It’s nearly that time of the year again, the time when we must decide and begin our preparations for New Year’s Eve before it’s too late. But rather than spend it in the familiar surroundings of yours or someone else’s home, this year, start the countdown and bring in the New Year abroad. (Don’t worry; you can still have your fill of fireworks, celebrations and cocktails!)
The following is a list of some of our favourite places to celebrate New Year’s Eve…
English Harbour, Antigua
Sunshine, sandy beaches and swaying palms may not sound like your typical New Year’s Eve setting, but one look at the cold and drizzly British weather and you may start wishing it was.
The seasonal festivities start early with yachters gathering at Nelson’s Dockyard on the 25th December for a champagne toast, before dining on local Caribbean cuisine. The holiday spirit continues through to the New Year, but not before the Lord Nelson’s New Year’s Eve Pursuit Race. Conceived by the Antigua Yacht Club, the race is a highlight in the calendar of any sailing enthusiast, and pays homage to Admiral Nelson’s legendary pursuit of the French fleet across the Atlantic in 1805. The race welcomes all-comers and is a lively celebration of Antiguan heritage and their affinity with the ocean. Once the race has ended and a winner declared, seafarers and spectators alike gather at the Officer’s Quarters in Nelson’s Dockyard for the unveiling of prizes and glasses of the famous rum punch.
As New Year’s Eve draws to a close, feverish excitement grips the island as the streets of Antigua beats to the sound of music, dancing and laughter. Tourists and locals can be seen sitting around fires barbequing food, whilst revellers make merry in the seafront bars and clubs into the small hours. Come the morning, the country awakens no less subdued after a good night’s celebration as they prepare for an unmissable display of street parades. Locals don extravagant and outrageous costumes and dancers move to sound of live Calypso music. What better way to wave out the old and bring in the new?
Whilst many of us are familiar with the postcard image of Spain; one of glorious sun-soaked beaches and café lined lanes of an old town, Spain at New Year’s paints a very different, but a no less beautiful, picture. Valencia has in recent years built a reputation for hosting what some may describe as being peculiar New Year celebrations and customs. One such custom any visitor to the city should partake is the New Year’s Eve count down grape eating. This strange custom is a Spanish tradition and at the stroke of midnight everyone swallows a grape, one on every chime. Successful completion of which is believed to grant good luck for the coming year.
But once the new year beckons, the city bursts to life and when it does you will want to be at the Plaza de la Reina, Plaza de Ayuntamento or the iconic City of Arts and Sciences. Here, you are ideally situated to witness the night sky as it is illuminated by a dazzling array of firework displays and the Spanish Cava bottles start popping in the bars and clubs.
Dubrovnik’s commitment to celebrating New Year’s Eve should not be taken lightly. Although mainly recognise as a summer city destination, Dubrovnik never fails to enchant and bewitch visitors during the winter months and boasts a reputation for being one of the best destinations to celebrate New Year’s.
Inside the walls of Dubrovnik’s Old Town, the quiet cobbled streets and stepped alleyways are transformed with seasonal decorations, Christmas trees and a concert stage. If attending with little ones, head down early as the children-festivities start at noon. In the evening the celebrations centre on Stradun, the main street of the Old Town, where you are likely to join the bustling crowds assembled to watch the live music and the festive performances from the brass bands, musicians, carol singers and the Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra. Moments before midnight, the town’s mayor comes to toast the crowd before the sky is illuminated with a tremendous firework display and the festivities continue throughout the night.
No list of places to celebrate New Year’s Eve is complete without a reference to the island of Madeira, specifically its capital, Funchal. This sleepy subtropical island awakens from its slumber once a year just in time for festive season and when it does, you know the holidays have arrived. The city is transformed into a winter wonderland as Christmas lights of all colours and descriptions seemingly cover every available surface, even the street lights down residential lanes are draped in festive lights.
But it’s not the Christmas lights, festive decorations or unseasonal warmth that has tourists wanting to visit again and again, it’s the Grand Firework Display. As the clock strikes midnight, the entire island erupts in an unforgettable explosion of firework displays, but no place more than Funchal. Occupying a unique vantage point overlooking a bay, Funchal is ideally placed for watching firework displays. The display begins with barges being towed out into the middle of bay where they are ignited, releasing an arsenal of fireworks which rocket into the sky before exploding, illuminating the entire bay.
Nick Munday is Managing Director at Classic Collection Holidays.
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