Don’t waste your time trying to find the best places in the world to celebrate New Year’s Eve. We’ve already done it.
Honoring the New Year is one of only a handful of traditions universally cherished around the globe, and with just about every nation now celebrating, to some degree, on December 31, your choices of where to ring in the new year are mind-bogglingly infinite. We’ve narrowed the list to 19 top choices for the most fantastic fireworks, poppin’ parties, and spectacular scenery so you can skip the planning and head right to the revelry on every continent (okay, not Antarctica, but penguins don’t like champagne anyway).
New York City
WHERE: New York
Year-round, the Big Apple is the center of the universe to plenty of people, but on New Year’s Eve it’s the center for everyone. There are 38 different time zones counting down to midnight on December 31, but all eyes are on Times Square, as more than one billion revelers around the globe tune in to see the glittering ball drop high above the crowd of one million partiers ringing in a new year. Star-studded concerts entertain the throngs who arrive as early as noon for prime viewing, but rooftop parties citywide provide views of the dazzling fireworks for those not down with squeezing up against strangers on a frigid New York night.
Related: What to Do and See in New York City
If you thought Disney was the best reason to go to Orlando, well . . . you’re still not wrong. There’s no question that no one does hospitality quite like Disney, and when there’s a parade and fireworks every night of the year, you can be sure that holidays are extra spectacular. New Year’s Eve at Disney is packed with themed parties, special menus, and events at restaurants throughout the parks, and photo ops with all your favorite characters, but Countdown to Midnight is the main attraction on December 31. This massive soiree includes cocktails in the Fantasia Ballroom, “cheftainment” (which adds new meaning to playing with your food, as chefs prepare shadowbox spectacles), an interactive DJ, a live band, and, of course, a champagne toast under one magical fireworks display.
More people attend New Year’s Eve in Sydney Harbour than in Times Square, and for good reason: the Sydney fireworks may be the most admired and beloved display worldwide. Fireworks launch from the Opera House, nearby buildings, barges on the water, and from Harbour Bridge. The 12-minute display (a minute for each month of the year) uses nearly all parts of the bridge, and includes two special events that have become hallmarks of the Sydney show: the waterfall, a shower of 1,100 candle-fireworks streaming from the bridge to the water below; and the “bridge effect,” a pyrotechnic element with a different design each year, relating to the theme of the celebration.
Related: Sydney Travel Guide
If you’re looking for fireworks and all-night parties, head to Yokohama just across Tokyo Bay. Though not technically part of the city proper, it’s part of Greater Tokyo and, with nearly four million citizens of its own, there’s plenty of action as it’s one of the only regions that celebrates this holiday in Western fashion. Elsewhere in Tokyo, take an alternative approach to New Year’s Eve and visit one of the many temples for the ringing of the bell. At midnight, a monk will ring the temple bell 108 times to cleanse you from your 108 worldly desires and send you into the new year as pure as possible. Crowds form early for this annual tradition, so arrive before 10.
Related: The Best Boutique Hotels in Tokyo
There aren’t many places on Earth to witness more (manmade) spectacle than Dubai, and New Year’s Eve is the perfect time to take it in. Explosive fireworks around the city are visible from public spaces, but the best views come from the decadent parties held in the city’s towering skyscrapers, especially the world’s tallest, the Burj Khalifa, where parties rage on the 122nd floor. Dubai was once the world record holder for the largest fireworks display ever, launched on New Year’s Eve 2013, before the Philippines unseated the city in 2016. Dubai loves records, so watch for the city to take back the title someday.
Related: Dubai Travel Guide
Christmas Islands may have a stronger connection to another holiday (they were named by Captain Cook when he came across the islands on Christmas of 1777), and are more of a relaxing, natural destination than a party place, but the islands hold a very special place in New Year’s tradition: They’re in the first time zone to reach midnight. A few parties can be found at hotels across the islands, especially in the most populated island of Gilberts, but this is a spot to visit for New Year’s Eve bragging rights more than anything else. You can’t visit the last places to see midnight (Baker Island and Howland Island, US unincorporated territories about halfway between Hawaii and Australia, are only accessible by special permit, usually for researchers), so Christmas Islands are your only option for setting a time record of this kind.
