After 2020 delivered us a few too many bad experiences, 2021 can’t come soon enough! So what better way to celebrate than by spending New Year’s Eve in Europe? The continent has some fantastic cities and parties to help you bring in the New Year in style. This post lists some of my favourite European cities to spend NYE, so grab your champagne and let’s start planning the biggest party of the year…
Please note: The activities described below may be cancelled at short notice or affected in other ways by Covid-19. Make sure you pay attention to travel restrictions and social distancing measures in place at your destination. Stay safe everyone!
For those looking for a bit of winter sun sprinkled with New Year’s Eve celebrations, look no further than Athens. The Greek capital holds events right across the city, from traditional dance parties in Bouzoukia venues to late-night concerts and festivities in Syntagma Square.
But the best part of spending NYE in Athens is the incredible firework display held above the Acropolis. It makes for a beautiful backdrop in the place that modern civilisation began. Some hotels like The Herodion allow you to watch the fireworks from their rooftop terraces, though it’s possible to see the fireworks from most parts of the city.
Another really popular place to sit and watch the fireworks is on the Lycabettus hill. From here, you’ll have a fantastic view of the fireworks as well as the entire city. To celebrate, simply take a bottle of bubbly as well as some snacks to keep you going until midnight.
As well as the celebrations, Athens offers great value for money and relatively small crowds. Spend a couple of days either side of New Year’s Eve to explore the city and the historical sights it has to offer.
>> For more information on how to have the best New Year’s in Athens, head to my dedicated NYE guide here.
No list of the best European cities to spend New Year’s Eve would be complete without mentioning London. All over the city, you’ll find bars, restaurants, nightclubs and open air parties to celebrate.
When Big Ben strikes midnight, the city erupts with a spectacular fireworks display. All around the London Eye on Southbank, beautiful colours and loud bangs punctuate the sky as the fireworks are set to an impressive soundtrack, created especially for the occasion. Sadly, the fireworks display has been cancelled in 2020, but there will be a televised display in the UK instead.
The traditional way to celebrate in the UK (particularly Scotland) is to cross your arms, hold the hands of the people next to you and sing Auld Lang Syne. Don’t worry if you don’t know the words – I’m pretty sure no-one else does!
While London is typically expensive, there are late night train services out to the surrounding areas meaning you can save some money by staying outside of central London. Most tube lines run through the night, and journeys are even free after 11:45 pm.
Valencia holds one of the best New Year’s Eve celebrations in Spain. There’s a big party in the Town Hall Square (Plaza del Ayuntamiento), featuring local DJs blasting out music from the Town Hall’s balconies. The party starts at 10:30 pm, so expect dancing, singing and light shows until around 2 am when it finishes.
If you’re celebrating here, make sure you take a bunch of grapes with you. It’s tradition to eat one grape for each of the 12 ‘bongs’ at midnight. It’s much more difficult than it sounds, but can provide entertainment!
Other places in the city you can celebrate include a fancy gala dinner at the City of Arts and Sciences, while nightclubs in the old town and at Las Arenas beach will keep you going until the sun starts to rise on January 1st.
The Danish capital of Copenhagen, though cold in winter, is a magical place to spend New Year’s Eve. The highlight, like in many European cities, is a series of spectacular fireworks displays across Copenhagen. The city’s famous Tivoli Gardens amusement park starts its fireworks show at 11 pm, but before that you can enjoy the carousels, restaurants and Christmas market stalls until they close.
At midnight, the clock tower chimes in the Town Hall Square. Here, it’s tradition to jump off a chair for good luck, as crazy as that sounds… Give it a go! Then, head to one of Copenhagen’s many bars and nightclubs to party into the night.
There’s a famous restaurant scene in Copenhagen, with plenty of Michelin star restaurants to celebrate with delicious food. Most restaurants will put on a special New Year’s Eve set menu, so make sure you book a table to take advantage of that.
Aside from eating, there’s plenty to keep you entertained in the city too – from walks around the wonderful Nyhavn neighbourhood, visits to the famous Little Mermaid statue and boat trips along the canal. Just make sure you check opening times before you go, as January 1st is a public holiday in Denmark and attractions may be closed.
>> To find out how else to spend your time in Copenhagen, read my winter guide next.
