Chinese New Year 2023: Parade date, route, timings and travel advice for Chinatown celebrations this weekend

Chinese New Year 2023: Parade date, route, timings and travel advice for Chinatown celebrations this weekend

On the January 22, millions of people worldwide will join together to ring in of the new lunar year, welcoming the year of the Rabbit.

Celebrated across China and throughout east and south-east Asia, the Chinese New Year — referred to in some countries as the Lunar New Year — marks the beginning of the spring festival, with celebrations in both China and London running until February 5, when the traditional holiday known as the Lantern Festival falls.

Performers taking part in a parade involving costumes, lion dances and floats for London's Chinese New Year celebrations, in central London. (PA)
Performers taking part in a parade involving costumes, lion dances and floats for London's Chinese New Year celebrations, in central London. (PA)

Marked by traditional costume, dancing, live performances, a parade and mountains of delicious food, London’s festivities will see tens of thousands of Londoners and tourists alike join together for one of the biggest New Year celebrations outside Asia. The capital has celebrated the occasion for around 50 years, and Chinatown has always been the epicentre for activity. While the parade is yet to be officially confirmed, it’s anticapted that it will go ahead as it did pre-pandemic. Here’s everything to expect on the big day itself.

When is the Chinese New Year parade?

Exact timings for this year are still to be confirmed but historically, the parade has kicked off at 10am, with festivities starting in Trafalgar square from 11am. The square will be a hub of vibrant activity with firecrackers, live performances and a thanksgiving ceremony, as well as the famous lions eye-dotting ceremony — a highly symbolic moment that enables the lions to ‘see’. Just as the name suggests, the eyes of the lion are dotted, or given pupils. Things tend to wrap up about 6pm, though many keep celebrating late into the evening.

Where in London is the parade?

The route of the parade should start on Charing Cross road, heading north to Shaftesbury avenue, before turning into the heart of Chinatown.

What else is on?

Throughout the rest of the morning and into the afternoon there will be plenty of live music, traditional dance and performances. Martial artists will take to Trafalgar Square and hoards of street food vendors will line the streets of the parade route and throughout Chinatown. Expect to see lots of food typically eaten around this time: dumplings and spring rolls that signify wealth, hearty bowls of ‘longevity’ noodles — which denote a long life and happiness — and sweet rice balls, a traditional treat that symbolises family togetherness.

Is the event appropriate for children and families?

If it goes as expected, and is much the same as in previous years, then yes. Performances are suitable for all ages, but families looking for entertainment geared specifically towards children should head to Leicester Square, where they’ll likely find family-friendly activities, including arts and crafts, calligraphy and dressing up opportunities.

