Hogmanay in Edinburgh – you might know it better as New Year’s Eve celebrations – is an incredible experience and a very good reason to visit Scotland during the winter time. Fireworks and events turn the streets of Edinburgh into a giant party zone for three days – while other Scottish cities also celebrate Hogmanay, no one does it quite like Edinburgh! Here, Hogmanay is not just one evening, it is a three-day festival that attracts over 140,000 people every year. Fasten your seatbelt and prepare for the party of the year – here is everything you need to know to do it right at Hogmanay in Edinburgh.
I spent my first Hogmanay in Edinburgh in 2016 – in fact, it was my first New Year’s Eve partying out on the streets in a very long time. Usually, I prefer to escape the city to a lonely glen with friends or join a gathering at someone’s house to count down to the new year away from the bustling city centre. But not this time. Hogmanay in Edinburgh would be an excellent way to celebrate the end of a fantastic year in Scotland and promised to bring some light into a typically dull Scottish winter.
Getting to Edinburgh & Where to Stay
I had arrived in Edinburgh from Glasgow by train a day before the festivities would begin – that gave me the opportunity to get settled, check out the Christmas markets and prepare for the next few days in the city. However, it doesn’t hurt to arrive even earlier, because there nothing quite like Christmas in Edinburgh!
I had booked a hotel in the city centre, near St Andrew Square in the New Town. The ibis Styles St Andrew Square was a perfect choice because it was nearby the main locations of the Hogmanay festival as well as the Christmas markets at Princes Street Gardens and St Andrew Square, but at the same time much quieter than hotels along the Royal Mile or other Old Town locations.
Another great option in this area is Hotel Indigo where I stayed on a previous trip. I it slightly more up-market than Ibis Styles, with more focus on a design experience.
Finally, if you want to be in the middle of it all, check out Safestay Edinburgh, a hostel in the Old Town where the party might continue all night and morning!
Edinburgh Hogmanay 2019 Festival Events
Hogmanay 2019 is the second year that the festival is organised by Underbelly. 12 events take place across the three festival days and there is something for everyone – kids, families, couples, friends and party-goers. You can find the full programme here.
Torchlight Procession: 30 Dec, 7 pm
If you can’t make it to the Up Helly Aa fire festival in Shetland, the Torchlight Procession during Hogmanay is the next best thing. Every year, the Viking squad from Lerwick comes down to Edinburgh to lead large crowds of people bearing torches through the Old Town. The route starts at North Bridge on the Royal Mile and culminates in a blaze at Holyrood Park where the torchbearers set fire to wicker sculptures representing the regions of Scotland.
You can purchase a ticket that includes a torch for £13 (or just a procession ticket for £3, if you don’t fancy carrying one). The torches are smaller than the ones the Vikings carry, but that’s OK, considering their weight.
The procession is accompanied by a squad of bagpipers – it’s Scotland after all – and excited crowds line the streets all the way through Old and New Town.
You can get tickets here.
There are a lot of events happening on December 31 as part of Hogmanay and it can be a bit confusing – here is an overview:
Candlelit Concert: 31 Dec, 6 pm
If thumping party music isn’t your jam, check out the candlelit concert at St Giles Cathedral.
This year’s concert is presented by the St Giles’ Cathedral Choir, directed by Michael Harris, and the St Giles’ Camerata, lead by Angus Ramsay, as well as several young soloists to mark the Scottish Year of Young People. They will be performing Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s Te Deum, J.S. Bach’s Gottlob! Nun geht das jahr zu Ende BWV 28 and Bach’s Magnificat.
Tickets are £19.50 and you can get them here.
Street Party: 31 Dec, 7.30 pm
The Street Party turns the Old Town of Edinburgh into a party zone. There are three stages near Waverley, on Castle Street and by South St & David Street. From 7.30 pm until long after midnight there will be bands, DJs and street performers entertaining the crowds. The ticket for the Street Party is £31, but Edinburgh residents get 20% off – get it here!
A new addition to the Street Party in 2019 is the Silent Disco arena on Market Street – I guess the Silent Disco tours during the Fringe were so popular, that the format had to return in one way or another! Tickets for the Silent Disco arena can be added onto your ticket for the Street Party or Concert in the Gardens for £5.50.
Ceilidh under the Castle, 8.30 pm
A ceilidh is a quintessential experience in Scotland – especially during the winter time, when it is common for people to gather for ceilidh dances in halls and venues all over the country. The Ceilidh under the Castle is like no other – an outdoor ceilidh on the square outside Edinburgh Castle.
At Hogmanay 2019 there will be three full ceilidh bands performing: Jimi Shandrix Experience, Hugh MacDermid’s Hair and Ceilidhdonia. You can join in the dancing – don’t worry, there are callers explaining what to do – and indulge in some street food and drinks before the bells. At midnight you will be in a prime position to watch the fireworks over Edinburgh Castle.
Tickets are £60 (or £145 for premium tickets) and you can get them here. Note that you have to access the ceilidh arena by 10.30 pm.
Concert in the Gardens: 31 Dec, 9 pm
A highlight each year at Hogmanay is the Concert in the Gardens, which turns Princes Street Gardens into a concert arena with a big stage at the foot of the Castle.
