Fireworks have been around for hundreds of years in one form or another. The first fireworks that were created in China, when gunpowder was invented sometime between the 7th and 9th century, were simple explosives. It didn’t take long though before they were developed into something a lot more impressive than a flash and a bang.
In the 13th century firework displays had become popular with European gentry. By the 1600s the trend had spread across the Atlantic to the US as migrants took their love of letting off fireworks during celebrations with them to their new home country.
One of the biggest celebrations in the world where firework displays are used is New Year’s Eve. It’s a time when cities around the globe pull out all the stops to say goodbye to the old year by making as big a spectacle as they can.
There’s nothing more spectacular than a massive fireworks display that lights up the night sky with a shimmering cascade of colorful explosions. Some cities know how to do it just a bit better than the rest though and have turned their annual New Year’s Eve fireworks into an art form that attracts thousands upon thousands of spectators.
1. Sydney, Australia
The countdown to New Year’s Eve in Sydney starts from the 1st of January. That’s how anticipated this major event on the calendar is there. Because of the time zone Sydney is in, it’s one of the first to hear the chimes of midnight, but they get started way before then.
Sydney’s two New Year’s Eve firework shows take place in Sydney Harbor on and around Sydney Harbor Bridge, with the Sydney Opera House as a backdrop, at 9pm and midnight. There are plenty of amazing viewing points where you can see the millions of dollars worth of fireworks light up the sky. Some of the best spots to the Sydney fireworks are:
- Shark Island
- Clark Island
- Me-Mel or Goat Island
- Bradley’s Head
- North Head
- Sydney Botanic Garden
- Vaucluse House
Places to stay in Sydney for New Year’s Eve
- Four Seasons Hotel Sydney – Take the right room at the plush Four Seasons Hotel in Sydney and you’ll save money on tickets for the fireworks show as you’ll get an uninterrupted view from your window.
- Shangri-La Sydney – The Shangri-La Sydney is another deluxe hotel that has rooms with views directly onto Sydney Harbor, the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. Stay here and you won’t miss one single spark of the Sydney New Year’s Eve fireworks shows.
2. Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Sydney may take the number one place on this list of best fireworks shows in the world, but believe it, Dubai comes in a very close second. Over the past years, Dubai has given Sydney some stiff competition for that top spot and won numerous awards for its record-breaking fireworks shows.
While the Burj Khalifa is undoubtedly the central attraction, the light shows on the world’s most impressive skyscrapers themselves are incredible, it isn’t all there is. There are multiple points across Downtown Dubai that participate in the city’s coordinated firework show including The Palm and Burj Al-Arab. There are so many in fact, it’s pretty mindblowing to watch.
To get the full impact of the Dubai fireworks show you really need to be at a distance from it. Al Seef is a great spot to head for especially if you want a pre-show meal by the waterfront or, when you want to be closer, but don’t want to crane your neck too much, try Burj Park.
Places to stay in Dubai for New Year’s Eve
- Address Sky View – The Address Skyview Hotel is one kilometer away from the Burj Khalifa. Stay on the right floor here and you’ll be at the perfect level for a direct view of the fireworks show.
- Atlantis, The Palm – The super deluxe Atlantis, The Palm is at the ideal distance from Downtown Dubai to allow you to be able to take in the entire panorama of the fireworks display without getting a pain in your neck.
- Burj Al Arab Jumeirah – The Burj Al Arab Jumeirah is the place to stay if you want to watch the Dubai fireworks show in a more exclusive setting. Watching the fireworks from this hotel’s Sky View Bar while sipping champagne takes the experience to a whole new level.
3. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
When you can’t get enough of New Year’s Eve firework displays then you need to bring in the New Year in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro. You won’t be alone in your longing for the show not to end either.
The Rio de Janeiro fireworks show takes place off the shore of Copacabana Beach and goes on for anywhere between fifteen to twenty minutes. You’ll be lucky if you can see a grain of sand through the crowds that line Copacabana Beach to watch it. This Brazilian fireworks show attracts record numbers of spectators. Forget thousands. Think in the region of three million and you won’t be far out in your calculations.
Places to stay in Rio for New Year’s Eve
- Copacabana Palace – The Copacabana Palace is a five star hotel that faces directly onto Copacabana Beach. Stay here and you won’t be straining to see the fireworks over peoples heads or jostling for elbow room on the sand.
