It’s never too early to plan your New Year’s Eve festivities; especially if the thought of spending another midnight in your local pub – holding hands with drunken strangers whilst bellowing Auld Lang Syne – gives you the chills. New Year’s Eve is unique as it’s a (mostly) international affair, making it a great excuse to pack your bags for a spot of post-Christmas travelling.
With that in mind, we’ve curated a globe-trotting guide to New Year’s Eve, where you can welcome 2017 in spectacular surroundings. From the historic streets of Edinburgh to the beaches of Honolulu, these alternative destinations might just beat Jools Holland’s Hootenanny and your neighbour’s fondue party.
Edinburgh is arguably the most beautiful city in the UK. Its historic architecture and old-world charm is the perfect setting for the city’s famous, raucous Scottish hospitality. New Year’s Eve – or Hogmanay – is an exuberant celebration and one of the best parties of its kind in the world! Aside from singing Auld Lang Syne the proper way (it’s a Scottish poem after all), and burning a Viking long ship (don’t ask), Edinburgh comes to life with street parties, fireworks and vast festivities. You haven’t really celebrated the New Year until you’ve celebrated in Scotland!
Amsterdam is a city of joyous liberalism, totally laid-back, and so stunningly beautiful that half the city is a UNESCO heritage site. Head to Amsterdam for New Year to soak up the charged atmosphere of this unique and romantic setting. Why not hang in a brown cafe, drinking local beer and sipping the odd Jenever to keep you feeling toasty? Then, just after midnight, watch the Canal Ring come to life with people, fireworks, and joy. Lots of joy. As the canal’s waters sparkle with the vivid reflections of fireworks, head over to Museumplein to see the best of them. Alternatively, take the free ferry from Centraal station for a budget river cruise, and watch this enigmatic city light up.
Hamburg is an oft overlooked, yet fascinating destination. Incredibly liberal and welcoming, New Year’s Eve is an absolute treat in this cultured port city. Let’s not forget this is where The Beatles found their home away from home; Hamburg has always been at the forefront of liberal cultural exploits. Walk through the iconic Elbetunnel and stand in the harbour, facing the city as fireworks explode from boats. Explore the boisterous and exciting Reeperbahn, enjoy a few pilsners and celebrate the New Year with welcoming locals.
The remote four islands that make up the Madeira archipelago are perfect for a truly unique New Year’s getaway. Plus, with average temperatures in January at 16℃, it’s not completely freezing either! The main island of Madeira is a charming spot just off the coast of Africa, with idyllic towns built on steep cliffs that drop dramatically into the Atlantic. Funchal, the capital, offers oddities like dry tobogganing (an old wooden sled whizzing down a steep road – with the owner’s rubber boots as brakes), plus great shopping and fine restaurants. The pièce de résistance is the fireworks display in the harbour. Until 2012, this tiny little island held the record for best fireworks display in the world. It truly is a spectacular and unforgettable sight.
For a sophisticated New Year’s celebration, then look no further than majestic Vienna. Where else can you hear the Vienna Symphony play Beethoven’s ninth, then head to the Old Town for copious amounts of street food and punch with an excited gaggle of other party-goers? For true majesty, book ahead for the New Year’s Ball, a proper Hapsburg style ball for swishing gowns and regal opulence. If playing the pauper is more your thing, most of the major concerts, including the State Opera’s rendition of Die Fledermaus, are screened around the major squares for free. Don’t miss the chance to waltz under the outdoor chandeliers of Graben Street, and if you’re rusty, plenty of Vienna’s dance schools head down to offer lessons.
The limited amount of daylight at this time of year fires up the lust for fireworks amongst revelling Icelanders. The evening traditionally starts with bonfires, which burn as a metaphor for the passing of the year. As the hour draws closer, locals enter a firework frenzy, with the sky illuminated in a flurry of gold, silver, turquoise and more. Icelanders do enjoy a merry bash, and most venues will stay open well into the small hours. If you do find that the mood has captured you, and you’re feeling a bit sore the next day, take a dip in the hot springs for the ultimate hangover cure. Though a word of warning, don’t let anyone tell you Súrir hrútspungar is a hangover cure. Just google that one…
Somehow Hawaii doesn’t seem a particularly hard sell; who wouldn’t want to enjoy this island paradise while Europe suffers in the dreary cold? It has an average temperature of 23℃, so you could take a refreshing dip in the sea on New Year’s Day to wash away the cobwebs. Honolulu really comes alive on New Year’s Eve with beach parties and luau’s galore, and harbour fireworks that illuminate the coastline with a shower of explosive colour. The festive atmosphere is totally unique to this adored string of islands; so pitch up at the tiki bar and dance the year away!
If you feel like escaping from the icy chill of the UK, why not jet off half-way around the world? Valparaíso, Chile’s historic port town, is a captivating bohemian paradise, with clifftop homes painted in a startling array of colour. Its UNESCO-designated downtown is a wonderful hodge-podge of colonial architecture, great restaurants and laid-back bars. The whole of Chile turns up for New Year’s Eve, where you’ll catch South America’s best fireworks display. The beach is sardine-packed with excited locals, some sporting lucky yellow pants (a New Year’s staple, apprently). Couple that with a healthy amount of Pisco Sours, and you have New Year’s celebrations Chile-style.
Nashville is said to be the home of country music, and by George, you can sure expect to hear plenty during the festivities! This music capital of the Deep South knows how to celebrate; think whiskey, moonshine and line dancing. The Jack Daniels brand is a typical host of the stellar New Year’s Eve celebrations, which sees Broadway turn into one huge street party. With a great line-up of bands and music filling the air, the festive atmosphere is positively electric, and endearingly contagious.
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