London's New Year's Day Parade: What? Where? Who?

Kyra Hanson
By Kyra Hanson Last edited 26 months ago
London's New Year's Day Parade: What? Where? Who?
New Year's Day Parade 2012. Photo: Kaarel Damian Tamre (2012)

The fireworks may have fizzled out, empties may be strewn everywhere, but the party isn't over yet. When 1 January rolls around, you could be in your bed nursing an almighty hangover OR  you could show your mettle by continuing celebrations at the New Year's Day Parade which takes place every year in central London.

What?

Over 10,000 performers take part in the parade which began in 1987. It attracts a whopping half a million spectators to London's streets and has raised over a million pounds for charity since its inception.

Alongside the parade itself you can hear bands and orchestras play a series of concerts between 29 December-2 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 midday and finishes in Parliament Square at 3.30pm. The procession starts off outside 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 goes down Whitehall and finishes up in Parliament Square.

Check the website map to follow the route. We reckon Piccadilly Circus could be a good, if busy, place to stand, otherwise try the corner of Waterloo Place and Pall Mall.

For the first 22 years of the parade's existence, the route was the reverse of what it is now; 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 this way around.

Who?

Expect to see plenty of American high school marching bands and cheerleading squads which highlight that ever special relationship between Britain and the USA. Though the website boasts of "twice as many participants every year as a little Parade offered by Macy’s in New York City on Thanksgiving Day!" so we think there's an element of competition here too.

This year 17 boroughs are taking part in the annual Boroughs Competition which invites all London boroughs to enter a float or entertainment act along a specific theme. To commemorate the 30th anniversary of the parade this year's theme is 30 magical years. Find out what they'll be judged on here.

Keep a look out for all your favourite superheroes and magical characters plus multicoloured ensemble All the Queen's Horses, miniature steamers for charity, and giant magical balloons. (here's the full list of participants).

Take a look at our photo gallery from the 2013 parade. Clearly we've been too hungover the last couple of years.

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

Last Updated 17 December 2015