From the biggest beach parties to the most spectacular fireworks on the planet, here are our suggestions of where to see in the New Year in style
It’s easy to sneer at New Year’s Eve: too expensive, too crowded, too much pressure to have the greatest night of your life. OK, you could hunker down at home – or you could make it really memorable by hitting up one of the best New Year’s Eve parties in the world. From fireworks blasting across breathtaking backdrops to raucous street parties in cool capitals and all-night raves on blissed-out beaches, there’s no shortage of amazing ways to ring in 2019. So start the year as you mean to go on – on holiday.
A spectacular pyro-musical display lights up Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour at the stroke of midnight with lasers, fireworks and choreographed LEDs exploding across this frenetic city’s famous landscape. Our tip: forget joining the crush on the waterfront. Instead, watch the show from a traditional junk on the water, or one of HK’s many world-class rooftop bars.
There are a number of quieter venues on the Kowloon side of the water that offer great vantages without big crowds. Wooloomooloo Prime steakhouse in Tsim Sha Tsui has 270-degree, 21st-floor views of the harbour, which can be enjoyed from the balcony or the dining room’s floor-to-ceiling windows. Another hot spot is Red Sugar the Kerry Hotel’s swanky cocktail lounge, with its expansive outdoor terrace.
This year, it’s got to be Hong Kong’s most exciting new hotel, The Murray. Foster + Partners-designed rooms afford spectacular harbour panoramas; don’t miss the refreshing lemongrass G&Ts at ground-floor bar Murray Lane.
Sure, Times Square isn’t the most original recommendation. But it is the archetypal NYE in NYC. If you’re going to do it, do it from the Renaissance Hotel’s R Lounge – the bar windows offer peerless views of the famous One Times Square building due south, where the ball drops.
Make like a real New Yorker and swap Manhattan for Brooklyn. There’s free fireworks and live music at Prospect Park or, for something edgier, head to House of Yes in up-and-coming Bushwick for an all-night rager with aerial acrobats and living sculptures. Come 5am, Burning Man’s Bubbles & Bass camp takes over with a champagne morning-after party. Want to go the full hipster? In a Williamsburg warehouse, the BangOn! NYC shindig is a space-themed rave with trippy installations.
At our favourite New York digs right now, the recently refreshed Lowell Hotel. This stylish retreat on ritzy East 63rd Street has had a facelift, and it looks lovely. Expect an airier Pembroke Room for tea, a new, gorgeous neoclassical foyer and bedrooms that are the last word in elegance.
The Scottish capital’s famed three-day Hogmanay extravaganza kicks off on 30 December, with a Viking-style torchlight procession along the Royal Mile. The big night itself includes Franz Ferdinand headlining Concert in the Gardens, which wraps in time for gig-goers to catch unequalled views of midnight fireworks over Edinburgh Castle. An adjoining street party dances on into 2019 with the help of acts such as Judge Jules. Celebrations continue on New Year’s Day with live music and the traditional fancy-dress dip in the freezing Firth of Forth (known as ‘the Loony Dook’). For more information on the many events taking place, visit edinburghshogmanay.com.
You probably won’t spot many Edinburgh natives at official Hogmanay festivities for one, entirely rational, reason: they know to be sceptical about the weather. Instead, find the Scots hedging their bets with indoor jollities before bagging a free spot to watch the castle’s midnight display. Smart, boho Stockbridge has a wealth of great pubs: The Scran & Scallie, run by Michelin-starred chefs Tom Kitchin and Dominic Jack, offers laid-back pub grub, but with flair. Then it’s off for a wee dram or two and folk music at nearby basement joint The Bailie Bar, followed by a trip to Inverleith Park, which offers the best free view of the countdown fireworks in the city.
The Balmoral is the grandest hotel in Edinburgh, and the most comfortable place to recover from Hogmanay celebrations. For something more on-point, Eden Locke, in a New Town Georgian townhouse, offers a perfect storm of millennial pink and Elephant’s Breath, brass detailing, wicker chairs and tropical plants.
Sydney Harbour’s firework extravaganza is watched by more than a million people gathered along the foreshore – but a better idea is to join the boatfuls of revellers bobbing in the water. You can hire out a boat, bring your own bubbles and start the countdown early. Landlubbers might prefer to reserve an outside table at one of the waterfront restaurants by Sydney Harbour Bridge for a front-row seat.
Alternatively, motor out to Cockatoo Island and set up a moonlit picnic in preparation for the show; you can even camp or glamp there for the night, as long as you book a spot in advance. New Year’s Eve without the end-of-night battle for a taxi? Yes, please.
