Let’s start with the important stuff: yes, Big Ben will bong its bongs at the stroke of midnight. Even a four-year chime-silencing restoration project can’t keep London’s timekeeper-in-chief from some new year revelry. Party-loving London makes a big effort on New Year’s Eve, and you should too – but if you head out, wrap up warm for the city’s notoriously unpredictable weather.
The banks of the river Thames are the heart of the celebrations. Close to £2m worth of fireworks are sent skyward from the London Eye. Such a crowd-pulling end-of-year send-off is a large-scale production, mind, so don’t expect an evening of casual strolling – central streets start closing around 2pm. Alternatively, head for high ground – Parliament Hill, Richmond Park, Crystal Palace Park and Alexandra Palace all give good panoramas. Or just find a convivial bar or restaurant and cosy up for the countdown.
Plan your escape route carefully. Those jostling to be in the fireworks frow should be warned that even simple on-foot routes can be thwarted by barriers and bridge closures, while Uber prices surge stratospherically. Buses and tubes are free from just before midnight to 4.30am. An added bonus for 2018? The newly opened Elizabeth line will run from Paddington in the west to Abbey Wood in the south-east.
Look to the scene’s newer club spaces – E1 and Printworks – for choice DJ lineups. Corsica Studios and Peckham’s Bussey Building are reliable smaller-scale alternatives. For an unforgettable cockney sing-along, gather round the ol’ Joanna at the Palm Tree in Mile End; for something more flamboyant, go wherever the Sink The Pink crew are. Hungry? Plump for a pre-sunrise panini at Soho’s iconic Bar Italia.
Throw a dinner party with a difference with a new year sashimi and mochi rice feast from Ichiba. Romantics: grab a bottle and amble along the Thames in Battersea Park, culminating with a less-crowded fireworks viewpoint on Albert Bridge. Or seek out somewhere secret: the vault at Milroy’s in Soho, Spitalfields’ Discount Suit Company or Dalston’s telephone booth marked ‘La Cabina’.
New Year’s Day is for bracing walks. Greenwich Park – the home of time itself – has stirring views over the city. If you’d rather leave the walking to others, take a spot on Piccadilly and cheer on the marching bands in the New Year’s Day Parade. Or you could just keep the party going – Islington’s Old Queen’s Head hosts legendary all-dayers with top-drawer DJs.
It might be turning 2020 outside, but in these secret surroundings it’s forever the roaring Twenties. Glam up Gatsby style and settle in for an evening of champagne, Charleston and cabaret, all by flickering candlelight.
From 7pm to 2am.
More than 10,000 performers join in procession from Piccadilly to Parliament in celebration of the new year. Expect Pearly Kings and Queens and Mini Coopers side by side with Congolese horn players and Floridian marching bands.