Edinburgh is famous for many things — its castle, its architecture, its festivals — but the city’s New Year’s Eve celebrations are up there as one of the best. New Year’s Eve, or Hogmanay as the Scottish call it, is one big party in Edinburgh. Experience fireworks displays, street parties, and loud renditions of Auld Lang Syne ringing around the hills. But you can still find quieter ways to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Edinburgh if you prefer your celebrations a little more refined.
Hotels and restaurants arrange lavish dinners and there’s always lots of whisky flowing. Watch the parade proceed up the Royal Mile, watch a concert, join in with the singing and dancing, or chill out with a good whisky and ring in the new year in style. Whatever you like to do for New Year’s Eve, Edinburgh has it.
Here are my suggestions for how to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Edinburgh.
1. Street Party
Edinburgh’s New Year’s Eve street party is by far the biggest street party you’ll ever attend. Expect a lot of music as DJs set up by the castle and keep the playlist going all evening, with funfairs, street performers, street foods and drinks, and big screens with projections lining the streets. People come from all over the world to join in on the spectacular street part, as the streets become one big festival event.
The evening culminates in one massive fireworks display that lights up the sky over the entirety of Edinburgh. As everyone in the streets links hands and sings Auld lang Syne together, the atmosphere is incredible. This is a New Year’s Eve street party like no other. These celebrations are all ticketed events, with the streets of the city center closed off from traffic and only open to those who purchased a ticket. Guests are issued with an LED wristband that creates multiple flash patterns to the beat of the music.
2. Concert In The Gardens
Princes Street Gardens
Across the road from the railway station, a stage is erected beneath the castle in Princes Street Gardens for a very special evening of live music to celebrate New Year’s Eve. The lineup for 2022 hasn’t been announced yet, but previous years have included local bands and some famous faces.
The event starts earlier in the day on New Year’s Eve when family entertainers and children’s TV stars take to the stage to keep the kids happy. DJ contests are held between the entertainers, with children in the audience encouraged to join in and vote for their favorites. The earlier part of the celebrations finishes at 6 p.m. with a small fireworks display for the children, leaving parents free to take the children home and tuck them into bed. That’s when the adults are free to get ready for an evening of music and dancing. This event does take place amongst the street party, but it is a separately ticketed event.
3. Torchlight Procession
The torchlight procession is a parade of people who walk through the main streets of Edinburgh carrying lit candle torches, illuminating the dark evening. It’s a beautiful spectacle and one of the more sedated and tranquil events that visitors can experience. You can take part in the procession, but you have to buy one of the approved torches to do so. No unauthorized torches, lanterns, or candles are allowed.
Otherwise, you can simply find a good vantage point and watch the parade move through the streets as one long sea of lights. Drummers and pipers join the parade to bring some extra atmosphere, and the parade is led at the front by a band of Vikings! The group of Vikings, in full traditional Viking costume, hold their torches proudly forth and lead the procession through the streets. Bear in mind, if you do find a place to stand and watch, you’ll be standing for a while. It gets busy and you might not have the chance to move from your spot once you’ve chosen it.
Pro Tip: Get a spot at Holyrood Park to watch the parade and you’ll see the procession of light making its way down the street towards you. It’s the best place for a great view.
4. Dinner And Pipe Band
The Balmoral Hotel
The iconic Balmoral Hotel hosts a two-night stay over New Year’s for guests who want to celebrate in style. A bottle of something bubbly awaits every guest in their rooms, while a lavish black tie event is organized down in the hotel. The evening begins with champagne and canapes, followed by a five-course dinner. The food in the Balmoral’s restaurant is always incredible, so no matter what’s on the menu for New Year’s Eve, it’s bound to be something special.
A pipe band plays and, as the clock counts down towards midnight, the party atmosphere gets into full swing. The Balmoral is perfectly placed for a great view of the fireworks display outside come midnight. As the castle is lit by dramatic bursting fireworks, you can get cozy in the warmth of the hotel and raise a glass to the new year. For more on the Balmoral Hotel, be sure to read 4 Reasons This Classic, Luxurious Hotel Is A Must-Visit.
5. Candlelit Choir Concert
St Giles Cathedral
Right in the center of Edinburgh, on the Royal Mile, stands the historic St Giles Cathedral. It’s a beautiful old church to wander around at any time while you’re in Edinburgh, but on New Year’s Eve, it takes on a very special character.
Guests can enjoy a candlelit choir concert, including some outstanding soloists. The acoustics inside the cathedral are perfect for the sound of the choir, which resonates right around the building; no matter where you are seated, the sound is incredible. The candlelight brings a cozy magical atmosphere to the concert, which is a pretty incredible experience. This is a different way to celebrate New Year’s Eve. You can still soak up the general atmosphere in the city and then take refuge inside the cathedral for some tranquility and beauty.
Pro Tip: Normally the cathedral is free to enter and anyone can go in at any time. But for special events like this one, and especially on New Year’s Eve, a ticket must be bought in advance. This is another popular event and sells out quickly.
6. Hogmanay Dinner
Wedgwood Restaurant, The Royal Mile
If you’d rather spend the evening eating, drinking, and watching the people go by outside, Wedgwood Restaurant has a prime location on The Royal Mile and offers a seven-course dinner for New Year’s Eve. Paul Wedgwood sources the finest produce that Scotland has to offer. A luxurious and classic menu awaits guests, with ingredients Wedgwood has foraged himself along with sustainably sourced fish and organic meat.
If you’re looking to enjoy some incredible dishes with fantastic wine in a laid-back, relaxed atmosphere, this is a great way to spend New Year’s Eve. Each of the seven courses is paired with a wine and the evening finishes with some sweet treats. It is a relaxed and sumptuous evening of food and drink while the partying goes on outside.
Pro Tip: This is a small and intimate restaurant and you need to book well in advance if you want to spend New Year’s Eve here. The food is amazing. My partner ranks the venison steak he had here as the best steak he’s ever had. But for this reason, it’s popular. Book well ahead of the end of the year, even if the menu hasn’t yet been released. You’re guaranteed a great dinner.
7. Party With A Ceilidh Band
The Assembly Rooms
A Ceilidh band, pronounced “kay-lee,” is a traditional Scottish band playing Scottish folk music. These bands often play at Scottish weddings and at other celebration events, and on New Year’s Eve, you’ll find plenty of Ceilidh bands playing all over Edinburgh.
The Hogmanay Snowball Ceilidh is one of the most popular of its kind. It’s held in The Assembly Rooms, a much-used concert venue in the city, that many visitors love due to its traditional atmosphere. It’s also indoors, so no need to brave the cold of the winter Edinburgh evening. You’ll hear some great traditional Scottish music, see a lot of kilts, eat and drink your fill, and dance the night away. As well as the Ceilidh bands, there’s another room with a disco, and one with a silent disco. You can stick with the traditional, or move from room to room and sample every type of music offered.
Pro Tip: Hogmanay in Edinburgh lasts for 3 days, from December 30 when the light procession kicks things off until New Year’s Day. Many events require tickets and while you can simply turn up and enjoy the atmosphere in the city, to get the most out of it, book your tickets ahead for any special events you want to take part in.
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