All about the pyrotechnics? The Four Seasons Hotel Sydney overlooks Sydney Harbour, the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. For a more local feel, book the new Paramount House Hotel in inner-city foodie hub Surry Hills. An industrial concrete-and-copper aesthetic meets furniture, bathroom products – and beer – by independent Aussie makers.
When the clock strikes 12, the ordinarily restrained Danes gather at Town Hall Square for a rowdy, BYO bacchanal of popping champagne corks, whooshing rockets and fizzing Roman candles. For a slightly more orderly take, twinkly Tivoli Gardens lights up the sky with its own Firework Festival; its restaurants are all serving New Year’s dinners; and the roller coasters are open – plus, plenty of glögg stalls serve liquid courage.
Watch how Copenhageners abandon hygge for hedonism on New Year’s Eve as thousands of merry folk take to the streets to light their own fireworks just after midnight. A favoured local spot to watch the mayhem – which is loud, raucous and just a tad nerve-wracking – is Queen Louise’s Bridge, which stretches across The Lakes, in the heart of the city.
The new Sanders, on a quiet street just a short walk from ever-lively Nyhavn, is enchanting. Style-wise, it combines Danish mid-century modern and British Colonial (wickerwork here and there, palms in pots), and there’s a fifth-floor conservatory with views over the city.
Barcelona is a city of night owls, so the revelry doesn’t really start gearing up until about 11pm. That’s when crowds gather at Plaça d’Espanya to watch the midnight pyrotechnics on Montjuïc, the hill just above. A few yards from here, Poble Espanyol, the open-air architectural museum, hosts a huge dance party until 6am.
One of the stranger traditions – other than eating a grape for each chime at midnight (seriously, everyone does it) – takes place at Plaça de Catalunya, in the city centre. As soon as the New Year has been rung in, the assembled thousands throw their Cava bottles into the middle of the square. If that sounds slightly frightening, head instead for the most popular club bashes: Pacha rages from 12.10am to 6.45am, or try Sala Apolo, beloved for resisting scandalous New Year price hikes. The party here kicks off at 12.30am.
Join the creative crowd at Soho House Barcelona, in a palm-tree-lined square just off the seafront. Along with its speakeasy bar/cinema and basement spa, don’t miss the roof terrace for poolside views of Port Vell marina.
Berlin’s anything-goes energy is well and truly buzzing at this massive open-air party between the Brandenburg Gate and the Victory Column. One of Europe’s largest outdoor celebrations, this jamboree sees around a million people gathering along the event’s 1.6-mile stretch. Better still, it’s free of charge and keeps pumping until 3am. Expect live music, DJs, laser shows, food and, of course, fireworks.
Berlin’s not short of world-class clubs, but the rooftop garden at House of Weekend comes into its own on New Year’s Eve, offering astonishing views of the pyrotechnics and the city’s skyline. Plus, you don’t have to worry about that infamous Berghain bouncer.
Make yourself at home in Gorki Apartments, on the edge of bubbling Prenzlauer Berg. These cool-looking spaces are all different, but each has its own edgy glamour: a rustic wooden dining table might be surrounded by a mix of chairs found at a flea market; in the corner there could be a piece from Dixon or Knoll.
Conveniently compact and always-down-to-party Amsterdam is an amalgam of impromptu street frolics on 31 December, but if there’s one reliable place to be at midnight, it’s the Magere Brug (‘Skinny Bridge’). Here, merrymakers gather to watch countdown fireworks bursting over the River Amstel, then continue their festivities all across town. Nieuwmarkt (Chinatown), in particular, is known for its rambunctious atmosphere.
Amsterdam’s EDM heads know there’s only one place to be on NYE – the Awakenings party at the Gashouder. This epic rave in an industrial gas holder built in 1902 features international DJs (full line-up to be announced this month) and this year keeps on dancing until 8am.
Percolating its way through 25 historical buildings – from 17th-century canal-side mansions to artisans’ workshops – the Pulitzer Amsterdam has soaked up 400 years of stories from previous residents, including grand families and a friend of Rembrandt’s. Bedrooms come in all shapes and sizes, but the mood is one of calm and comfort, with muted pastels and luscious touches of lime and purple. Connects with both the old bones and the vital, contemporary spirit of the city.
The big blowout in Europe’s new capital of cool is at Praça do Comércio, the main square right on the Tagus River. In typically Portuguese fashion, the fiesta runs late: live music starts up at around 10pm and continues after the midnight fireworks. Plenty of locals – armed with their own fizz and plastic cups – can be found drinking and dancing in the heart of the action, so it doesn’t feel like a tourist trap.
