Celebrating New Year’s Eve in London, Paris or Madrid is the party of the century. But why not try something a little different? Many European cities have interesting, unusual or decidedly distinct celebrations that will help you mark the coming of the New Year in a profoundly cultural, special or entertaining way. Here are ten unique European destinations to celebrate on New Years Eve (and beyond) this season. You can learn more about how to get the best flight deals to Europe here.
IN THIS GUIDE:
- Edinburgh, Scotland
- Lisbon, Portugal
- Dubrovnik, Croatia
- Gran Canaria, Spain
- Madiera, Portugal
- Budva, Montenegro
- Bologna, Italy
- Dresden, Germany
- Basel, Switzerland
- Reykjavik, Iceland
New Year’s Eve isn’t just one night in Edinburgh. The Hogmanay celebration lasts a full three days, running from December 30 to January 2. With street parties, processions led with flashlights, family events, concerts (Franz Ferdinand is headlining this season), the events culminate in a grand fireworks display over the Edinburgh castle. Brave party-goers can even work through their hangovers by diving into the chilly waters of the Firth of Forth on January 1. Find some of the best hotels to stay at in Edinburgh here.
Make sure to be at the Praça do Comércio, Lisbon’s main square by midnight to catch fireworks and live music. Speaking of live music, listening to Fado, traditional Portuguese guitar music, on New Year’s Eve is another popular way to celebrate. You can also catch fireworks at the Bélem Tower too. If you’d prefer to celebrate in a healthy way, run the Corrida de São Silvestre, a 10 km race that weaves through all the holiday lights and decorations in the city in December. Take a look at hotels in Lisbon.
Revel in the street party that’s celebrated every year in Dubrovnik on the main drag Stradun, part of the walled historic city. The events, which are family-friendly, include performances by national artists, food and drinks and of course, fireworks with a countdown at midnight. Check out the Dubrovnik City Orchestra’s live outdoor performances at noon on January 1 and find hotel options at this link.
With temperatures warm enough to sunbathe and swim during the day, Gran Canaria is your best bet for those wanting a sunny, summery New Year’s Eve celebration. Typically, both locals and tourists gather in the main Plaza de Canarias for music, merriment and fireworks. When the clock strikes midnight, 12 grapes are eaten as the 12 bells chime to bring luck in the New Year. Celebrations often continue on in the square and beyond until 5:00 am! Here are some of the best luxury hotels to stay at on Gran Canaria.
Anyone who adores fireworks should head to Madeira in December. The island’s display is known as one of the largest of the world, even making it into the Guinness Book of World Records. Watch the display on solid ground to the sounds of the Madeira Orchestra, or take a boat cruise to better see the grand display from the water. Pre-fireworks, tour the streets of Funchal, which are ablaze with holiday lights, Nativity scenes and festive decorations. Take a look at these luxury hotels in Madeira for your trip.
An up-and-coming place to ring in the New Year, you can find celebrations in Budva’s main square happening for four days, going from December 29 to January 1. Concerts and children’s events are the most popular forms of entertainment, including rock n’roll artists and traditional symphonies. Fireworks at midnight on the 31st are a spectacle not to be missed, and the mild temperatures make being outside during these special days pleasant. Take a look at accommodation options here.
If you really want to cleanse yourself of the previous year, head to Bologna, Italy. The city’s New Year’s Eve festivities take place in one of the city’s main squares, Piazza Maggiore, complete with live music and holiday decorations. But it’s not fireworks you’ll see at midnight. Instead, Bologna celebrates by burning a large vecchione, a statue made specifically to light on fire at midnight. The burning represents shedding the old year and starting afresh. Here’s where you can stay in Bologna.
Want to celebrate at another iconic Italian destination? Head on over to Manarola, one of the “5 villages” within the Northern Italian region of Liguria. Also known as Cinque Terre, it’s another one of our favorite spots to watch the fireworks over the city and the coast.
If warming up with hot cups of glühwein on New Year’s Eve, surrounded by historical buildings as you await an epic fireworks show sounds like a dream way to spend the last evening of the year, head to Dresden, Germany. Fight the cold by dancing to live music and eating steaming hot sausages to pair with your mulled wine in the Theaterplatz Square. If you’re traveling with young children, make sure to visit the square earlier to catch the kiddie fireworks show. Check out these luxury hotels in Dresden.
Whoever said ‘the best things in life are free’ was right. Various stands along the banks of the Rhine River in Basel, Switzerland, offer free mulled wine between 11:00 pm and 1:00 am on December 31 into January 1. That’s right, Basel wants you to get warmed up on mulled wine — and for free! Once you’re delightfully toasted, revel in a magnificent midnight fireworks display over the river starting at 12:30 am. Find lodging options in Basel right here.
Icelanders love fireworks and firecrackers, and you’ll hear them going off all day and all night on December 31st, both officially and unofficially. Many also set bonfires around the city and surrounding countryside, socializing, drinking and hanging out before the clock strikes midnight. If you plan to buy any fireworks of your own, make sure to purchase them from Flugbjörgunarsveitin or Landsbjörg. These are search and rescue organizations that work through severe weather in dangerous conditions to rescue people, and your firecracker purchases will go towards supporting them and their work. Here’s where you can stay in downtown Reykjavik.
If you can’t make it to Europe this December 31st…
You still have a few options. A village in Andalusia, Spain, Bérchules, celebrates New Year’s Eve in August every year, giving you a little more time plan your trip. Back in 1994, the city suffered a power outage on December 31, ruining the lights and bell chimes planned for the midnight celebration. To make up for it, they celebrated the following August instead, and have been doing so ever since.
Or, head to St. Petersburg, Russia to visit the Purga nightclub, where each and every night is New Year’s Eve, including a midnight countdown and a mock televised government New Year’s Eve address.
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