Make the most of Chinese New Year in London by following our top tips for fun and memorable celebrations, whether you're attending the Chinese New Year events or eating at one of Chinatown's restaurants.
1. Check the date
In 2020, the Lunar New Year falls on 25 January, with the main Chinese New Year London festivities happening on 26 January. The celebrations take place in central London (Chinatown and the West End), featuring a colourful parade, street food stalls, fun activities at three dedicated stages and a lineup of special performances in Trafalgar Square.
2. Plan your journey
It’s the biggest Chinese New Year celebration in the world outside Asia, so be prepared for lots of people. If you don’t want to miss the fantastic celebrations, plan your journey in advance to avoid congestion using Transport for London’s Journey Planner and follow our travel guide. Don’t even think about driving! If you’d rather stay within walking distance, book one of these hotels near Chinatown.
3. Wrap up warm and forget the heels
You’ll be on your feet all day, so wearing sturdy shoes and being comfortable and warm are key to a fun day out. Remember to bring an umbrella in case it rains during the celebrations. You’ll probably be taking photos or holding decorations most of the time, so make sure to wear a pair of warm gloves.
4. Learn Chinese New Year greetings
People will say “Happy New Year” to you mainly in Cantonese and Mandarin. It’s polite and fun to respond in the same language: “Happy New Year” in Cantonese is “San Nin Faai Lok” (pronounced san knee fy lock) and in Mandarin is “Xin Nian Kuai Le” (pronounced sing nee-ann koo-why ler).
You can also wish each other a prosperous New Year by saying "Gong Xi Fa Cai" (pronounced gong she fa tsai) in Mandarin or "Gong Hei Fat Choi" in Cantonese.
5. Honour the Year of the RatIn 2020, the lunar calendar sees the arrival of the Year of the Rat. The Chinese zodiac decrees that people born this year are intelligent, positive and outgoing – people born in 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996 or 2008 were all born in the Year of the Rat. You’ll find out more about the Year of the Rat during the festival, which is a fantastic opportunity to experience Chinese culture.
6. Dress up
Red is the key colour of Chinese New Year. You can dress up with a red scarf, jumper or shoes – this will bring good luck for the coming year. If you’re taking your kids to the event, let them bring rat decorations or paint their faces with rat motifs.
7. Enjoy Chinese food at Chinese New Year
If you want to enjoy Chinese New Year Cantonese-style, order a whole chicken dish and a fish dish. The whole chicken dish means “happiness for the whole family” and the fish dish means “may there be surpluses every year”. If you’re following northern Chinese culture, you should opt for dumplings. Book a Chinese restaurant in Chinatown ahead to beat the crowds, or take a look at our top 10 Chinese restaurants in London.
8. Buy something red
To bring luck to your year, Chinese tradition dictates that you should buy something red for yourself or your house. London's Chinatown is a fantastic place for authentic Chinese shopping. Paper-cut window grilles, lanterns and rat toys are all ideal decorations to have for celebrating Chinese New Year and bringing good luck. Find out more about the traditions of Chinese New Year.
9. Stay safe
The London Chinese New Year events are lively, fun and welcoming, with dragon and lion dances, stage shows and the famous Chinese New Year parade. However, as with any large event in London, staying aware and alert is important. Avoid pickpockets by keeping your valuables out of sight and out of easy reach. If you can, steer clear of congested streets or wait until the blockage has cleared. And if you have any worries, inform police officers, who will be present on the day. Read our top tips on staying safe in London.
For the latest updates on the day of the Chinese New Year London celebrations, follow the official #CNYLondon hashtag on social media.
10. Ensure good luck
If you want to immerse yourself in the complete Chinese New Year experience, continue the celebration after the event by going somewhere high. In Chinese culture, to “climb high and gaze far” on New Year’s Day or the following day brings good luck in business, career, study and fortune. Visit places such as the Coca-Cola London Eye, The View from The Shard or the ArcelorMittal Orbit; or head for one of these vantage points.
Get a taste of Chinese New Year in London
Video by @andrewdashb (Instagram)