The hazy memories of my Edinburgh Hogmanay visit include glassy-eyed Scots dancing in the streets with doctored pop bottles and the unsolicited kisses of dozens of boozy, glitter-faced strangers. But I don't remember returning to my hotel. Or why I woke up with a Tam o'Shanter cap in my bed.
Everyone should experience New Year's Eve in the Scottish capital at least once, agrees local blogger Katey Lee. "There's always a friendly and welcoming atmosphere. Whether you're outdoors with the crowds or in a cozy wee pub, you'll be surrounded by your new best pals."
For first-timers, the night's tuque-topped shenanigans – 80,000 Princes Street partiers hopping fairground rides and cheering live acts – can be daunting. But when the deafening countdown begins and fireworks silhouette the castle, your $35 ticket (see www.edinburghshogmanay.com) will seem well worth it.
Add-ons this year include a Pet Shop Boys show and a Dec. 30 torchlight procession, but Lee says city bars will also be packed. Her pick? The Ghillie Dhu pub (ghillie-dhu.co.uk). "They're having ceilidh dancing, live music, DJs and a midnight piper."
Next morning, when your head feels like a bowling ball on a toothpick, you'll be craving recovery. Aim for a Scottish breakfast (haggis included) at Leith's Roseleaf café, says Lee, or join locals at the aptly-named Loony Dook event: an icy plunge into the River Forth that numbs all headaches.
Edinburgh isn't Britain's only shindig city. Glasgow offers smaller Hogmanay events (glasgowloveshogmanay.com), while the Thames-side London Eye is the fireworks focal point for tipsy down-south revellers. Vantage points here – 9 p.m. arrival recommended – include the Victoria Embankment and Waterloo and Westminster bridges.
In the rest of Europe, Paris is popular – convivial crowds watch the Eiffel Tower's midnight light show from the Champs-Élysées – while Amsterdam's cobbled squares host celebrations backdropped by antique buildings; there are also free fireworks in the city's Oosterdok area. Dublin (3nyedublin.ie) also has a huge bash this year at College Green where party band Madness headlines a concert (tickets $35).
But if shindigging sans scarf is preferred, join Sydney's one million T-shirted merrymakers.
"It's all about the fireworks here," says local blogger Tatyana Leonov (tatyanaleonov.com.au). "Arrive early, find a spot and man it. Circular Quay and Darling Harbour are top locations with views, as is Blues Point Reserve across the Harbour Bridge."
Leonov also suggests booking an on-the-night Opera House concert (sydneyoperahouse.com). And for New Year's Day?
"Sleep in, then head to Bondi Beach. You'll find recovering party-goers sharing the sand with families out for a great day. Pack sunscreen and make the most of it Aussie style: on the beach with a barbecue."
If the freeze-free approach appeals, also consider less-crowded Melbourne with its two rounds of public fireworks (9:30 p.m. and midnight). Or there's Rio de Janeiro: the 2014 FIFA World Cup host kicks off the year with a bang on Copacabana Beach where thousands will shimmy into January with music and fireworks.
Traditionalists, of course, may prefer the chill. Which is where Reykjavik and its quirky festivities come in, says blogger Auour Osp (iheartreykjavik.net).
She says most locals spend the evening at family dinners – arrive early with a hangdog expression and someone might invite you to theirs – but they also head out to communal bonfires: Osp recommends the one in Aegissida.
"Prepare to be amazed when midnight arrives. We have one of the biggest and craziest fireworks shows in the world. Everybody shoots fireworks here: it doesn't matter where you look, there will be fireworks everywhere."
If you prefer staying indoors – it was well below zero on my January visit – Osp suggests the atmospheric Hallgrimskirkja church or taking in the grand views from the Perlan building. And for a rejuvenating next-day recovery? "It has to be the Blue Lagoon," she says.
OUR READERS WRITE
- Sydney, no question. One of the best nights of my life, in a boat 100 yards from the Opera House. Unbelievable, unforgettable. @Lynn_Shepherd
- Not Montreal! The best party city in Canada shuts down between Christmas and New Years. It’s a disappointing time. @clairelivia
- I love the New Year’s Eve traditions in Sri Lanka! Families boil milk at the stroke of midnight, sprinkle milk around the house, turn all the lights on, make noise. Next day you visit friends and family and take milk along with you to signify a bountiful year ahead. Oh, I forgot the best part: You exchange money at the stroke of midnight with family members. @YashYanthi
- A pub in Wales. Nothing like a pub sing-a-long to celebrate. @jackstrawlane
- Allendale Town in Northumberland, U.K., for the burning tar barrels festival. @IvanCouvert
- Snowshoe-in to a cozy mountain cabin with comfort food and amazing wine. Sparklers in the snow at midnight. Crowsnest Pass, Cariboo, Bella Coola, Atlin. @LesliCKellow
- New Orleans. Last year was the usual open-air frolic but even more energetic, followed by fireworks over the Mississippi. @ryanvb
- The last time zone possible, delaying the passage of time as long as possible. @reidontravel
- Because I’ve never done it, I’d like to go classic NYC: A chilly night watching the ball drop in Times Square. @Tours_By_Locals
- The free NYE party at the Winter Festival of Lights, with fireworks over Niagara Falls. @kattrinsieber
- Ottawa New Year’s Eve for a Scottish-style Hogmanay. @OttawaJantine
- My fave spots are in Scotland. Kirkwall’s Ba’ game and Edinburgh’s mega Hogmanay are huge crowd pleasers. @mycompasstv
- Hogmanay in Edinburgh! Even the massive fireworks along the Thames around the London Eye is a beaut in London. Watching the floating lanterns in Bangkok is quite spectacular too. @Chiqee
- Telus World of Science (in Vancouver). Catered buffet (with a VIP ticket); a little something for everyone. It's a great venue with multiple floors @miss_supra95
- Edinburgh. There’s live music, a torch light procession and amazing fireworks – but it’s cold. @chowandchatter
- And of course you have the Hogmanay celebrations in Edinburgh as one of your Top 5, right? @elisabethEats
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