It’s easy to be a cynic about New Year’s Eve, but let’s be honest – most of us will be joining in the countdown to 2013. Whether you’re hoping to gaze at fireworks, contemplate life at a tranquil hideaway, or fumble for someone to kiss at midnight, here’s our round-up of travel picks for New Year’s Eve.
Prague makes for a superb New Year’s Eve break. The city stays open over the holiday, so there’s lots to do, and of course the Old Town looks fantastic in deep winter. You may need to book somewhere to spend the evening, but don’t get so carried away that you don’t make it to the banks of the Vlatva at midnight. The fireworks over the castle are worth the trip on their own. Prague may not be the bargain it was, but there are often good deals over new year if you’re staying for a few nights.
I’m a city girl through and through, but when it comes to New Year’s Eve there’s nowhere I’d rather be than by the seaside somewhere along the coast of New South Wales. Sydney can keep its fireworks, I’d rather have a bonfire on the beach and watch shooting starts while I shoot the breeze with my nearest and dearest. I’ve seen the ball drop in Times Square, but nothing beats the natural attractions of New South Wales coastline.
Some of my favourite starts to the year have been at the Huskisson on Jervis Bay, camping out at South Durras, or kicking back in sleepy seaside Narooma. Book a holiday rental (ideally somewhere with no mobile phone reception), gather your favourite people, hire a car, pack a deck of cards, that book you’ve been meaning to read, and if you’re feeling really active, a cricket bat (for beach cricket). Get away from the crowds and treat yourself to the sounds of the sea. Leave the city behind, gaze at the stars and contemplate the endless possibilities that could unfold in the new year.
Sick of freezing to death in hour-long queues and splashing cash on overpriced drinks? Why not take a post-Christmas trip to $1.50-a-beer, 27ºC Thailand? While the southern islands will be full of the inevitable ‘full moon’ parties bearing absolutely no relation to the lunar cycle, the northern city of Chiang Mai provides the perfect mix of cheap drinks and cultural adventures. What better way to see in 2013 than stomping your feet at a free Thai rock concert as tens of thousands of Chinese lanterns flood the sky? Hangover in tow, grab the half-day bus to the mountain town of Pai and soak away your aches in one of the many stunning natural hot springs.
Dubliners are said to drink nearly 10,000 pints of beer each hour from Friday night to Monday morning. Make no mistake – this is a town that knows how to party. What better place, then, to spend New Year’s Eve than St Stephen’s Green, the lungs of the Republic’s rambunctious capital, which hosts an annual fireworks display amid the mother of all craics? A torchlit procession of floats, fire breathers and stilt walkers will wind its way through the city’s streets this 31 Dec, but the real action can be found in the same place as usual: Dublin’s pubs. The city has a thousand of them, but you’ll want to take a jar or three in those around Grafton Street, such as Kehoe’s or The Long Hall, or head for the better boozers around Merrion Square, where Hartigan’s has a cult following.
Fortunately, Dublin offers myriad ways to work off a hangover: don’t miss a trip to Trinity University (alma mater of Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett) and if time permits, catch a game of gaelic football or hurling at Croke Park.
The antidote to New Year’s Eve mayhem is a blissful retreat to the French Alps. Clean mountain air eradicates the post-Christmas bloat, and rambling around snow-covered beauty spots like Lake Montriond is an invigorating build-up to the big night. New Year’s Eve itself (Réveillon) wouldn’t be complete without a banquet of cheeses, pates and flambéed meat that goes on into the early hours, complete with lashings of super-strength Haute-Savoie liqueur. As a bonus, new year’s resolutions are easy when you have winter sports magnets like Morzine and Avoriaz on your doorstep. The morning after, you can simply snowboard until your hangover ebbs away, then return home rejuvenated while your friends complain about anticlimactic club nights and swear to join the gym.