London, one of the coolest cities in the world, gains a totally special, magical gleam come wintertime. The display windows are magnificently decorated and the streets in the city centre shine with the most wonderfully festive lights. London is filled to the brim with great places and impressive sights, so a city break is always worth it. That’s even more true on New Year’s Eve, the night of all nights. I’ve listed some of my best tips and tricks below to help your New Year’s in London be an unforgettable experience.
New Year’s Eve: Fireworks in London – tips for the best view
The countdown on the display screen near the London Eye slowly counts down the last seconds of the old year, while thousands of people stand on the riverside promenade, hardly able to contain their excitement. They all count down loudly, ”three, two, one…” And then the fireworks explode! Shouts of ‘cheers!’ and ‘Happy New Year!’ fill the air and the beautiful fireworks spectacle fills the skies over London, reflected in the calm waters of the Thames.
The fireworks in London are breathtaking, and definitely the best way to welcome in the New Year. The spectacle unfolds around the Waterloo Millennium Pier and can be seen from all around the city. Traditionally the best seats can naturally be found at the London Eye. Most fireworks are lit up from there, with a couple of additional ignitions from on rafts, floating on the Thames. The last strokes of Big Ben are transmitted along the river via a loudspeaker which makes for a very special atmosphere and exciting goosebumps while the New Year fireworks already shoot into the air. Big Ben might be undergoing repairs at the moment, but don’t worry. He will be put back in action on New Year’s Eve. So, you’ll still be able to ring in 2019 with the familiar chimes of one of London’s most recognisable landmarks.
You’ll have the best view of the fireworks from the other bank of the river, from Victoria Embankment all the way to Westminster. The view is also pretty good on and around the bridges, like the Westminster Bridge, Waterloo Bridge and Hungerford Bridge (which is closed from 8pm, so no entries are allowed past that time). As you can expect from a city with millions of inhabitants, space is quite limited and rumour has it the place is filled to the brim by 9pm, so be quick!
If you don’t make it to the city centre, why not try and get to the vantage point on Hampstead Heath. Parliament Hill is a great way to see the fireworks over the Thames with a fraction of the crowds – and of the price. The view of the fireworks is just as clear – you can even see the London Eye lit up from here. Primrose Hill is also a fantastic idea. It’s on the northern fringe of Regents Park, so a little closer to the city centre than Hampstead Heath. Plus, it’s an almost straight view to the London Eye. While there will still be quite a throng of people here, it’ll be much less crowded than the bank will be, that’s for sure.
Check out this BBC footage of the New Year celebrations from last year – simply stunning!
Great offers right on the Thames
Want a New Year’s Eve in London with a difference? Then try out a great river cruise on the Thames. You’ll have the best view without pushing and rushing if you book a seat on one of the boats in advance. They offer a truly fantastic view of the London Eye and the fireworks, complete with heating and catering. City Cruise Thames are just one of the many providers who offer this service. They offer a special New Year’s Gala event with a sophisticated gala dinner with a four-course menu, dress-code and pianists to entertain you throughout the night. This package starts from £379 per person. You can also choose a dinner cruise for £369 per person, or a Stargazer Cruise from £199 per person.
If you like to celebrate in style, I recommend you spend your last and first night of the year on the R.S. Hispaniola. The ship lies at anchor permanently at the Victoria Embankment, not too far away from Embankment Underground station. You’ll find yourselves at the front row opposite the London Eye when the fireworks start. For about £499 per person the ship offers a Champagne reception, canapés, a delicious 5-course menu and two glasses of champagne with live music and dancing spread over two levels. Yes, it costs a pretty penny, but wouldn’t it be great to brag about spending such a memorable New Year’s Eve?
Did you know you can use any of the TfL public transport links completely for free on New Year’s Eve! This great service is valid between 11.45pm and 4.30am. That sure makes getting home after the celebrations a little easier.
New Year’s Eve parties – the best clubs around Big Ben
London loves to party! The city, which rediscovers itself all the time and constantly follows new trends, knows how to kick off the perfect evening! Naturally that’s the case on the most special evening of the year too. The biggest party takes place from 11 pm at Trafalgar Square and it’s open to the public. There you can party hard and welcome the new year, although do remember there are no fireworks here. Furthermore, there’s hardly a bar, pub or club without a great party welcoming the New Year with guests and a few drops of champagne!
A real spectacle unfolds every year at the New Year’s Eve Extravaganza at White Mischief near Shepherd’s Bush Market station west of the city centre. Here, the name Extravaganza is totally justified. The event with a colourful mix of electric music, burlesque and cabaret takes place there, complete with acrobatic performances. Tickets for the event, located in a hall designed in the 1900 style, cost between £15 and £97 in advance and are usually sold out really quickly. They include a party until 2.30am and an optional dinner. There’s also the choice of buying tickets if you just want to be there for the midnight countdown and some dancing.
January 1st – the party continues
If you think that after the most special night of the year London will sink into a sluggish hangover… You’re wrong – very wrong! Very popular and actually an institution for a long time now is the London New Year’s Day Parade (colloquially named the LNYDP). The colourful and merry parade starts at Piccadilly at 12pm and continues via Piccadilly Circus through the streets of London. Taking part are numerous clubs and associations from the city, such as the neighbourhood organisations from Camden, Greenwich, Southwark and many, many others as well as clubs from high schools. 10,000 participants from 20 different countries show off their fabulous formations and performances accompanied by marching bands and can all be voted for in the Let’s Help London Challenge. The financial part of the prize goes to selected charities from the winning area.
Deciding not to spend the 1st January in bed or not to travel back home is definitely worth it. Virtually every museum and gallery are opened on this day, even if the opening hours differ slightly from the usual schedule. You can pay a relaxed visit to the Museum of London, the famous National Gallery or even the Sherlock Holmes Museum in Baker Street.
Torn between the love for tradition and striving for innovation
London emanates an enchanting atmosphere especially in winter. The city is so fantastically decorated and festively illuminated that it makes you feel like you’re in the middle of a fairytale! You’ll get a sore throat from all the gasps and sighs of amazements. Just the magnificently fitted out display window at Harrods is a good enough reason to make the trip to London. But a trip to the capital is worth it all year round!
The city can prove an impressive history since its founding by the Romans in 47 AD. And for this reason it has a seemingly endless abundance of cultural treasures, historic architecture and historic art treasures. The oldest buildings of London, like the Tower of London with its oldest building approaching its 1,000th birthday, stand beside the innovative achievements of modern architecture and make the skyline of London one of the most unique in the world. We love our royals and our traditions and we’re not easy to compromise. And this love can be felt everywhere around the city. At the same time London is one of the most forward-looking cities in the world.
This interlude is exactly what makes the city of London so special and magnificent!