Chinese New Year in London over the years - In pictures

Crowds in Gerrard Street wait for the start of the lion dance, part of the Chinese New Year Festival in 1973 (PA)
Crowds in Gerrard Street wait for the start of the lion dance, part of the Chinese New Year Festival in 1973 (PA)
A Children's Party at a Chinese Restaurant in Shaftesbury Avenue Celebrating the Chinese New Year in 1957 (Getty Images)
A Children's Party at a Chinese Restaurant in Shaftesbury Avenue Celebrating the Chinese New Year in 1957 (Getty Images)
Crowds in Gerrard Street wait for the start of the lion dance, part of the Chinese New Year Festival in 1973 (PA)
Crowds in Gerrard Street wait for the start of the lion dance, part of the Chinese New Year Festival in 1973 (PA)
Policemen keep the crowds in check during the Chinese New Year celebrations in London's Soho in 1974 (Getty Images)
Policemen keep the crowds in check during the Chinese New Year celebrations in London's Soho in 1974 (Getty Images)
The scene in London's Trafalgar Square during the 1977 Chinese New Year celebrations to welcome in the Year of Snake. The 140ft dragon, made in Hong Kong, travelled from Trafalgar Square to Soho (PA)
The scene in London's Trafalgar Square during the 1977 Chinese New Year celebrations to welcome in the Year of Snake. The 140ft dragon, made in Hong Kong, travelled from Trafalgar Square to Soho (PA)
The traditional dance of the Chinese Lions makes it way through Gerrard Street in London's Soho during 1976 celebrations to mark the Chinese New Year of the Dragon (PA)
The traditional dance of the Chinese Lions makes it way through Gerrard Street in London's Soho during 1976 celebrations to mark the Chinese New Year of the Dragon (PA)
Taxi driver Harry Meldrum of Ilford drops off the star attraction in the Chinese Dragon Dance to be held in Trafalgar Square to mark the Chinese New Year in 1977 (PA)
Taxi driver Harry Meldrum of Ilford drops off the star attraction in the Chinese Dragon Dance to be held in Trafalgar Square to mark the Chinese New Year in 1977 (PA)
Czarine Chang (right) and Fook Ho Tao, 8, with a Chinese lion head mask during the 1978 Chinese New Year celebrations in London's Soho (PA )
Czarine Chang (right) and Fook Ho Tao, 8, with a Chinese lion head mask during the 1978 Chinese New Year celebrations in London's Soho (PA )
The 1979 Chinese New Year of the Ram is celebrated in London's Soho (PA )
The 1979 Chinese New Year of the Ram is celebrated in London's Soho (PA )
Sue Wang, 18, from Singapore (left) and Barbara Yung, 20, from Hong Kong, talk to a policeman in Trafalgar Square on Chinese New Year's Day. They are among 15 finalists who will compete for the title Miss Chinatown 1980, organised by the Chinese Chamber of Commerce (PA )
Sue Wang, 18, from Singapore (left) and Barbara Yung, 20, from Hong Kong, talk to a policeman in Trafalgar Square on Chinese New Year's Day. They are among 15 finalists who will compete for the title Miss Chinatown 1980, organised by the Chinese Chamber of Commerce (PA )
A traditional dragon rears over the crowd in Gerrard Street, Soho, as London welcomes in the 1980 Chinese Year of the Monkey (PA )
A traditional dragon rears over the crowd in Gerrard Street, Soho, as London welcomes in the 1980 Chinese Year of the Monkey (PA )

Where to eat

All of London’s best Chinese restaurants will likely be busy so knowing where to go will be crucial. In Chinatown there are plenty of top options; Dumplings’ Legend (W1, chinatown.co.uk) on Gerrard Street and Gold Mine (W1, gold-mine-wardour-street) on Wardour Street are best for excellent dumplings and dim sum. Food House (W1, 020 7287 2818) and Four Seasons (W1, fs-restaurants.co.uk), which are both on Gerrard Street, are must visits for exquisite larger plates including some exceptional duck. Cafe TPT (W1, cafetpt.com) also has a sterling reputation, deservedly so with their delicious and affordable set menus inspired by Hong Kong cafes. For a somewhat less traditional option nearby, Luke Farrell’s brilliant Speedboat Bar on Rupert Street (W1, (speedboatbar.co.uk) is inspired by dishes found in Bangkok’s Chinatown, while Bun House on Lilse Street (W1, bun.house) offers up some great value Cantonese-inspired bao — the salted egg custard bun is not to be missed.

If you don’t happen to be heading into Chinatown though, try one of the best restaurants celebrating the Chinese New Year across the capital.

What to wear

Given the festivities, many will adopt red into their wardrobes for the day as this signifies good luck for the coming year — particularly pertinent this year as the Rabbit is the luckiest of all the 12 zodiac signs.

How to get to Chinatown

For anyone brave enough to try and drive in, there is a large Q-Park in Chinatown itself, as well as one just off Trafalgar Square. That said, the tube to Charing Cross (Bakerloo, Northern) or Piccadilly Circus (Piccadilly, Bakerloo) will likely be your best bet — though bear in mind, these lines will will be busy. Follow the official @TfL on Twitter for real-time service updates and, owing to the parade there will also be road closures, so be sure to check before you travel.