For sheer colour and drama, it is hard to match the Chinese New Year celebrations – and you do not have to go far to watch them! London is, surprisingly, home to the largest celebrations outside Asia.
On 16 February, the streets of West London come alive with musicians, dancers and acrobats celebrating the start of the Year of the Rooster. Highlights of the procession are the spectacular Lion and Dragon dances which immediately capture everyone’s attention with their stunning performances. This is actually the biggest Lion and Dragon New Year procession in Europe – so expect to be watching for a quite a long time!
Best places to see the procession are the streets between Gerrard Street and Trafalgar Square which is just a short tube ride from Regency House Hotel London. You do need to arrive early to ensure that you get the best viewpoints. It does get really busy as thousands of people cram the streets to see this wonderful, lively event.
While waiting, you can enjoy other activities taking place around you. There are lots of craft stalls to explore and Chinese dancing to watch on both Wardour Street and Garrard Street. Over on Shaftesbury Avenue, a large stage provides a place where a vast array of performers entertains the audience. While in Charing Cross Road, you can watch martial arts displays and take part in a range of workshops.
And of course, there are lots of food stalls selling the best Chinese food in the area. If you prefer to dine in a restaurant, then visit one of the many Chinese restaurants along the route. Most will be offering special menus celebrating the New Year. In addition, there are many hotels near Covent Garden London that can make your stay pleasant.
The procession comes to an end in Trafalgar Square, but the entertainment continues until late into the night. There are countless dancers, acrobats, flying lion dancing, singers and you can even watch some traditional Chinese Opera. This is entertainment par excellence with something to suit every taste. The festivities finally come to a dramatic climax with a spectacular fireworks display that will truly light up the night sky.
Several of the main London museums are also running events to celebrate the Chinese New Year. These events are particularly suitable for families staying preferably in affordable oxford street hotels for example at the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, and over at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. All these events, including the Year of the Rooster events – are completely free. So make sure you take your camera, because this will certainly be extremely picturesque.