It is not that early to plan where you want to witness the turn of the year. Each place has its unique way of celebrating the New Year Countdown. Australia is famous for the grand fireworks display held annually, each one trying to outdo the previous year’s spectacular event. The New Year Countdown in New York’s Times Square is one of the most attended events on New Year’s Eve. But have you ever wondered how welcoming the New Year is celebrated in other countries? We’ve got some of unique celebrations happening in Europe which you might consider visiting to welcome 2015. And incidentally, we have the perfect Early Bird flight deals to Europe that you can check out right now.
The normally formal Brits know how to party hard and mount spectacular events on a grand scale on New Year’s Eve. London presents a three-hour show along the River Thames on New Year’s Eve. The London Eye is where the center of the action is and it literally bursts into a magnificent light and sound show. You cannot help but be drawn to join when a huge crowd sings Auld Lang Syne together as the Big Ben chimes the countdown. If you want a good spot, go early to the Westminster Bridge, the Waterloo Bridge or at the Victoria Embankment. If you have cash to spare, book a Thames dinner cruise so you can watch the event unfold in style and comfort.
The fireworks display that will light up the skies of London doubles its magnificence as its lights get reflected on the water of the river Thames. If you cannot find a spot along the aforementioned places, you still have options on the Millennium Bridge (albeit a bit limited) but there is still the eastern part of Jubilee footbridge. Since the spots are likely to be filled by nine in the evening, your best bet is to get there a bit ahead. Of course, if money is no object, you can have New Year’s Eve dinner in one of the restaurants at The Shard before going up to its 360-degree observation decks.
Afterwards there will be parties and events. There’s the Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park. There is also on Medieval Banquet at the dungeons of St Katherine’s Dock. Public transport is free all night so you can indulge in some nighttime sightseeing or partying.
Image credit: Yann Caradec
Welcoming the New Year in Paris is certainly different. There are no official fireworks displays but the City of Light will be brightly lit. Their version of the celebration is more artistic and eclectic. The beautifully lit Seine is a delight to see. You can have a picnic at the Champs-Élysées while waiting for the light show. Another spectacular sight is the light show at the Eiffel Tower. By itself, the Paris icon is already magnificent. But on New Year’s Eve, when the light show comes on, you cannot help but gape in wonder at its creativity. If you have enough cash, you can splurge on a boat cruise along the Seine complete with a lavish dinner and enjoy the Parisian skyline. You might want to go up Montmarte to have an excellent view of the party scene at Champs Elysée before joining the crowd in one of the many bars in the area. If you are after a place that is less crowded but still has abuzz with the holiday celebration, go to Pigalle or the plaza in front of the Sacré Coeur.
While most Parisians celebrate New Year’s Eve having dinner with their families at home, there are still many local revellers and tourists out to celebrate the festive occasion. Despite the lack of grand fireworks display, there are other exciting things you can do in Paris. You can watch a cabaret show at Moulin Rouge or the Lido. The shows in these two clubs are specially created for the occasion.
The Dutch are among the happiest people in the world and it shows in the way they celebrate Oudejaarsavond (New Year’s Eve) with plenty of fireworks, champagne and their classic deep-fried dough balls with sugar icing, which they call Oliebollen. Even if you are on a budget, you can still enjoy the celebration because there are several free pop-up street parties where the celebration is centred: the historic areas of Nieuwmarkt, Rembrandtplein, Museumplein and Leidseplein. At Dam Square though, you’re likely to find beer tents and live shows. Still, there is an official celebration area designated by the city, so you have plenty of choices on where you want to be when you are in Amsterdam.
If you want to see how spectacular their fireworks display is going to be you have to park yourself early at the Oosterdok, where the 18th century ship named “The Amsterdam” and the nearby Scheepvaartmuseum serve as the grand backdrop for the pyrotechnic display and the live concert that follows. There’s no need to worry about getting hungry as there are plenty of street vendors selling not only oliebollen but appelflappen (apple fritters), bitterballen (Dutch meatballs) and vlaamse frites (potato fries) as well. For drinks, nothing tastes better on such an occasion as the famous local beer, Heineken.
The Brandenburg Gate is where the main New Year’s Eve celebration is centred. Berliners turn into party animals on Silvester (New Year’s Eve). The event is not just for locals as thousands of tourists come for the occasion. It is said that around one million people usually turn up to party until the next day. There will be plenty of mulled wine, beer and local specialties such as currywurst (pork sausage topped with ketchup mixed with curry powder). These are available from food and drink tents along the Party Mile from the Brandenburg Gate. What brings the crowds to Berlin are its music stages, where DJs and live performers provide non-stop music in several fantastic dance clubs such as the huge 1,500-capacity Berghain, the Alte Münze Berlin and its five dance floors or at the Umspannwerk Alexanderplatz.
It can be hazardous though to be walking around residential areas in Berlin at this time since Berliners have the habit of lighting and tossing fireworks from their homes. They also have mini fireworks displays of their own, rather than waiting for the big one. If you want to watch the grand spectacular from afar, you can go to Viktoriapark in Kreuzberg or to Teufelsberg in Grunewald before you join the huge party crowd at the city center.
Welcoming the New Year is quite sedate in Barcelona, if you are going to compare it with the other destinations in Europe. The city does not have an official fireworks display although there are some areas that mount their own version. The beach at Barcelona has its own fireworks display. The celebration in Barcelona is more traditional, with families having meals together before the countdown. People here believe that it will bring them good luck to wear red underwear while welcoming the New Year and eating 12 grapes, one for every minute before the clock strikes 12.
The city will get crowded by the locals as they emerge from their homes after midnight. There will be plenty of revellers in Plaça Catalunya, which is connected to La Rambla, a long tree-lined shopping area that somewhat resembles the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris. This is where most of the young folks gather to celebrate New Year’s Eve with friends.
If you are looking for something different to do on New Year’s Eve, then come to Barcelona and soak up its different atmosphere. Have some freshly-made churros con chocolate or salute the New Year with some cava sangria or Spanish champagne. It is also a good time as any to visit some of Barcelona’s top spots like the Picasso Museum, and the creative buildings designed by Antoni Gaudi such as Casa Vicens, Parc Güell, La Pedrera, Palau Güell, Colonia Güell, Casa Batlló, Casa Calvet, La Sagrada Familia and the Cascada Fountain at Park de la Ciutadella.
Take me to Istanbul
You might think that Istanbul is quite an odd city to visit for the New Year’s Eve celebration but you will be pleasantly surprised at how it turns into a party place during this special day. You can start the night with a quiet dinner at Istiklal Caddesi or Bebek. If money is not an issue, there were some expensive places for dinner and entertainment at Nişantaşı, however, you can still have a great time and a good view of the fireworks at Abdi İpekçi Caddesi, the city’s main avenue. Beneath the Galata Tower there will be parties where expats and locals come together or you might want to try a wonderful local experience at Burgazada Island where bonfire parties are held near the pier.
The party and revelry are on the pedestrian-only streets in Taksim Square or at Bağdat Caddesi. Fireworks displays are also a major come-on but it would be great if you can afford a Bosphorus midnight river cruise for a better view of their pyrotechnic shows.