5 Reasons to Celebrate New Year’s Even In Reykjavík, Iceland

Reykjavik, Iceland is one of the top 10 places in the world to spend New Year’s Eve!

Although fireworks are almost expected on New Year’s Eve in capital cities, there’s a huge difference between fireworks in Iceland and other countries. It’s a display organized for the people, by the people. And that results in a massively disorganized (and massively fun) event across the entire city.

Regulations on fireworks in Iceland are temporarily ignored, and every member of the country can participate if they choose. And to me it looked like most of them chose to participate.

Reykjavik is the best place for new years eve with the family

We had the good fortune of travelling to Reykjavik last year and saw first-hand what all the fuss is about. There’s very little daylight at this time of year. Sunrise is 11.30 am and sunset is 3.30 pm, but we were armed with our research and were ready to experience New Year’s Eve in Reykjavik.

visiting Reykjavik iceland for new years eve with the family

Bonfires (Áramótabrennas) 

For more than 200 years, bonfires have been lit in neighborhoods all around Reykjavik at around 8.30 pm to kick off the celebrations.

Bonfires on new years eve in reykjavik

Family, friends, neighbors, and people from many countries, gather to sing and celebrate.  They reflect on the past year and share good tidings for the year ahead. It is truly a unique experience.  After a while, everyone heads home to get settled in to watch Áramótaskaup.

Áramótaskaup

We heard some small fireworks starting as early as 6 pm in Reykjavik, but it is eerily calm when almost the whole nation watches a traditional Icelandic comedy show.  Áramótaskaup has been broadcast annually since 1966, and airs from 10.30 pm to 11.30 pm each New Year’s Eve.

It’s an Icelandic satire covering the top news stories and events of the year. Basically, it’s like one big SNL skit.  It’s an important part of the New Year’s Eve celebrations for Icelandic culture, and 90% of the population tunes in to watch.  This is the most anticipated TV event of the year, and people spend the next few days discussing how great or how rubbish Áramótaskaup was that year!

Reykjavik Fireworks Are Everywhere

There’s no ‘official’ New Year’s Eve fireworks event in Reykjavik. The city doesn’t have an official show, or a place to watch. The fireworks here are for the people, by the people. The fireworks are set off by citizens who bring their own explosives, rockets and sparklers, and set them off everywhere and anywhere! There must be some sort of betting or friendly neighborhood competitions on who has the biggest, the loudest and best fireworks, but that’s just speculation. It’s like everyone is adding their best and brightest to the show.

new years eve fireworks in reykjavik

We watched from the city center right in front the Reykavic’s Hallgrímskirkja cathedral, but it seemed there were 20 places that we could see that were centers of their own neighborhoods. Fireworks were clustered around these open spaces, but they were shooting from just about everywhere.

 fireworks in reykjavik new years eve kiss

Celebrate With A BOOM

It’s an extraordinary experience, and the scenes are incredible.  This is also the biggest fundraiser for the Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue (ICE-SAR) since they sell all fireworks.  The proceeds from the fireworks go to ensuring ICE-SAR has the best equipment. And when I say fireworks, we’re not just talking Roman Candles or bottle rockets. People were launching full-size rockets with full-size BOOMS and tons of colors, sparkles, and glitter. Exactly like you’d see on the 4th of July or Disneyland in the United States.

Thousands upon thousands of fireworks light up the skies over Reykjavik for hours. It was truly amazing.  Occupational, Health and Safety  Administration in the US would have a coronary over the lack of structure and safety rules, but despite the heavy drinking, everyone seemed to be (fairly) sensible.

new years eve kiss & fireworks in reykjavik

People let off fireworks anywhere and everywhere, even in the middle of crowds. I’m surprised there are not more serious accidents, and I was only shot in the bum once after a firework took a sharp left instead of shooting into the air… but as Monty Python said…. “it’s only a flesh wound!”

Hallgrímskirkja Church 

After much research, we decided to celebrate at the square right in front of Hallgrímskirkja church.

New years eve fireworks at Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral

We were staying in an apartment within walking distance. It was easy to replenish our drinks (or thaw out from the -2 degrees Celsius weather!)  It was incredible… the square was filled with thousands of happy people, singing, connecting, drinking, and watching the fireworks.

New years eve fireworks at Hallgrimskirkja church in Reykjavik with kids Full sized fireworks in iceland on new years eveThe fireworks really started around 11pm, and steadily increased in intensity through the early hours of the morning.  Hallgrímskirkja tower is an incredible backdrop to capture stunning photographs of the festivities and celebrations.New years eve fireworks at Hallgrimskirkja church in Reykjavik

New Year’s Day

Celebrations lasted well into New Year’s Day, and we decided to start our new year in full relaxation mode with a visit to the Blue Lagoon.

Blue Lagoon with kids - near Reykjavik Iceland
Blue Lagoon, Iceland with kids – spot the photobomb!

I would absolutely recommend booking tickets to the Blue Lagoon in advance. They only let a certain number of people in each day, and this is one of the most popular attractions in Iceland.

Blue Lagoon - not far from Reykjavik Iceland

It was lovely to wind down, reflect on this beautiful country, and prepare for the year ahead.  Other fun activities would be to visit the Golden Circle or search for the incredible Northern Lights.

Northern Lights in Iceland with kids Northern Lights in Iceland with family

Celebrating New Year’s Eve in Reykjavik, Iceland, is an unforgettable experience. It beautifully blends chaos with community spirit, making it one of the most unique celebrations in the world.

The communal bonfires ignite the night to the unruly yet spectacular fireworks set off by locals, every moment in Reykjavik during New Year’s Eve is steeped in tradition and yet is wildly unpredictable. Whether you find yourself in the shadow of the Hallgrímskirkja church or in another neighborhood, Reykjavik’s New Year’s Eve should be on your bucket list. Reykjavik on New Year’s Eve is the place to be — just like being in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve.

It’s winter, so pack your warmest clothes, prepare for the unexpected, and you might just have the time of your life.

Have you been to Reykjavik for New Year’s Eve?

If so what was your experience? If not, what’s the best place you’ve visited on New Year’s Eve?

Let me know in the comments!

About The Author

Samantha

I’m a travel and health writer, digital brand consultant, breast cancer survivor, and supermom to two boys! I keep it real and share stories of raising an active family, life after a cancer diagnosis, and family travels around the world! Each story is shared with my dry, and sometimes naughty sense of humor.

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