12 Cities that do NYE Better than Home

The biggest party night of the year is just around the corner. We’re not saying it’s destined to be a damp squib or a complete let-down…BUT to rescue you from overpriced hype and bad TV at home, we’ve lined up 12 awesome European destinations where you can kick-off 2019 in style. Whether you’re looking for an all-night rave or a Hogmanay experience with all the trimmings, we’ve got you covered. Start the countdown now…


Place de Brouckére

Pack your dancing shoes and a healthy dose of stamina. In Brussels they like to get the party started early, with crowds usually gathering on Place de Brouckére from 7pm onwards.  Fireworks, DJs and sound and light shows will give 2015 a proper send off, while many of the city’s clubs will keep the party going until 7am on New Year’s Day. For information on ticketed events, check out Happy Brussels.


What to scoff with your champers:  Smoutebollen – direct translation: “lard balls”. So, they don’t sound like the most decadent way to welcome in the New Year but come midnight, the Belgian capital will be hopping with Smoutebollen.  Fill your face. These sweet doughy wonders will line your stomach and guard you against the mother of all hangovers on January 1st.


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Sacre Coeur plaza in Montmartre

Claim your spot on the Champs- Elysées from 9pm onwards for the best view of the Eiffel Tower and its sizzling extravaganza of fireworks. Alternatively (and for a far more chilled out affair), head to the Sacre Coeur plaza in Montmartre.  Get there early and expect to be rewarded with panoramic views of the Paris skyline.


What to scoff with your champers: Stock up on ‘papillotes’ in the local supermarket. Fireworks may be exploding all around when the clock strikes twelve, but there’ll also be an almighty rustle of sweet wrappers as Parisians get stuck into these once-a-year chocolates that pop like mini firecrackers.


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View from iamsterdam.

With its cheeky reputation for mischief-making, you can rely on Amsterdam to put in a solid NYE effort. On Oudejaarsavond (New Year’s Eve), what seems like the city’s entire population spills out onto the streets to see in the start of the New Year with a bang. Soak up the atmosphere on the Dam, Rembrandtplein or Museum Square. Check out the riot of  fireworks in Nieuwmarkt, the home of Amsterdam’s Chinese community or watch the colourful explosions raining down on the city from the roof of the NEMO museum which opens especially to the public on December 31st. Afterwards, look forward to all-night parties and specially laid on events at clubs and bars. 


What to scoff with your champers: Oliebollen at the ready. Just like Brussels, Amsterdam likes its bubbles with a side of grease. In fact, no Gelukkig Nieuwjaar! wish is considered complete without tucking into an oily, apple and raisin-filled hunk of dough.


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Berlin’s NYE celebration

Attended by over a million party-goers, Berlin’s NYE celebration is one of the biggest in Europe.  The city’s festivities focus mainly on The Brandenburger Tor where most people gather to watch the fireworks and experience the electric atmosphere of this massive open-air party. When the crowds get too much, thousands of hardy revellers trek up to the Teufelsberg at the northern tip of Grunewald or the Viktoriapark in Kreuzberg to catch a birdseye view of the spectacular display.


What to scoff with your Sekt: Sort yourself a batch of Berliner Pfannkuchen in a good local bakery on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve. These jam-filled doughnuts are a long-standing New Year’s Eve tradition in Berlin, but serve as an effective hangover cure on January 1st.


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If anyone knows how to party hard it’s the Madrileños.  Rolling out of clubs and straight into the office is pretty much a standard occurrence for for these folks, but locals really do step things up on December 31st.


Puerto del Sol is the epicentre of the mayhem. Wrap up warm and venture in to the square for the famous ball drop in front of the Puerto del Sol clock.  Clubs to follow.  Before you know what’s happened, you’ll be stepping bleary-eyed into the first rays of 2019.


What to scoff with your Cava: Grapes. Make it 12 and make it snappy. According to the local tradition, you’ve got 12 seconds to gobble those 12 grapes to ensure good luck each month in the year ahead. Go!


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Float about with the crowds that converge on piazza del Popolo on San Silvestro (New Year’s Eve), watch the free concert and fireworks display and exchange baci galore.  As the volume level ratchets up in the centro storico, keep an eye out for the nonnas and papas who still uphold the tradition of throwing old household bits and pieces off their balconies. You have been warned.


