Where to watch for free across the capital

Some years pass quickly, others drag on every month. This year, however, was exceptional: we managed to do both. If 2022 was a roller coaster, it only seemed to go downhill. We left most of the pandemic behind us and found ourselves faced with war, political pantomime and a cost of living crisis.

And yet, somehow, there was plenty of room for good news all over the planet. Same-sex marriage is now legal in 31 countries, including Slovenia for the first time; the decline of wild tigers has been reversed; crime in England and Wales is at its lowest level since the early 1980s; child mortality is at an all-time low, and cancer deaths have fallen in Europe, the United States, Canada and Japan. Even in a year that seemed plagued by darkness, there was plenty of light.

New Year 2021 London Fireworks

A light show over the Thames and fireworks on Tower Bridge in London as the normal New Year’s Eve fireworks show in London has been canceled due to the coronavirus (PA) pandemic

Fireworks and drones light up the night sky over London (PA)

Fireworks and drones light up the night sky over London (PA)

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(AP)

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So this New Year’s Eve is a chance to toast to that and raise a glass to 2023 that will be even brighter. London fireworks, as obvious a visual metaphor as it gets, are back this year after being canceled due to the pandemic. Sadiq Khan said of them: “We are building a better London for all and New Year’s Eve is one of the biggest nights of the year for our hospitality industry and our fireworks provide an amazing moment to send a message of love and celebration to the world. “.

The evening starts on December 31 at 8pm and is hosted by the London Eye; tickets cost £15 and sold out a few weeks ago and although you cannot attend without a ticket there are plenty of other places to watch the show from. Here’s everything you need to know.

For those who have tickets

Only people with tickets purchased from See Tickets can participate in the event; don’t head down and expect to pick up some from the tout as resale is prohibited. Similarly, tickets are not transferable. It all starts at 8pm on December 31st and ends at midnight on January 1st; however, the entrance to the viewing areas closes at 10:30 PM. You will need to bring your tickets and ID may be required.

Ticket holders can go to one of six color-coded viewing areas. They are blue, red, pink, green and white, as well as orange, which is an accessible viewing area on the Albert Embankment, on the St. Thomas. The evening can be very busy and it is impossible to move between areas; plan where to go. Additionally, crossing bridges is unavailable both before and after the event, so make sure to include that in your plans.

Details of where you are will be shown on your ticket, but you can find out more at london.gov.uk.

For those who don’t have tickets

London's annual fireworks show returns after a two-year hiatus (Getty Images)

London’s annual fireworks show returns after a two-year hiatus (Getty Images)

Without a ticket, you can’t go down to the south shore or any viewpoint, so don’t try – the city center is crowded enough for New Year’s Eve. Instead, given that they can’t charge you to look up at the sky (yet), it’s worth going a bit further (literally, in some cases) to catch a glimpse of the major festivities, as well as others taking place around the city. Keep in mind that traveling on New Year’s Eve is not free, contrary to rumors, so plan the best way to get home after the evening party (the tube will run all night, except on the Waterloo and City lines and the District Line to Kensington Olympia). Expect many Central London Underground stops to be exit-only, and beware that many roads will either be closed or very busy; Ubers will probably charge through the roof.

For those who want to travel, here are some of the best places to visit – just be sure to pack a coat as it’s likely to rain.

Central

Cannon Street and on the eastern side Statue both sit close to the official ticketed viewing areas, so you’ll get most views without spending any money – but expect both to be very busy, so go early. Bridges are a similar story. The most famous of these is Tower Bridge, where crowds gather, but the view is mediocre at best. They are much better Southwark Bridge and Millennium Bridgeboth closer and with much better views but expect some rib crushing. Lambeth Bridge and Vauxhall Bridge, however, they are only a little further away and perhaps the ideal medium, offering breathing space but views from above. If you are on any bridge, remember that you will be facing wind blowing over icy water, so be prepared for the cold and damp.

It’s also not too late to book a New Year’s Eve dinner at the skyscraper, which usually also offers a great view of the fireworks.

North

Parliament Hill and Hampstead Heath

Parliamentary Hill offers great views, even if the spectacle is far away. Still, it’s a beautiful place and there will be plenty of people with their own fireworks, so you’ll be spoiled for choice. Or consider further afield at Hampstead Heath which is an oasis away from the city. Looking for a drink before hand? Bull & Last is possible, although it’s very food-centric (and has a special New Year’s Eve menu). Roebuck is a solid option as are The Magdala and The Southampton Arms both of which are fantastic venues. In the other direction, try Wells, which is a cracker (and on another night, return to eat upstairs at its excellent restaurant).

Nearest tube stations: Hampstead Tube, Hampstead Heath Overground

Fireworks light up the sky above the London Eye in central London during the 2020 New Year celebrations (PA) (PA Archives)

Fireworks light up the sky above the London Eye in central London during the 2020 New Year celebrations (PA) (PA Archives)

Primrose Hill

From the top of Primrose Hill, at 76 meters, there are almost unparalleled views of London, so before the fireworks start, grab a flask and a bottle of champagne and enjoy London lit up. Get there early as it gets very busy. If you’re looking for a place to drop in early try Queens or Princess of Wales, which is also a good idea later as it’s open until 4am. The park closes at 1am and reopens at 6am.

Nearest tube stations: Chalk Farm (although trains will not run from 9.30pm), Camden, Swiss Cottage

Alexander Palace

The sizable Ally Pally Hill is steep, but the spectacular skyline that awaits at the top makes the hike worth it. Those who have been to Bonfire Night know that many other fireworks displays can also be seen from above. There are plenty of pubs in the area, including the Great Northern Railway Tavern, Phoenix Bar and Kitchen (next to the palace itself) and Mossy Well, a typical Spoons.

Nearest metro station: Alexandra Palace

East

Greenwich Park

Double jeopardy type; the views from here extend across the entire city skyline, but also much of East London, meaning visitors can watch any show from there as well. It also happens to be just a beautiful park. The Plume of Feathers and the oldest pub in the area are nearby; Kings Arms is your go-to Greene King liquor, but it has a bursting garden if the rain isn’t too heavy.

Nearest tube station: North Greenwich

South

Hilly fields

It’s a nice outing, but Hilly Fields in Brockley is some 53 meters above sea level and offers good views of London, especially the city. The main fireworks will seem far away, but this is a good place to enjoy views of all the other fireworks around the city. Remember to take any rubbish with you as there is a run in the park first thing in the morning. For a drink nearby, try The Talbot or The Ladywell Tavern.

Nearest tube station: take a train instead and head to Ladyfield, Brockley or Crofton Park

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