Edinburgh Scotland Tips

Celebrating New Year’s Eve in Edinburgh? Read This First

Dec 12

Edinburgh New Year's Eve
*Updated October 2018

New Year’s Eve in Edinburgh is something everyone should experience once in their lifetime. 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 spirited bunch, and their New Year’s Eve party definitely 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 to help you make the most of your Hogmanay experience.

Hogma-what?

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? 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

Torchlight Procession

Location: Starts from three different points: High Street, South Bridge, and North Bridge
Time: 7pm

Price: Ticket + torch £13; Ticket only £3
Get tickets for the Torchlight Procession here

Hogmanay festivities kickoff 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.

Symphonic Ibiza

Location: McEwan Hall
Time: 9pm
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

Street Party

Location: Princes Street
Time: Doors open at 7:30pm
Price: £31
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.

Concert in the Gardens

Location: Princes Street Gardens
Time: 9pm
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, FYI).

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
Price: £60

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.


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.)

Events on New Year’s Day

Loony Dook

Location: South Queensferry (roughly 30 minutes from Edinburgh by train)
Time: 12:30pm
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.

Getting around Edinburgh

Between midnight and 5am, free bus and tram services are available 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:

Late-night eats:

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. The Christmas Markets are open on New Year’s Day and there’s a range of food stalls (raclette!) to choose from.

Winter Edinburgh Castle

Where to stay

Hotels and hostels will be exorbitantly priced around Hogmanay, so consider alternative options like Airbnb, University Rooms, or Homestay – a site that allows you to stay with locals.

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, and The Real Mary King’s Close 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?


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12 Comments

  • Reply Zhanna Dec 12 at 9:31 pm

    That is a lot of activities for one place. What I like the most, is that they are so unique and have traditional cultural aspects in them. Definitely, one of the most interesting places to celebrate New Year.
    Zhanna recently posted…The Ultimate Los Angeles Christmas ItineraryMy Profile

    • Reply ashleywanders Dec 14 at 10:24 pm

      I love how many cultural aspects are included in the celebrations as well! It’s a great place to spend NYE 🙂

  • Reply LC Dec 14 at 1:26 am

    I really, really want to do this one day. It just sounds like the best party. And bringing your own alcohol in sounds like an excellent option. I think I love the Scots too.

    • Reply ashleywanders Dec 14 at 10:19 pm

      You definitely should – it’s a good time 🙂 And I know, right? BYOB at a party like this in Canada would never be allowed.

      • Reply LC Dec 23 at 6:11 am

        Same in Australia. I went to a concert last week where they were selling canned rosé (it tasted like you’d imagine it would) that wasn’t half-strength and my head did a 360 degree spin from the shock of it.

        • Reply ashleywanders Dec 23 at 5:17 pm

          Hahah oh god, that sounds awful! Canada and Oz really need to adopt some of the UK’s policies when it comes liquor…

  • Reply Victoria @TheBritishBerliner Dec 23 at 8:30 am

    Great details Ashley!

    I’ve been to Edinburgh many times of course, but never for Hogmanay as I prefer to be in Europe for New Years’ Eve!

    My favourite place to celebrate New Year’s Eve is either in Berlin (where I live), or in Prague. I prefer the coldness of North or Eastern Europe at this time of year, and in many cases, we usually have snow too!
    Victoria @TheBritishBerliner recently posted…10 Christmas gifts that don’t cost a single thing, and 10 gifts that do – 2017/2018!!My Profile

    • Reply ashleywanders Dec 23 at 5:21 pm

      Thanks, Victoria! I’d love to experience NYE in Berlin – it must be a fantastic city for New Year’s celebrations. I like the fact that the UK doesn’t have snow haha, but I’m not a winter person at all 😉

  • Reply David Jun 28 at 12:13 pm

    Love the traditions they have, quite an extraordinary experience.

    • Reply ashleywanders Jun 29 at 10:10 am

      I love all the traditions as well 🙂 Definitely one of my favourite aspects of Edinburgh’s NYE celebrations.

  • Reply Maria Hanan Oct 12 at 12:25 pm

    Thank you so much for this article. Can you recommend any bars or clubs for after the Street Party ends?

    Also, we have tickets to the Garden Concert Party but would still like to experience the Street Party. I am very surprised that it all ends at 1 I must say. How should we time these? Street Party first and then Garden Party or Street Party AFTER midnight?

    Thank you so much for your help and tips. 🙂 Greetings from Zurich!

    • Reply ashleywanders Oct 14 at 11:34 pm

      You’re welcome, Maria 🙂

      I’ve recommended a few places in the article, but it really depends what you’re looking for! There are TONS of pubs near the Street Party, and a few trendy nightclubs on nearby George Street. Lots of options in Old Town’s Grassmarket area as well.

      I think you’re better off going to the Street Party earlier and then making your way into the Concert in the Gardens. You might not be able to leave the Concert in the Gardens and then re-enter, but I’d double check on the official Hogmanay site. Being in Princes Street Gardens at midnight right below the castle will also be a great spot to watch the fireworks.

      Hope that helps!

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