Top 8 most spectacular places to celebrate New Year’s Eve

Lili Bidwell 31 December 2016

After having survived a long year, nothing seems more apt than to end it with a bang on New Year’s Eve. But with this pressure to end the year well comes the difficulty of choosing how to, and where to spend it: I have scoured all corners of the world (but really, just the internet) to pick the eight most spectacular places to ring in the New Year. Dramatic displays of fireworks and glitzy parties are just the beginning, as each city brings to the list their own unique and individual traditions.

New York

Is any list on New Year’s Eve parties complete without mention of New York’s famous “ball drop”? A tradition heralding back from the first few moments of 1907, the iconic ceremony takes place in Times Square every year, with the ball descending down a forty-three metre flagpole in the last sixty seconds of the year. The ceremony has undergone a number of changes in its last one-hundred-and-ten years, including the dimming of the ball under the wartime restrictions of 1942 and 1943, and transformation from its original design of wood and iron to its current LED lighting system incarnation. But it has nevertheless remained one of the most popular and well-known New Year’s events around the world. Drawing about two million spectators every year, this celebration is one for the books.


The Edinburgh Hogmanay – the Scottish word for their New Year’s Eve festivities – is one of the largest celebrations in the world, with their 1996-1997 celebrations bringing in around 400,000 attendees, and claiming the Guinness Book record for the world’s largest New Year’s Party. Festivities in Edinburgh last for four or five days, beginning on 28 December and stretching out, for those who with iron constitutions, to the New Year, or even 2 January. Featuring performances by indie and traditional bands, torchlight processions, a fireworks display following the firing of a cannon from Edinburgh Castle at midnight, and the world’s biggest delivery of Auld Lang Syne, Edinburgh’s New Year’s Eve parties are certainly not to be missed.

Rio de Janeiro

Rio is known as Brazil’s party capital, and its New Year’s Eve celebrations prove why. People traditionally wear white to ring in the New Year in Rio, and indoor clubs are often rejected in favour of taking to the streets, where festivities are abound. Be prepared for live music shows, performing your favourite pick of samba, rock, and electronica, flowers being thrown into the sea, and champagne being doused liberally everywhere. If you are lucky enough to make it through the dancing, the drinking, and the crowds, then the fireworks display at midnight would help end your New Years’ experience on an explosive note.


Berlin does New Year’s Eve in a quirkier way – its annual marathon, Berliner Silvesterlauf, sees participants in fancy dress running between two to fifteen kilometres while flipping pancakes. More traditional celebrations are held in the evening, with about one million people descending upon Brandenburg Gate and Victory Column for Berlin’s biggest party.


Sydney’s Harbour Bridge and Opera House are iconic enough sights all year round, but Sydney’s New Year’s Eve celebrations take their spectacular views to a whole other level. Their annual waterfront show includes the world’s largest fireworks display, as well as aerial acrobats and the Harbour of Light Parade, featuring over fifteen illuminated boats. If the dazzling play between air and water is not enough for you, then the knowledge that Sydney will be the first major city to strike midnight, and to transition to the New Year, might be.


The skies of Iceland are usually famous for being lit by the Northern Lights, but the New Year sees its capital illuminated instead by the lights of five hundred tonnes of fireworks. Here in Reykjavik, the pyrotechnics complement the gorgeous natural landscape, and there is no shortage of bars and clubs to keep the festivities going until the early hours of the New Year. Be sure to fight off the subsequent hangover in the morning in Reykjavik-fashion, by feasting on hot dogs or paying a visit to the hot springs.

Hong Kong

For equally impressive fireworks, Hong Kong offers a dramatic display each year, ending with a dazzling pyrotechnic dragon snaking across the sky – a perfect blend of modernity and tradition to welcome the New Year. A city known for its towering skyscrapers and chic bars, nightclubs and rooftop terraces, you are guaranteed to spend your last few moments of the year in the most fashionable way possible. 


This Asian state is the perfect destination for those who wish to spend New Year’s Eve in a more tropical climate. Goa’s golden sands and beach parties have become legendary amongst revellers; for a more relaxed approach, bonfires, bars, and bamboo forests can be found in abundance on their never-ending stretches of beach. For a glitzier celebration, clubs and hotels offer the more 'traditional' parties and raves to end the year with.

Ultimately, however, New Year’s Eve is about spending time with your loved ones, about heralding the New Year with family and friends. So regardless of whether you are raving on the streets of Rio, digging your toes into the sands of Goa, or simply staying at home with your family in front of the television, it is a lovely opportunity to spend time with the people most important to you.