
It’s the perfect setting for catching up with your friends with an awe inspiring backdrop full of culture, beauty and creative flare.
Once you enter the grounds of Chiswick House and Gardens, you are led into an open space with glorious lights that instantly make you smile (and you haven’t even started the festival route yet). Once you show your ticket and start the route, you stroll down a long wall of small lights that slowly brighten and open out to an extensive radiant display of blooming elegance. The route continues to many different displays with stories, creatures and childhood fantasies and a new experience around every corner.
One of the most beautiful sights of the festival is the recreation of the Beijing Temple of Heaven with its incredible size and eye-catching colours that can be seen from across the park. Another awe inspiring display to look out for is the magnificent 66m Chinese Dragon that snakes its way along the lake behind Chiswick House, a breath taking sight. My personal favourite display is the massive image of The Monkey King (fitting as it is the year of the monkey), this display is incredibly vivid and detailed to such an extent that the scene seems to come alive.
Of course, it isn’t a real festival without food or drink. There are a few places dotted around to get refreshments, but the best by far is Beltane & Pop, a stall in the middle of the magical route. They serve gorgeously fresh pastries to fill you with joy, and amazing hot chocolates to satisfy the chocolate demon within you. If you’re looking for something stronger, you can choose from a glass of Mulled Wine, Spiced Cider or Warm Whisky to help you feel aglow.
Chinese New Year has begun , marking the year of the smart, witty and mischievous Monkey. Magical Lantern Festival is open Tuesdays-Sunday until the 6 March and tickets range from £10-£18 depending on your age and where/when you buy tickets (its best to book in advance for the best deal). This is definitely an experience best seen in the dark, when the lights are at full glow. Don’t miss out on this truly unique opportunity!