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All about the New Years Eve in Iceland

 

New Year is an incredibly popular time to come to Iceland. Reykjavík is one of the most amazing places to spend New Year, this little city on the edge of the Arctic knows how to celebrate big time! See in the New Year with the most stupendous firework show – glittering fire bursts reaching out across the sky. By day you explore the incredible winter landscapes and enjoy amazing winter adventures. The glow of candlelight and Christmas lights make everywhere even more welcoming and cozy.

What to do in Iceland – New Year’s Eve

new years iceland

Photo by Martyn Smith

Eat early then wrap up warm and get off to a bonfire – light-up time is usually 08:30. Everything is easy and friendly, strangers and new friends celebrating as the fire glow envelops them in its warmth. Nothing is too organized – just one rule – no fireworks allowed! Go to one bonfire or cruise between a couple – then warm up in a bar, a few close early – in the city you will find plenty open. Then get yourself into pole position to watch the sky literally explode in a blaze of color – tonight even the most glorious northern lights are outdone. Get ready to party!!!

Best place to watch fireworks in Reykjavík

new years iceland

Photo by Elizabeth Ellis

Hallgrímskirkja Church is the most exciting place to watch the spectacular light show! With so much firepower released It can get pretty smoky so take care if you have asthma. There are many other places you can watch from, the hill at Öskjuhlið by Perlan is a great viewing point. Any location with a clear view of the sky is good – get yourself a grandstand view!

Where to watch a New Year Bonfire

 

New Years Iceland

There are 17 bonfires around the Reykjavík area. Ægisíða beside the ocean and just West of Laugarásvegur near the Valbjarnarvöllur sports area are closest for city center tourists. A few others are:

Skerjafjörður, by the street Skildinganes 48 – 52 (lit at 21:00)
Suðurhlíðar, below the Fossvogur valley cemetery (lit at 20:30)
Seltjarnarnes – at Valhúsahæð (lit at 20:30)
Úlfarsfell, by Lambhagavegur, (lit at 15:00)
Mosfellsbær – by Leirvogur, down from Holt area (lit at 20:30)

A list with a map is published nearer the time – just google Reykjavík New Year Bonfire!

New Year Bus Services – Reykjavík

On New Year’s Eve bus services in Reykjavík cease around 15:00, with a Sunday service operating before that time – see the latest journey time for each route here. Sunday schedule on New Year’s Day.

New Year Bus Services – Iceland

A limited schedule is operated on New Year´s Eve and driving ceases early in the day, operating times vary a lot between different routes. Check out the details here. There are no buses on New Year’s Day.

Shops and supermarkets

laugavegur-shopping-street-reykjavik

On New years Eve early closure is the rule with most in the city and closing around 14:00 or earlier in the countryside. Most stores close on New Year´s Day, some open for a few hours in the city.

Alcohol can only be bought from Vínbúðin, state-run liquor stores. These outlets will be closed on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day – be sure to get your supplies in advance! Opening times for Vínbúdin stores can be found here.

Reykjavík Restaurants – New Year’s Eve

fjalarkotturinn restaurant in iceland

Photo from Reykjavík Centrum Hotel Facebook page

Traditionally Icelanders celebrated New Year with close friends and family at home so few restaurants were open. With far more winter tourists this has changed a lot. Many restaurants are open but also, quite a few close, some after lunch, others all day. The demand is high, so booking in advance is seriously recommended. Some restaurants are closed on New Year’s Day. A few of the restaurants open on both days are listed below:

Fjalkakötturinn, Aðalstræti 16, 101 Reykjavík. 6 pm – 10 pm – Open New Year’s day and New Year’s Eve.
Matwerk Kitchen, Laugavegi 96, 101 Reykjavík. 5 pm – 10 pm – Open New Year’s Day and New Year’s Eve.
Restaurant Reykjavík, Vesturgata 2, 101 Reykjavík. 6 pm – 10 pm New Year’s Eve and 11:30 am – 10 pm New Year’s Day.
Salon Bistro, Bankastræti 7a, 101 Reykjavík. 11 am – 11 pm – Open New Year’s Day and New Year’s Eve.
Súlnasalur – Radisson Blu Saga Hotel, Hagatorgi, 107 Reykjavík. 5 pm – 1 am – Open New Year’s Day and New Year’s Eve.
Uppsalir, Aðalstræti 16, 101 Reykjavík 11:30 am – 1 am – Open New Year’s Day and New Year’s Eve.

There are other options and quite a few which are open either on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Eve, larger hotels usually have something on offer and their lively hotel bars are great places to celebrate well into the early hours!

8 Iceland New Year Facts

New years in Icelnad by Mong Fish

Photo by Mong Fish

  • The fireworks display is provided by the people of Reykjavík, not funded by the city.
  • Most fireworks are sold by ICE-SAR, the search and rescue service, this is a magnificent fundraiser for them.
  • Áramótabrennur are New Year Bonfires, held in Reykjavík for more than 200 years.
  • An older Nordic tradition is to burn the old year in the fire, making way for the new. Visualizing the dross of the old year turning to ash in the flames of the fire is a fabulous way to let go of anything you want to release.
  • This is the wildest night of the year in Reykjavík.
  • A typical New Year’s dinner will be shrimp cocktail or lobster starter, a main course of roast turkey and caramelized potatoes with Waldorf or other salads followed by a light dessert such as homemade ice cream.
  • Icelanders see in the New Year with champagne if they can afford it, otherwise, sparkling white wine will do very nicely!
  • When you raise a glass with Icelanders remember to say Skál!

