Last Updated on January 4, 2019
What better way to see in 2019 than with bright lights and big bangs at a world-renowned fireworks display or city celebration? We’ve updated our article from last year to bring you our pick of six of the best cities in the world for New Year’s Eve, and their perfect vantage points, so that you can get planning for night to remember.
Berlin’s reputation as a place to party rings especially true come December 31, when New Year’s celebrations send an electrified energy through the city. The main hub is called the ‘Party Mile’; a two-kilometre stretch of non-stop electric entertainment nestled between the Brandenburg Gate and the Victory Column. It’s one of Europe’s largest outdoor events, where you’ll find everything from bars, food stalls, live DJ’s, laser lights, and music stages helping you ring in the new year in a massive, buzzing open-air party.
The main event, of course, is the fireworks display at midnight; more than one million people stand out the front of the Brandenburg Gate to countdown the final seconds of the year and watch the explosion of colour above them. It’s one of the most popular events in Berlin, and if you’re planning to attend, it’s advised that you get there early to secure your spot. Crowds then disperse to Berlin’s many dance clubs and boogie into the wee hours of the morning.
If you’d prefer to admire the pyrotechnics away from the chaos of the Brandenburg Gate, there are plenty of other ideal vantage points. The Teufelsberg hill is a favourite spot for Berliner’s to catch the fireworks show, so pack up a picnic with mulled wine and enjoy the view across the Grunewald. Ahrensfelde is another hill with a great view across the city where you’ll find less crowds, or try to Moltebrücke bridge in Mitte, which is open to pedestrians and boasts a fantastic view for the fireworks.
You could also opt to watch the fireworks from one of the many rooftop bars in the city; House of Weekend offers superb views of the city skyline and fireworks.
Looking for something different? Berlin’s Weihnachtszauber at the Gendarmenmarkt Christmas market has a special New Year program, where you can enjoy food and drinks, live performances and the fireworks countdown in a whimsical setting, and for those who enjoy the finer things in life, the Berliner Philharmoniker have an annual classical music New Year’s Eve concert. Then if your head’s not too sore on New Year’s Day, why not participate in Berlin’s annual 4 kilometre New Year’s Run?
Airports: Berlin Airport (BER), Berlin Tegel Airport (TXL)
The City of Lights sure knows how to celebrate the Nouvelle Année. The impressive light display that illuminates Paris on December 31 attracts thousands of visitors who come to marvel at the colourful fanfare.
Be warned though, visitors expecting a big fireworks display will be disappointed; there are no official fireworks in Paris for New Year’s Eve. Instead, light shows are planned around the city (you may see some fireworks popping off here and there. These are mini unofficial shows, but the Parisian council is trying to regulate this with fines for those found in possession of fireworks during the New Year celebrations).
The main celebration occurs around the Champs-Elysées; the famous avenue hosts a big street party, with a grand parade kicking off from 1pm. Many people choose this area as their vantage point for the midnight display; the Arc de Triomphe lights up with a projected video, and many places along the Champs-Elysées offer great views of the Eiffel Tower, which sparkles in a dazzling light show when the clock strikes 12.
If you’d prefer to avoid the huge crowds but still want to enjoy the festivities and light show, Montmartre is a great alternative for a fantastic view of the city in a calmer atmosphere. You’ll find plenty of cool bars and cabarets in the area, with the impressive Sacre Coeur looming in the background atop the hill.
Handy hint: Climb to the top of the stairs in front of the Sacre Coeur for the best view back over Paris.
Maybe you’d prefer to hit the water? Many cruise companies offer delightful jaunts along the Seine; book a dinner cruise and enjoy sailing along the river, witnessing the festivities around you without having to elbow your way through the masses on land.
While you’re celebrating, don’t forget to try some papillotes, a popular chocolate treat wrapped in a ‘popping’ cover that cracks like a firework when opened, and enjoy a glass of Champagne – yes, the real deal – in licensed venues.
Handy hint: It’s important to note that while you may see many revellers indulging in BYO alcoholic beverages, it’s actually illegal to consume alcohol in any non-licensed area, and fines apply.
Airports: Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG), Paris Orly Airport (ORY), Paris Le Bourget Airport (LBG)
As the biggest city in one of the first countries in the world to welcome in the new year, Sydney puts on a spectacular show. So for a New Year’s to remember, don’t miss the celebrations on the city’s famous harbour.
Sydney’s NYE fireworks are some of the biggest and most technologically advanced in the world, and up to 1 billion people across the globe tune in to watch them. More than a million people flock to the city to see them in person along the harbour’s foreshore, and celebrations kick-off early all over the city, so it’s best to decide your vantage point early on. If you haven’t sorted out your transport for the celebrations, or your transfer from Sydney airport for that matter, now’s the time to do it – this is one of the busiest times to be in the Harbour City.
There are many different ways to enjoy the celebrations. For many visitors, the most stress-free solution is going to one of the many ticketed areas, including the Sydney Opera House, The Royal Botanic Gardens, Barangaroo Reserve and Taronga Zoo, or on a cruise.
The best news is that if you’ve missed out on the ticketed areas, or prefer to have your feet on solid ground, don’t worry – there are many free vantage points around the foreshore. Campbells Cove in The Rocks and Mrs Macquaries Point in the Royal Botanic Gardens give exceptional views of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, but there are more than 30 spots to choose from. Check out the #SydNYE website for more details on public vantage points.
Some hotel rooms will also have great views of the fireworks, so if you’re not up for crowds, then try a room at Holiday Inn Old Sydney, Four Seasons Sydney, or Shangri-La Sydney for incredible views of the Harbour
Did you know? Sydney usually tops the list for the highest number of spectators to any New Year’s Eve celebration in the world.