Related: Australia Travel Guide
WHERE: South Africa
Fondly known as South Africa’s “Mother City,” Cape Town is a favorite destination for countless travelers to the continent, and New Year’s Eve is an ideal time to check out the diverse cultural offerings of this scenic city for free. Throughout the famous V&A waterfront area, pop-up performances ranging from opera solos to dance ensembles entertain throughout the evening, with free entertainment all tied to the annual theme. Table Mountain is as an inspiring scene under midnight fireworks, and Cape Town may be the safest major hub you can tote tots to: The city hands out free location-assist bracelets for you and any little ones you may be celebrating with.
It’s no secret that Greece hasn’t been in the best financial shape for quite some time, but large-scale New Year’s Eve events have recently returned to the city of Athens, and the relatively low cost of entertainment in the ancient city only adds to its holiday appeal. Atop the Acropolis, the Parthenon serves as the backdrop to an evening of concerts and other live entertainment before fireworks light up the sky at midnight, but your best bet is to attend one of the many parties at hotels providing rooftop vantage points. Athens is home to a surprising number of these outdoor venues, and just about all of them will be celebrating in style with panoramic views of the pyrotechnics.
Related: Best Hotels in Athens
If you’re willing to swap bubbly for beer, Denver should be high on your list for New Year’s Eve revelry. Plus, you can enjoy other things in the Mile High City that you can’t legally find in most other cities. But even if you’re looking for the traditional black-tie evening with a champagne toast, Denver is home to tons of balls and galas hosted by everything from hotels to the opera house. For families, Denver is one of those swell cities that offer an early rendition of their fireworks displays (9 pm), and the zoo even hosts a walking safari of 150 illuminated animal sculptures.
Related: The Best Boutique Hotels in Denver
Venice is always crowded and, admittedly, this time of year brings even more throngs than usual to the tiny, twisting alleyways of Italy’s famed floating city. But for good reason. Despite the cost, cold, and crammed canals, the magic of the holiday season seems to eke out even more charm than usual from this romantic destination, making it an ideal spot for that midnight kiss. Venice isn’t traditionally a party town (at least not publicly), but St. Mark’s Square makes a major exception on New Year’s Eve, with concerts filling the enormous piazza until fireworks erupt from a barge in the basin.
Public fireworks are the main event of just about every top New Year’s Eve extravaganza on this list, and Helsinki does have its own dynamic display to offer, but the Finnish fireworks situation is especially interesting on the private side. Fireworks are sold to citizens exclusively during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, and can be used only from 6 pm on December 31 until 2 am on January 1, making those eight hours the focus of a year’s worth of pyrotechnic planning. Don’t forget to partake in another funky Finnish tradition before the night is over: Pouring molten tin into water and having your fortune read from the resulting glob is probably the coolest way to foretell your coming year (and don’t worry—they just about never say anything bad).
New Year’s Eve is summertime in Buenos Aires, and that makes rooftop pool parties prime spots for ushering in the new year. From here, views of the fireworks are unbeatable (and so are the sunrises if you party long enough). On the ground, street parties rage in just about every neighborhood from enthusiastic local bashes in working-class neighborhoods to glitzy celebrations in more touristy areas. And, of course, the city’s infamous nightclubs are no strangers to the crushing crowds of New Year’s Eve celebrants.
Related: Best Hotels in Buenos Aires
As the rest of the world goes hard on New Year’s Eve, so Bangkok parties just about every night, so you won’t be surprised to hear that there’s plenty of raucous revelry to be had in the Thai capital on December 31. Before catching one of the fireworks displays at a handful of locations around the city, attend a drag show, Muay Thai boxing exhibition, or any number of special cabarets for the holiday. If you’re looking for the most Bangkok-y experience imaginable, then head to Khaosan Road and bar hop the many street-side options, or dive deeper into one of the clubs for an unforgettable start to the new year.
