The World’s Best New Year’s Eve Celebrations

By: Maxine Sheppard

December 1, 2010

Who’s looking forward to ushering in the New Year? If you want to witness the dawn of 1-1-11 from a vantage point in one of the world’s great cities, there are some very worthy contenders to choose from. But – call us biased – we think that our own Virgin Atlantic destinations just happen to play host to the very best New Year’s parties on earth. Check out some of our faves – hard to disagree, isn’t it?


New Year's Eve Fireworks over Sydney Harbour © City of Sydney

New Year’s Eve Fireworks over Sydney Harbour © City of Sydney

The city of Sydney boldly claims itself as the undisputed New Year’s Eve capital of the world, and with an estimated 1.5 million people grabbing a space at one of the many viewing spots around Sydney Harbour, it’s easy to see why. The ten-minute Family Fireworks display kicks off around 9pm, followed shortly after by the Harbour of Light Parade where a decoratively illuminated flotilla of tall ships and other vessels sail across the water.

The Midnight Fireworks are the real spectacle though – a truly epic choreographed display firing from the tops of city skyscrapers, barges in the harbour, and off Sydney Harbour Bridge itself. Add to this the warm summer climate and the incredible natural setting, and you should be in for a pretty unforgettable night.

Cape Town

V&A Waterfront Cape Town, scene of the city's New Year's Eve Bash © Afegundes,

V&A Waterfront Cape Town, scene of the city’s New Year’s Eve Bash © Afegundes,

Another free-to-spectate event is held at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town, more commonly known as the New Year’s Eve Bash. It’s a massively popular event attended by thousands of visitors, accompanied by a host of street performers, bands, African drumming and other live entertainment.

Seeing as it’s the middle of summer, there’s no better way to kick off the evening than with a meal at one of the many pavement cafes and restaurants that line the waterfront – then all you need to do is sit back and enjoy the show.

New York

Times Square, New York © Rob Corbett,

Times Square, New York © Rob Corbett,

As one of the world’s most popular New Year’s destinations, New York certainly knows how to throw an end-of-year party.

As the famous New Year’s Eve ball descends from its flagpole on the top of One Times Square, the estimated one million-strong crowd cheers in the streets below. It’s a tradition that’s been going strong since 1904, when a big ol’ bash was thrown to celebrate the opening of the new headquarters of the New York Times, after the paper’s owner had lobbied the city to rename the then Longacre Square to something more fitting for the home of his new office.

The night was such a rip-roaring success that Times Square instantly ousted Lower Manhattan’s Trinity Church as the place to see in the New Year.

Hong Kong

Fireworks in Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong © Ykkstudio,

Fireworks in Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong © Ykkstudio,

It’s fair to say that the biggest celebration of the year in Hong Kong is Chinese New Year in February, but the city still comes out in force to celebrate Old Year’s Night. Like its Stateside inspiration, Times Square is the focal point for many as the clock ticks down to midnight, but for a slightly less intense experience (the crowds here are huge) head to Victoria Harbour.

The fireworks over (and zinging off the sides of) the city’s famous skycrapers are a real sight to behold, especially if you can bag a spot on one of the cruise boats in the harbour itself. If not, don’t worry – the views from the Avenue of Stars in Tsim Sha Tsui are just as spectacular.


Biscayne Bay, Miami © Ketian Chen |

Biscayne Bay, Miami © Ketian Chen |

For the largest free New Year’s party in south Florida, head to Bayfront Park in downtown Miami. There you’ll be joined by around 250,000 others to witness the ascent of the 35-ft smiley-faced neon icon ‘Big Orange’, as it creeps up the side of the Intercontinental Hotel over a six hour period, followed by a massive fireworks display over Biscayne Bay.

Described as one of the top ten destination events in the world to ring in the New Year by USA Today, this jubilant party is a well-loved Florida holiday tradition.


The London Eye, New Year's Eve © flyingsuitcase on Flickr

The London Eye, New Year’s Eve © flyingsuitcase on Flickr

Right on our very own doorstep, London is one of the most magical and romantic places on earth to welcome in the New Year. With the no-expense spared fireworks display centering around the London Eye, the best vantage points are along the Victoria Embankment or from Waterloo or Westminster Bridge, but anywhere with a view of the Eye will allow you to catch a slice of the action and there are big screens in Trafalgar and Parliament Squares too.

The chimes of Big Ben are relayed along the Embankment at midnight, and after all the excitement you can even get home for free – the tube costs nothing between midnight and 4.30am.

Thanks to flyingsuitcase on Flickr for the photo of London, and to Linh_rOm for the header shot of Sydney’s celebrations.

Virgin Atlantic operate direct daily flights to all these cities from London’s Heathrow Airport. For more information and the very best fares, check out our website.


Maxine Sheppard

Maxine is the co-editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.

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