Paris sure knows how to hold a party. The French capital celebrates in style, thanks to the many nightclubs, wine bars and restaurants serving up delicious food and entertainment throughout the night.
Though you may read that organised fireworks displays don’t happen in Paris on New Year’s, they have done for the past couple of years at the Arc de Triomphe. Here, party-goers line the Champs-Élysées from 9 pm to ooh and aah at the light show, drink (though glass is banned!), dance and make as much noise as possible. But for a panoramic view of all the fireworks displays in Paris below you, head to Montmartre and take a spot in one of the squares in front of the Sacré-Coeur.
Alternative (but still very popular!) ways to ring in the New Year in Paris include partying in the park in front of the Eiffel Tower, heading to the cabaret at Moulin Rouge, eating Parisian cuisine at various restaurants and dancing the night away at the city’s nightclubs.
A relatively unknown European New Year’s Eve destination is Funchal in Madeira. Yet, its world record-breaking fireworks display (the largest in the world, don’t ya know!) makes Madeira one of the best places in Europe to spend New Year’s.
The whole Christmas season is a wonderful time to visit, but on December 31st, the festivities are at their most spectacular. After the countdown to midnight, fireworks are set off from various stations around the marina in an incredible display choreographed to music. It’s not just the biggest fireworks display in the world, it’s also one of the best.
Though the atmosphere and view of the fireworks is great from all over Funchal, most people gather around the marina but it does get very busy. If you fancy a slightly more civilised view, pre-book a meal at a restaurant with a marina view or book tickets to a New Year’s Eve party at a hotel like the Pestana Carlton or the Madeira Panoramico Hotel.
Just like in Spain, it’s a tradition in Madeira to eat a grape or raisin for each strike of the clock, but Madeirans also follow superstitions to climb up a step or on a chair to bring good luck for the new year. Why not join in?
New Year’s Eve in Rome is much more than just fireworks. The city organises a free 24 hour festival with a packed schedule of art, street performers, music and DJ sets. Whatever you decide to do, just make sure you’re wearing red underwear. It’s an Italian New Year’s tradition, said to bring you good luck!
Like most festivals in Italy, New Year’s Eve in Rome is a family affair based around food, so most families enjoy dinner at home before heading into the city to celebrate at midnight. If you’re not lucky enough to have a nonna to welcome you into her home on December 31st, book a table at a restaurant to enjoy a hearty meal. Most will have set menus (New Year’s Dinner is known as cenone), so expect lots of food to keep you going.
At midnight, though organised displays are becoming increasingly rare, fireworks have happened for the past few years at the Circus Maximus, accompanied by a classical ensemble. Even if fireworks aren’t planned for 2020, it’s still possible to head to one of the city’s vantage points like Gianicolo Hill or Piazza del Popolo to watch smaller displays across the city.
Hotels like The Forum offer it all – fabulous 7-course meals served at romantic tables overlooking its namesake, live music throughout the evening and a terrace bar to watch the fireworks from at midnight. It comes with a hefty price tag, though it’s worth it to celebrate a special evening.
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is a well-known party destination, and never more so than on New Year’s Eve (known locally as Silvestr!) There are fireworks displays all across the city, including in the Old Town Square, Prague Castle and Wenceslas Square, as well as all around the river. But the main organised fireworks display at Letná Park doesn’t actually happen until the day after, at 6 pm on January 1st. Make sure you stick around for that!
A really popular way to spend New Year’s Eve in Prague is on a river cruise. Boat parties serve food, drink and entertainment through the night while cruising up and down the Vltava river. From here, you’ll have one of the very best views of the fireworks on December 31st.
However you choose to spend New Year’s here, just make sure you wrap up warm – it can get very cold in central Europe so layers are essential! So if you’d prefer to stay in the warm, head to one of Prague’s cafes or fine dining restaurants to enjoy an all-inclusive dinner and drinks package. Make sure you book ahead – they can get very busy.
I couldn’t talk about New Year’s Eve celebrations in Europe without mentioning Edinburgh, could I? New Year’s Eve is known as Hogmanay in Edinburgh, and it’s widely regarded as one of the best celebrations in the world.
Though the 2020 party is said to be cancelled or at least adjusted from its traditional form to reflect current restrictions, Hogmanay treats 75,000 ticket holders to three days of parties across the city.
