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25 November 2015

Top 7 Cities To Bring In The New Year

The end of an old year and the beginning of a new one is a special occasion for everyone, everywhere. But some cities have taken their New Year’s celebrations to new heights, far beyond the reach of a firework or a popped champagne cork. For some it’s location – a proximity to the dateline or just the magic of remoteness.

For others it’s the opportunity to party just that little bit harder. For a few it’s a spiritual affair, a chance to reflect and be reborn when the sun comes up on January 1st. Here are seven for your travel bucket-list.

 
Banner Image Credit: iStock.com/8213erika

Kiritimati

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Image Credit: iStock.com/ArtieParis

The islanders of the scattered archipelagos of the South Pacific, just left of the dateline, let in the New Year before anywhere else. Kiritimati, or Christmas Island – the easternmost island of the nation of Kiribati – is home to around 5,000 people, about the same number of white-sand beaches, warm seas, amazing birdlife and… not much else.

Named by British explorer Captain James Cook when he reached the island’s coast on Christmas Eve 1777, its present name is – believe us – a local pronunciation of Christmas. Almost all of the island is a wildlife reserve and as daytime temperatures routinely nudge the mid-thirties, the evening of December 31st is like most others – time for a beer, a bit of slow dancing, and some stargazing. Kiritmati does let off a few fireworks however, and these are beamed to New Zealand, which has the world’s first big party an hour later.

Sydney

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It’s summer, it’s the shimmering harbour, it’s the world’s most eye-catching opera house… it’s Sydney, Australia. There’s no doubt that the illuminated flotilla of more than 50 boats and fireworks above the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House illuminate effervescently what is in any case one of the most telegenic cityscapes anywhere. But it’s also Australians’ love of a good party that makes December 31st so memorable here.

The first megacity to get the New Year, the pictures beamed around the world are the official “g’day” for many people in places many thousands of miles to the west of here. Like most Aussie affairs, this one is democratic, open to clubbers, cruise passengers, circus audiences, cocktail sippers and kids.

Beijing

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Fireworks were invented in China in the 7th century to ward off evil spirits. Used to herald the Chinese New Year, the autumn Moon festival and other national celebrations, they mark New Year’s Eve in particularly spectacular fashion. It’s a dark, cold time of the year in the capital, but the awesome firework display at the Olympic Park helps warm up the skies.

There are also shows at The Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace and the Great Wall – a couple of hours drive away. Across Beijing, expats and local residents mix at bars and restaurants, and rock concerts are staged at the Solana Blue Harbor Shopping Park. You’ll also find cultural shows and other events being held at the city’s Millennium Monument, and hip hoods like the 798 Art District get dancing for the night.

Because China has its own lunar New Year – on Feb 8, 2016 – everyone gets to do it all again a few days later.

Edinburgh

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Hogmanay is the local word for New Year in Scotland; linguists say it could allude to gift-giving, mistletoe, mythical elves, or none of those. Whatever the meaning, the Scots have long adopted the waving out and ushering in of years as their very own festive biggie, and a chance to quaff, dance with a few strangers and get merry.

The main mass public gathering in the Scottish capital takes place on Princes Street and Princes Street Gardens, beneath the stunning backdrop of Edinburgh Castle. Bagpipers, DJs and musicians provide an assortment of soundtracks, with stages set up for big acts. There are countdown fireworks at 9pm, 10pm and 11pm, before the big finale at midnight.

Reykjavik

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Icy-cold, pitch-dark and spookily seismic, Iceland is always bursting with light shows thanks to its many volcanoes and Aurora Borealis. New Year sees a magical mood descend on the lonely island. Icelanders start New Year’s Eve with a family meal, followed by a trip to a local bonfire (brenna), and perhaps a few glasses of schnapps. From around half past ten, the city streets fall quiet as the nation gathers around its TV sets to watch Áramótaskaup –  a comedy show broadcast by the national television channel, that sends up the major news stories of the year.

As midnight approaches (no one waits for midnight), every household sets of its own rockets, bangers, Catherine wheels and candles. That’s 200,000 people in Reykjavík and around 500 tons of explosives. The effect is panoramic and very powerful – if you’re visiting, stand by the statue of Leifur Eiriksson, beneath the magnificent Hallgrímskirkja church and gawp in wonder.

Rio de Janeiro

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Many of Brazil’s Atlantic-facing cities celebrate the Ano Novo in style, but Rio’s Réveillon (French for “waking”) is special. Attired in the white gowns of Candomblé priestesses, millions of locals and visitors line the city’s beaches, casting flowers on to the waves at midnight to honour the African sea goddess Yemanjá, whose traditions have become mingled with the Virgin Mary.

People from all over the world congregate to see the epic firework display, and to share the African rituals, songs and prayers.  Afterwards, the streets, bars, and restaurants fill with parties, dancing, and music.

Las Vegas

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It’s Sin City, the City of Lights, the Overkill Oasis, and it specialises in memorable short breaks and frenzied fiestas. You can always count on the city for a novel New Year’s Eve – and one that will last until well beyond midnight. The famous strip is shut down to traffic and becomes a massive block party for about 300,000 new friends. At midnight, the casinos launch a choreographed fireworks display that makes Manhattan’s Times Square shindig look like a garden party. Afterwards, the nightclubs heave with celebs and merry partygoers dressed to impress. Book rooms well in advance and pack a hangover remedy.

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