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12th Dec 2011 5:03pm | By Azzam Alkadhi
Europe boasts some epic New Year’s parties. Here’s our pick of how to bid a memorable farewell to the year on the continent.
Whether you’re up for the world’s biggest open-air party or fancy a rave in a Turkish bath, we’ve got eight reasons why a break abroad for New Year’s Eve makes perfect party sense. Dive in.
WHY? Known to Germans as Sylvester – December 31 is Saint Sylvester’s Day – New Year’s Eve in Berlin is one hell of a bash. The city hosts what has been billed as the largest open-air party in the world, with more than one million people taking part. The ‘Party Mile’ stretches from the famous Brandenburg Gate all the way to the Victory Column – there’s 1.2 miles of bars and dance floors, with hundreds of bars and tents peddling booze and food lining the route. Laser and light shows fill the sky and fireworks come as standard at midnight.
GET THERE: Fly from London Stansted to Berlin with German Wings from £120 return (germanwings.com).
WHY? Where else in the world can you watch the New Year arrive from two different continents simultaneously? Whether you join in the festivities on the European or Asian side, you’re bound to have a raucous time in Istanbul. Large crowds gather in Taksim Square and Istiklal Street, where the constant din of drivers thumping their horns only adds to the party atmosphere. Alternatively, head to the well-to-do neighbourhood of Nisantasi, where a street party is held with over-the-top decorations and kebabs galore. A word of warning – the morning call to prayer will have no sympathy for your hangover.
GET THERE: Fly from London Heathrow to Istanbul, via Paris, with Air France from £170 return (airfrance.co.uk).
WHY? When it comes to fireworks, Amsterdammers are absolutely mad for it. All over the city, private displays take place from early evening until first light. The best place to watch the official display over the Amstel River is from the Magere Brug (Skinny Bridge). The public squares are jam-packed throughout the night, with the biggest and best celebrations taking place in Museumplein and Nieuwmarkt. Amsterdam is a compact city, so you can take in any number of impromptu street parties. Be sure to line your stomach with traditional Dutch New Year sweets such as oliebollen (sugar-coated donuts) and appelflappen (apple fritters).
GET THERE: Fly from London Luton to Amsterdam with easyJet from £90 return (easyjet.co.uk).
WHY? Icelanders pride themselves on their party spirit, and that’s never more evident than on New Year’s Eve. Downtown Reykjavik is filled with fun-loving locals who have one thing on their mind – making merry all night long and well into the New Year. After the traditional mass, everyone braves the cold and takes to the streets, and in each quarter neighbours gather to build a bonfire. Midnight is celebrated en masse before the hardcore droves head to the city’s bars and clubs, where live bands and DJs play until at least 5am. Dancing the night away should keep you warm in the Icelandic chill.
GET THERE: Fly from London Heathrow to Reykjavik with Iceland Air from £330 return (icelandair.co.uk).
WHY? In typical Spanish style, Nochevieja festivities start a little later than you might expect. At the stroke of midnight, it’s tradition to attempt eating 12 grapes at the 12 bells, before the fiesta really begins. Plaça de Catalunya and Las Ramblas are the busiest locales to celebrate with throngs of people having a good time. You can also head to the clubs on the beach to get your party on. After all, what could be better than watching the sunrise from the sand to welcome in 2012?
GET THERE: Fly from London Stansted to Barcelona with Ryanair from £90 return (ryanair.co.uk).
WHY? If you’re looking for a proper Italian celebration, you can’t get much more authentic than the ‘Fat Ox Fair’. This involves adorning an ox with flowers and ribbons and holding a procession through the city’s streets. At the end of it all, one lucky winner of a special lottery gets to keep the ox. Good luck getting it home. There’s live music and a street market in Piazza Maggiore, and at midnight an effigy of an old man, representing the troubles of the closing year, is thrown onto a bonfire. Anyone present is given free panettone (a sweet bread) and sparkling wine, setting you up nicely for a night of revelry in this vibrant student town.
GET THERE: Fly from London Stansted to Bologna with Ryanair from £70 return (ryanair.co.uk).
WHY? Well, because it’s Paris. Take a bottle (or two) down to the Champs-Elysees for the classic Paris party. You’ll be right in the heart of the action, with a great view of the Eiffel Tower, which bursts into life with a spectacular light show at midnight. For a less conventional and more laidback celebration, head to Montmartre. Atop this hill – the highest point in Paris – you’ll benefit from fantastic panoramas of the city skyline and the inevitable fireworks that will dominate it. There are also wild street parties and plenty of très chic bars to choose from.
GET THERE: Fly from London Luton with easyJet from £130 return (easyjet.co.uk).
WHY? The atmosphere in this grand and impressive Eastern-European city is truly electric, often making it difficult to get home through the swelling crowds. People ignore the cold and ply themselves with warming booze, before taking on the city. All the main squares and streets hold parties and concerts, but the best times are to be had at the New Year raves held in the Turkish baths.
GET THERE: Fly from London Gatwick with easyJet from £160 return (easyjet.co.uk).
New Year’s Eve brings out some wacky traditions all over the world. Here are some of our favourites:
BRAZIL: Gifts and flowers are cast into the sea in little boats to thank Iemanjá, the goddess of the water, for past favours and to seek happiness for the year to come. Thousands of worshippers dressed in white head to the beaches of Rio, where priests usher them into trance-like states, and millions of tiny candles light up the sea.
DENMARK: Danes save old dishes throughout the year to smash at the doors of friends and neighbours. Waking up on New Year’s Day to a pile of broken plates is apparently a good thing – it means you have lots of friends.
PHILLIPINES: It’s believed that wearing polka dots, symbolising coins, will bring prosperity, making for a pretty dotty December 31 tradition. People also open all their windows and doors to let in good spirits for the New Year.