As the Christmas lights start to fade and the holiday season is coming to an end, there’s still one final bash to send out 2012. With the New Year just around the corner, now’s the time to make your New Year’s resolutions, drink away the last year’s regrets and celebrate starting all over again in 2013. From riotous street parties and fireworks extravaganzas, to marching bands and torchlight processions, here are 20 of the best New Year’s Eve parties from around the world.
1. New York City
Few places rival the atmosphere of New Year’s Eve in New York City, home to one of the night’s most memorable events — the Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball Drop. A custom dating back to 1907, the iconic ball — a 12-foot glittering sphere weighing 11,875 pounds — is dropped each year at the turn of midnight from a flagpole on top of One Times Square, as the square is blitzed with one ton of shimmering confetti.
One of the world’s most electric New Year’s Eve parties, Times Square draws in over a million revelers to countdown the seconds to the New Year, as well as being broadcast live to millions of viewers around the world. Celebrity music acts, an enthralling pyrotechnic lightshow and the popular New Year’s Eve Wishing Wall, where partygoers can write down their hopes for the New Year, add to the festivities. If you prefer to escape the masses, book a table at one of the bars or restaurants overlooking the Square, or opt for a boat cruise from New York Harbor where you’ll get a great view of the midnight fireworks set off from Liberty Island.
Paris lives up to its “city of lights” nickname come New Year’s Eve, with fireworks dazzling the city streets and thousands of party-goers hitting the streets, bars and clubs to see in the Nouvelle Anné. In the heart of the city, the Eiffel Tower forms the centerpiece for a spectacular lightshow and fireworks display, and the surrounding Champs-Elysees area comes alive with a massive street party. Expect handfuls of popping papillotes (chocolates that set off like firecrackers when opened), lots of obligatory cheek kissing and gallons of France’s most popular export — Champagne.
For less-crowded celebrations, get a great view of the fireworks from the Montmartre artist district; take a romantic boat cruise along the Seine or tuck into a decadent New Year’s menu at the infamous Moulin Rouge.
One of the last capitals in Europe to see in the New Year, London pulls out all the stops for the biggest party of the year. Over 250,000 people cram along the boats and banks of the River Thames and its surrounding bars and restaurants for a prime view of the night’s events. As the epic countdown begins and Big Ben strikes midnight, the city erupts in a dramatic 10-minute lightshow and firework display, set to a backdrop of the towering London Eye, the Houses of Parliament and Westminster.
Festivities don’t end on New Year’s Eve though — a three-hour parade takes to the streets of central London on New Year’s Day, with colorful floats, marching bands, costumed dancers and a procession of the Queen’s horses.
One of the last places in the world to enter the New Year, New Year’s Eve in Hawaii is sure to be a party worth waiting for. Bring in 2013 on the beach, with glittering fireworks displays illuminating the beachfronts at Aloha Tower, Waikiki and Ko Olina on Oahu; Wailea, Hana and Manele Bay on Maui; and Poipu Beach on Kauai. Beachside bars and clubs will be in full swing for the New Year, with theme nights, open-air music concerts and boat cruises all offering unique ways to party into the early hours.
With its snow-trimmed streets still aglow with festive illuminations and the city’s famous Christmas markets transformed into New Year fairs, Vienna is an atmospheric place to spend New Year’s Eve. Hundreds of thousands take to the streets of Vienna to witness the city’s fireworks at the Wiener Prater fun fair, but the city also hosts over a vast number of balls, galas and concerts that bring a touch of old age elegance to the proceedings. If you can’t get tickets to the glamorous “Grand Ball” at Hofburg Palace, take in a classical concert, Burlesque show or dinner party cruise along the Danube.
Be sure to save some energy for the day after, when a huge crowd gathers in front of the City Hall to watch the famous New Year’s concert from the Vienna Philharmonic on a giant TV screen.
Photo credit: Andreas Perhab via Flickr.
Hosting more than half a million people, Melbourne’s vibrant New Year’s Eve celebrations feature two official fireworks displays, with celebrations starting off the evening in Yarra Park. The city’s impressive midnight display showers the entire city with color, with rockets launched from rooftops around central Melbourne and the Victoria Harbour. There’s plenty to do on New Year’s Eve too — music stages around the city host a variety of live acts; carnival rides and sporting activities make up the family precinct in Yarra Park; Federation Square hosts indigenous folk musicians and Brazilian samba dancers; while street performers and celebrity appearances along the waterfront keep spirits high right up until midnight.
