New Year’s Eve is a time most of us look forward to putting the old year behind us and starting with a fresh slate in the new year. Many people believe that how we ring in the new year also has bearing on what the year will bring us. For travelers, what could be better than celebrating with friends new and old in a far-flung locale, experiencing local traditions and creating new ones? These 10 European cities know how to ring in the new year; get your year started on the right foot by visiting one of these parties.
More than 250,000 people will crowd along the banks of the Thames to ring in the new year. Big Ben performs countdown services and the stroke of midnight marks the beginning a spectacular 10-minute display of lights and fireworks. The London Eye, the Shard and Parliament are among the iconic buildings lit up to welcome the new year. Looking to stay out of the cold and rain? Head to the soiree at the London Sky Bar, where you’ll find food and a live DJ, plus fabulous views of the revelry in the streets below. Free public transport all night will help get you to one of many after-parties around the city. Visit the Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park and, on New Year’s Day, take in the annual parade, which features a procession of the Queen’s horses, among others.
Croatia may not be a top destination for New Year’s revelers, but the city of Dubrovnik gets extra points for managing to host an almost intimate party, despite the number of people who come out to celebrate. Less claustrophobic than parties in Zagreb and Split, the festivities in Dubrovnik center on Stradun, the city’s main street, where you’re likely to bump elbows with locals on their way to bars and restaurants filled to bursting with celebrating crowds. The city also hosts a number of Croatian performers, offering up a rich program of music and entertainment for the evening. Start with a cozy meal with friends or family, or, if you’re traveling with your honey, consider splurging on a meal at one of the city’s upscale establishments. Join the crowds in Stradun for the stroke of midnight, then keep the party going by stopping off at a local bar.
The Swedes celebrate Christmas in a relatively subdued style, which means they’re all the more ready to let loose and party on New Year’s Eve. Revelry is the order of the day in the nation’s capital, with parties becoming raucous and celebrations pouring into the streets. Fill up on a seafood at a restaurant before moving your party to Skansen, which has been the center of Stockholm’s celebrations since 1895. At the stroke of midnight, a well-known Swede will read the poem “Ring Out, Wild Bells,” as streamers fill the air. Party trumpets and fireworks erupt all around the city. After midnight, participate in some club-hopping and keep the party going late into the night; bars and clubs are often open until 3 or 4 in the morning, giving you plenty of time to celebrate the new year.
It should be little wonder that one of Europe’s most iconic cities makes the list as one of the best places to spend New Year’s. The Eiffel Tower is lit up to mark the occasion and crowds of revelers swarm the Champs-Elysees, which provides fantastic views of the tower. The area turns into a massive street party, with both champagne bottles and fireworks popping everywhere. If you’re looking for something a little different, try Montmarte for excellent views of fireworks without the crowd. If you want something romantic, book a dinner cruise along the Seine and listen to a live orchestra as you sail through the City of Lights. Restaurants and nightclubs also hold soirees so you have no shortage of options for how to ring in the new year. On New Year’s Day, the Grande Parade de Paris caps off the celebrations.
Vienna, once the center of empire and a beautiful city beloved by intellectuals and artists, is perhaps the best place in Europe to experience an “Old World” New Year’s celebration. The city’s most famous party is the Grand Ball held at the Hofburg Palace, but there are plenty of other opportunities for revelry in the Austrian capital. The city’s famous Christmas markets transform into fairs and the New Year’s Eve Trail will lead you through the Old City. The party begins at 2 in the afternoon and continues long after the clock has struck midnight. Mulled wine is the drink of choice for this crowd. A spectacular fireworks display highlights the Wiener Prater fair at midnight. On New Year’s Day, join the crowd gathered outside City Hall to watch the Vienna Philharmonic’s New Year’s concert on a giant screen.
Amsterdam is known as something of a party city for North Americans, and on New Year’s Eve, the city shows that it deserves that reputation, with impromptu street parties filling the spaces between large, organized revelry in public places like Rembrandtplein, Nieumarkt, Museumplein and Dam Square. Outdoor concerts are complemented by indoor parties at bars. Fireworks go on sale the day before the celebrations, so you can be sure to see plenty of displays. Grab a perch on one of the city’s many bridges and watch the colors explode across the nighttime sky, mirrored in the water below. Grab a glass of champagne and some fried treats (like oliebollen, viamse frites and bitterballen) from the street vendors, then head to the club to keep the party going.
Reykjavik receives only 4 hours of sun on New Year’s Eve, which means the locals are more than ready to celebrate with a festival of light. They start with community bonfires, meant to burn away the troubles of the old year. There are no official fireworks displays organized by the city; rather, there are numerous displays put on by private citizens. Fireworks will often start about half-an-hour before midnight, lighting up every corner of the city as almost 200,000 people get involved. Head to Perlan or Landakotskirkja church for the best views of the city. Plenty of small, private parties keep things hopping, and bars and clubs remain open well after midnight. Since Icelanders tend to go out late anyway, you’ll often find revelers up until the wee hours of the morning, dancing the night away.
Istanbul has been on the rise as a must-see destination for travelers, and what better time than New Year’s? While visiting this vibrant European capital is an experience and a half at any time of year, Istanbul one-ups itself on New Year’s Eve. Start your evening with a traditional Turkish meze dinner in a restaurant in Bebek or Istiklal Caddesi, where celebrations are a little tamer. Afterwards, join the jubilant crowd in the streets of Taksim or another part of the city, where revelers will organize impromptu street parties. If the crowded streets aren’t your scene, you can always book a river cruise along the Bosphorus and watch the celebrations from afar as you sail through the city. The best part is that you’ll have one of the best views for the stunning fireworks at the stroke of midnight.
Prague is known as one of Europe’s most beautiful cities and one of the most beautiful in the world. The “city of a hundred spires” comes alive on New Year’s Eve, which is also known as Silvestr. The streets will be packed with a rag-tag crowd of revelers, and bars, clubs and restaurants will be filled with party-goers. Much of the fun takes place at Wenceslas Square and Old Town Square. Fireworks are set off all around town (and perhaps with a bit of dangerous abandon), with one of the best displays occurring at Letna Gardens, which can be watched from nearby bridges and embankments. Champagne bottles are smashed during the celebrations, which means you might want to bring a helmet to this party, but who could resist ringing in the new year in the heart of Europe?
Germany’s capital has something of a reputation as a party city throughout the year, so it makes sense that the city has a go-big-or-go-home attitude toward New Year’s festivities. The highlight is undoubtedly “Party Mile,” a 2-km stretch between Brandenburg Gate and the Victory Column, lined with bars, food stalls, music stages, party tents and laser light shows. The fireworks begin promptly at midnight, as do the toasts to the new year. Many people then hit the dancefloors of the city’s clubs, partying until well after sun-up. The Berliner Silversterlauf, the infamous New Year’s Eve “pancake run,” is another tradition in the city. Some people run the free 4-km race on New Year’s Day. Berlin expects to welcome approximately a million revelers to help ring in 2016—maybe you’ll be one of them.