In English it might be known as New Year, but in Scotland there’s only one term for the greatest party of the year – Hogmanay. The word can be traced back to the 17th century, though its origins are anyone’s guess. All that matters is that come 31 December, there’s only one place where the world’s greatest Hogmanay celebration can be found – Edinburgh.
What to see and do this Hogmanay in Edinburgh
The Scottish capital is famed for throwing the country’s largest and most lavish New Year celebration. Every year, tens of thousands of international visitors descend on the city to experience the street party and spectacular firework show that ushers in a new year. If the prospect of drinking, dancing and making merry entices you – and let’s face it, it’s not a hard sell – there’s only one place to be seen this Hogmanay. Here’s what to expect while you’re in Edinburgh.
Edinburgh Hogmanay torchlight procession
If you’re heading to Edinburgh for Hogmanay, be aware that the fun kicks off on December 30. That’s when the torchlight procession winds its way through town with up to 35,000 spectators watching the proceedings. The town sparkles and coruscates by the light of the torch carriers, led by Shetland’s Up Helly Aa’ Vikings and accompanied by pipes and drums. The torchlight procession is the noisiest and brightest thing to hit Edinburgh all year – until Hogmanay explodes 24 hours later in a shower of fireworks.
Edinburgh Hogmanay Christmas market
From late November through January, a traditional Christmas market makes its home in the centre of Edinburgh. Quaint wooden huts sell children’s toys, candy, curios, pastries and frankfurters. There are also German bars selling mulled wine, beer and spirits to quell the cold. The sparkling fairy lights and rich aromas help to make Edinburgh’s Christmas market the ultimate feel-good experience – one that evokes a bygone age. Kids, meanwhile, will relish the fairground rides that will catapult them high into the sky before safely depositing them back on terra firma with mouths agape.
Edinburgh Hogmanay street party
Edinburgh’s Hogmanay features a diverse programme of events, culminating in the extravagant street party that brings Princes Street to a standstill. At New Year, the centre of the city is cordoned off, leaving it open to pedestrians only. Tickets can be purchased in advance, with prices set at around £20. At regular intervals along Princes Street, stages are set up with names such as the Waverley Stage and Scottish Stage. Mingle with the locals and tourists soaking up the atmosphere and dancing to the tunes; lighting, large screens and street performers all add to the unique atmosphere.
Edinburgh Hogmanay concert in the gardens
While tens of thousands of tickets are sold for the street party, only a limited amount are available for the concert in the gardens. Held in Princes Street Gardens, in the shadow of the castle, the concert is a hugely popular event, with the big-name artists ensuring that the event sells out well in advance. For Hogmanay 2013, Pet Shop Boys were the main event, though a mixture of folk, rock and indie bands can typically be found performing on the various stages. Get there early and bring warm clothing and something to drink – you’ll be glad of a toast to usher in the bells on the stroke of midnight.
Edinburgh Hogmanay accommodation
The least surprising news of the year is that booking early is recommended. Spoiler: Edinburgh is rammed at Hogmanay thanks to the influx of visitors from across the UK and overseas. It’s not all bad news though: accommodation in the city is reasonably priced and there are some cosy city centre apartments to choose from. Traditional townhouses can be found in the New Town, while there are charming Georgian flats tucked away in the village of Stockbridge. Closer to the centre, you’ll find modern apartments that are blessed with unbroken views of the city’s famous castle, resplendent upon its volcanic rock.