Looking for places to travel for New Year’s Eve? Want to trade in the sparkly dress and ball drop for a new holiday memory abroad? If experiencing other culture’s holidays is an item on your travel bucket list, then plan to brave the holiday travel season and visit any of these 14 best places to spend New Year’s Eve—just be ready for some unexpected twists when ringing in the new year abroad.
Besides the traditional celebration called Hogmanay, more quirky New Year’s Eve traditions take place in the villages throughout Scotland. For example, the residents of the fishing village of Stonehaven, Scotland, walk through the streets swinging giant fireballs (made from chicken wire and rags) above their heads. The fireballs are said to represent the sun and are thought to purify the year ahead. Now THAT is how to spend New Year’s Eve abroad.
Finland has unique and somewhat magical New Year’s Eve traditions making it an obvious list-maker for anyone wanting to spend New Year’s in Europe. Their celebration, casting of tin, involves melting a horseshoe-shaped tin and then throwing the now molten tin immediately into cold water. The magic begins when it hardens and the tin takes on different shapes. If the tin looks like a ship, expect travel in the new year, and if the tin looks like a heart, it represents a nearby wedding. Be careful, though, as tin that breaks into pieces is a sign for bad luck in the new year!
Denmark celebrates the new year with firecrackers and broken dinnerware. So, obviously this is one of the best places to travel for New Year’s Eve— especially for anyone looking to get out a little pent-up aggression and ring in the new year with a clean (but broken) plate. People save dishes throughout the year, and at the stroke of midnight, they throw them against the doors of their families and friends. If you wake up to a foyer covered in broken pieces, you are said to be lucky and rich in friends and love. Also, be prepared to climb onto the nearest sofa, chair, or table, as the Danish jump off the furniture to signify jumping into the new year. Fun, right?!
At the stroke of midnight, people in Spain gather ‘round and eat las doce uvas de la suerte, the twelve lucky grapes. However, this is no ordinary snack, as the trick is to eat one grape per chime of the bell! Better chew fast, because if you don’t finish all twelve by the final stroke of midnight, you may be destined for bad luck in the new year. Of all the New Year traditions around the world, this one might end up leaving a sour taste in your mouth, but that shouldn’t strike Spain from your list of places to be on New Year’s eve. Spaniards are notorious for their fiestas, after all.
If you like your New Year’s Eve travel with a side of romance, get cozy with the masses in Venice’s Piazza San Marco! Every new year, tens of thousands of people stand in the square and kiss at the stroke of midnight. The air is romantic and electric, and with fireworks overhead and all the lovey-dovey couples in the square, this new year's celebration is unlike any other. Sighhh.
Amongst the family gatherings and the fine feasting, the countryside villages honor exciting Romanian New Year’s Eve traditions known as the mask-dances. The “dance of the bear” and the “dance of the goat” are colorful and vibrant, representing the death and rebirth of the coming year. The costumes are beautifully intricate and the dancers move to the rhythmic beat of the Romanian drums. Travelers with dancin’ feet will make Romania one of their top places to travel for New Year’s Eve.
Of all the New Year traditions around the world, Estonia’s has to be the tastiest. Foodies rejoice! Estonians traditionally eat seven times (that’s right seven times) on New Year's Day in order to represent a year filled with abundance and prosperity (Note to self: pack yoga pants and other forgiving fabrics for this feast-filled tradition!).
Japan celebrates the new year by literally ringing bells—108 times to be exact—so you will literally ring in the new year with Japanese New Year’s celebrations. This practice is based in the Buddhist tradition and is thought to produce cleanliness.
Thai New Year’s Eve traditions will have you smelling like a rose. Bringing in the new year in Thailand is done by splashing water on each other, symbolizing cleansing and renewal. Sometimes filled with fresh herbs or scents, the delicate sprinkling of water is part of the Songkran festival in spring. Keep in mind though, new year’s day is NOT in December in Thailand.
There’s no round about way to say it, the Philippines is one of the best places to spend New Year’s Eve. New Year’s in the Philippines focuses on round shapes. Symbolizing coins, objects that are round are thought to represent prosperity for the year ahead. The most popular items are round fruits, but clothes with polka dots also work!
In Panama, it is customary to burn muñecos— large effigies of well-known people that are on display throughout the holiday season until they are burned in the new year. Hot tip (pun intended): Panama is one of the top places to be on New Year’s Eve.
Make it rain when you participate in Bolivian New Year’s Eve traditions. Bolivians bake coins into cakes and sweets, and the person who gets the coin in their portion is thought to have good luck for the upcoming year—chew with caution!
People in Colombia carry empty suitcases while they walk around on New Year’s Eve, because it indicates the hope for a year filled with travel. Now that’s how to spend New Year’s Eve!
South Africa is the best place to spend New Year’s Eve, if you’re all about “out with the old, in with the new.” Aside from the breathtaking views of fireworks decorating the night sky, residents of one Johannesburg’s neighborhoods start off the new year by throwing their old furniture out their windows. By getting rid of unwanted items, the belief is that people are unburdened and able to start fresh in the new year.
How to Spend New Year’s Eve Abroad
New Year traditions around the world, while they all serve a common purpose, are beautifully unique and quirky in their own ways. Whether you’re jumping off couches and smashing dishes, making molten tin, or shoving grapes in your mouth like there’s no tomorrow, there is something to be said about people coming together and creating memories every year. Join the hullabaloo and make plans now to celebrate your next New Year’s Eve abroad!