Celebrating New Year in London is a great British experience. From hearing Big Ben’s famous chimes at midnight and watching the huge fireworks display over the iconic Coca-Cola London Eye that illuminates London’s impressive skyline, to joining in with the communal singing of Robert Burns’s Scottish poem Auld Lang Syne to ring in the new year with thousands of other spectators, the celebrations in London are a truly special way to celebrate the new year.
To help with safety and crowds, the main event is now ticketed (£10) and there are six main areas along the River Thames that provide spectacular vantage points. Some of the best views are from Victoria Embankment, South Bank, Waterloo Bridge and Westminster Bridge, but these are in the ticketed zones. If you don’t have tickets, you can head to Millennium Bridge or Southwark Bridge, or favourite local spots such as Primrose Hill. At more than 60 metres high, the summit of Primrose Hill gives an incredible view over London’s skyline.
If you’ve missed out on tickets, or simply just don’t fancy standing in the cold, a river cruise, dining in a riverside restaurant or staying in hotels close to the River Thames such as Mondrian at Sea Containers and Park Plaza Riverbank London are other great ways to see the fireworks. As a general rule, as long as you can see the London Eye, you’ll be able to see the fireworks.
Did you know? The London fireworks display lasts for 10 minutes, but uses enough fireworks for an hour long display, so don’t miss out on this pyrotechnic party!
Hogmanay is the Scottish word for New Year’s Eve and the celebrations around this time of year, and boy do the Scots know how to ring in the new year.
In Edinburgh, Hogmanay is actually three days of celebrations from 30 December to 1 January and takes place throughout the city centre. The main events are ticketed, and the ones not to miss include: the torchlight procession on 30 December when tens of thousands of people bearing torches parade through the city to illuminate the night and mark the start of the celebrations; the street party along Princes Street on the 31 December where bands and DJs provide the backdrop as street performers and dancers entertain until the clock strikes midnight and the ultimate fireworks display set against Edinburgh Castle commences; the main concert in Princes Street Gardens, which has headline acts and arguably the best view of the fireworks; and Loony Dook on 1 January, where thousands of the bravest souls dress up and throw themselves into the freezing waters of the Firth of Forth, just outside of Edinburgh.
On New Year’s Eve, Edinburgh’s pyrotechnic display lights up the city and Auld Lang Syne rings throughout the streets in the biggest rendition of the poem in the world as revellers bid farewell to the year and welcome in the new one.
If you don’t have tickets to the festivities, fear not. There are plenty of vantage points to see the fireworks. If you’re up for a hike, getting to the top of iconic Arthur’s Seat will provide a fantastic viewing point for the fireworks. A torch is essential for the walk up this ancient volcano, which sits 251 metres above sea level, and it’s best to start the climb early, as there will be hundreds of others trying to get the best view too. Inverleith Park, just next to the Royal Botanic Gardens, is an ideal vantage point. Though it’s a couple of miles from the castle, you get the full view of the castle and city skyline, which is missed when seeing the fireworks from the city centre. If you want something closer to town but out of the ticketed area, Calton Hill will give you a great vantage point of the fireworks overhead, but get there early.
If you’re looking for something a bit different to celebrate the new year, try out some whirling, swinging and flinging as you dance the night away at the Ceilidh under the Castle – you can’t get more Scottish than that. Or if you’re after something more intimate, St Giles Cathedral hosts a Candelit Concert, which is a calmer, more relaxed way to see in the new year.
Did you know? It is thought that many traditional Hogmanay celebrations were originally brought to Scotland by the invading Vikings in the early 8th and 9th centuries. First-footing is one of the most widely practiced customs today, and refers to the tradition of being the first across the threshold of loved ones’ homes, bearing gifts. The tradition goes that to bring good luck for the household, the first foot should be a dark male, bearing symbolic gifts of coal, shortbread, salt, black bun (fruit cake) and whisky.
At 11.59pm every year since 1907 a ball has descended from the flagpole atop One Times Square in New York to mark the end of one year and the start of the next. This world-renowned tradition is watched by billions of people across the world, with an estimated one million revellers in Times Square bidding farewell to the year together.
The Times Square New Year’s Eve celebrations don’t just stop at the Ball Drop though. There are star-studded performances, a colourful cloud of confetti that falls as the ball drops and fireworks every hour on the hour, ending with a huge display at midnight.
Since 1907, seven versions of the Ball have been designed to signal the New Year. The current Waterford Crystal Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball is a geodesic sphere, 12 feet (3.56 metres) in diameter, and weighs more than 5,000 kilograms (11,875 pounds, to be specific), and is covered in 2,688 Waterford Crystal triangles of varying sizes.
The Ball’s descent is followed by millions of pieces of flying paper known as confetti wishes. Anyone can add a confetti wish for the year ahead, and these wishes are added to over a tonne of confetti that floats down at midnight. You can make your wish on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #ConfettiWish. The Ball Drop is best seen along Broadway, from 43rd Street to 50th Street, and along Seventh Avenue. It’s advisable to arrive early in the afternoon to get your spot, but remember: there are no public toilets available and it’s really important to pile on the layers – the New York winters are notoriously bitter.
If you don’t fancy the crowds in Times Square, there are plenty of New Year’s Eve celebrations across the city. The Brooklyn Bridge ‘Walk into New Year’ is a great way to learn about the history of this iconic bridge and a perfect vantage point for the city’s fireworks, or wrap up warm and enjoy the New Year’s Eve Fireworks in Prospect Park.
Did you know? The Time’s Square Ball has been lowered every year since 1907, with the exception of 1942 and 1943, when there was a wartime ‘dimout’ of lights in New York City.
Remember that New Year’s Eve is an extremely popular and busy time to travel. Don’t delay and book your airport transfer today so that you can rock up to the celebrations with ease.
This article was originally published in 2017 and has been updated.