London: New Year's fun for free

Courtesy Camera Over London

The British abandon their inhibitions on New Year's Eve and descend on the capital in huge numbers to party. They're joined by hundreds of thousands of tourists from the world over, who pack bars and pubs from after dark on the 31st until dawn. While many of the balls and club nights can cost over $100 just for entry, some of the most spectacular shows come without a price tag.

Fireworks on the Thames

London enters 2010 with the midnight chimes of Big Ben and a ten-minute cascade of fireworks that floods over the London Eye, bursts from boats on the Thames, and lights up the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. Some 750,000 thousand people gathered on the river banks and bridges to watch the show last year—which cost about $2.2 million—making it the biggest and most expensive New Year's firework display in the world. In the lead-up to the 2009 celebrations, there will be music from BBC Radio One's award-winning DJ Nihal. Gather on the bridges for the best views. And come early.

Clubbing at Carnivale or the Big Chill

Carnivale is a new club in Hoxton, London's most fashionable nightlife district. For the New Year it offers non-stop partying from midday on the 31st until daylight, with music ranging from vintage soul and rare groove to power ballads. If you fancy a New Year's party crawl, there are many other bustling bars and clubs nearby including the Big Chill Bar which is setting up a New Year's party shed, decorated with glittery balls, cheesy 1970s album covers and flashing laser light. Music is played by a string of nu-disco DJs, from 7 p.m.- 5 a.m., and admission is free.

Parading on New Year's Day

Britain's biggest annual procession unites more than 10,000 performers representing 20 countries parading together with traditional British marching bands and horse-drawn carriages and around 6,000 majorettes flown in from the States. The procession begins at noon on Piccadilly at the junction with Berkeley Street outside the Ritz Hotel and finishes around 3 p.m. at Parliament Street. It's free, and the best vantage point is Piccadilly or Whitehall.


Ride for free from 11:45 p.m. on the 31st until 4:30 a.m. on the 1st on the Tube (subway), Docklands Light Railway, buses, and trams.

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