How to spend London New Year’s Eve on a budget and not to break a bank? Find the best winter activities in London, budget accommodation and places to eat, as well as where to watch the New Year’s Fireworks in London for free!
London is a great city. There is always a lot happening and you can never be bored. You can imagine the number of possibilities for New Year’s Eve! And also the number of people arriving in the city that night. Unfortunately, the British capital is also not so cheap. The prices for accommodation and New Year parties skyrocket around the end of the year, restaurants get booked quickly and black cabs cost a fortune. Luckily, there are still ways of having a great time during the New Year’s Eve in London without spending a lot of money. We did exactly that on our last New Year’s Eve in London – and we loved it! How? Check below!
London New Year’s Eve on a budget
1. How to find a cheap accommodation?
That’s a golden rule, especially in the busy times – book in advance. You can often find great deals, just perfect for that dreamy New Year’s Eve break. The city is full during that time and most of the cheapest places are reserved months before.
If you book your London trip last minute, don’t worry, you still have a chance to find something good. Check the private rental website – Airbnb. With the discount code, you can get £25 off your first booking. Another place is the last minute hostels websites. People often cancel, so you can get a good deal. Try lastminute.com, where you can find a list of all of the last minute deals. Booking.com is also a good one to try. The cancelling of reservation there is free, so many people book a few places and then just decide on one, vacating all the others. If you use hotels.com, you can get the 10th hotel booking entirely for free.
If you have any friends in London – it’s a good idea to give them a shout and offer to help them with something at home in exchange for accommodation. The social portal, that allows that is Couchsurfing. You may be able to provide your nice company to some people and get a great fun (and a free stay) in return.
Do you like animals? You can take care of someone’s cat or dog, when they are away, in exchange for free accommodation.
If you feel bored of spending New Year’s Eve in your city and you think someone else might be interested in it – you can swap your house with them and get to live in another place (like London) for free.
You can find some of the latest hotel deals in London here:
2. Transport to and around the city
There are plenty of ways that you can get to London – from buses (with Megabus being one of the cheapest), trains (more expensive) and flights (from cheap airlines through the more expensive ones). The important thing, though, is to check where your chosen transportation will take you. There are several airports, that are called “London”, but not necessarily lay close to the city and it can take a lot of time and money to reach the city centre.
The closest one is London City airport and the Heathrow Airport. Then there is Gatwick in the south and Luton in the north. Stansted is around 40 miles away.
For public transport, London underground is one of the best options to use in the city. The best part is that it’s free on New Year’s Eve and New Year, from around 10 pm to 3 am. You don’t have to have an Oyster card to use it, you can just use your debit or credit card instead. There are also plenty of buses to choose from.
However, sometimes you need to get somewhere by car. Taxis can be quite expensive, but Uber works perfectly almost everywhere in the city. Waiting time in the city centre is usually 3-4 minutes and 10 minutes journey can cost you £6-7. This is not much comparing to the black cabs.
3. Food – eat local, try street food and go to Chinatown
London is one of the best places if you are a foodie, as it has something for everyone. Cuisine from around a world from cheap eateries to Michelin star restaurants. You shouldn’t have any problems with finding budget places to eat. There are plenty of pie shops, famous fish and chips, eateries in Chinatown and more healthy choices in smaller places all around. For a small bite, try Christmas markets, although the food there tends to be overpriced.
4. Be flexible – swap the New Year’s Eve luxury for the outdoor fun
If fancy dinner parties are not necessarily your thing and you don’t mind spending some time outside, there’s plenty of other free or cheap things to do in London on the New Year’s Eve.
London New Years Eve fireworks
London is famous for its spectacular fireworks display. It got so popular that couple years ago they decided to charge people for standing in the best spots for watching them. The main display happens in Victoria Embankment, Westminster, around the London Eye. Prices for tickets are ~ £10 and they go quick.
For me, however, it doesn’t really make much sense to pay for standing in the crowd just to see 20 minutes of fireworks over people’s heads and not even be able to bring your own alcohol on the spot. Also, the tickets are already sold out at the beginning of December. What should you do then?
Where to go to watch London New Year’s Eve fireworks for free?
Fortunately, you can find other good places to watch fireworks, where you can bring your friends and favourite alcohol (in a moderate amount and when you drink responsibly – technically this is not entirely legal ;)). There are several good spots along the river. We found the one in Vauxhall, marked below, to be the best one. Just by the water, with the clear view of the sky and surrounding buildings, with not too many people around.
5. Explore – find other cheap activities
London has a lot of free or cheap activities to offer, from roaming around the famous streets to free entrances to some of the best museums in the world.
We’ve seen most of them before, so this time we just focused on the winter and holiday options.
Every year in the Christmas period the Hyde Park in central London is being transformed into the magical kingdom – a Winter Wonderland. You can warm yourself up with mulled wine, hot whisky or stand by the fire pot. There’s live music, lots of food, many rides to choose from and the mixed smell of roasted chestnuts, coffee, beer, spices and sausages.
Some people might find it tacky, but I think it’s nice just to see how big it is and walk around with sugary mulled wine in your hand to look at different stalls and feel Christmassy climate. We didn’t really do any of activities inside, as it’s not our thing, but we enjoyed watching live music bands with fairy lights sparkling all around us.
The entrance is free but you need to pay for everything else. Mulled wine costs around £4, beer £4-£5.
London New Year Parade
Every year on January 1st, the London New Year Parade is organized in the London city centre. The entrance for spectators is free. It usually starts at Piccadilly, but you can check more details and the exact route here. We didn’t manage to attend it, as we had plans for Oxford that day (that we didn’t manage anyway), but it is something to do.
Hang out in the air in the Emirates airline cable cars
Emirates airline cable cars are something, that I haven’t tried before, and since I love a view of cities from the top we thought to give it a go. The ticket prices are quite cheap, so it’s worth trying. If you use “pay as you go” – by just swiping your Oyster or debit/credit card at the entrance and exit – it’s £3.50 per single journey. When you buy boarding pass in a ticket office it’s a bit more expensive – £4.50 one way or £9.00 return.
Emirates Air Line crosses the River Thames between Greenwich Peninsula (by the O2) and the Royal Docks. You can board from either the North Greenwich or Royal Victoria sides of the river
Visit the cities around
If you’ve seen most of what London has to offer and you want to explore some more (like us), then short trips to the nearby towns is a good idea.
Oxford, charming Bath and Brighton are easy to get to by bus or train and tickets are quite cheap if booked in advance. You can even go a bit off the beaten path and visit coastal Portsmouth. For the train to Brighton, they were still reasonably priced on the day of our trip. Just try to not to repeat our mistake and don’t book very early bus departure the next day after the crazy New Year’s Eve party, because you may have some problems to catch it 😉
Museums in Oxford are also free (just check opening hours, because during holiday period some of the sights can be closed), and Brighton is a lovely place to just to walk around the pier, and admire beautiful Royal Pavilion.
Have you been to London for New Year’s Eve? Do you have any other ideas how to spend London New Year’s Eve on a budget? Let me know in the comments below!
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