As we prepare to leave this decade behind and start afresh in 2020, ring in the New Year at one of the biggest celebrations in the world.
Have you ever spent hours staking out the perfect spot for a New Year’s Eve fireworks celebration and been disappointed with a two-minute, lackluster display? While celebrating the beginning of the New Year is a time-honoured tradition pretty much everywhere across the world, there are a few destinations that take the party to the next level. Hogmanay – the Scottish word meaning “the last day of the year” – is a three-day extravaganza that takes over the city, and where you’ll find more than just fireworks. Scots across the country celebrate with food, music, dancing and fire, and you’re invited! We don’t recommend taking this trip on a whim though; read on for our best tips to do Hogmanay right.
Plan in advance
Traditionally, Hogmanay was celebrated on a small scale, in homes with neighbours, friends and family. However, the celebration in Edinburgh has grown into one of the largest outdoor NYE celebrations in the world. Unsurprisingly, prices skyrocket and accommodations fill up quickly, so book in advance to score the best deals. While you’ll find events across the city, the majority of celebrations are based in the Princes Street Gardens and the city centre. All of the main events are ticketed, so secure yours in advance so you’re not left in the dust.
Day 1 – December 30th
Why wait until New Years’ Eve to start the party? The three-day event starts on December 30th with the evening Torchlight Procession led by vikings. As thousands of torches wind through the cobblestoned streets, they’re accompanied by a fanfare of drummers and pipers. You can watch this river of light make its way through Old Town and end at Holyrood Park, where the torchbearers form the image of two hands shaking. If you’d like to take part in the procession (and you really should!), be sure to buy tickets in advance. Our hot tip? Wear warm and protective clothing that can handle drips of wax, and don’t wear clothes that can easily catch fire.
Day 2 – New Years’ Eve
One of the largest street parties in the world takes over the stunning historic center of Edinburgh. Streets are shut down, music stages pop up, and around every corner is a new celebration. Concert in the Gardens takes over Princes Street Gardens where big-name performers and smaller, equally amazing local bands play sets across three stages, plus bars, food trucks and hourly fireworks displays leading up to midnight. Keep in mind that gates open at 7:30 and the party starts at 9, but the gates close by 11. This is definitely not the time to arrive too fashionably late! For a traditional Scottish experience, dance away the evening at the Ceilidh Under the Castle. The Concert in the Gardens and the ceilidh are separately ticketed events, but either purchase includes access to the street party. All events are BYOB, and please, leave the heels at home. Scottish nights can be extremely cold and wet, so opt for lots of layers and warm socks to dance through the night.
At midnight, a dazzling display of fireworks explodes across the sky with the stunning backdrop of Edinburgh Castle, and unsurprisingly, it’s the highlight of the festival. The fireworks can be seen across the city, but the best views are from the street party and Concert in the Gardens.
Day 3 – New Years’ Day
The fireworks may mark the end of the year, but the celebration doesn’t end yet. The infamous Loony Dook takes place the next day. This entertaining costumed parade in the nearby town of South Queensferry ends with a bone-chilling dip in the Forth River. There’s definitely no better hangover cure than a dip in the icy-cold river for charity, but if you prefer to stay in the city, take part in the Scot:Lands Scavenger Hunt. It’s your key to experiencing the city, visiting iconic, must-see spots, and learning more about Scottish culture through art, music and theatre.