Lisbon’s central Bairro Alto district is always a party locale – thank the lax open-container laws – and NYE here is no exception. Partygoers often head here after the Praça do Comércio fireworks, and the neighbourhood is also home to some outstanding fado houses, where you can watch traditional Portuguese music with dinner. Popular spots include O Faia and Cafe Luso – but they’re not cheap.
Catch 360-degree city views from the rooftop bar of Verride Palácio Santa Catarina, which stands in solitary splendour at the top of one of Lisbon’s seven hills. This new hotel, tucked behind a handsome 18th-century façade, combines heritage and contemporary with muted colours, raw linens and pale silks; bedrooms overlook the Tagus at the front.
There are parties on the beaches of Thailand’s islands all year round, but the wildest of them all is New Year’s Eve on Koh Phangan, home to the world’s most famous full-moon party. Revolving around Sunrise Beach in Haad Rin, the maelstrom starts as soon as it gets dark and romps on well beyond sunrise and into the following afternoon.
Go for cocktails and a dinner of freshly caught and grilled fish over on the Sunset side of the island, and don’t even think of joining the party until just before midnight. Then head back to Sunset Beach for a dawn swim.
The stylish Anantara resort is halfway up the east coast of Koh Phangan, some distance from the party, but the journey home, on a boat through turquoise waters as the sun is coming up, might possibly be the greatest taxi ride you’ve ever taken.
Some say Goa’s parties are not what they used to be. We say it’s still hard to beat dancing on the beach, with the sand between your toes and fairy lights strung on every palm tree, sequined sari skirts twirling under the stars. And New Year’s Eve is the best time of year to party in Goa, with fireworks and celebrations all along the coast of India’s good-time state. Inevitably, the biggest and loudest bashes tend to be centred around Anjuna, where world-class DJs play to huge crowds long into the night.
For a more intimate party, head to Palolem, in the south. This jungle-lined bay is dotted with ramshackle beach bars that join up for a night of trance tunes, free-flowing cocktails and fireworks at midnight.
On the beach in Candolim, not far from Anjuna, The Park Hotel is an all-white, contemporary pad with 30 bedrooms, cabanas on the poolside deck, a private beach and DJs playing Balearic beats (welcome news for anyone not a fan of Goa trance) in the open-air bar.
It’s practically midsummer in Rio de Janeiro this time of year, which is why many partygoers shun sweaty indoor clubs and take the party to the beach instead. A whopping two million people gather on the 2.5-mile-long Copacabana for samba, Champagne and fireworks on New Year’s Eve – to find a good spot, start staking your place from 10pm. Note that it’s busiest in front of Rio’s landmark hotel, Copacabana Palace, as this is the location for main-stage concerts. It’s customary to wear white in Rio on NYE – said to bring luck for the New Year. But perhaps leave your favourite clothes at home, unless you don’t mind getting doused with Champagne, sprayed F1-style by rapturous crowds.
Lifeguard stations along the beach are called ‘postos’; in-the-know types recommend setting up between Postos 5 and 6. This is the final stretch of Copacabana, so it’s not quite as crowded; plus, it’s walking distance from the parties at neighbouring Ipanema, where many revellers head after the countdown fireworks.
To go all out, Copacabana Palace has exclusive views of the action (and a price tag to match). For something more affordable but with similarly breathtaking views, the Mama Ruisa hotel is a lovely guesthouse with a vintage, homely feel.
The mother of all celebrations in the Mother City is on the V&A Waterfront, where there’s everything you could possibly require in one handy spot: dinner, live music, dancing, fireworks. Plus, there are views of Table Mountain and the Atlantic shore. It’s spectacular – but if you want a party with a more local flavour, you have to head for the sand.
A sunset picnic on Clifton 4th Beach, a gorgeous cove in the affluent Clifton neighbourhood, is a popular choice for Capetonians. Then it’s time to hit one of the city’s many glam beach clubs. The hottest ticket: Pacha’s elite soirée at Grand Africa, on the Grand’s private beach, facing Robben Island.
Sitting atop the V&A Waterfront’s much-feted Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, The Silo is the very definition of a destination hotel. Rooms are a happy marriage of vibrant silks and velvets in deep purple and bottle green, while the ballroom-worthy bathrooms are lit by Egyptian-crystal chandeliers. There’s no other hotel like this in Cape Town right now – certainly nowhere approaching its punchy price tag or bravado.
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