One of the world’s first cities to celebrate the New Year, Sydney’s fantastical New Year’s Eve lightshow is renowned around the globe. The towering Sydney Harbour Bridge is the centerpiece for celebrations with two fireworks displays set off from river barges and rooftops, and elaborate pyrotechnic displays setting Sydney Harbour and the iconic Opera House on fire. The evening of entertainment includes aerial acrobatics, an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander smoking ceremony (said to cleanse the evil spirits of the past year) and an Acknowledgement of Country presentation, culminating in the magnificent Harbour of Light Parade™ — a mass flotilla of illuminated boats choreographed throughout the harbor.
Photo credit: Rob Chandler via Flickr.
For an action-packed New Year’s Eve, Whistler makes the perfect location to tick some winter adventures off your bucket list. Spend the day snowboarding or snowmobiling, check out the free Festival of Lights exhibit at Millennium Place, then hit the icy lakes for a moonlit ice skate to kick start the celebrations.
Whistler village hosts a number of New Year’s Eve Events, with a roster of free entertainment, live music and arts in the conference center, and the village square getting in the party mood with fire dancers, DJs and an extravagant fireworks display at midnight. Alternatively, celebrate the New Year with a view, with dinner at on the summit of Blackcomb mountain where you’ll be able to watch the fireworks from 6,000 feet (1,829 meters) above.
The Scottish capital is well known for hosting some of the liveliest New Year’s Eve events in the world, celebrating with a massive four-day festival, known as “Hogmany.” The centuries-old tradition brings crowds of 250,000 party-seekers to Edinburgh to take part in the famed events. A torchlight procession starts the proceedings, followed by a giant open-air Ceilidh (a traditional Celtic party) with live music and entertainment performed on stages around the city, and a huge concert and series of parties taking over the city for the big night. As midnight strikes, 4.5 tons of pyrotechnics set the Edinburgh skyline ablaze as the crowds slur the words to classic Scottish song “Auld Lang Syne.” Hold off on the hangovers though, as New Year’s Day hosts a number of fun events, from dry dog sledding across Holyrood Park to swimming in the ice-cold waters of Loony Dock.
10. Las Vegas
Nowhere on earth does nightlife like Las Vegas, and the biggest celebration of the year sees over 300,000 people descend on the party capital. The famed Las Vegas Strip is car-free and firework-friendly throughout the night, with live bands, pyrotechnic displays and laser-shows turning the area into a giant street party. Bars and nightclubs all over town will be turning up the volume (and the ticket prices) for some mammoth celebrations and famous music acts will be hitting the stage (The Killers, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pitbull and Calvin Harris are all on the bill for the 2013 celebration). Whether you’re gambling away the past year’s savings, smooching beneath Bellagio’s famous dancing fountains or partying into the early hours in a haze of champagne cocktails, Vegas does its hard-partying reputation proud over the New Year.
Photo credit: Sky Island via Flickr.
America’s theme park capital, Orlando, offers plenty of options for seeing in the New Year, with the city’s legendary Walt Disney World, Universal Studios and SeaWorld all open until 1 a.m. on New Year’s Day. Universal Citywalk hosts a huge New Year’s event with live bands and the NYC Times Square ball drop showcased on large screens.
If you’ve got kids in tow for the New Year, few destinations are as perfect as Disney World Orlando, where daylong celebrations culminate in an explosive midnight fireworks display. Cirque du Soleil performances, dance parties, raining confetti and live entertainers will keep the whole family mesmerized as you await the final countdown.
Photo credit: terren in Virginia via Flickr.
12. New Orleans
Home to one of the nation’s best New Year’s Eve fireworks displays, a fiery kaleidoscope cascading over the Mississippi River, New Orleans erupts in festivities as the clock strikes midnight. The 15-minute-long spectacle might be the biggest event of the evening, along with the famous Fleur de Lis drop where, reminiscent of the Times Square Ball drop, an oversized object is dropped from the roof of the Jax Brewery on Jackson Square, but the night doesn’t end there. Parties can go on until the sun comes up, with live music booming from the bars and clubs in the city’s French Quarter and the streets still bustling in the early hours.
With more than one million people chanting the countdown to midnight and over 2,000 fireworks raining sparks over the city, New Year Eve is undoubtedly the event of the year in Berlin. The main event, a gigantic street party with live bands and a mind-boggling lightshow, has been a tradition since the fall of the infamous Berlin wall, and today the mammoth event is broadcast all over the world.
A 2km “party mile” stretches between the landmark Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate) and the Siegessäule (Victory Column), with video screens, live music stages, party tents and refreshment stands transforming the historic city into a vibrant circus. Whether you opt for strutting your moves on the dance floor, munching Bratwurst and drinking German beer, or simply soaking up the party atmosphere, “Silvester” (New Year) is the liveliest time to be in the German capital.
