Get Ready Now For London's New Year's Day Parade

By Laura Reynolds Last edited 33 months ago
Get Ready Now For London's New Year's Day Parade

The 2011 parade by KBTimages.co.uk

Every year on 1 January, while many Londoners sleep through the year's worst hangover, London's New Year's Day Parade takes place in the centre of town.

What?

Far from being long embedded in London's history, the parade began in 1987, and has taken place every year since then. Between half a million to a million people (depending which source you believe) line London's streets to watch it. Spectating is free, although if you want a bit of comfort, grandstand style seating is available at the beginning and end of the route, providing you're willing to pay.

Alongside the parade itself, a series of concerts take place 29 December-3 January at venues in Central London. All are chargeable and need booking, except the Preview Concert which takes place in Trafalgar Square on 30 December at 1pm.

Where?

The parade begins at midday and finishes at 3.30pm on 1 January. The procession begins its journey at The Ritz on Piccadilly, heading north east to Piccadilly Circus before turning south down Regent Street (St James), along Pall Mall and through Trafalgar Square, before it then goes down Whitehall and finishes in Parliament Square. For the first 22 years of the parade's existence, the route was the reverse of this — it was flipped in 2009. The main reason for the change was to please US TV broadcasters, whose viewers get a better view of key London landmarks.

Not tempted into parting with £30 for a grandstand seat? We reckon Piccadilly Circus could be a good - if busy - place to stand, otherwise try the corner of Waterloo Place and Pall Mall.

Who?

The whole thing has quite a stateside feel - several American high school marching bands and cheer-leading squads feature in the parade, celebrating the special relationship between Britain and the USA. The annual Boroughs Competition invites all London boroughs to enter a float or entertainment act along a specific theme. This year's theme is London on the move, with 14 boroughs taking part. They'll be marked on a specific judging criteria to find a winner (more about that here).

Other than that, keep a look out for interest groups as diverse as the Donkey Breed Society and the Veteran Cycle Club. And of course the Pearly Kings and Queens will make an appearance (here's the full list of participants).

Take a look at our photo gallery from the 2013 parade.

Got any tips for watching the parade? Let us know in the comments below.

Last Updated 17 December 2014