With many thanks to our dear friend Lauren, we set our NYE sights on London to ring in 2018. She had done it the year before and had a great spot. With her recommendations, we had to go!
Tickets: The Mayor of London has a website with a ticket sales countdown that begins in September. The Blue zone is the zone directly across the Thames river from the London Eye with the best views. The cost is 10 pounds per ticket and they mail them to you Christmas week. They will also refund you if you cancel before the tickets are mailed.
The Blue zone tickets give access to these areas: Victoria Embankment, Westminster, London, SW1A 2NS, United Kingdom.
Knowing we would at a minimum have two additional NYE friends meet us there, we marked our calendar and snagged four tickets right away when they went on sale. They were sold out of the blue zone by the next day.
We booked an Airbnb in the Shoredich area which we had never been to before. It was a true 2/2 bedroom apartment and it was cheaper than anything on the other side of the river so we booked and planned to take transit. It was a sketchier- industrial type area but it was convenient with everything we needed. Many of the warehouse areas looked like they were converting/ed to restaurants, shops and cafes similar to what they have done under the rail bridges in Zurich. If everything was open (not a holiday) I’m sure it would have been nicer. The closest pubs and the underground were only a few minutes walk, with a good fish and chips and brisket at The Gregorian and local beer at St. James of Bermondsey, so everything was good. We also realized, there were actually tons of breweries in the area we didn’t know were there, however, over the New Year, most are closed so we didn’t actually get to visit them – but good to know for next trip to London.
Here is a BEER MAP and just a few of the highlighted ones. There are like a dozen within a mile. Even a Cidery.
We made a last minute reservation for early dinner at 5:30 p.m. at Bronte, an Asian-Italian fusion restaurant in the Strand which you did not need to have a wristband to access near Trafalgar Square, where we needed to be at 8 p.m. to enter the firework zones. Dinner was amazing, plus we could come back after the fireworks to celebrate at the bar which was key for us to avoid the rush leaving the fireworks.
The thing we didn’t realize was, the line to security to get into the ticketed area begins lining up at 4 p.m. – CRAZY. We got there at 8 p.m. and it was almost all the way to Buckingham Palace. We had pre-packed a backpack full of wine and beer in non-glass containers, and cheese snacks, as it states on the website we could, so we were set with no issues waiting. The line really did move fast. We got through in about an hour, and picked a spot by the barge (Tattershall Castle) where our friends had celebrated with an awesome view a year or two prior – making us immediately plan our London trip for 2017-18.
We had prepared for the worst, cold weather and terrorism-wise, bringing fleece lined layers and establishing a meeting point if we were to get separated or had to get back to our apartment out of the area.
We had gone back and forth about paying to be inside somewhere either on a party boat or at a restaurant, but it was so expensive and included nothing just to be inside, plus the view was not pictured or guaranteed. We are so glad we decided to brave the cold to stand outside for a front row of the show. Fortunately for us too, it was a gorgeous night, almost 50 degrees (F) and no incidents on the news from London to report. We also met some awesome people from Latvia and Italy, including a juggler from a circus family.
Last year an Irish cattle guy (Hi Jason!), this year a Milanese juggler – who will we meet next! 🙂
The 12-minute show was bigger than we expected and spectacular to see in person. It is still surreal the spot we had and how smooth everything went.
Watch the full 12 minutes here:
After the show, we returned to Bronte to party until the places closed and hopped on the underground (free on NYE night) back to our apartment where we promptly ate all the snacks we had bought to prepare for those late-night munchies.
Smart move Stu.
The next day, we slept in then split up between shopping and museum sights before finally catching the Book of Mormon at the Prince of Wales Theatre that evening. Though it has been out for a while, this was our first time seeing the show and we loved it. It wasn’t what we expected, but it was hilarious. After, we stopped at The Lyric for a beer but they closed early so we wandered over to a late night cocktail bar, The Warwick, before heading home.
Shopping on New Year’s Day in London is amazing. The lights in the streets are different at every turn and themed. The Carnival themed street was so fun this year. And crowded. Selfridges was impossible to even walk in to. Sales are everywhere. I made the mistake of thinking Barcelona, where we traveled to next, would have similar sales for the Euro advantage vs. paying in Pounds – they do not. Lesson learned – buy in London.
The rest of the group went to the Royal Observatory. In addition to star gazing, it had lots of history on navigation and time keeping at sea using the stars. The Prime Meridian North to South is there, lots of telescopes, clocks, and really great views.
Other sights over the weekend included a stop inside St. Paul’s Cathedral and the underground café and gift shop which includes monuments and also the entrance to the crypt (that was closed because of the holiday). The Cathedral had a service going on so we couldn’t walk through or go up into the dome but entrance was free so that’s a bonus.
From there we walked over the Millennium Bridge and stopped into the Tate Modern Museum going up to the top floor observatory (FREE) for 360 views of the city. The museum has cool installations including the swings and a huge pendulum in addition to several floors of modern art.
The larger food market was Borough Market that of course has a craft beer shop, Utobeer. This is where we went to get cans to bring for NYE. This market us huge and a fantastic place to grab something delicious or shop for fresh foods.
A smaller market, which happened to also have a classic car show going on at the same time, was the Greenwich Market.
The next morning we flew early to Barcelona for the next leg of our travels with friends for the New Year – more to follow on that plus Madrid for Kings Day soon!