Every year brings around the same old question, “What are you doing for New Years?” Well, if you are lucky enough to be spending the night in London on the 31st of December, then we've got you covered! Traditionally, the New Year is brought in with style in Westminster, with a fireworks display over the River Thames and the New Year Parade coming through on the 1st of January. For all the information you need to get your traditionally London New Year fix – just read below!
New Year's Eve
What and When: Seconds before Midnight, the Westminster Chimes of The Queen Elizabeth II Tower (a.k.a. Big Ben!) will begin and a hush will fall over the crowd until midnight when the crescendo hits and Big Ben strikes 12, kicking off the United Kingdom’s biggest fireworks display of the year. With a live DJ continuously playing tunes, the party will go on until 00:45.
Where: Since the fireworks are set off just beside the London Eye, the best point of view will be anywhere along the banks of the Thames. To get a prime location between Westminster Bridge and Embankment, you've got to go early! In fact, public access to the river-side viewing areas will be closed by 22:30, so if you haven’t snagged yourself a good spot along the river by then, you’ll be out of luck! Another hot spot for viewing the show is Parliament Square, just outside the Houses of Parliament. From there you will get a view of Big Ben as the clock strikes 12, although your view of the fireworks show may be somewhat obstructed.
How: Transport on New Year’s Even can be tricky, so it’s always best to consult the Transport for London website. Westminster, Waterloo, and Embankment Underground Stations are nearest to the fireworks display but all three will be extremely busy and crowd control will be high so it may be worth considering coming from a station a bit further away and making your way on foot (think Charing Cross, St. James or Temple). Once the show has finished, crowds attempting to leave the area will be massive – you can expect to spend up to an hour and a half just queuing to get into an Underground station and onto a train! So again – plan logistically.
But the best part of travelling in London on New Year’s Eve is that it’s entirely FREE! Between 23:45 and 4:30 there is no cost to use the Underground. This is also a rare time where the service runs throughout the night. F.Y.I.: Do not bring any glass bottles or containers into the designated viewing areas. A lso – please be on the lookout for pick-pockets as this is their busiest night of the year!
Alternate Viewing Point: Primrose Hill. Avoid the larger crowds and head the this parcel of parkland on the northern tip of Regent's Park.
New Year's Day
What and When: Bringing in the first day of the New Year is London’s 28th annual New Year’s Day Parade! There are expected to be over 10,000 performers taking part in the parade this year, including acrobats, cheerleaders, musicians, etc .etc , just to name a few. This year the parade has a Swinging 60’s theme, so put on your biggest hair, your shortest skirts, and your sharpest suits to celebrate the first day of 2014 in ‘Swinging London’ style!
Where: The Parade starts at Piccadilly at 12:00 – finishing at Parliament Square at 15:15. So (assuming you haven’t got too much of a hangover..!) head back down to Westminster to get yourself a good spot to enjoy the performances of all types. For those who don’t wish to stand along the route, you can book tickets for one of the Parade’s official grandstands – securing you a seat and a front row view to all the action.
How: Check out the parade route and decide where you’d like to situate yourself. You’ve got a number of stations to choose from (Green Park, Piccadilly Circus, Charing Cross and Westminster). London buses will be have limited routes near the parade centre but it is possible to get close by on some routes (19, 9, C2, 24 for example). But, as always, check the Transport for London website for more information!
Margaret’s Top Tip: Here at Free Tours By Foot, we don’t have tours running on the 1st of January as it is a Bank Holiday in the U.K. But – fret not – both the weekend before and on Tuesday 31st, our tours are up and running! So before you break out the champagne, come and join us for a bit of cheer and a fabulously happy new Year!