Happy New Year! It’s officially 2016. Didn’t that come around quickly? New Years Eve is a special occasion for people all around the world as it means the start of a new chapter for many people with new goals set, milestones to look forward to and resolutions no one will keep after January 6th. It also means saying ‘adios’ to the good and the bad of the year that’s passed with a bang. A bang of fireworks usually, and maybe some alcohol on the side.
This year, thanks to Snapchat, I got to see just how people across the world were celebrating the end of 2015. And it got me thinking about all the unique celebrations that take place across the globe.
Having always been an optimist of the festive night that leaves most disappointed and of course being obsessed with any excuse to get on a plane, I’ve looked into some of the craziest cities to shout “3, 2, 1” in and why they make the night so special.
It’s never too early to plan for next year… I mean this year.
Every year Sydney spends over $7 million on the largest fireworks display in the world which includes a 9pm Family Fireworks show and the midnight showing. And so they should, as Sydney is the first major city in the world to come into the new year. It attracts almost 2 million people to Sydney Harbour and is broadcast to over 1 billion people worldwide. The Sydney Harbour bridge is the main focus for the show although there is entertainment from all around the harbour including an Aboriginal ceremony to cleanse bad spirits, an air show and Harbour Light Parade where over 60 ships light up, dancing along the water. Their website has all the information you need. And it doesn’t stop at New Years Eve, kick on at Field Day festival on New Years Day, since it’s summer in the southern hemisphere!
New York City, USA
Anyone who has tried to watch the famous crystal ball drop in Times Square for New Years Eve will also tell you what a nightmare it is, but millions of people still flock to the city to have a go anyway. Of course it is tempting, with some of the most famous artists in the world performing on the stage in the famous square, confetti thrown throughout the streets and the most famous countdown in the world as the ball falls and fireworks shoot out of the sides for a hot second.
But there are challenges, getting a good spot being one. Police section up areas across the square and down Broadway and 7th Avenue (which has better views as its straight on to the ball) and people start arriving 10-12 hours before midnight. The catch is, you can’t leave your ‘pen’ once you’re in. Not to buy food, not to use the bathroom, not to do anything or you will loose your spot. And all you can take in with you is whatever you can fit in your pockets as the security is tight. Add that to the fact you could be standing waiting in below freezing winter temperatures. It would want to be worth the wait. After around 5-6pm, to get even close to Broadway or 7th Avenue you need a reservation to one of the restaurants, bars or theatres in the area to get past the police barricades and they will be pricey. A nightmare and a half if you ask me but if you’re one of the lucky ones and get in early, it could be an experience of a lifetime.
I spent a New Years Eve in the city in 2014, but opted to stay warm in one of their many warehouse festivals. Or you could take a boat cruise for the best views of the fireworks off Liberty Island instead. Still a kick ass place to bring in the new year.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Famous Copacabana Beach hosts the worlds largest NYE party with over two million people cramming onto the beach to party (yes all of those dots in the photo are people). Everyone wears white to bring good luck for the new year as a symbol of new beginnings. They set up stages all across the beach which host an array of performances and at midnight, fireworks project from barges out in the ocean. It is also very common for revellers to pop open bottles of champagne and spray it on the crowd as it is also known to be good luck. ‘Réveillon’ to the locals, the occasion is also a Brazilian religious tradition with many throwing flowers or gifts into the ocean to the goddess of the seas.
Hong Kong, China
Victoria Harbour offers views of one of the most impressive skylines in the world and that is only heightened on NYE. Find a spot across the harbour or hop on a boat to get VIP front row seats to the fireworks show. Not only will you be dazzled by an intense fireworks show from dozens of buildings, but a pyrotechnic dragon will dance along the skyline for the finale. The Times Square shopping mall plays homage to New York City’s ball drop with a replica version and the Two International Finance Centre projects a large display countdown on the side of the tower where you can then watch the Symphony of Lights show.
Edinburgh’s city centre turns into a massive street party as part of their Hogmanay festival to see in the new year. Hogmanay translates to ‘last day of the year’ and runs for three days over the NYE celebration. Four huge stages play anything from traditional to electronic music and fireworks from Calton Hill and the famous Edinburgh Castle can be viewed throughout the city centre. The fireworks go off every hour from 9pm as the grand countdown and whilst it may be winter, the crowds and excitement should keep you warm enough. Find information on all of the Hogmanay events on their website.
