20 Incredible Cities Around The World to Spend New Year’s Eve
K.C. was a featured writer for Yahoo! Travel before joining trips to discover in 2013. She is the author of Best Travel Guide for First Time Visitors to Ireland, an Amazon bestseller every year between 2013 and 2016. She has been a featured expert on Newsweek, Travel + Leisure, Travelocity, among others.
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Around the world, people celebrate the coming of the New Year in similar ways, typically with a spectacular display of fireworks, street parties, music and dancing, and lots of fabulous food and drinks. Yet each destination has its own unique twist as well as a distinctive setting. From New York City’s Time Square to the ultimate dance party in the land Down Under, you’re sure to find one that’s right for an unforgettable New Year’s Eve celebration.
It doesn’t get much more romantic than Paris, and watching the amazing light show, and fireworks display at the iconic Eiffel Tower or taking one of the New Year’s Eve boat cruises along the Seine is a bucket list experience. No matter what your idea of a perfect New Year’s Eve celebration is, you’ll find the streets of the City of Light truly come alive with thousands of people celebrating with plenty of champagne and dancing the night away. In addition to the big show, smaller fireworks can be legally bought and sold in Paris, which means you can experience an abundance of color and sound all night long.
London’s big celebration includes an elaborate light show accompanied by the chimes of Big Ben with visitors crowding along the banks of the River Thames, along with a host of parties and clubs to choose from. The party continues throughout the night, while activities on January 1st include a lengthy parade complete with marching bands, colorful floats, costumed dancers and a procession of the Queen’s horses. The best spots on land to view the festivities are along the Victoria Embankment, Waterloo or Westminster bridges – on water, enjoy a Thames dinner cruise.
Sydney is one of the first capital cities in the world to greet the New Year, so not surprisingly, you’ll find plenty of ways to celebrate here. At Sydney Harbour, you can join boats filled with revelers to watch the fireworks extravaganza overhead at midnight. Or, book one of the many waterfront restaurants by the Sydney Harbour Bridge for a front-row seat to the brilliant light display. You can also expect to see indigenous smoking ceremonies, aerial flyovers, mini-light shows and a lighted boat parade. A massive dance party is typically held at Bondi Beach as well.
For more than a century now, a massive glittering ball has been lowered into Times Square on New Year’s Eve. At 11:59 p.m. on December 31st, the geodesic sphere begins its 70-foot drop before confetti is released into the city sky among one of the biggest parties on the planet. More than a million people typically arrive for this world-famous party that features big music acts as well as a wishing wall where you can write down your resolutions for the coming year.
The city of Melbourne in Australia attracts people from across the globe with its exciting New Year’s Eve celebration. It features two official fireworks displays, including an event to kick off the festivities of the evening in Yarra Park. At midnight, the stunning light show showers the entire city with color as rockets are launched from rooftops around the central area as well as Victoria Harbour. In between, stages around the city host all types of live acts from indigenous folk musicians and Brazilian samba dancers at Federation Square to street performers and celebrity appearances along the waterfront. Visitors will also find carnival rides and all types of sporting activities.
New Orleans is well known for hosting great parties, and it’s also home to one of the best New Year’s Eve fireworks displays in the United States. With a brilliant kaleidoscope of colors cascading over the Mississippi River, the 15-minute-long show is the highlight of an evening of festivities that includes the renowned Fleur de Lis drop, in which an oversized object is dropped from the roof of the Jax Brewery at Jackson Square, reminiscent of the Times Square Ball drop. In “The Big Easy”, parties often continue until dawn, with live music throughout the bars and clubs in the French Quarter.
Bangkok is an exciting international city that’s well-known to put on a great party, and it’s one of the best in Asia to be in for New Year’s Eve. On December 31st, Bangkok pulls out all the stops for its celebration, with every bar and nightclub filled with revelers, though the biggest event is at CentralWorld Square, where several hundred thousand people gather for a spectacular light show and live concert. A number of eateries offer rooftop dinners including champagne and magnificent views of the fireworks display, while numerous lively beer gardens line the streets. Families can also find a great spot at Asiatique, a night market for all ages that’s one of the most popular spots for the countdown to the New Year.
Valparaiso, the cultural capital of Chile, is nestled in the hills along the Pacific Ocean. It hosts one of the most extravagant New Year’s Eve shows in South America. The city hosts a lively festival with millions of visitors coming to see its renowned fireworks display – the biggest in Latin America. To bring good luck in the coming year, locals wear yellow underwear, eat a dozen grapes at midnight, and put a $1,000 peso bill in their shoes. Fireworks are launched from different points along the coast between Valparaiso and Vina del Mar, with the show concluding with a waterfall of sparks that shower down on the water. The evening also features a dance party filled with joyful revelers that last until dawn – and sometimes beyond.
The beautiful Scottish city of Edinburgh puts on its annual Hogmanay hoopla, which simply means a celebration of the last day of the year. It lasts for four days and includes a torchlight parade throughout the city, concerts, and a huge street party on Princes Street. You’d be hard-pressed to find a city that does New Year’s with as much enthusiasm – “Auld Lang Syne,” written by Scotsman Robert Burns, takes on special significance when sung through the streets of Edinburgh. One of the world’s greatest fireworks displays takes place at midnight, with magnificent Edinburgh Castle as the backdrop, while the party continues until after the sun comes up. On January 1st, brave souls will take part in the “Loony Dook”, an annual splash in the freezing River Forth.
Barcelona is the party capital of Spain and saves the very best for the last day of the year. In the hours up to midnight, massive street parties take over Plaza Catalunya, Las Ramblas and Plaza Reial, with large crowds singing, sipping champagne, and counting down the minutes and seconds until the New Year. Restaurants, bars, and nightclubs all hold special events to celebrate, while fireworks light up the sky at the far end of Barceloneta Beach. Find a spot near the marina for the best view, and be sure to stay during the first week of the New Year to watch the 3 Kings Parade with its brightly colored chariots, marching bands and torchlight processions through city streets.
