This is How Reykjavik Celebrates New Years Eve, Flickr: Borkur.net

Fireworks Go All Night Long!

In New York City, Times Square and the surrounding streets fill up early in the afternoon on December 31, with everyone eager to see the ball drop at midnight. It takes serious commitment to endure the cold and the crowds. Needless to say, New Year’s Eve in Reykjavik, Iceland, is much easier – and a lot more fun.


Interestingly, the northern-most capital in the world isn’t much colder than New York City. I was in Reykjavik for the festivities this year and found the weather chilly but tolerable. And, I returned home to conditions colder than those I had left in Reykjavik. So, you need to know that booking flights to Reykjavik really is a possibility for winter travel.


And for New Year’s Eve, it’s a trip you need to take at least once in your life!


Hallgrims Church is the place to be when the clock ticks past 11:59 P.M., and unlike Times Square, you don’t need to get there at noon. I showed up at around 11:30 P.M. and quickly realized I could have done just as well 15 minutes later. And yes, I got a prime viewing spot at the center of the action.


On New Year’s Eve in Reykjavik, fireworks are launched around town throughout the afternoon and evening, coming in short bursts for most of this time. The intensity grows past 11 p.m., and from Hallgrims Church, you can see some of the displays from all over the city.


The fun in front of Hallgrims Church kicks into gear at around 11:40 P.M., with a couple of spots launching fireworks. I got a small patch of sidewalk across the street, around 40 yards away. And, a crowd had gathered in between. Safety is not a salient concern, and I did see spectators shooting fireworks from within the crowd (stay alert!). Within 10 minutes of midnight, the displays, none coordinated, rise to a fever pitch, exploding into 2012. The displays continue (almost) in earnest until around 12:30 a.m., with bursts piercing the early morning past 4 a.m.


I still don’t know if (or how many) of the displays were “official.” Speaking to a local at the Reykjavik bar Boston the night before, I learned that New Year’s Eve is the one day a year it’s legal for them to shoot off fireworks, and the displays were scattered throughout the city, suggesting that much of it came from individuals. Also, though exciting, the fireworks didn’t appear to be of professional grade (or coordination).


Who cares, anyway? It felt like most of Reykjavik was there, and it was awesome.


The crowd began to disperse at around 12:30 a.m., with the locals going home to party some more before hitting the bars. This custom has led to a gap between the fireworks and when the bars open: the doors typically aren’t unlocked until around 1:30 a.m. in most cases, and they don’t really fill up until 3:00 a.m. b5, on Bankastraeti, mercifully opened before 1:00 a.m., to let the swelling crowd of tourists outside (including me) get warm … and start drinking.


While I gave up long before the festivities drew to a close in Reykjavik, I did hear shouts from the street past 5:00 a.m. in Reykjavik, the party starts late and runs into the morning. Make sure you take a nap before the fireworks!


Small and informal, the Reykjavik New Year’s Eve fireworks and partying have a character all their own. When I booked my flight to Reykjavik on CheapOair (I use the site a lot), I had no idea what the festivities would entail. Now that I’ve seen it for myself, I can tell you that you definitely need to add a New Year’s Eve in Reykjavik to your bucket list!

 

Photo: borkur.net

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