When it comes to New Year’s Eve, some people absolutely love it, others groan at the crowds, the costs, and the unrealistic expectations. Given the trials and tribulations that this year has thrown our way, one might be forgiven for wanting to press fast-forward and head right into 2021. However, there’s no denying the magic of celebrating the arrival of a new year and the magical revelry that comes with it.
Whether you’re planning to hunker down at home and tuck yourself into bed well before the fireworks have ended, or dreaming up plans for the most memorable party you can imagine, read on for our top picks to celebrate New Year’s Eve around the world.
Rio de Janeiro
Without a doubt, one of the most iconic places on the planet to celebrate New Year’s Eve is in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The famous “Reveillon” is celebrated all along the city’s best beaches and everyone in attendance is decked out in white clothing. After Carnival, this is the second largest party in Rio, and just as over the top. Postcard-perfect Copacabana beach is host to over 3 million people ready to party until sunrise with music and fireworks.
In addition to wearing all white — for good luck and prosperity — another New Year tradition that Brazilians honor is to jump through seven waves at midnight, making a wish for each new year to come. The jaw-dropping fireworks show lasts around 20 minutes and is truly an out of this world experience. The festivities continue on at local bars and nightclubs around Copacabana and neighboring areas until sunrise. If you’re in the mood for sun, fun, and tropical merriment, celebrating New Year’s in Rio sounds like the perfect plan.
Brazilian authorities have announced that this year’s celebrations at Copacabana beach will not be taking place, given a surge in coronavirus cases across the country. Online broadcasts and light shows will take place instead.
Start spreading the news… Spending the holiday season in New York is a dream for many, thanks in part to all of those classic Hollywood films that have shaped our perspective and melted our hearts. And for travelers from more temperate climates, heading to the Big Apple gives them a chance of (maybe) having a truly white Christmas. The magic of New York City is on full display during this time of year: everyone’s cozied up in warm hats and scarves, twinkle lights are everywhere, and Christmas carols seem to be the universal soundtrack, no matter where you go.
To get in the New Year’s spirit, one of the top can’t-miss activities is ice skating at the iconic Rockefeller Center. With the legendary Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree — NYC’s largest and most notable — as a backdrop, tourists and locals alike take part in wintery cheer that has been enjoyed for generations.
When it comes time to celebrate New Year’s Eve, the epicenter of the action takes place at Times Square, of course! Millions of people descend on one of the globe’s most iconic meeting grounds, enthusiastic despite the chill, ready to watch the ball drop as the clock strikes midnight. Fireworks, live music, and endless other celebratory activities round it out for an experience that you won’t soon forget.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Times Square will not be open to the public for this year’s New Year’s Eve celebration. Read more details and stay tuned for updates on how to participate in the virtual celebrations.
Fun fact: Australia is one of the first countries on the globe to welcome the new year. Millions of people gather close to Port Darling and the city’s stunning Opera House to witness the jaw-dropping fireworks display without fail. Every year the celebration has a different theme that seeks to reflect the spirit of Sydney. If being in a packed crowd at the heart of the action isn’t your thing, there are plenty of lookout points across the city that offer a privileged view of the fireworks as well.
And do those fireworks deliver! Not only are they some of the best on the planet, but the added touch of being one of the first people to head into a new year lends a special feeling to the experience. All of the action takes place around the Sydney harbor; if you’re lucky you could actually be on a boat for the big show, though plenty of restaurants, bars, and clubs offer equally incredible views.
Revelers looking to see the action up close and personal in Sydney will need to apply for a special permit. Stay up to date on that information and remember to consult with local authorities before confirming any plans or reservations.
If you’re not afraid of the cold, Budapest is one of the best places to celebrate New Year’s Eve, hands down. The city is known for its commitment to partying year round, and the corresponding celebrations will not disappoint. At midnight, there’s an epic fireworks display across from the Chain Bridge and over the Buda Castle. Don’t forget to raise a glass with pálinka, the traditional fruit brandy beloved across Central Europe! After the show, the night owls continue the festivities at the city’s famous ruin bars, with parties going well on past dawn.
The next day, if your headache isn’t too bad, the State Opera House hosts a concert to welcome the new year. Those in search of a little R&R head to the Széchenyi thermal baths, known for their relaxing and highly curative properties.
If you’re looking for a truly unique and memorable place to celebrate New Year’s Eve, Cusco has everything — and more. The action happens around the city’s Plaza Mayor, or Plaza de Armas, with endless free concerts, fireworks displays, and plenty of local traditions to enjoy.
One of these traditions is to walk around the Plaza counterclockwise; when the clock strikes 12, people join hands and begin to walk together. It’s estimated that around 30,000 people, including thousands of tourists, partake in this ritual every year. At midnight, an endless display of beautiful fireworks lights up the sky as parades and floats flood the streets with even more festive magic. Of course, the merrymaking continues well into morning, with no shortage of music or dancing.