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Sunday, Sep 24, 2023

Where to watch the New Year’s Eve fireworks for free

Where to watch the New Year’s Eve fireworks for free

See the New Year in with a bang but without going broke, says David Ellis

Some years pass in a flash, others drag out every month. This year, though, was special: it managed to do both. If 2022 was a rollercoaster, it was one that seemed only ever to race downwards. We left most of the pandemic behind, and found ourselves hurtling into war, political pantomime and a cost-of-living crisis.

And still — somehow — there was a plenty of room for good news across the planet. Same-sex marriage is now legal in 31 countries, including for the first time Slovenia; the decline of wild tigers has been reversed; crime across England and Wales is at its lowest since the early Eighties; child mortality is at its lowest level ever and cancer deaths are down across Europe, the US, Canada and Japan. Even in a year that seemed blighted by darkness, plenty of light made it in.

So this New Year’s Eve is a chance to toast to that and to raise a glass to a 2023 that’s brighter still. The London fireworks, as obvious a visual metaphor as perhaps is possible, return this year after being cancelled over the pandemic. Sadiq Khan said of them: “We are building a better London for everyone and New Year’s Eve is one of the biggest nights of the year for our hospitality industry with our fireworks providing an incredible moment to send a message of love and celebration to the world.”

The evening begins at 8pm on December 31 and is held by the London Eye; tickets were £15 and sold out weeks ago and while it’s impossible to attend without a ticket, there are plenty of other spots to watch the display from. Here’s everything to know.

For those with tickets

Only those with tickets bought from See Tickets can attend; don’t head down and expect to pick up some from a tout, as reselling is prohibited. Similarly, tickets can’t be transferred. Things begin at 8pm on December 31 and finish at half midnight, January 1; entrance to the viewing areas, however, closes at 10.30pm. You’ll need to bring the tickets with you and ID may be required, too.

Those with tickets can head to one of the six viewing areas, designated by colour. These are Blue, Red, Pink, Green and White, as well as Orange, which is the accessible viewing area on Albert Embankment, riverside of St. Thomas’ Hospital. The evening tends to be extremely busy and moving between the areas is impossible; plan carefully where to go. Additionally, crossing the bridges is out both before and after the event, so factor this into your plans.

Details of your viewing area will be on the ticket, but for more information, head to

For those without tickets

It’s impossible to head down to the south bank or any of the viewing areas without a ticket, so don’t try — the centre of town is crowded enough as it is on New Year’s Eve. Instead, given they can’t charge for looking up the sky (yet), it’s worth heading a little further afield (literally, in some cases) to catch a glimpse of the main celebrations, as well as any others happening across town. Remember, despite rumours to the contrary, travel is not free on New Year’s Eve so be sure to plan the best way to get home after your evening out (tubes will be running throughout the night, except on the Waterloo and City line, and the District Line to Kensington Olympia). Expect a number of central London tube stops to be exit only and beware that many of the roads will either be closed or extremely busy; Ubers will likely charge through the roof.

For those willing to travel, here are some of the best places to head — just remember to pack a coat as it’s likely to be raining.


Cannon Street and the east side of Monument both sit close by to the official, ticketed viewing areas, so you’ll get most of the views without shelling out — but expect both to be extremely busy, so head down early. Bridges are a similar story. The most famous of these is Tower Bridge, and crowds do gather there, but the view is middling at best. Much better are Southwark Bridge and Millennium Bridge, both closer and with much better views, but expect them to be rib-crushingly packed. Lambeth Bridge and Vauxhall Bridge, however, are only a little further away and perhaps are the perfect medium, offering room to breathe but top views. If you’re on any bridge, remember you’ll be standing in the face of wind barreling over icy water, so prepare to be cold as well as wet.

It’s not too late to book for a new year’s meal in a skyscraper, either, which tend to offer a great view of the fireworks too.


Parliament Hill and Hampstead Heath

Parliament Hill offers some gorgeous views, even if the spectacle is a fair way off. Still, it’s a beautiful spot and there’ll be plenty of folks with their own fireworks, too, so you’ll be spoiled for choice. Or wonder further into Hampstead Heath, which holds its own as a haven away from the city. Looking for a drink before hand? The Bull & Last is possible, though it’s very food-focussed (and has a special NYE menu on). The Roebuck is a solid option, as are The Magdala and The Southampton Arms, which is a fantastic spot. In the other direction, try the Wells, which is a cracker (and, on another night, head back to eat upstairs in its excellent restaurant).

Nearest tubes: Hampstead tube, Hampstead Heath overground

Primrose Hill

At 76 metres up, the top of Primrose Hill offers near unrivalled views across London, so even before the fireworks kick off, grab a hipflask and a bottle of champagne, and enjoy London all lit up. Get there early as it gets very busy. If you’re looking for somewhere to pop in beforehand, try the Queens, or try the Princess of Wales, which is a good shout for afterwards too, as it’s open till 4am. The park closes at 1am and reopens at 6am.

Nearest tubes: Chalk Farm (though trains won’t be running from 9.30pm), Camden, Swiss Cottage

Alexandra Palace

Ally Pally’s sizeable hill is a steepincline but the spectacular skyline view waiting at the top does make the trek worth it. Those who’ve been on Bonfire Night will know that any number of other firework displays are visible from the top, too. There are plenty of pubs around, including the Great Northern Railway Tavern, the Phoenix Bar and Kitchen (next to the palace itself), and the Mossy Well, which is a typical Spoons.

Nearest tube: Alexandra Palace


Greenwich Park

A double threat of sorts; the views from here take in the entire city skyline, but also much of east London, meaning visitors can catch any displays from there, too. It also happens just to be a beautiful park. The Plume of Feathers is close by, and the oldest pub in the area; the Kings Arms is your basic Greene King boozer, but it has a cracking garden if the rain isn’t too heavy.

Nearest tube: North Greenwich


Hilly Fields

It’s a fair way out, but Hilly Fields in Brockley is some 53 metres above sea level and has good views across London, especially the city. The main fireworks will seem a fair way off, but it’s a good spot for views of all the others across town too. Be sure to take any rubbish with you as there’s a park run happening first thing in the morning. For a drink nearby, try The Talbot or The Ladywell Tavern.

Nearest tube: Get the train instead, and head to Ladyfield, Brockley or Crofton Park


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