With a mere four daylight hours over the Christmas season, the northernmost capital of the world has plenty of excuses to get the party started early for the New Year. Reykjavik’s New Year’s Eve celebrations traditionally kick off with evening mass at Reykjavik’s Cathedral, before locals join forces around huge bonfires to play music, sing and dance as they countdown the end of 2012. As the clock strikes midnight, the city erupts with fireworks and huge crowds gather around landmarks like the Hallgrímskirkja church, Perlan (The Pearl) and Landakotskirkja church for an extravaganza that aims to rival the northern lights. It’s after midnight that the city’s renowned nightlife swings into action, with bars and clubs blaring long into the New Year.
Photo credit: Daniel Williams via Flickr.
15. Rio de Janeiro
The cultural capital of Brazil might be most famous for its riotous Carnival, but New Year’s celebrations come a close second. Rio’s famous Copacabana beach hosts the celebrations, with giant stages set up along the oceanfront, and an array of drum-heavy music, opulent Carnival-style costumes, traditional dance performances and fairground attractions keep revelers entertained through the evening hours.
Over two million people cram onto the beach, in a mass of white (the color said to bring good luck for the new year), drinking champagne, tossing handfuls of flowers into the ocean (a gift to Yemanja, Goddess of the seas) and dancing the samba until the main event. As the New Year is counted in, a procession of boats set off a torrent of vivid fireworks over the ocean.
16. Hong Kong
With its enormous fireworks display and pyrotechnic lightshow more electrifying each year, Hong Kong has firmly cemented its reputation for one of the world’s best New Year’s Eve celebrations. The events kick off in Hong Kong’s Times Square shopping mall, where a replica ball drop takes place in homage to the famous NYC Times Square festivities. Over at the waterfront, a sparkling countdown is etched onto the night sky above Victoria Harbour, before the waterfront explodes in an extravagant fireworks display. Whether you’re partying on a boat by the harbor or gazing up from a rooftop terrace, the HK$7 million spectacle is sure to incite gasps right up until its mindblowing finale — a pyrotechnic dragon dancing across the skyline.
Photo credit: Bryan Allison via Flickr.
Spain’s party capital will be saving the best for last, with restaurants, bars and nightclubs all holding special events for New Year’s Eve. In the run up to midnight, huge street parties take over Plaza Catalunya, Las Ramblas and Plaza Reial, with crowds singing, popping champagne and counting down the seconds until the New Year. While there is no official fireworks display in Barcelona, a number of hotels and private parties along the waterfront brighten up the sky with their own displays.
Make sure you save some energy reserves for the first week of the New Year, too — the spectacular Three Kings Parade brings colorful chariots, marching bands and torchlight processions to the city streets.
Toronto celebrates New Year’s Eve in style, but the real spectacle is at the nearby Niagara Falls — more than three million lights feature in the “Winter Festival of Light” and the midnight fireworks display is set against one of the world’s most impressive backdrops.
If you prefer to stay in town, the main hub of New Year’s celebrations is in Nathan Phillips Square, where a giant music concert, fireworks display and public countdown will bring in 2013.
Photo credit: Tania Liu via Flickr.
From the glitzy Thonglor district to the backpacker-haven of Khao San Road, every bar and nightclub in Bangkok will be heaving with revelers on December 31st, as the city’s Thai and international populations come together to celebrate the New Year. The biggest event of the night is in CentralWorld Square, where crowds of several hundred thousand will be gathered for a spectacular light show and live concert. As well as the dramatic countdown to midnight, they’ll be video screens projecting celebrations from around the world, a series of fireworks displays set off along the riverside and lively beer gardens lining the streets.
20. Cape Town
While New Year’s Eve might hold the best parties, Cape Town’s real festivities kick off on New Year’s Day, when the “Kaapse klopse,” or Cape Town Minstrel Carnival, hits the streets. Expect flamboyant parades and performances with thousands of traditional dancers, marching musicians and hoards of costumed Minstrels, in a celebration that dates back to the 19th-century slave trade (traditionally this was the one day of the year the slaves were given a day off). There’s no need to wait until the 1st to start partying, though — a number of New Year’s Eve festivals, concerts and events will keep the city dancing well past the strike of midnight. The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront hosts a music concert and midnight fireworks display; the Victoria Falls New Year’s Carnival includes a carnival-themed train, live music and plenty of entertainment and DJs in the Cape Quarter will keep the roofs raised well into the night.
Zoe Smith for Viator
Planning your New Year’s Eve? Browse Viator’s USA New Year’s Eve tours and tickets and Europe New Year’s Eve tours and tickets!