- Arena Copacabana Hotel – There’s lots of seafront hotels lining Copacabana Beach, but the Arena Copacabana is something else and no matter what floor your room is on, you’ll have uninterrupted views of Rio de Janeiro’s New Year firework show.
4. New York City, USA
You can count on the Americans to do things differently and they don’t miss their chance on New Year’s Eve in New York. The en-mass celebration takes place in Times Square and is initiated by a huge illuminated sphere that gradually descends down a pole on top of One Times Square as the final seconds of the old year tick away.
Before it can drop, the timeball has to be raised and that happens at around six in the afternoon at the evening’s opening ceremony. By then Times Square is already heaving with crowds who stay to enjoy various live performances while waiting for midnight when the real party starts.
Places to stay in New York for New Year’s Eve
- Renaissance New York Times Square – Book a New Year’s Eve stay at the Renaissance New York Times Square and you’ll have less than a two minute walk from your hotel to the festivities. That’s always a bonus when you’ve been partying for hours.
- The Knickerbocker – If you want to bring in the New Year in New York, but totally hate crowds, the Knickerbocker Hotel may well be the one for you. It’s right on Times Square and has a fantastic rooftop terrace from where you can watch the annual fireworks show.
5. Taipei, Taiwan
New York isn’t the only city in the world that likes to hold an extended New Year’s Eve celebration. Taipei in Taiwan does too and it’s a brightly lit one. In Taipei the buildings are decked with illuminations, but those decorations fade into insignificance once the fireworks show on the Taipei 101 begins.
After hours of festivities throughout the afternoon and early evening which include live performances from popular Taiwanese artists, the Taipei 101 takes center stage. It’s a very concentrated exhibition so if you want to get a good view of the spectacular you need to be either in front of the city hall or at the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall with the rest of the melee.
Tip: You can buy tickets to experience the Taipei 101 fireworks show from the building’s one thousand-foot high observation deck. It’s a privileged position, but don’t forget, lots of fireworks create lots of smoke and smoke rises. Taipei 101 has, as the name suggests, one-hundred and one stories and the observatory is on the eighty-ninth floor. While the New Year’s Eve party they hold there is amazing, you’re not going to see a great deal of the fireworks being exploded on the twelve floors above your head.
Places to stay in Taipei for New Year’s Eve
- Grand Hyatt Taipei – The views of the Taipei 101 from the Grand Hyatt Taipei are indescribable. If you’re hoping to find the best place to see the Taipei 101 fireworks show from then this is it.
- Humble House Taipei – No, you won’t get uninterrupted views of the Taipei 101 fireworks show from the Humble House Taipei, but you’ll be within five minutes walk of the city hall from where you can and it won’t cost you the earth to stay there either.
6. London, England
You’ll need to plan well in advance if you want to attend the main fireworks display in London. The event that takes place on the South Bank of the River Thames is a ticket only affair. The show, with the London Eye at its center, starts as soon as Big Ben has finished chiming midnight.
Some of the best places to view the show are the ones that are ticketed like Westminster Bridge, the Embankment and Waterloo Bridge. They’re great, but not as good as one place you can go to watch the fireworks for free.
Pack a picnic and some blankets and leave early to claim a spot on Primrose Hill in the city’s Regent’s Park. From there you’ll be able to see almost all of the fireworks displays taking place in the city, not just the one on South Bank and it won’t cost you a penny.
Places to stay in London for New Year’s Eve
- Shangri-La, The Shard – When money is no object and you want the best views of the South Bank fireworks show then you need to be staying in the Shangri-La at The Shard. If getting a room is out of the question then reserve a table in the champagne bar on level fifty-two.
- ME London – If you were one of the fortunate who managed to get a ticket for the New Year’s Eve fireworks show in London and need somewhere reasonably priced to stay, check out the ME London. From there it’s just a leisurely fifteen minute stroll along the Victoria Embankment to where the action is happening.
7. Edinburgh, Scotland
The Scots have a flair for two things. The first is distilling great whiskey and the second is for celebrating New Year’s Eve. You’ll need some serious stamina if you’re going to celebrate Hogmanay in Scotland as the event lasts for three days.
At New Year the streets of Edinburgh turn into a party venue ranging from outdoor discos to live music performances to, more sedate, candlelight concerts in the cathedral. The midnight fireworks show explodes from the battlements of Edinburgh Castle.
