New Year’s Eve in Reykjavik, Iceland – Why you need to go!

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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I can’t promise you’ll see the Northern Lights, but I will promise you an amazing New Year’s Eve in Reykjavik full of fireworks and bonfires. This post tells you why you should go, the best place to watch the fireworks and what exactly happens on New Years Eve in Iceland. - Veritru - New Year's in Reykjavik, Iceland - Why you need to go!


20 Replies to “New Year’s Eve in Reykjavik, Iceland – Why you need to go!”

  1. Dear lord please bring me to Iceland. Thank you for sharing this article. It made me dream of going to Reykjavik.

    1. It’s an amazing place! We had such a good time.

  2. Reykjavik is a city of dreams for us. Iceland is a country that we dream of visiting some day, especially for the Northern Lights. New Year’s eve seems to take the city to another level altogether. The fireworks reminded me of Diwali festival in India. You are blessed to have been able to view the Northern Lights.

    1. I know. We were very lucky, especially with how bad the weather was while we were there. New Year’s Eve was amazing. I would like to visit India for Diwali though!

  3. Iceland is included on our bucketlist also. We juts have to pack more clothes to combat the coldness. Looks like you had a new year blast there!

    1. I’m in the process of writing a blog post with what to pack because I struggled to find info when I went. Just pack layers, I felt like Michelin Man.

  4. Hmm, I never celebrated New Years Eve abroad, as I like to have my friends with me on this occasion, but Iceland has been a while on my bucketlist, especially for watching the Northern Lights… maybe right at the Sólheimasandur Wreck? 😀

    1. We couldn’t get anywhere near it! The weather was so bad where we were there other than New Years Eve. We were so lucky to see them in the middle of town!

  5. New year in Iceland! Hey I never thought about that! It would be so amazing and adventurous! Thanks for the idea and a wonderful blog post.

    1. No problem. It was really special.

  6. Iceland definitely sounds like the place where I would love to spend my new year holiday. I like a nice and peaceful way of celebrating things and this looks like the perfect place to do that. But yes, it will be extremely cold there at that point of time.

    1. It was cold. I wore about 6 layers permanently. Scarf, hat, gloves everything.

  7. Perfect place to spend New Year then… But being a solo traveler, I need to tag somebody with me… otherwise, I’ll be crying on New Year’s eve for not being able to share to anybody how fantastic NYE in Reykjavik is…

    1. We stayed in Loft Hostel; there were lots of people there and everyone was happy and jolly. Just go and make friends.

  8. Alexander Popkov says: Reply

    Oh. I was thinking where to go for a new year. I am in Helsinki, and want to have new year somewhere else. Although, Reykjavik is smaller, it seem to be more fun.

    1. I can’t comment on New Year’s in Helsinki, but Reykjavik is the place to go! If you are considering it book quickly. We booked months in advance and Iceland aren’t geared up for the amount of tourists that want to come and all the hotels/hostels were booked when we were there.

  9. I have been to Iceland and I loves it! Isn’t it too cold in the winter?

    1. It was pretty cold! But with lots of layers, thermals and a proper jacket you’ll get used to it!

  10. I Love Paars by: Lee says: Reply

    New Year while enjoying fireworks plus the northern lights – how cool can that be? Never been to any European country but Iceland is def on my list.
    How about their food- how was it?

    1. It was pretty special! Iceland was definitely one of my favourite European countries but it was very very cold.

      There’s a lot of fish, it’s an island. There’s also some traditional food that would make most people cringe; fermented shark, lambs testicles and sheeps head to name a few. Then you have skyr, a mix between yoghurt and cheese, which you have to try.

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