Ever wondered what it would be like to spend New Year’s Eve somewhere other than singing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ with a bunch of lathered strangers on the beach at Barasti?
Here’s how some of Europe’s major cities welcome the New Year.
Oudejaarsavond (New Year’s Eve) is a riot of bubbly, oliebollen (greasy deep-fried blobs of dough, apple and raisins), and tons and tons of scary fireworks that officially only go on sale the day before. Come midnight, people take to the streets (and bars, many of which only open at midnight) to celebrate. This year’s countdown to 2012 will take place in a large grassy square, in front of the Rijksmuseum on Museumplein. 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 things moving. Visit www.iamsterdam.com for details.
‘Happy New Year’ = Gelukkig Nieuwjaar!
Where to stay: Bilderberg Hotel Jan Luyken (+31 20 573 0730).
With Berliners’ enthusiasm for tossing firecrackers and launching rockets from windows, Silvester (New Year’s Eve) is always 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 for decades, the Berliner Silvesterlauf (New Year’s Eve Run – aka the ‘pancake run’) starts off in Grunewald at the intersection of Waldschulallee and Harbigstrasse.
‘Happy New Year’ = Prosit Neujahr!
Where to stay: AI Königshof (+49 30 310 1370).
Szilveszter (New Year’s Eve) is when everyone takes to the streets in style, as big crowds gather in the main squares. After the national anthem has boomed out at midnight, it’s bubbles, kisses and fireworks. At Vörösmarty Square there is a three-day celebration held from December 30 to January 1, with live band performances. Public transport runs all night and most bars and restaurants lay on special events. Merriment continues into the next day, when kocsonya, a traditional meaty dish, helps to combat the excesses of the night before.
‘Happy New Year’ = Boldog új évet!
Where to stay: Sofitel Budapest Chain Bridge (+36 1 235 1234).
Masses pour into Grand’Place on December 31. The atmosphere is good, the crowds friendly and high-spirited, but it’s certainly not for the faint-hearted. The jollity extends to the streets around the square, as you’re more likely to find a comfortable niche there. Wait a while as the square thins out, then music is played over the speakers and folk start dancing – it all becomes magical from that moment. There’s also a firework display from the Parc de Bruxelles. Visit www.brussels.be for details.
‘Happy New Year’ = Gelukkig Nieuwjaar!
Where to stay: Royal Windsor Brussels (+32 2505 5555)
Of all the public celebrations of the New Year across Croatia, Dubrovnik’s is usually the most intimate and enjoyable. Locals stride down Stradun, bars and restaurants fill to bursting, and the city’s hotels serve slap-up meals. It’s crowded but without the claustrophobic festivities of Zagreb.
‘Happy New Year’ = Sretna Nova Godina!
Where to stay: Hotel Lero (+38 520 341 333).
Noche Vieja (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 supermarkets now sell seedless grapes pre-packed in dozens for the occasion. The Puerta del Sol is where thousands throng – not recommended with kids or for misanthropes. Clubs and bars organise parties, often starting at 12.30am or later. (Expensive) tickets should be purchased in advance.
‘Happy New Year’ = ¡Feliz Año Nuevo!
Where to stay: Hotel Regina (+34 915 21 4725).
In the French capitqal, jubilant crowds swarm along the Champs-Elysées, providing a great view of the Eiffel Tower’s midnight light show. Revellers love letting off bangers on New Year’s Eve, while nightclubs and restaurants hold expensive soirées. And on New Year’s Day the Grande Parade de Paris brings plenty of floats, bands and dancers.
‘Happy New Year’ = Bonne Année!
Where to stay: Hotel Duo (+33 1427 27222).
If you’re heading to the Czech Republic, bring your helmet. 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 in the centre of the city. Fireworks are let off everywhere and flung around with frankly dangerous abandon, then bottles of bubbly are smashed.
‘Happy New Year’ = Štastný Nový Rok!
Where to stay: Hotel Prague Inn (+420 226 014 444).
On San Silvestro (New Year’s Eve),
hordes of Romans 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.
‘Happy New Year’ = Buon Anno!
Where to stay: Grand Hotel de la Minerve (+39 669 5201).
The Nyårsafton (New Year’s Eve) celebration in Sweden is a public and raucous contrast to the quiet and private Christmas festivities. Visitors can join the crowds at Skansen, where New Year’s Eve has been celebrated every year since 1895. At the stroke of midnight, a well-known Swede reads Tennyson’s ‘Ring Out, Wild Bells’. Throughout the city, crowds fill the streets, feasting on seafood at various restaurants and moving from one club or bar to another. At the stroke of midnight, streamers and party trumpets accompany the sound of fireworks.
‘Happy New Year’ = Gott Nytt År!
Where to stay: Hotel Rival (+46 8545 78900).