Hogmanay usually includes a flaming torch procession from the Royal Mile to Holyrood Park, as well as a Concert in the Gardens with live music, DJs, bars and entertainment – all with a backdrop of Edinburgh Castle. The celebrations culminate in an incredible fireworks display from the castle’s ramparts while the whole of Scotland joins hands to sing Auld Lang Syne.
Another great place to celebrate NYE in Spain is Mallorca. The island comes alive on December 31st with a beautiful firework display over the old buildings in Palma. Head to the city to enjoy the free street party that involves music, dancing and other festivities throughout the night. In 2020, the party will be split over two venues: Plaça del Rei Joan Carles I and by the town hall at Plaça de Cort.
Alternatively, food lovers could spend the night in a restaurant, though make sure you book in advance if you want to try one of the famed tasting menus. Then, party through the night at one of Palma’s nightclubs, such as Tito’s or the Social Club.
As New Year’s Eve is considered off-peak season, it’s cheap to travel here during the winter season but still stays relatively warm, even in December and January. If you’re still in the area on the 5th and 6th January, you’ll be lucky enough to join in the Three Kings Day parades, gift-giving and other celebrations. It’s a wonderful time to visit Mallorca!
>> If you’re heading to Mallorca for New Year’s, discover how to spend winter in Mallorca here.
There’s no where to spend New Year’s Eve in Europe quite like Poland. The festival is known as Sylwester here, and one of the best places to celebrate it is Krakow. From around 8 pm, there’s a huge party in the Main Market Square with live music, DJs, light shows and lots of fun until 2 am. It can get very crowded with revellers joining throughout the night, so be prepared to get there early if you want the best spot in front of the stage.
For the last few years, Krakow hasn’t put on organised fireworks displays come midnight. Instead, confetti cannons punctuate the countdown, providing a slightly less smoky but just as colourful way to mark the New Year.
Like most other cities, restaurants in Krakow put on special New Year’s Eve menus to fuel you for the night ahead. Once you’ve had your fill, head to one of Krakow’s nightclubs to dance until you drop. Most will need tickets to enter, so make sure you book in advance. For those who prefer pubs to clubs, there’s plenty of choice in Krakow, so why not lead your own pub crawl to celebrate NYE?
In Lisbon, the main square at Praça do Comércio plays host to the biggest New Year’s Eve party in Portugal, with live music and entertainment from 10 pm. At midnight, the countdown brings thousands of locals and visitors to the square to watch the fireworks set off from the rooftops. Midnight is also the time you’ll spot Lisboans munching on 12 raisins for luck – one for each month of the year. But the fun doesn’t end at 12! Following the countdown, local DJs and bands play their hits until the party winds down.
If you want to get out of the centre, head to Belém for a slightly smaller but just as entertaining night. Here, you’ll find crowds gathering to enjoy the music and fireworks from Belém tower, after enjoying dinner and drinks in one of the many nearby bars and restaurants.
Something that you won’t find in other European countries on NYE, only Portugal, is Fado. This traditional Portuguese music is almost haunting and incredibly emotional, so for a very different way to celebrate, book a table at a Fado house to enjoy the show with your dinner. Popular choices include Adega Machado, Clube de Fado and my personal favourite, Coimbra Taberna.
New Year’s is one of the most popular times of year to visit Hamburg, so make sure you book your stay and any tickets well in advance. What makes it so popular? The boat parties along the Elbe, the world-class fireworks displays and fabulous dinners might have something to do with it!
To enjoy the best view of the fireworks lighting up the sky above the river, head to the floating docks of Landungsbrücken to watch the show while the ships around the port sound their horns at midnight. It can get very loud here, so bring earplugs if you have sensitive hearing!
For a quieter and more civilised affair, try a gala dinner and party at a Hamburg hotel like Hotel Atlantic. This hotel overlooks Lake Alster for a fantastic view of the fireworks. A ticket to the gala dinner includes a champagne reception, a 5-course tasting menu and, if that wasn’t enough food, a buffet come midnight. At least you’ll bring the New Year in with a full belly!
Wherever you choose to spend New Year’s Eve in Europe, one thing’s for sure: it will be a night to remember!
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