Iceland, the land of fire and ice, with its clean air and stunning northern lights displays, is a popular destination for New Year's trips. And for good reason: Iceland's capital, Reykjavik, definitely knows how to celebrate during these long, dark nights.
The northernmost capital of the world, Reykjavik, celebrates New Year's Eve with tradition and loving dedication. New Year's Eve in Reykjavik is an important event to the Icelanders and is celebrated accordingly.
Traditionally, the ceremony begins in the evening with the mass at Reykjavik's Cathedral, which many Icelanders listens to on the radio. This is typically followed by dinner. The New Year's Eve dinner is commonly a big ordeal with family. Many people dress in their finest attire, sip champagne and make a toast to good fortune in the upcoming year.
More New Year's Traditions
"Áramótaskaupið" (or "the New Year's comedy") is an annual Icelandic television comedy special and is an important part of Icelandic New Year's celebration for many. It focuses on the recent year from a satirical standpoint and shows little mercy toward its victims, especially politicians, artists, prominent businesspeople, and activists.
Then, in each quarter of the city, neighbors meet at a large bonfire (Icelandic: Brenna) to celebrate the new year in Reykjavik, while watching the numerous fireworks displays over the city.
Attire is much more casual for these outdoor festivities, so trade your heels for tennis shoes. It's legal for residents to set off fireworks, too, so you can often find colorful displays of all sizes, big and small. The government lifts the ban on fireworks for this one night, and the bigger fireworks displays can be pretty dramatic.
You have to see them believe them. After the countdown on the clock, many residents toast with more champagne as the fireworks explode at midnight.
Later, locals meet in Reykjavik's small downtown area for a party. After all, Reykjavik's nightlife is famous. On this last day of the year in Reykjavik, there is one unspoken rule: The colder the temperatures, the hotter the nightlife.
On New Year's Eve in Reykjavik, downtown bars usually offer live music until at least 5 a.m. Note: It can be hard to find a restaurant that's open New Year's Eve, so prepare in advance. Luckily, if you had a big, fancy dinner earlier in the night, this shouldn't be a problem. As tourism in Iceland grows, increasingly more restaurants are staying open, but don't bet on it.
Don't expect to find official, city-sponsored events, but it shouldn't be hard to find private celebrations.
Take a Tour
If you're visiting Iceland for New Year's, consider booking a guided tour to visit the best spots for watching fireworks. You can also look for a bonfire tour if you aren't sure where to go.