Europe plans celebrations on New Year’s Eve and Jan. 1
December 25, 2003
Have the spirit and energy to party on New Year’s Eve in one of Europe’s bigger cities? Here’s a quick look at what’s happening. If you see something you like, there might still be time to make plans.
Security is London’s concern this year. The theme, “New Year’s Near You” promotes celebrations in the suburbs, trying to direct crowds away from the mass party in Trafalgar Square.
Don’t let the detour deter you: many activities are planned outside the city center. You can find a list at www.visitlondon.com .
And the next day, jump-start 2004 with a grand American-style parade. At noon on Jan. 1, the annual New Year’s Day procession, alive with floats, marching bands, cheerleaders, vintage cars and lively entertainment, makes its way through the capital city. For details, go to www.londonparade.co.uk or www.visitlondon.com.
Not to be outdone, the Scots celebrate their annual Hogmanay. The festival begins in Edinburgh on Monday and includes a Night Afore Fiesta on Tuesday that will feature an attempt to break the record of the longest-running Ceilidh (traditional dancing).
The grand Royal Bank street party begins Wednesday and carries into the next day. Entry is by ticket only — and tickets are sold out. But you may be lucky to find a few either at hotels and other accommodations that still have them, or under “Hard to Find Passes” at www.edinburghshogmany.org.
If the craziness of the city is too much, you may want to view the midnight fireworks from one of the Seven Hills around Edinburgh.
And New Year’s Day, the party continues with sled-dog racing, races and jumps into the water. Check the Web site for all the Gaelic madness.
No fireworks at New Year’s? If you travel to Paris, don’t expect to see the skies light up at midnight: Parisians save their pyrotechnics for other occasions. But the celebrations still carry on in restaurants, bars and discos.
In fact, notes Tony Early, USO tours manager in Wiesbaden, Germany, the City of Light is still the No. 1 place his customers like to visit, including at New Year’s.
“They do a lot of champagne and it’s a lively atmosphere,” he said.
The traditional spot to break open that bottle is the Champs- Elysées with the Place de la Bastille and Boulevard Saint Michel as follow-up favorites. The Paris Web site is www.paris-touristoffice.com.
Due to world events (and the reluctance of American performers to travel to Chantilly, France, this year), the New Year’s Day parade in the city north of Paris won’t be held. But you can still have the fun of a parade on New Year’s Eve at Disneyland Paris. Check www.disneylandparis.com for details.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do. In addition to parties in restaurants, bars and discos, what has become popular?
According to Victoria Servanzi at the Rome USO, “street parties have become the common thing to do since about 2000.”
On a bigger scale, the capital city hosts a public concert at the market square with pop stars Fiorella Mannoia and Ivano Fossatani performing.
And at midnight, catch the fireworks from a favorite meeting place at the Piazza del Popoloa. The Rome Tourist Board site is www.romaturismo.com.
In Venice, you can meet at midnight in St. Mark’s Square, but don’t expect any official fireworks — the city is resting up for the colorful Carnival celebrations, which begin in February. The city’s Web site is www.venicetouristboard.com.
It’s a different story in Naples. Look for midnight fireworks in the Triesten and Trento square near the Royal Palace, then head off to the discos and bars in the port area. The Naples Web site is www.ept.napoli.it (in Italian).
The biggest party in Germany — 2 kilometers long — is once again in the area of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate.
Starting at 2 p.m. New Year’s Eve (and ending Jan. 1 at 4 p.m.), you’ll find entertainment — music, lights, Ferris wheel, stage shows and dance floors — along the streets which start at its front and back: Unter den Linden over the Pariser Platz and Strasse des 17 June to the Kleinen Stern.
Midnight fireworks will launch from the gate’s victory column to create a colorful start to the New Year. Afterward, dance in the new year at what the Web site calls an “open-end disco under the open skies.” The New Year’s Web site is www.silvester-berlin.de (in German).
In addition to these events, you can go to:
• The biggest party in Spain at the Puerta de Sol in Madrid’s Old Town. The site is what Times Square is to Americans and it’s televised throughout the country. The tradition of eating one grape after the other in time with the chimes of the clock (if you can hear them over the noise of the fireworks) will bring you luck in the New Year. Then it’s off to clubs and discos for parties that last through the night.
• Brussels’ pubs, restaurants and discos. They’re all good places to party. Fireworks at midnight are on the program with a favorite viewing spot at the Mont des Arts in the city center. The Belgian Tourist Board Web site is www.visitbelgium.com.
• Amsterdam. The tourist board notes that, unlike in other cities, many of Amsterdam’s restaurants close early as the owners want to go home to celebrate, too. Fireworks fill the sky at midnight and a favorite place to watch is the Chinese Quarter in the city center. For information on the city, go to the Web at www.visitamsterdam.nl.
• If you’re looking for an organized trip, check out your local USO or Outdoor Recreation office. Several of them are offering New Year’s packages with transportation, accommodations, dinner and city tours.
If you plan to make arrangements for yourself, be sure to check whether the events you want to attend require tickets and make reservations quickly.
Then have a Happy New Year!
— Jayne Traendly is a freelance writer living in Germany.