Reykjavik may be one of the more chilly spots to celebrate the New Year, but Iceland’s capital puts on one of the hottest celebrations on the planet. Locals throw a massive, citywide celebration with mass at Reykjavik Cathedral –attending or listening on the radio and then sharing a meal with family and friends before going outdoors to attend neighborhood bonfires that are meant to symbolize the burning away of the previous year’s troubles. Thousands of fireworks can be seen lighting up the sky from every corner of the city, while the flame-fueled gatherings typically feature lots of drinking, folk songs, and people dressed up as elves and trolls. Sometimes the Northern Lights make an appearance to complement the already spectacular displays of pyrotechnics. At 5 a.m., you’ll find locals lining up for hotdogs and heading to the hot springs for an invigorating soak.
Brazil’s cultural capital is best known for its rowdy Carnival, but its New Year’s celebrations are also memorable, with the city’s famous Copacabana Beach hosting a number of events. The party includes giant stages set along the waterfront along with a wide array of drum-heavy music, extravagant Carnival-style costumes, traditional dance performances, and fairground attractions that entertain visitors throughout the evening. More than two million people fill the beach in a mass of white, with the color believed to bring good luck for the coming year. They sip champagne, dance the samba and toss handfuls of flowers into the ocean as a gift to Yemanja, the Goddess of the seas. During the countdown to the New Year, a procession of boats set off thousands of dazzling fireworks over the ocean.
In Hong Kong, you’ll find one of the best fireworks displays on earth, with an amazing pyrotechnic show that features a showering of lights and sounds over Victoria Harbour as well as a countdown that includes a replica Times Square ball drop at midnight. If you want a good spot to see the show, be sure to arrive early before the New Year officially begins. The best views can be found from the water by boat, but if you’re on land, the Avenue of Stars in Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon or the bars in the Lan Kwai Fong district are also great places to celebrate.
In the Slovak capital of Bratislava, its medieval Old Town hosts live concerts, open-air dance parties, and fireworks shows over the Danube River. Multiple stages are spread throughout the area featuring some of the best local bands, dance groups, and a variety of other performers that entertain all night long. Old Town is divided into a “concert zone” for those who want to enjoy the music and “party zones” for people who want to socialize, while massive screens broadcast celebrations of other capital cities around the world. It’s an unpretentious, noisy affair, with the use of rehtackas – wooden noisemakers meant to chase away any negative energy from the past year.
Dubai made it into the Guinness Book of Records in 2014 for having the largest fireworks display ever, with 479,651 shells fired in six minutes over 400 parts of the Dubai shoreline. New Year’s Eve here is sure to be an experience of a lifetime, with performances by world superstars also bringing an unsurpassed dimension to massive parties that are known to stand out from those held around the globe in terms of grandeur and celebration. For the best spot, enjoy an iconic view of the brilliant display from the Burj Al Arab luxury hotel.
If you’re looking for a cultured celebration, Vienna offers dignified balls, classical music concerts and some of the best symphonies in the world on New Year’s Eve, although the city is much more than its fancy galas. You’ll also find revelers in the city center, Silvesterpfad, with the party lasting until well after midnight. It features plenty of hot mulled wine, and toffee apples, and, when the chimes of the Pummerin bell ring from the tower of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, a fireworks show begins. A dinner party cruise along the Danube offers some of the best views of the magnificent display, but you’ll want to save some energy for January 1st when a crowd gathers in front of City Hall to watch the famed New Year’s concert from the Vienna Philharmonic on a huge TV screen.
If you want to be in one of the last places on earth to enter New Year, the Hawaiian Islands are a great beach destination that is well worth the wait. Enjoy the tropical climate and dazzling fireworks displays from the beach. You’ll find light shows that illuminate the beachfront in several places on Oahu, including Ko Olina, Waikiki and Aloha Tower as well as Wailea, Hana and Manele Bay on Maui. On Kauai, Poipu Beach is the place to be. Waterfront bars and clubs feature theme nights and open-air music concerts, while a wide range of boat cruises provide all types of fun ways to celebrate the New Year.
Cape Town offers the chance to bring in the New Year from atop one of the most spectacular natural wonders in the world. Revelers can party on top of Table Mountain until 12:30 a.m., enjoying unobstructed views of the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront fireworks show. Or join those below to take in a music concert and the brilliant light display. A carnival-themed train, live music and a variety of other entertainment including DJs in the Cape Quarter keep things going well into the night. On New Year’s Day and the day after, watch the parade featuring live performers dancing and singing in the streets.
Las Vegas is one big year-round party, but on New Year’s Eve visitors from around the world show up to celebrate. On December 31st, the famous Strip is closed to vehicle traffic and opened up to those who’d like to celebrate by walking around, drinking, mingling and watching the array of fireworks that are shot off from surrounding rooftops. Live bands, pyrotechnic displays and laser shows transform the four-mile area into a giant street party. The majority of hotels, clubs, and bars also offer special shows and activities.
The German capital has a well-deserved reputation as a party city – celebrating its freedom with one non-stop party since the fall of the Wall back in 1989. On Silvester, which is New Year’s Eve in Germany, over one million people fill “Party Mile,” extending from Brandenburg Gate, lined with music stages as well as numerous food and drink tents serving up mulled wine, beer, and local German specialties like currywurst – pork sausage topped with curry-laced ketchup. At midnight, revelers can enjoy a fireworks show followed by parties at all types of dance clubs, such as Berghain, legendary for its wild parties that sometimes last for more than 12 hours.