Princes Street Gardens below the castle is the location of one of the celebration’s main events and one of the most exciting spots to watch the fireworks from. If you couldn’t get a ticket, don’t worry because basically anywhere you can see the castle from, you’ll see the show. If you want to be with the masses of street revelers then check out Castle Street, George Street, Calton Hill or North Bridge and you’ll have plenty of folk to link arms with when it’s time to sing auld lang syne.
Places to stay in Edinburgh for New Year’s Eve
- Apex Grassmarket Hotel – The Apex Grassmarket Hotel is in Edinburgh Old Town around ten minutes walk from the castle so stay here and you’ll be in the thick of the celebrations, but pack ear plugs in case you decide to have an early night.
- Old Waverley Hotel – If you’re crowd-phobic or prefer to watch the Edinburgh New Year’s Eve fireworks show from your hotel room, the Old Waverley is ideal. This hotel is on Princes Street and has lots of rooms directly facing the castle so you’ll get a clear view of the display.
8. Bangkok, Thailand
Whoever said fire and water don’t mix didn’t celebrate New Year’s Eve in Bangkok. One of the city’s main firework shows takes place on the Chao Phraya River where it meanders in front of the Asiatique shopping mall.
Excitement for the midnight show in the River Park ICONSIAM is heightened by a series of music and dance performances that begin in the late afternoon and continue throughout the evening. Not everyone chooses to stay on dry land though. One of the nicest ways to see the ICONSIAM spectacular is to get out on the river on a New Year’s Eve boat cruise. The river cruises set off around eight-thirty and stay afloat until after the fireworks show is over.
Places to stay in Bangkok for New Year’s Eve
- Mandarin Oriental Bangkok – The Mandarin Oriental Bangkok is a hotel right on the waterfront next to the River Park ICONSIAM. They have a great spa which is ideal for recuperating after the big event is over.
- Avani Plus Riverside Bangkok – The Avani Plus Riverside Bangkok is around four kilometers downriver from the River Park ICONSIAM. Stay here and you’ll still see all the fireworks, but won’t have to mingle with the crowds to do it.
9. Reykjavik, Iceland
Spend New Year’s Eve in the Icelandic capital and you’ll be able to participate in what is probably the world’s largest do-it-yourself New Year’s Eve fireworks show. In Reykjavik the annual end of the year festival is used to raise money for the country’s search and rescue service, Ice-Sar.
The Ice-Sar sells tonnes and tonnes of fireworks to the city residents who then hold their own personal fireworks displays. Many people let off the fireworks in their gardens while others go to the city parks, gather in the grounds of the Perlan Museum or the Hallgrimskirkja Church. Reykjavik’s New Year’s Eve is a real family affair, but no less spectacular than any other.
Places to stay in Reykjavik for New Year’s Eve
- Reykjavik Edition – The Reykjavik Edition Hotel is right in the heart of the city just a few minutes walk from the Hallgrimskirkja Church so you won’t have far to go before you’re right in the thick of the fireworks.
- Hotel Leifer Eiriksson – The Hotel Leifer Eiriksson is also right by the Hallgrimskirkja Church so is another great option for accommodation when you want to enjoy the New Year’s Eve fireworks in Reykjavik.
10. Paris, France
The French can be a little unpredictable when it comes to celebrating New Year’s Eve. Sometimes there’s a New Year’s Eve fireworks show and sometimes there’s not. If there is one, it won’t be happening at the Eiffel Tower but on the Champs Elysee at the Arc de Triomphe.
When it does happen, the event is usually announced around mid-November by the city mayor, it’s as much of a laser light show as it is a fireworks one. It’s still an incredible sight though and well worth seeing, but double check the event is actually on before you start making travel plans.
Places to stay in Paris for New Year’s Eve
- Splendid Etoile – When the Paris New Year’s Eve event is happening and you want to be as close to the Arc de Triomphe as possible, check in at the Splendid Etoile. This hotel is just two minutes walk from the Arc de Triomphe so you’ll be right in the middle of the mayhem.
- Hotel Napoleon Paris – The Hotel Napoleon Paris has views of the Arc de Triomphe from the rooms so you can view the New Year’s Eve fireworks and laser show from there without having to go out in the cold.