Every British New Year’s Eve party pretty much uses Big Ben or the streaming/audio of the midnight South Bank Celebrations to bring in the New Year. I’m not really one for New Years celebrations, most years I just stay at home and watch it on TV but I always thought “why aren’t I there? I only live an hour away”. It’s iconic and is shown all over the world as ‘how London celebrated’. In 2012/2013 I finally ticked this off the bucket list. Here’s what to expect if you decide to attend the NYE fireworks at London’s South Bank!
(Updated: Jan 2020)
My 2012 Experience of the New Years Fireworks in London
After reading online that all the viewing areas around the London Eye are closed off by 8pm and thinking it might be more popular what with all the Olympic hype still in people’s minds, my sister and I made sure we were in position by 6.30pm to ensure we had a good view. We opted for Westminster Bridge so we could see the clock face on Big Ben when it hit midnight, along with getting a good view of the fireworks around The Eye. In some ways, this was a good decision as we were in the 2nd row and it soon filled up fast, but then it meant we had a 5hr 30min wait until the action kicked off!
Obviously make sure you dress up warm as you will just be standing around for hours…and just hope that it doesn’t rain…because then you’ll be wet and cold!
Big Ben is a tease, you find yourself constantly clock watching! We were lucky with the group we were standing near. They were a great bunch with people from all over the world (who are now Facebook friends!) who we could have a laugh with, trying to start off silly crowd games etc etc.
There have been renovation works on Big Ben for the past couple of years (since 2017 and said to be completed in 2021) but each New Years Eve they have been uncovering the clock face and turning the ‘bongs’ back on just for the night.
Around 10pm, a live DJ started which helped pass the time, and then BOOM! MIDNIGHT!
The fireworks were incredible. The display was huge. I’ve never seen anything like it before, it made you feel so tiny and made your insides vibrate! The music and the sound clips from through out the year are a great touch.
My camera batteries ran out half way through the display, but it was one of those moments where I really didn’t care, I just wanted to soak it all up without a view finder being in my way.
It finished after around 20 minutes, with a round of Auld Lang Syne, everyone sung and strangers hugged and shook hands.
For safety, all the nearest tube stations shut (I don’t blame them really). It took an hour for us just to get off the bridge and clear Westminster Abbey. The surrounding areas were full of drunks which is a bit intimidating when you have to walk another 30 minutes to the nearest open tube station. The tubes were obviously packed and were running slower due to crowded platforms and lots of drunk party goers on them.
Would I do it again? Simple answer. No. The drunken crowds, the long wait and the slow journey home were a bit too much (5 hours!!). Am I glad I done it? Yes I am. For me it was a once in a lifetime experience and the display made it completely worth it.
It’s good that the London Underground is free (for once) but since 2014, you have to get a ticket to see the fireworks on the South Bank…which as a UK tax payer is a bit of a kick in the teeth, considering the tax that gets deducted from my pay cheque each month goes towards actually putting on the display…I do completely understand why it is now a ticketed event because it’s absolutely hectic and it’s a way of controlling how many people turn up! Just make sure if you are wanting to attending, you have to plan it well in advance!
You can sign up to find out when the tickets go live HERE
Are there toilets at the London New Years Fireworks?
There were porta potty toilets but there were no lights in them so obviously once it gets dark, you will be peeing in the dark. It’s probably worth carrying some spare toilet paper too!