All eyes are locked on the Harbour City every 31st of December — not only because Sydney’s the first major city in the world to enter the new year, but also because it throws the largest NYE fireworks display on the planet. Seven tonnes of fireworks dazzle the million-plus admirers who flock to Sydney Harbour for a glimpse, including the hundreds of boats that blanket the water for the best vantage point of the 9pm and midnight shows.
Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations are the stuff of legend, kicking off with a torchlight procession on December 30, followed by the mammoth street party, traditional ceilidh dancing beneath Edinburgh Castle and a rousing rendition of Auld Lang Syne on December 31, then freeze off your hangover with a bracing swim in the frigid River Forth to raise money for charity on January 1.
Rio de Janeiro
If you’re looking for a party in Rio at any time of year, you won’t be disappointed — and New Year’s is no exception. Two million cariocas flood Copacabana Beach for the wild Réveillon festival, which infuses a concert and fireworks with Afro-American religious traditions — revellers wear white (for prosperity) but avoid black (an omen of bad luck), and throw flowers into the water as a tribute to the the sea goddess Yemanjá.
Squeezing into a wintry Times Square isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but there’s no denying NYC’s NYE party is one of the biggest New Year’s parties on earth. Crowds of 100,000 cram into Manhattan to witness the sparkling, four-metre wide, 5,300-kilogram ball descend 43 metres (141 feet) on the roof of the One Times Square building, a Big Apple tradition since 1907.
This Asian metropolis takes full advantage of its towering city skyline on December 31, producing a spectacular fireworks display with no shortage of vantage points to watch it from. Find a rooftop terrace in the lively Tsim Sha Tsui district for a bird’s eye view of Victoria Harbour and NYE celebrations that are every bit as frenetic as the city itself.
The town nicknamed ‘The City of Lights’ has no trouble throwing a world-class New Year’s shindig, as Parisian streets become a sea of champagne, bises on the cheek and papillotes, little holiday chocolates wrapped in paper. The Eiffel Tower glows with light projections and fireworks, the Champs-Elysées hosts a massive street party and Montmartre attracts those who want to gaze out over the festivities from afar.
The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront throws the biggest New Year’s party in South Africa, while Table Mountain provides a peerless — and uncrowded — natural viewing platform for the fireworks. And Cape Town’s celebrations don’t end at midnight — the Kaapse Klopse festival explodes with costumes, song and dance on January 1 and 2.
Silvester, as the Germans call it, transforms the two kilometres between the Victory Column and Brandenburg Gate into ‘Party Mile’, an open-air fiesta brimming with live bands, DJs, food stalls and light shows. Then once the midnight pyrotechnics are done, the locals head into the nightclubs the German capital is famous for (just imagine the queues at Berghain that night…).
The Emiratis do everything bigger, taller and more glamorous — including New Year’s. In fact, Dubai welcomed 2014 by smashing the Guinness world record for the biggest fireworks display by firing almost half a million shells in six minutes — a lazy 1,332 explosions per second. The Burj Khalifa, Burj Al Arab and The Palm Jumeirah all throw glitzy events, not to mention the Atlantis The Palm with its luxury New Year’s Eve Gala.
Alcohol was banned in Iceland until 1989, but in the three decades since, Icelanders have earned a reputation as serious party-throwers. On December 31, that means lighting massive bonfires around Reykjavik (which represents burning the baggage of the last 12 months) and exploding their own fireworks thanks to some pretty relaxed laws. Crowds congregate around the Hallgrímskirkja church in the centre of the capital as well as the Perlan building on the Öskjuhlíð hill.
The Aloha State is one of the last places on earth to enter the New Year, a full 21 hours after Sydney’s already got there — but that doesn’t stop downtown Honolulu from arriving fashionably late to the party. The Aloha Tower’s NYE parties are legendary, there’s a public fireworks extravaganza on Waikiki Beach, plus there’s even a ‘pineapple drop’ paying homage to New York’s New Year’s tradition.