There’s nowhere in the world quite like Edinburgh on New Year’s Eve.
Where else can you see Vikings wielding torches, kilted men dancing beneath a 12th-century castle, and an unforgettable display of fireworks?
Scots are a seriously spirited bunch, and their New Year’s Eve party reflects that. Forget one night of celebrations – Hogmanay festivities span over the course of three days.
There are parties and events happening across the city, but I’ve highlighted a few of the main events you don’t want to miss, along with some survival tips so you can make the most of your Hogmanay experience.
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Hogmanay (pronounced hog-mah-nay) is the Scots word for the final day of the year. Many of the country’s New Year traditions are linked to ancient Pagan rituals and Viking celebrations.
Why is Hogmanay is such a big deal? In a nutshell, Christmas celebrations were effectively banned in Scotland for 400 years (December 25th wasn’t considered a public holiday until 1958). Many people worked over Christmas, so New Year’s Eve became the primary time to celebrate with family and friends.
Events on December 30th
Location: Starts from three different points: High Street, South Bridge, and North Bridge
Price: Ticket + torch £13; Ticket only £3; Free to watch as a spectator
Get tickets for the Torchlight Procession here
Hogmanay festivities kick off on December 30th with the Torchlight Procession, a unique event you definitely shouldn’t miss.
Picture this: a group of Vikings and kilt-clad pipers and drummers marching down the Royal Mile, leading thousands of torch-bearers toward Holyrood Park for a grand finale of fireworks. It’s a fantastic event, and it’s something you just have to see for yourself.
You can purchase a ticket and join the parade or head to Holyrood Park to watch the procession. Just be sure to get there early, and reserve tickets well in advance if you want to take part. I didn’t quite realize the magnitude of this event when I went in 2015.
Location: McEwan Hall
Price: Tickets range between £33 and £53 per person
Get tickets for Symphonic Ibiza here
A new addition to the Hogmanay 2018/2019 lineup, Symphonic Ibiza is a two-hour concert featuring the top Ibiza club anthems from the last 20 years.
According to the official Hogmanay website, this event will have a “thrilling live 20 piece orchestra from Scotland with high tempo beats from renowned club DJ Andy Joyce, creating an entirely new club experience.”
Events on New Year’s Eve
Location: Princes Street
Time: Doors open at 7:30pm
Get tickets for the Hogmanay Street Party here
An outdoor event in Scotland during winter might sound like a nightmare, but it’s definitely worth braving the cold for. Thousands of revellers, live music, DJs, street performers, and various entertainment acts – it’s a fantastic atmosphere.
If you’re anything like me, you probably want to know the answer to a very important question: can you get food at the Street Party? No need to worry – there are plenty of food stands and stalls, outdoor bars, and toilets in the vicinity. And the best part? You can bring your own alcohol (as long as it’s in a plastic bottle). This is why I love Scotland.
At midnight, find a spot below the castle for the spectacular nine-minute fireworks display (along Princes Street between The Mound and Castle Street is a good area). Get ready to link arms with your neighbour and join in on a mass rendition of Auld Lang Syne. It’s a magical moment.
Street Party survival tips:
- Tickets to the Street Party cost £31 and can be purchased here.
- Dress for every type of weather! Wear plenty of layers (thermals are always a good idea in Scotland) and bring waterproof clothing. I stayed extra toasty with hand and foot warmers.
- You can bring your own booze to the Street Party, as long as it’s in a plastic or metal container under 500ml. (FYI: you can’t bring alcohol into the Concert in the Gardens or any other events.)
- There’s no need to arrive early to secure a spot – you can enter anytime between 7:30pm and 10:30pm. Re-entry is not permitted.
- Choose a spot to view the fireworks and get there well before midnight. Leave yourself plenty of time to move through the crowds.
- Grab a Hogmanay programme to plan your night ahead of time. You can find a map outlining the Street Party location and the location of other key events here.
Concert in the Gardens
Location: Princes Street Gardens
Price: Tickets range between £65 and £75 per person
Get tickets for Concert in the Gardens here
If you want to catch the main Hogmanay headliners, be sure to get a ticket for the concert in Princes Street Gardens (which is a separate event from the Street Party).
The stage is directly beneath the castle, so you’ll have a prime view of the fireworks display at midnight.
Tickets for the concert also include access to the Street Party, so you can do both if you arrive early enough. However, you can’t enter after 10:30pm, so if you’re planning to hit both events, I’d recommend getting to the Street Party early and then making your way into Princes Street Gardens before 10:30pm.
Ceilidh under the Castle
Location: West Princes Street Gardens near St Cuthbert’s Parish Church
Time: Starts at 8:30pm; Doors open at 7:30pm
For the ultimate Scottish experience, don’t miss the outdoor ceilidh (an event with traditional Scottish music and dancing) in West Princes Street Gardens.
Grab a partner (or any random person) and bust out your best moves. Once you’ve mastered the most popular dances, you won’t even feel the cold. A few drams of whisky will help with that too.
This is a separate event from the Street Party and tickets can be purchased here.
Location: St Giles’ Cathedral
Get tickets for the Candlelit Concert here
Not all events at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay are completely mental – you’ll find pockets of calm and some low-key festivities around the city, and the Candlelit Concert is one of those events.
If your perfect idea of a New Year’s Eve celebration involves a live orchestra performance in an incredibly atmospheric venue, this event is for you.
Pubs & nightclubs
If you want to move the party indoors after midnight, there are plenty of pubs and bars to choose from.
Bramble, Voodoo Rooms, The Bon Vivant, and Panda & Sons are a few popular spots in New Town for cocktails. Rose Street is lined with a dozen or so pubs, and it’s only a short walk from Princes Street. Prefer a trendy nightclub? Head to nearby George Street.
