From magnificent firework displays to endless champagne, here are some of the best places to spend New Year’s Eve in Europe.
1. Join Madeira’s New Year’s Eve party
- Where: Portugal
- Perfect for: Groups of friends in search of massive fireworks
During the last few days of December, the quiet harborside streets of Funchal in Madeira start to awaken with signs of an amazing party to come.
Avenida Arriaga will play host to orchestras, folk bands, and choirs. For a more indulgent experience, throw on your fanciest clothes and step into the gardens of São Lourenço Palace, where you can enjoy classical concertos, bandoleers, and traditional local instruments like the cordófones.
The waterfront streets, just days ago shrouded in the calmness of off-season, suddenly burst into life in what is recognized to be one of the largest fireworks displays in the world. Cruise ships docked by the harbor blow their whistles to accompany the fiery spectacle, as ancient church bells echo through the narrow streets. All of this happens on a tiny archipelago on the vast North Atlantic Ocean – it’s a sublime start to the year!
2. Don’t miss a beat in Berlin this NYE
- Where: Germany
- Perfect for: Hardcore party-goers who want to dance all night
Berlin’s decadent temples of techno are home to the craziest New Year’s parties, with revelry that would make Dionysus proud. Celebrate like the locals do in a typically Berlin, windowless, dark club with music bleeding out of the walls.
The chaos of what goes on behind fist-pumping closed doors is only amplified outside. During this week, the city lifts its ban on illegal pyrotechnics, which means rockets, missiles, and ground and wall spinners are all fair game. Homemade pyrotechnicians ignite the streets of Berlin in a chaotic explosion of sound, color, and smoke. You’d think you were in a war zone – beware, it’s not for the faint of heart!
To catch the city’s official fireworks display, attempt braving the crowds at Brandenburg Gate and enjoy Europe’s biggest open-air party. You can also see the display from Berlin’s many bridges. The Oberbaum Bridge between Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain, and Moltke Bridge between Moabit and Mitte are perfect for firework-gazing.
3. Sail into the year on a Douro river cruise in Porto
- Where: Portugal
- Perfect for: Couples looking for a romantic start to the year
In the final week of 2019, Porto puts on festivities, cultural events, and live music along Avenida dos Aliados. The final fireworks spectacle happens close to Ribeira and the whole event lasts more than three hours. The best part? It’s all free!
Kick off your heels (pro tip: don’t wear heels) and saunter down the cobbled streets, popping in and out of boisterous bars. If you’re a planner, book a spot on one of the night cruise ships that fill up the Douro river all night long. Why drink champagne on land when you can drink champagne on a boat?
4. Soak up the celebrations at Széchenyi Baths
- Where: Hungary
- Perfect for: A relaxing and romantic NYE experience
Hungarians are very good at partying. They won’t just tell you so, they’ll show you so.
New Year’s Eve, or Szilveszter as it’s known in Hungarian, means eating and drinking well followed by singing and dancing until your legs give out. However, this is not restricted to New Year’s, so if you think you go hard, prepare to meet your partying adversaries in Budapest.
Budapest offers some unique ways to ring in the new year. Consider taking a champagne and dinner cruise along the Danube. You can watch the fireworks from the water, framed by iconic buildings like the Hungarian Parliament.
Széchenyi Baths has also been known to open its doors until 3:00 am to celebrate the New Year in the most rejuvenating way possible. Book in advance to be a part of the world’s grandest pool party!
5. Start 2020 at world-famous museums in Florence
- Where: Italy
- Perfect for: Firenze who love to stay together, and party together
Party like the Medicis once did, surrounded by the marbled decadence of Florence. Piazzale Michelangelo is the main venue for Florence’s official New Year’s Eve celebrations, but scout out your afterparty beforehand. The massive Manifattura Tabacchi warehouse will play host to 22 live sets that will ensure you dance your way into 2020. Admission is open to 1,500 people, so don’t expect a quiet jaunt in the City of Lilies.
At midnight, the Pointe Vecchio will be lit up by fireworks and the festivities will continue till dawn. For a truly luxurious experience, haggle for a deal on a bottle of bubbly and plastic champagne glasses being sold by street ‘vendors’. This is peak Italy, at 2:00 am, on any given January 1st.
Speaking of January 1st, if you manage to drag yourself out of bed, the Uffizi Gallery will be open from 8:15 am to 1:50 pm, Boboli Gardens will be open until 4:30 pm, and the Accademia Gallery takes visitors until 6 pm. You can begin 2020 with a resolution to be more cultured after the previous night’s antics.
6. Catch the fireworks display at the Atomium
- Where: Belgium
- Perfect for: Firework enthusiasts and families with older kids
Last year, some 50,000 people watched the New Year’s firework display from the foot of the Atomium. This year, the city will once again be lit up by pyrotechnics of all kinds, from simple sparklers to ‘Oh, is that legal?’ bombers that explode into flaming colors.
