I'm sure many of you are still getting ready for Christmas and your frantic preparations won't allow you to think beyond the big day. However, New Year's Eve comes hot on the heels of Christmas Day and so plans need to be made in advance; especially if you are hoping to head to a city on the European mainland.
Whilst staples such as fireworks and general revelling can be found across almost all of Europe, there are always certain celebrations that are unique to each city. For those who like to ring in the New Year with a bang, here are some excellent cities which will offer a different experience than that provided by your usual surroundings.
Daylight hours are limited in Iceland at this time of year and so complete darkness is likely to fall upon the city of Reykjavik at around 3pm. However, if you are looking to get your celebrations underway around this time, you may be waiting a while before the local Icelanders join you. They prefer to spend time with their families and attend mass before starting the festivities a little bit later.
As the evening continues a number of bonfires or Brenna (as they are known) are lit around the city and locals gather together with their neighbours. This is a tradition that dates back to times when fisherman would rid their homes of old things before the New Year and burn them on the fire. After this, you may start to wonder if people are turning in early for the night as they head back to their homes. However, this is another well-observed tradition that sees the whole city sit in front of the television between 10pm and 11.35pm to watch an annual comedy show by the name of Áramótaskaupið.
From then on things explode as thousands of amateur (there are no official displays organised) firework displays light up the skies. The idea of counting down until midnight goes out the window as, for many people, the end of Áramótaskaupið is the real cue to start the party. As the bars and clubs fill up with revellers, everyone makes up for their late start by continuing their celebrations well into the early hours of the morning.
Anyone embarking on a Budapest city break for New Year can prolong their celebrations with a full three days of festivities in the Vörösmarty Square in the city centre. Live bands entertain partygoers from December the 30th into New Year's Day as crowds slowly get bigger and bigger the closer it gets to midnight on the 31st.
Even as you continue to party into the night there will be no worries about getting back to your hotel. Public transport will run all night although you may struggle to get a taxi amongst all the crowds. When you wake in the morning, perhaps some traditional 'kocsonya' will help soothe your hangover. This dish consists of pork (usually the more undesirable parts such as trotter, ear and tail) in jelly and it is a Hungarian custom to eat it at the turn of the year. Pork is used because it is bad luck to eat poultry or fish. Poultry is said to scratch away at your good luck, whilst fish can swim off with it. However, pigs are said to dig out the good luck.
In Sweden, New Year's Eve is known as Nyårsafton and is understandably a big event. Whereas Christmas time in Stockholm may be a family affair, the New Year is generally greeted with more vociferous celebrations. During your Stockholm city break, you can venture to the open air museum and theme park, Skansen, to join the throngs as midnight draws near. As the countdown concludes, a famous Swede will recite Alfred Lord Tennyson's famous poem 'Ring Out, Wild Bells' to the nation on live TV.
If you are looking for a great place to enjoy the many fireworks across the city, then it may be wise to head to Fjällgatan. This part of the city offers a superb cliff-side view of the multi-coloured displays over the river. If you are not ready to call it a night afterwards, the bars and clubs along Södermalmstorg will keep your spirits high.
If you think that the celebrations in Brussels' Grand Place seem a little raucous around midnight, stick it out until the crowds start to disappear and you will witness something magical. Joyful music comes over the PA system and locals start to dance in the streets.
If you would rather be inside, though, there are a number of NYE parties that will be going on across the city. Passes can even be bought to allow you access to around ten different locations; each of which will feature a different style of music. One thing you have to do on your New Year's Brussels city break is try a local delicacy that can be found in abundance at this time of year. Smoutebollen, literally 'lard balls', are made of deep-fried dough and are the perfect way to keep you warm on a cold night and line your stomach ready for what's ahead.
As you walk around the supermarkets on New Year's Eve in Madrid, you may start to wonder why packets of 12 grapes have such a prominent place in all the stores. All will become clear as the clock strikes midnight and thousands of Spaniards around you begin eating the grapes in time with the chimes. This tradition is supposed to bring you good luck but was popularised by vineyard owners in 1909 following a bumper crop of grapes.
Whilst many people will spend the evening opposite the Puerta del Sol clock, other locals will choose to celebrate with food and their family. Food is a big part of Spanish culture and restaurants will always look to highlights this around New Years. If you're looking for a lively evening, though, head to Kapital, one of Madrid's two biggest clubs. Festivities start at around 12.30am and the club offers seven floors of party atmosphere including a kissing room, karaoke sessions and an Ibiza style dance party.
If you are looking to spend your New Year's Eve in a European city, then Fred.\ Holidays can help you arrange your celebrations. Call us today or fill in an online enquiry form.