Speaking of street parties, in Paris people take to one of the richest and most famous streets in the world to await the midnight countdown. The Champs-Élysées is lined with lights and a light show is projected on the Arc de Triomphe with a small fireworks show that thousands of people will witness in the City of Light itself. The Eiffel Tower lights up with a fountain and light show but due to fireworks restrictions across the city, fireworks are a rarity. Some visitors choose to head to Sacré Coeur for views of the whole city or celebrate on a romantic boat cruise along the Seine as you cruise past the Notre Dame cathedral, the Louvre and of course the Eiffel Tower.
Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands
Something a little different to the big city style parties, this little island party has been gaining hype over the last few years. Here they call it Old Years Night and party haven Foxy’s Bar is where the magic happens. The festivities run over a few nights and hundreds of boats dock in the harbour for the occasion. With little accommodation on the island, most patrons arrive by ferry but don’t be inclined to take the last ferry back again, there’s a spot to sleep on the beach with your name on it. Entry is free, food and drinks are cheap, and all you have to wear is your beach gear!
What better way to tick over into the new year than by watching the most famous clock in the world do so. The Big Ben chimes as fireworks are let off along the river Thames in front of a spectacular display coming off of the London Eye. Onlookers can also head to the many bars and clubs across the city with fancy dress themes or DJ sets that run into the wee hours of New Years Day. But you would want to make sure your still kicking for the New Years Day parade through London as it’s not one to be missed.
Cape Town, South Africa
The Victoria and Albert Waterfront is crowded with people awaiting the midnight fireworks whilst listening to hours of live music, mingling and watching the street entertainment. Boats in the harbour offer amazing views, or oversee the whole city with a late picnic on Table Mountain to watch the sunset and carry on partying. From New Year’s Day onwards, crowds relax on the local beaches and enjoy the Cape Town Minstrel Carnival parade through the city. If you’re a trance lover, head 30 minutes out of the city to Durbanville and enjoy the 3 night long Resonance Festival. Camp in the summer heat, enjoy the many stages and chill out areas and swim in the lake on the property to bring in the new year in style.
If you’re looking for a more elegant affair, then Vienna has you covered. Their New Years Eve Grand Ball at Hofburg Palace sees performances from the Vienna State Opera and other famous classical artists whilst a DJ will keep you dancing after the drinks have kicked in. Enjoy a four course gala dinner and hop around to the lounges, bars and restaurants before you watch the fireworks display over the city. If a gala ball isn’t your thing, then have no fear, the rest of the city won’t be sheltering from the cold. The famous Christmas markets turn into New Years fairs which draw hundreds of thousands of people to Silvesterpfad (New Year’s Path) in the city centre. Stages are set up throughout the area and celebrations continue the following day at the Rathaus (City Hall).
Koh Phangan, Thailand
The island famous for its monthly full moon party also hosts a New Years Eve party that is just as spectacular, if not more. Being holiday season, crowds are bigger and crazier and the fun lasts for weeks not just days. One for the backpackers, festivities kick off with the Half moon festival in late December then the Xmas Full Moon Party before the NYE party with some bikini contests and beach volleyball tournaments in between. You can opt to stay on nearby Koh Samui with more accommodation options, but get in quick as it’s popularity means the islands nearby are booked out well in advance.
Las Vegas, Nevada
The crazy streets of Sin City are blocked to cars with live bands and over 300,000 patrons filling the 4-mile long space so people can party the night away without stepping foot inside a club… but you’ll want to if you hate the cold. Fireworks shoot from rooftops all down the strip and clubs put on events that won’t be topped.
Or head to the ‘old Vegas Strip’ on Freemont Street where 10 hours of live music from three large stages will keep you busy. For only $30 you can enjoy an undercover street, with the roof not only keeping the cold out but keeping you excited as it displays the midnight fireworks in a completely unique way (pictured).
Last but not least, the capital of Germany is known to be a non-stop party city year round and on NYE there is no exception. Silvester, as it’s known to locals, brings around a million people to ‘Party Mile’ each year and for free! Party Mile is a two kilometre stretch of bars, music stages, party tents, food stalls, light shows, video screens and more between Brandenburg Gate and Victory Column. In front of the famous gate sits the main stage where fireworks will be set off and, like in New York, police section off areas as they fill up so to get a good spot you have to get in early. There is no official closing time, so revellers party until the early hours or if you’re more into staying sober, join the free four kilometre run on New Years Day.