Many events will be sold out beforehand, so securing a Brussels Happy Pass is a guaranteed way to get into popular parties by the likes of Fuse and Bloody Louis.
If you’re into casual party hopping, head to Place Saint-Géry, where you can go from bar to bar. The cavernous cellars of Café Des Halles Saint-Géry is a great underground (literally!) party spot if you don’t have anything pre-booked. In the daytime, it’s a 19th-century food market; in the evening, it’s an exhibition space and bar with a dance floor underneath.
The city also provides free public transport along certain routes from 8:00 pm to 5:00 am, so you can party hop without racking up quite the Uber fee.
7. Get a fiery start at Edinburgh’s New Year
- Where: Scotland
- Perfect for: People of all ages who want an unforgettable experience
Edinburgh’s Hogmanay is listed as one of the top 100 things to do before you die. For five days a year, the Scots redefine what it means to ring in the New Year through a tradition that was first recorded in 1604.
Up to 150,000 people march down Edinburgh’s medieval streets with firelit torches. Tickets should be purchased well in advance, especially for the torchlight procession and street party at Princes Street Gardens – which was the biggest NYE party in the world last year.
New Year’s Eve in Edinburgh is steeped in tradition, from too much whiskey to bonfires, climbing Arthur’s seat, and singing the world’s biggest Auld Lang Syne by their very own bard, Robert Burns. If you want a fresh start in 2020, join the annual Loony Dook which takes place on January 1, in which people dive into the freezing waters of the Firth of Forth at South Queensferry, often in fancy dress.
Oh, and the fireworks? They completely envelop the night sky, making you feel tiny among a sea of more than a hundred thousand people. It’s humbling and awe-inspiring – until you’re fighting through the crowds to use the bathroom.
- Where: Denmark
- Perfect for: Dancing the night away with locals
New Year’s Eve in Copenhagen begins with friends gathering to watch the Queen’s New Year’s Speech at 6:00 pm sharp, accompanied by champagne and kransekage (wreath cake).
The most famous place to celebrate is Tivoli Gardens, which will be open until 00:30. The Tivoli Julemarked (Christmas market) will still be standing and the gløgg will still be pouring.
Illicit pyrotechnics are aplenty, so rest assured that you’ll be surrounded by a cloud of smoke and color. The masses also gather at Town Hall Square to watch the clock chime in the new year. Not a fan of crowds? Head to Queen Louise’s Bridge across the Nørrebro Lakes to catch the spectacle in relative peace.
You’ll also bear witness to the quintessentially Danish spectacle of jumping off chairs at midnight. It’s an old tradition that is said to bring fortune in the following year. You’ll see locals mounting coffee tables, bar stools, sofas – you name it – and jump right off, drink in hand (It’s a balancing skill that comes in handy once a year). Join the festivities by climbing a chair and shouting ‘Godt Nytår!’ before diving off!
9. Explore Rome on New Year’s Eve
- Where: Italy
- Perfect for: Soaking up history while partying
The Italian word for New Year is Capodanno, which means ‘the year’s head’. Each year, the Via dei Fori Imperiali fills up with people marching past historic landmarks.
Rome holds annual NYE events at different squares, like the Spanish Steps and Piazza Navona. This year, the heart of the city will be transformed into a pedestrian-only zone, with exhibitions, performances, music, projections, and art installations, giving the entire occasion a cultural edge. The biggest show of NYE 2019 in Rome will take place at Circus Maximus, accompanied by a 15-minute long fireworks show.
There’s also a strange tradition you can partake in: wearing red underwear. Both Italian men and women don red undergarments in hopes of bringing luck and fertility in the coming year. P.S. wearing red is also a great way to cover up any bolognese or wine mishaps.
10. Drink your way through Tallinn’s Old Town
- Where: Estonia
- Perfect for: Close friends looking to celebrate in a cozy, wholesome way
Imagine being surrounded by 13th-century buildings, shrouded in smoke as the scent of gunpowder hangs in the air and fireworks shoot off in every direction. Locals spill in and out of quaint taverns, joyously intoxicated despite the biting cold. Tallinn is magical at the dawn of a new year.
New Year’s Eve in Tallinn is unpretentious compared to the dizzying spectacles put on by larger, richer cities. Here, it’s very much a local affair that sees pubs full and people singing in the streets. Chances are, the city will be covered in a blanket of snow or frost. If you’re lucky, you’ll even bear witness to a frozen Tallinn Bay.
Both professional and self-appointed pyrotechnicians set fireworks off from the many Old Town squares. Vabaduse Väljak is the official place to welcome the New Year, but peel yourself away from the crowds and head to Nõmme mägi to get panoramic views of the fireworks.
Thinking of a slightly earlier escapade?
Check out our roundup of must-see Christmas Markets in Europe to get your seasonal fix of glühwein, Lebkuchen, and wooden collectibles.