Related: Bangkok Travel Guide
San Miguel de Allende
There’s no dull time to visit San Miguel de Allende, quickly topping the bucket list of many a world traveler, but holidays and festivals are when this cobblestoned city truly shines. Parades, music, and general revelry spill out from many of the narrow lanes of SMA, but the exuberant crowds in El Jardin, the city’s main square, exudes an infectious spirit of celebration that shouldn’t be missed. It’s possible that no city cherishes pyrotechnics as enthusiastically as San Miguel de Allende and, once again, El Jardin is the ideal location for experiencing the chaotic and seemingly unending fireworks soaring above the famed neo-gothic Parroquia (church). Still, if the street scene isn’t for you, plenty of elegant rooftop parties provide spectacular views, but you’ll need to reserve your spot far in advance. Keep your camera ready for mojigangas, the larger-than-life puppets parading down streets and whirling devilishly overhead.
Related: San Miguel de Allende Guide
The ball may drop in New York City, but Big Ben stands in London. Greenwich Mean Time is the standard from which all other time zones are measured and kept, so it stands to reason that Big Ben is a symbol of steadfast timekeeping and a New Year’s Eve icon. Fireworks along the Thames are so popular that London now sells tickets for attendance, and they start selling as early as September so you’ll want to plan far ahead for an up-close look at the impressive display. Bonus: public transportation is free from 11:45 pm until 4:30 am, so you’ll save a few pounds after an otherwise expensive evening and won’t have to fight for a cab.
Related: Top Things to Do in London
No stranger to the party scene, Berlin throws a heck of a bash on New Year’s Eve. Between the Brandenburg Gate and the Victory Column, hundreds of thousands of partiers populate one of Europe’s largest street parties for more than 12 hours. Gates open in the early afternoon, concerts begin in the evening, fireworks launch at midnight, and the party continues until 3 am. You can’t beat Berlin for a party on any night of the year, and New Year’s Eve is certainly no exception.
Related: Best Hotels in Berlin
It may be cold, but it’s generally warmer than many other parts of Canada. Join 100,000 other revelers at the all-night street party in Canada Place for concerts and tons of food trucks, culminating in all the fireworks you’d expect (including an early show for families at 9 pm). Or, embrace the winter and spend the holiday at a snowshoe fondue party at Grouse Mountain, polar bear plunging in English Bay Beach, or stumbling across a torch-light parade at Sasquatch Mountain. But don’t worry, there’s plenty of traditional New Year’s Eve celebration to be found at glitzy parties across the city, too, like the popular Waterfront Gala Ball at the Fairmont Waterfront.
Related: Vancouver Travel Guide
Rio de Janeiro
Carnival is the biggest bash in Brazil each year, but there’s nothing quite like New Year’s Eve in Rio, where an estimated 2 million people converge on one of the world’s most famous beaches to party all night. Getting there isn’t easy: You’ll have to wait in long lines to get on the metro, and intense traffic makes driving a non-starter, so most people start the party along the way and are fully in the spirit by the time they arrive at Copacabana Beach. It’s a tradition to wear white, and don’t be alarmed when the entire horde rushes into the ocean after midnight—they’re taking part in the tradition of jumping seven small waves and making a wish or giving thanks with each one.
Let’s get a couple of things straight: in Edinburgh, it’s “Hogmanay,” not “New Year’s Eve,” and the celebration takes three days, not one. Kick off the festivities with a Viking torchlight parade on December 30th, as more than 8,000 torchbearers march through the streets while tens of thousands of additional revelers follow along while fireworks light up the sky. On the big night, join the giant street party outside of Edinburgh Castle for concerts, dancing, outdoor bars and, of course, a spectacular midnight fireworks display. And, if you’re not too tired to roll out of bed early on January 1st, put on your silliest costume and march down High Street before joining in on the Loony Dook (that’s the part where your plunge yourself in the frigid River Forth).