Join the largest Chinese New Year celebrations outside Asia, with colourful parades, performances and displays in and around Chinatown and London’s West End.
Join the largest Chinese New Year celebrations outside Asia © Shutterstock
Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival and Lunar New Year, is a huge festival among Chinese communities in London and across the world. Based on the lunar and solar calendars, the actual date of Chinese New Year varies and each year in the Chinese calendar is represented by one of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. Chinese New Year 2023 falls on 22 January and heralds the year of the water rabbit, which symbolises hope in Chinese astrology – something we could all do with!
The London celebrations began as a small community event in Chinatown more than 20 years ago. Now run by the The London Chinatown Chinese Association (LCCA), the festivities are the largest of their kind outside Asia, attracting hundreds of thousands of people to the capital each year.
Watch colourful floats and more than 50 teams take part in the vibrant Chinese New Year parade, featuring the largest gathering of Chinese lions and dragons in Europe. The parade kicks off in Charing Cross Road, before snaking its way through Shaftesbury Avenue in Chinatown.
The fun in Trafalgar Square usually begins with a screen show and a thanksgiving ceremony, followed by firecrackers, speeches and the Lions’ Eye-Dotting Ceremony. Watch traditional dragon and flying lion dances and fun-filled stage performances, including Chinese dance and music shows, martial arts displays, Chinese pop hits and an exciting lineup of artists from China.
If you’re feeling peckish, experience a taste of the Far East with street food dishes from the stalls lining the square throughout the celebrations. You can also stop by the National Gallery, just off Trafalgar Square, throughout the day to enjoy family activities and see colourful costume displays.
The finale gets underway with a variety of showstopper performances, including a techno lion dance and a spectacular pyrotechnic display, which lights up Trafalgar Square to mark the end of the festivities.
Crowds of 1000s celebrate the Chinese New Year in Trafalgar Square and Chinatown © Shutterstock
The London Chinese New Year fun continues across the West End with special performances, workshops and activities. Spot up-and-coming British-Chinese artists performing dance, music and comedy at the talent and community zone on Shaftesbury Avenue.
Take the kids to the family zone in Leicester Square for cultural activities and family-friendly entertainment, including arts and crafts, calligraphy, Chinese music and dressing up in traditional outfits. Plus, look out for children’s performances and lion dances.
See thrilling martial art performances, including Shaolin kung fu and wing chun, in the martial arts and cultural zone on Charing Cross Road. You can also find calligraphy and traditional painting workshops.
Head to Chinatown where you’ll be able to get up close to lion dances and take selfies with Chinese zodiac animals. Or, sit down for a traditional Chinese New Year meal and festive treats in one of Chinatown’s restaurants.
A fitting place to set the tone and spice things up (literally) is Baozilnn – you may have seen its restaurants shared across TikTok. The northern Chinese restaurant focuses on Sichuan and Hunanese food, so expect a fiery kick in some dishes. Silky Dan-Dan noodles, jiao zi dumplings and exquisite dim sum that are multi-coloured thanks to natural vegetable dyes are the stars of the menu, but perfectly marinated barbecued meats and elevated vegetable dishes also stand out. Dishes are filled with flavour and worth every penny.
The incredibly good value Bun House offers, you guessed it, a selection of buns (along with other dishes). These are not the hugely popular bao buns that have taken the dining scene by storm in recent years though; they are the Cantonese kind. Although still soft, warm and pillowy, unlike their Taiwanese cousins, they are served closed. The pig bun (sticky barbecue pork belly, yardo and yam) is a must-try, but there’s also chicken, lamb, beef, veg and custard too. The buns are £3.30 each or you can feast on a selection of four for just £11.
Sometimes when a restaurant is lacklustre on the design front, it’s a sign that all the love has been poured into the menu. This appears to be the case at the no-frills Café TPT. The food here is largely Cantonese, with ‘hawker’ dishes referencing the food stalls of Hong Kong. A medium set menu with six dishes including prawn crackers, crispy aromatic duck with pancakes and sweet and sour pork costs only £13.50 per person.
Try authentic cuisine © Baozilnn
Four Seasons is something of an institution, with two branches in Chinatown and a handful of others around London. The Gerrard Street site apparently serves the best Chinese duck in the world according to the Financial Times. The birds are said to roam freely as classical music is played to them! Barbecued plates are also very popular here; try the pork, soya chicken or spare ribs.
C&R Café is a small family-run restaurant that has received high praise from reviewers, and although it is Malaysian, one of its most sought-after dishes has a Singaporean twist.
The Singapore laksa is a heavenly combination of coconut milk broth, homemade curry paste and rice vermicelli noodles – for just over £13.
Usher in the year of the rabbit with a celebratory Taiwanese feast for groups at BAO. A limited number of Year of the Rabbit BBGs (BAO Bakery Goods) will also be given out. For BAO fans who are not able to visit the restaurants in person, Made By You Kits and Convni Lunar New Year Gift Bundles can be purchased online. BAO co-founders Erchen, Shing and Wai Ting will also be releasing a limited edition T-shirt to celebrate the 2023 Lunar New Year, in collaboration with Carhartt.
Can’t visit during Chinese New Year in London? Not to worry! Chinatown is a hive of bustling activity all year round, so don’t miss out on visiting throughout the year.