What to scoff with your Prosecco:  Leave some room after your New Year’s feast  for a midnight helping of good fortune. In Italy it’s traditional and said to be good luck to welcome in the new year with a portion of lentils served with spicy cotechino or zampone sausage.


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Budapest’s Szilveszter (New Year’s Eve)

Budapest’s Szilveszter (New Year’s Eve) celebration is a bumper 3-day mix of music, fireworks and time-honoured Hungarian traditions.  Vörösmarty Square is party HQ: expect crowds, DJs and live bands.  Public transport runs all night and most bars and restaurants lay on ticketed parties and special events.

What to scoff with your champers: Not much if you can help it – you’ll need to save your appetite for a big ol’ plate of the traditional kocsonya on January 1st. This dish of jellied pigs-feet is considered a new year delicacy and is eaten to ensure wealth and prosperity over the coming year..


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Copenhagen does NYE in style

As soon as the formalities of watching the Queen’s speech on TV are out of the way, New Year’s Eve in Copenhagen turns into one HUGE party. Traditionally, the City Hall Square and Queen Louise’s Bridge are the two most popular meeting points, but increasingly, Tivoli Gardens has become the top spot New Year’s Eve revellers, hosting a massive fireworks display at midnight. 


What to scoff with your champers: In Denmark, locals see in the new year with a generous slice of Kransekage, a towering, temple-like cake constructed entirely of marzipan.


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Edinburgh’s Hogmanay NYE

Edinburgh’s world famous Hogmanay warrants something of a longer term commitment than our other NYE cities. This hefty three-day festival kicks off on 30th December with a Torchlight Procession, a veritable river of fire that runs from the historic Royal Mile to the son et lumiére and culminates in a blaze of glory on Calton Hill. During Hogmanay itself (December 31st), the action shifts to Princes Street in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle. Up to 80,000 people come together for the Concert in the Gardens, an outdoor music event that provides the warm up act for the Hogmanay Midnight Fireworks on the castle ramparts.


On January 1st, when only a rude awakening will do,  sign up for the Loony Dook, the traditional icy dip in the River Forth at South Queensferry.


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London’s spectacular New Year’s Eve fireworks display

You know a city has upped its NYE game when access to its fireworks display is by ticket only.  Standing room at London’s spectacular New Year’s Eve fireworks display is so coveted that it’s now a bona fide ticketed event. Sure, you can watch the highlights on TV but you’ll never quite get the same experience as being there in person, watching the sky bursting into a spectrum of colour behind Big Ben and the London Eye.


The action doesn’t end at midnight on December 31st. If your major faculties are still intact on New Year’s Day, take advantage of the relative quiet and check out London’s best attractions while most of the population are still in bed, nursing their hangovers.


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Old Town Square

New Year’s Eve in Prague is about as far removed from a cosy night in with the TV as you can imagine.  When the clock stikes midnight in Prague, champagne is thrown,  firecrackers get bandied about on the squares and the bridges fizzle in a haphazard haze of a million tiny sparks. NYE in Prague is definitely not one for the faint-hearted, but if you can handle all the thrills and spills along Wenceslas and the Old Town Square, by all means, embrace the madness.


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Lisbon’s famous hills

For a ready-made party in the Portuguese capital, head to Praça do Comércio square, where music and fireworks accompany the waterfront countdown. Prefer to make your own fun? Muster up an extra bit of effort and tackle Lisbon’s famous hills. A 15-minute hike up to Castelo de São Jorge will lead you to the most spectacular panoramic view of the city as well as the fireworks across the River Tejo in Almada and Seixal.


Most after-parties don’t wind down until sunrise. Look forward to plenty of lively outdoor banter on the streets of Cais do Sodré and Bairro Alto.


What to scoff with your champers: Raisins. Wine lovers might sneer that every box of these tiny dried up fruits is a tragic tale of grapes that could have been wine. Not so in Lisbon. On New Year’s Eve, raisins are bestowed with special powers.  Do as the locals do and make 12 wishes on 12 separate raisins to ensure health and happiness for the coming year. 


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-Fiona Hilliard