How Icelanders celebrate the New Year

new years iceland

Photo by Martyn Smith

Traditionally New Year in Iceland has been all about the family, people gathered together to celebrate, eat and just be cozy together. Telling local and family stories are very popular. An early dinner, out to a New Year bonfire for 08:30, then back home to watch Áramótaskaup between 22:30 and 22:30. This satirical end of year show is put on by RÚV, the state broadcaster, the whole nation watches as the year´s news stories and events are ridiculed. See the show from last year:

 

It’s in Icelandic but you will still catch some humor. Then it is time to wrap up warm – the most sensational firework show ever starts at 22:35. Raise a glass to the New Year then party into the night.

On New Year’s Day Icelandic communities tend to be very quiet, most people sleep very late. No one cooks anything elaborate and often there is plenty left over from New Year’s Eve.

New Year Celebrations around Iceland

New-years-in-Icelnad

Small towns out in the country put on various New Year celebrations, Akureyri and other country towns have firework displays and organize bonfires – just ask a local!

Reykjavík Museums – New Year opening hours

Some close both days, others on New Year’s Day and others have restricted opening times. Those listed below have already confirmed their holiday opening hours:

The Icelandic Phallological Museum 10:00 to 16:00 NYE closed NYD
The Einar Jonsson Museum 10:00 to 16:00 NYE closed NYD
Saga Museum/Sögusafnið 10:00 to 18:00 NYE 12:00 to 18:00 NYD
Whales of Iceland 10:00 to 17:00 NYE and NYD
National Museum of Iceland 10:00 to 14:00 closed NYD
Hafnarhús Reykjavík Art Museum 10:00 to 14:00 and 13:00 to 17:00 NYD
The Settlement Exhibition 09:00 to 14:00 and 12:00 to 18:00 NYD

Swimming Pools – New Year opening hours

Snowy eavning akureyri swimming pool

Swimming in an outdoor pool or relaxing in a steaming hot tub in Iceland is a totally amazing New Year in Iceland experience. A swim early on New Year’s Eve is one of my favorite rituals.

Holiday opening times are restricted but you can find pools which open on New Year’s Eve or even New Year’s Day. You can check out the pools at https://sundlaugar.is/sundlaugar/laugardalslaug/?lang=en, the contact details and location of all of the pools in Iceland are shown. Just phone or send an email if the holiday opening times are not displayed.

Laugardalslaug, the large swimming pool in Reykjavík is usually open 08:00 to 13:00 on New Year’s Eve and 12:00 to 18 on New Year’s Day. Most pools around the capital should be open in the morning on New Year’s Eve.

New Year’s Eve Tours

Take a day tour with us and you will be back to Reykjavík in plenty of time to celebrate New Year’s Eve in style – set the seal on 2017 with a fabulous adventure!

These tours sell out real fast, the tours below have a little availability. Demand is very high so book that dream tour quickly.

Day Tours

langjokull glacier snowmobiling

Glacier Snowmobiling from Reykjavík 
Glacier Snowmobiling from Gullfoss 
Into the Blue from Thingvellir – Snorkeling in Silfra Fissure. 
Glaciers Hiking, Volcanoes and Waterfalls and travel the South Coast 

Multi-Day Tours

Rainbow next to Seljalandsfoss Waterfall in Iceland

Going on a tour is a great way to celebrate the New Year. These tours are selling out fantastically fast but there are some great options if you book quickly.

2 Day South Coast – Ice Cave, Skaftafell & Jokulsarlon Ice Lagoon 
2 Day South Coast – Glacier Hike, Skaftafell & Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon 
2 Day Northern Lights & Snaefellsnes Peninsula 
2 Day South Coast & Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon 

New Year’s Day Tours

Start the New Year with a tour to the most extraordinary natural wonders Iceland can offer – just a few places are left open on our New Year’s Day departures. All New Year’s Day tours are selling out very quickly – book today if you possibly can!

Day Tours

Whether you want to sleep in or wake early we have a New Year’s Day tour for you!
For morning people – Golden Circle Superior 
For nightbirds – Northern Lights Explorer 

Multi-Day Tours

diamond beach jokulsarlon

Make this New Year really special with memories which are totally unforgettable.

2 Day South Coast – Ice Cave, Skaftafell & Jokulsarlon Ice Lagoon 
2 Day South Coast – Glacier Hike, Skaftafell & Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon 
2 Day Northern Lights & Snaefellsnes Peninsula
2 Day South Coast & Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon 

New Year self-drive trip

With the total flexibility to set your own agenda, you can really generate some New Year magic. Demand for accommodation is high and some small guest houses take a well-earned break themselves. Planning ahead is good, although last minute booking can throw up some incredible opportunities too. Just get on Booking.com!

White Christmases and New Years are common in Iceland, imbuing everything with a very special Arctic winter magic. Plan an itinerary but stay a little flexible. The winter weather is part of your adventure, slow down whenever the road is icy or challenging and your tour will be amazing. Always check out road conditions and weather alerts frequently at https://safetravel.is/ and weather forecasts at https://en.vedur.is/. If you are an inexperienced driver unused to ice, snow and poor visibility winter driving in Iceland is not the best option.

 

NEW YEARS IN ICELAND

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