New Year’s Eve in Reykjavik is one of the most celebrated occasions and is hugely traditional in Iceland. Typically, they start with a big family dinner, and then attend their closest bonfire, of which the are numerous across the city. You will see children running around with sparklers and flares and adults carrying around giant singular fireworks and boxes of fireworks which they let off around the bonfire. Imagining thousands of people gathering around a giant bonfire with random groups just letting off fireworks in London is just unimaginable. This is just the norm.
Iceland are not part of the EU but are part of the EEA (European Economic Area) and the Shengen area. 2016 was the last year that they were able to buy the large fireworks that in the EU can only be bought by large public displays. This means that the fireworks were HUGE!
It was also so refreshing to see that Iceland still hasn’t fully embraced tourism, choosing to keep their family celebration at the forefront. Any big firework display you will go to in most countries, you’ll be bombarded by people selling sparklers, or light-up toys or ANYTHING else that might be slightly relevant. There was nothing. In the build-up to New Year’s there were lots of small containers which were set up in the residential areas that sold fireworks and anyone could buy them. We did wish we’d at least bought some sparklers so we could join in.
We got really lucky with the weather and even saw the Northern Lights which had made a very strong appearance and were so green in colour they could be seen through the iPhone camera.
Between 10:30-11:30 on New Year’s Eve in Reykjavik, 90% of the country head back home and watch Áramótaskaup, a comedy show summing up the year. After it’s finished everyone unleashes the rest of the fireworks in the build up to midnight. There is no large public display, just a whole city and 6 hours worth of firework display. 500 tons of fireworks is set off in one evening and the whole sky lights up. All of the profits go to the local rescue services which are not funded by the government – 60% of their funding comes from this one evening. They are the people that rescue all of the idiot tourists who don’t plan ahead on their trips and pack all of the equipment they need for the continually changing weather in Iceland.
Find a tall building or a hill to get the best view of the city as a whole, only then will you realise the scale of the firework display which literally takes over the entire city skyline! The best places to watch the fireworks in Reykjavik are:
– Öskjuhlíð hill
– Inside the Perlan
– The square by the Hallgrimskirkja
– Petersen Svítan have a roof terrace which is where we went. (We snuck up the fire escape of Loft Hostel where we were staying, rather than actually being in the bar)
The whole evening was pretty incredible. I can’t promise you’ll see the Northern Lights, but I will promise you an amazing celebration of New Year’s Eve in Reykjavik!
If you’re considering a trip to Reykjavik, make sure you check out my blog post in full or take a look at 20 Photos to Inspire a Visit to Reykjavik.
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