London’s Soho area in the heart of the West End has been home to the Chinese community for generations. It is an extremely vibrant and lively area, especially around the time of the Chinese New Year when it comes alive in a blast of colour, pageantry and music.
This year, the colourful celebrations take place on February 16 and are set to be incredibly dramatic. This is something not to be missed while a resident at Aparthotels London. The London Chinese New Year celebrations are actually the biggest outside Asia while its Lion and Dragon procession is the biggest in Europe.
The parade weaves its way from Soho to Trafalgar Square via Wardour Street, Gerrard Street, Shaftesbury Avenue and Charing Cross Road. Along the way, there are a host of activities to entertain you while you wait for the procession to pass by. Craft stalls, traditional Chinese dancing, martial arts displays and lots of stalls selling the best Chinese food in the area. Hundreds of thousands of people staying in Holiday Apartments London come to enjoy the celebrations – so arriving early for a good spot to watch the parade is essential!
The fun goes on late into the night at Trafalgar Square. This is very much the hub of the entire celebrations. Nelson’s Column looms over the brilliantly coloured extravaganza with flying lion dances, dragon dancing, dance troupes and acrobats. You can even watch some traditional Chinese opera. A dramatic pyrotechnic display culminates this incredible event.
Head out of your room at the Presidential Apartments Kensington and take some time to explore Chinatown itself. There are countless beautiful dragon sculptures and stone lions to be found as well as a pagoda and some stunning Chinese gates of which the latest – on Wardour Street – was only completed last year using traditional Ching Dynasty style. Even the street signs are written in both English and Mandarin. Then there are the shops – this is where you can truly find something unusual. The Golden Gate Cake Shop and Kowloon bakery sells wonderful fluffy buns and luxurious cakes, while if you enjoy cooking try the New Loon Moon supermarket for all kinds of exotic ingredients. Gain some good luck when you purchase a maneki-neko (beckoning cat) in one of the many Chinese gift shops.
Moving westwards to Chiswick House and Gardens, the Chinese theme continues as this is the setting for a lovely Magical Lantern Festival. Each night, the pretty gardens come alive with an incredible array of lanterns. These are no ordinary lanterns, but ones which are in some cases life size! In olden times, travelers would follow the Silk Road from Italy to China so there are lanterns in the shape of sphinx, camels and a replica of the Colesseum. A lantern in the form of a full size replica of a ship used by a Chinese sailor, Admiral Zheng is undoubtedly one of the most stunning elements of the whole display.