If you’re willing to venture into Old Town, the Grassmarket and Cowgate are two lively areas with plenty of options for live music, DJs, and late-night parties. Sneaky Pete’s, Dropkick Murphys, and Biddy Mulligans are a few places that always have a good atmosphere.
Last call is extended to 3am or 5am, so you can dance into the wee hours of the morning. (Bear in mind some places will be hosting New Year’s Eve events that may require an advanced ticket purchase.)
Other New Year’s Eve events
Don’t want to battle the crowds and freeze your ass off at the Street Party? No problem! Beyond the official Hogmanay events listed above, there are plenty of smaller celebrations happening at venues across Edinburgh.
Whether you fancy a sophisticated black tie event, an indoor ceilidh, a luxurious multi-course dinner, or a wild club night, you’ll find the perfect party to suit your tastes.
Here are some alternative New Year’s Eve events you might want to check out:
Bars, pubs and clubs:
- A three-course meal and live music at Ghillie Dhu
- Dinner or a live DJ at The Three Sisters
- Headset Hogmanay at The Bongo Club
- Glitterati 2018 at Brewhemia
Unique Edinburgh venues:
- Midnight at Mansfield Traquair
- The Caves Edinburgh Hogmanay Party
- Hogmanay Snow Ball Ceilidh at Assembly Rooms
Events on New Year’s Day
Location: South Queensferry (roughly 30 minutes from Edinburgh by train)
Price: £12 if you want to participate; Free to watch as a spectator
While the rest of the world is in bed nursing their hangover, Scots dress in costumes and throw themselves into the freezing waters of the Firth of Forth on January 1st. It’s all for a good cause, though – participants sign up for the Loony Dook to raise money for charities across the UK.
Don’t want to take the plunge? Grab a bottle of Irn-Bru (Scots swear by it for hangovers) and head to South Queensferry to watch the spectacle unfold.
Message from the Skies
Location: Various locations around the city
Time: Projections will run daily from January 1st to the 25th, from 5pm until 10pm
Part self-guided literary walking tour, part theatrical experience, Message from the Skies features the words of six renowned Scottish writers projected onto some of Edinburgh’s most significant buildings.
Each landmark will feature different text, and added effects like music and animations help to bring each story to life.
Last year, an app was available to help visitors navigate the locations, but I don’t see that option for the 2019 installment. Keep an eye on the official Hogmanay website for more information closer to the date.
Concerts and family events
There’s also a range of concerts and family-friendly events taking place throughout the afternoon and evening on January 1st, including traditional Scottish music at McEwan Hall, a family ceilidh, and a performance by Spanish folk musician Carlos Nunez.
Getting around Edinburgh
Normal bus and tram services will be available on December 30th, December 31st, and January 1st. (Find the Christmas and New Year bus timetables here.)
Princes Street (and several other streets in the city centre) will be closed off throughout the Hogmanay festivities, so plan accordingly when travelling in this area and leave yourself plenty of extra time to get around.
Between midnight and 5am on New Year’s Eve, free tram services will be available every 15 minutes, along with Hogmanay bus services for a flat fee of £5 from various locations across the city. Taxis and Uber are also an option.
Parking in Edinburgh can be tricky and expensive. If you’re planning to drive in the city, check out YourParkingSpace to easily find and book parking spaces throughout Edinburgh.
Where to eat
New Year’s Eve dinner:
Here are a few of my favourite restaurants in New Town near the Street Party:
- Baba (Middle Eastern)
- El Cartel and Miros Cantina (Mexican)
- Fishers in the City and Cadiz (seafood)
- The Queen’s Arms (pub food)
- Dusit (Thai)
- Dishoom (Indian)
What is New Year’s Eve without a late-night/early morning carb-loaded feast? Scotland is the home of deep-fried pizza and other ridiculous hangover food after all.
To get your fix, try Nanna Flo’s Bakery, Pasha, Bobby’s Cafe, or Bar Napoli. My first meal of 2016 may or may not have been from a chippy – trust me on this one.
New Year’s Day:
Many restaurants will be closed on January 1st, so you may have to settle for chain restaurant fare (like Jamie’s Italian or Nando’s) for hangover sustenance.
Edinburgh’s Christmas Markets are open on New Year’s Day and there’s a range of food stalls (raclette!) to choose from.
Where to stay
If you’re struggling to find accommodations in Edinburgh, consider staying in nearby cities like Glasgow, Stirling, or Dundee. CityLink will be running late-night bus services on New Year’s Eve (and January 1st) from Edinburgh to a number of cities. Tickets must be purchased in advance.
Exploring Edinburgh and beyond
Once the Hogmanay celebrations have ended, it’s a great time to do some sightseeing. Some attractions will be closed on January 1st and 2nd as both days are public holidays in Scotland.
The National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh Castle, The Real Mary King’s Close, and Edinburgh’s Christmas Markets are a few popular attractions open on New Year’s Day. If you’re looking for more options, I’ve listed tons of tips on what to do, see, and eat in the city in this massive post: 61 (Awesome) Things to Do in Edinburgh.
Edinburgh is easily walkable, and many of its best sights – like Calton Hill and Arthur’s Seat – are free to visit.
If you want to get out of the city, head north to the Highlands. Take a scenic drive through stunning Glencoe or discover the magic of Skye. Haggis Adventures and Rabbies offer one-day and multi-day tours if you’re limited on time or you don’t want to drive.
Have you been to Edinburgh for Hogmanay? Where’s your favourite place to celebrate New Year’s Eve?
Looking for more Edinburgh posts? Check out these:
- 61 (Awesome) Things to Do in Edinburgh
- My Favourite Spots in Edinburgh via Instagram
- Living in Edinburgh: The Expat Survival Guide
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