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 for you.
Not every culture acknowledges January 1st as the start of a new year, but an increasingly interconnected world and booming international tourism mean just about country now holds at least some sort of celebration on December 31st. If the world is your celebratory oyster, that’s both an exciting and daunting prospect as you attempt to narrow down your top choices for champagne, fireworks, and unique traditions. To get you started, we whittled the worldwide list down to the 20 best cities for New Year’s Eve parties and celebrations of all kinds, from quiet coastal reflection to all-night throwdowns among the throngs, including options ranging from frigid far-flung finds to the warmest places to toast the new year in style in the US.
Top Picks for You
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 40 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.
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 the 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 A Golden New Year’s Eve in Wine Country is the main event. A pair of gold-painted sommeliers host your journey through two themed event spaces brimming with dazzling entertainers, familiar characters, and that special magic that only can deliver. There’s also a three-course pairing dinner, and fireworks at midnight, of course.
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.
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 pm.
There aren’t many places on Earth to witness more (manmade) spectacles than Dubai, and New Year’s Eve is the perfect time to take it in, especially if you’re looking for one of the best warm-weather spots to celebrate. It’s hot year-round, but December is one of the coolest months in this desert, with temperatures only reaching the upper 70s toward the end of the month. 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.
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. You’ll most likely hop on a flight from Perth Airport (PER) for a visit here, so settle in for a long journey into your new year.
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. Flights to Cape Town International Airport (CPT) will run around $2,000–$3,500 from the U.S. coasts.
Famous for the scale of their celebrations any time of year, Greeks know how to throw a party, and Athenians are especially fond of New Year’s Eve. Large-scale events unfold citywide from exclusive rooftops to countless street festivals, and the low cost of entertainment in this ancient city only adds to its holiday appeal for locals and international visitors alike. 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. You could fly to Athens International Airport (ATH) for under $1,000 this December, too, making it one of the cheapest international destinations for New Year’s Eve on our list, too.
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 (downtown we like the Brown Palace Hotel) to the Ellie Caulkins Opera House at Denver Performing Arts Complex. For families, Denver is one of those swell cities that offer an early rendition of their fireworks displays (9 p.m.), and the zoo even hosts a walking safari of 150 illuminated animal sculptures.
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 a.m. 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. From major hubs across the U.S., you can reach Buenos Aires from around $1,500–2,500 this December, and five-star hotels can be found for under $200 per night.
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.
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, exude 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.
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 months in advance, 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 a.m., so you’ll save a few pounds after an otherwise expensive evening and won’t have to fight for a cab.
There are few North American cities more intimately tied to revelry and grand celebrations than New Orleans, home to a party-packed annual calendar capped by Mardi Gras. The French Quarter is, unsurprisingly, the heart of the most enthusiastic and public partying, but you can certainly celebrate in glam Southern style at galas citywide. If you were hoping to take part in some of Times Square’s famous celebrations but couldn’t handle the cold and chaos, New Orleans is home to the Central Time Zone concerts and telecast of Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve and is typically a far warmer NYE destination than NYC in December.
San Diego is so close to California’s southern border that it’s practically in Mexico, making it one of your best bets for a warm winter getaway in the US without having to head for Hawaii. Without the large public celebrations found in many of the other cities on our list, San Diego is also a chic choice for making your own way on New Year’s Eve, with plenty of options for attending unforgettable parties at hotels and clubs citywide. You’ll even find some all-nighters on the beach here. In late December, you’ll be able to score upscale hotel rooms from $200–$350, with plenty of cheaper or more indulgent options available, so you can totally tailor this destination and holiday to your ideal budget without trouble.
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 as 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 you plunge yourself in the frigid River Forth).