Here’s how some of the world’s major cities welcome the new year...
Amsterdam GMT + 1
Oudejaarsavond (New Year’s Eve) is a riot of champagne, oliebollen (greasy deep-fried blobs of dough, apple and raisins), and tons of scary fireworks that officially only go on sale the day before. Come midnight, revellers take to the streets (and bars, many of which only open at midnight) to celebrate the new year. The best areas to visit are Nieuwmarkt and Dam Square; the latter often stages a big council-sponsored concert, with Dutch acts and DJs to help keep the party going. www.timeout.com/amsterdam, KLM.
Berlin GMT +1
With Berliners’ enthusiasm for tossing firecrackers and launching rockets from windows, Silvester (New Year’s Eve) is vivid, noisy and hazardous. Thousands celebrate at the Brandenburger Tor. Thousands more trek up to the Teufelsberg at the northern tip of Grunewald or the Viktoriapark in Kreuzberg to watch the fireworks across the city. A local Berlin tradition, the Berliner Silvesterlauf (New Year’s Eve Run – aka the ‘pancake run’) starts off in Grunewald at the intersection of Waldschulallee and Harbigstrasse. See www.timeout.com/berlin, Air France.
Dubrovnik GMT +1
Of all the public new year celebrations across Croatia, Dubrovnik’s is usually the most intimate and quite probably the most enjoyable. Locals stride all the way down the Stradun, the bars and restaurants fill up to bursting, and the city’s luxury hotels cater to moneyed guests with slap-up meals. It’s crowded and atmospheric, but without the claustrophobic festivities of Zagreb or Split. See www.timeout.com/dubrovnik, Lufthansa.
Madrid GMT +1
Nochevieja (New Year’s Eve) is celebrated with gusto, usually en familia, and involves another blow-out meal, litres of cava and the curious tradition of eating 12 grapes as the clock chimes midnight. Ever resourceful, many shops now sell grapes pre-packed in dozens for the occasion. The Puerta del Sol is where thousands throng – not recommended for kids or misanthropes. Clubs and bars organise parties, often starting at 12.30am or later. Buy your (expensive) tickets in advance. See www.timeout.com/madrid, Lufthansa.
Paris GMT +1
Jubilant crowds swarm along the Champs-Elysées letting off bangers, while clubs and restaurants hold expensive New Year’s Eve soirées. On New Year’s Day the Grande Parade de Paris brings floats, bands and dancers. See www.timeout.com/paris, Emirates.
Prague GMT +1
On New Year’s Eve, or Silvestr, the streets are packed with a ragtag crowd of Euro-revellers, with much of the fun centred on Wenceslas Square and Old Town Square. Fireworks are let off and flung around with dangerous abandon, then champagne bottles are smashed. We’d recommend bringing a helmet. See www.timeout.com/prague, Lufthansa.
Rome GMT +1
On San Silvestro (New Year’s Eve), hordes flock to piazza del Popolo to see the free concert and fireworks display. Some people add to the fun with home-grown pyrotechnics and flying spumante corks, turning the centro storico into something resembling a war zone. Beware: some older residents still honour the tradition of chucking unwanted consumer durables off their balconies. See www.timeout.com/rome, Emirates.
Stockholm GMT +1
The Nyårsafton (New Year’s Eve) celebration in Sweden is a public and raucous contrast to the quiet Christmas festivities. Visitors can join the crowds at Skansen, where New Year’s Eve has been celebrated every year since 1895. At midnight, a well-known Swede reads Tennyson’s ‘Ring Out, Wild Bells’. Throughout the city, crowds fill the streets, feasting on seafood and moving from one club or bar to another. At the stroke of midnight, streamers and party trumpets accompany the sound of fireworks. See www.timeout.com/stockholm, Lufthansa.
The brilliant Beirutis party hard every night of the year, and NYE is no exception. Get lost in Beirut’s side streets and the city’s legendary café culture, or roll onto the waterfront to join the revellers heralding the new year on the shores of the Mediterranean. See www.timeoutbeirut.com, Gulf Air.
To be among the first in the world to ring in the new decade, head to Sydney’s iconic Harbour Bridge, the epicentre of the countdown to the new year. On the afternoon of December 31, pre-show entertainment includes aerial flight displays and harbourside activities. A 9pm family fireworks show will let kids in on the fun; and the Harbour of Light Parade (a parade of light-decorated boats) will illuminate the water before the fireworks illuminate the sky. Tickets are available to board most of the vessels, so you can be part of the light show as well as bagging a good viewing spot for the fireworks. See www.timeoutsydney.com.au, Emirates.
Hong Kong GMT+8
Although Chinese New Year won’t be celebrated until February 14 this year, Hong Kong remains one of Asia’s best cities in which to party on December 31. Book your place early along the waterfront of Tsim Sha Tsui to catch the harbour fireworks, before heading to the Lan Kwai Fong district, where the celebratory parties will really start. See www.timeout.com.hk, Cathay Pacific.
New York GMT-5
New York’s Times Square is one of the centres of global new year celebrations, and if it’s your first time in the city you’ll want to pick up your Times Square All-Access Pass to celebrate in the centre of things. Those returning for their second or third hit could try finding a place on the water, where the magic of New York can really be appreciated. We’d recommend Sequoia at Pier 17 to watch the city light up with fireworks. See newyork.timeout.com. Etihad, via Abu Dhabi.
Las Vegas GMT-8
You’re always guaranteed a party in Las Vegas, so it’s no surprise that Sin City is one of the best places on the planet to ring in the new year. With each of the iconic hotels holding parties that, anywhere else, would be the talk of the town, the recession has done little to abate the city’s enthusiasm for a knees-up. Add 300,000 revellers from around the globe to ensure Nevada’s desert metropolis is crammed with celebrations. See www.timeout.com/lasvegas, British Airways, via London.