The Concert at Hogmanay 2019 will be headlined by Fraz Ferdinand and supported by Mercury and Free Love. There are two types of tickets for £65 or £75 (get them here) and there are plenty of bars and food stalls in the arena to get you through the night.
The Gardens are a great viewpoint for the fireworks over Edinburgh Castle as well!
Fireworks: 31 Dec, 9 pm to midnight
As someone who absolutely loves fireworks I was happy to find out that there is not only the main firework at midnight, the Midnight Moment, but also smaller displays of colourful fireworks every full hour leading up to the bells starting at 9 pm. That’s not only one, but four fireworks for the countdown to the new year!
To give you a little preview of what to expect at midnight though, have a wee look at this:
Loony Dook: 1 Jan, 12.30 pm
The Loony Dook in South Queensferry is a staple of the Hogmanay festival in Edinburgh. Every year only the bravest locals and visitors dare to dress up in their favourite costume and throw themselves into the icy waves of the River Forth – what a way to start the new year!
Tickets for Dookers (= people who participate in the Loony Dook) are £12 – get them here.
More 2019 Hogmanay events
These are just a few highlights of the Hogmanay festival in Edinburgh. Here are a few more events to put in the calendar:
- Symphonica Ibiza: 30 Dec, 8 pm – a two-hour concert of famous Ibiza club anthems performed by a 20 piece orchestra from Scotland, more info.
- Bairns Afore: 30 & 31 Dec, 1 pm – a Hogmanay disco bash for babies, toddlers and parents, more info.
- First Footers Family Ceilidh: 1 Jan, 12.30 pm – a family-friendly ceilidh, FREE (but sold out already), more info.
- Capercaillie & Special Guests: Jan 1, 4.30 pm – more info.
- Carlos Nunez & Special Guests: Jan 1, 8 pm – more info.
Top tips for Edinburgh Hogmanay
Wear warm and comfortable clothes. If you attend the Street Party, Concert in the Gardens or the Ceilidh under the Castle for Hogmanay, chances are that you will spend many hours outside. Some of the events require you to turn up before a certain time to make sure the run-up to the bells doesn’t become chaotic. I like packing my hand warmers and a pair of fleece-lined or thermal tights.
Don’t bring any alcohol in glass bottles or over 500 ml. You are not allowed to bring your own booze into the event arenas. Note, that your bags might be checked. Bringing a hip flask filled with your favourite dram, on the other hand, is a great idea!
Plan plenty of time to reach your destination. Even if they all appear super close on the map, there are so many people in the streets, it will take much longer to get from A to B than usually.
Grab your best friends. I did Hogmanay in Edinburgh solo and had a great time, but to be honest, it really is the kind of festival you should experience with a whole bunch of your best friends!
Find out about accessibility of the Hogmanay events here.
Festive Things to do in Edinburgh
Coming from Austria, I do love a good Christmas Market and while I think nothing is as good as the ones back home in Vienna, Edinburgh’s Christmas Market at Princes Street Gardens is a fantastic experience.
There are fun activities like ice-skating and bumper cars, family-friendly rides and carousels, and also more thrilling experiences like a roller coaster or the big wheel. The food stalls range from sweet Belgian waffles to traditional German sausages, and of course all the mulled wine and cider you can drink. There are also plenty of vegan options available!
Edinburgh’s Christmas runs from 17 November to 6 January, so you’ve got plenty of time to indulge in Edinburgh’s Christmas spirit even after the holidays.
edinburgh Hogmanay Travel Essentials
Getting to Edinburgh | Edinburgh Airport is just a few miles away from the city centre. You can catch the Airport Bus or Tram, or get a taxi into town (around £30). If you plan to arrive by train, I recommend booking your ticket in advance and reserving a seat!
Where to Stay in Edinburgh | During Hogmanay, hotels in Edinburgh can be really expensive and hard to come by – you should book your accommodation FAR in advance! I’ve summed up my favourite hotels in Edinburgh for every budget here, but can highly recommend the ibis Styles at St Andrew Square as mentioned above You might also consider booking an AirBnB instead. You can use my referral link to get £25 off your first booking!
Getting around Edinburgh | Edinburgh is a very walkable city, but you can get buses for longer distances. Taxis can be a bit expensive, but there is also Uber!
Other Things to Do in Edinburgh | If the Hogmanay festivities are not enough for you, you can add a few days of sightseeing to your itinerary! Check out my Edinburgh articles for inspiration!
HOGMANAY Dinner in Edinburgh | Many restaurants are open on New Year’s Eve or offer special Hogmanay dinner events. It is common that restaurants offer a set meal during the festive period, so make sure you enquire about that when you book. Here are a few suggestions for Scottish restaurants that are open at Hogmanay 2019: The Stockbridge Restaurant, Ghillie Dhu, The Tower Restaurant, Hector’s and A Room in Leith.
HOGMANAY PARTIES IN Edinburgh | The official Hogmanay 2019 festivities are not the only way to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Edinburgh. Many bars and clubs throw their own Hogmanay parties with DJs and often live music – check the local events platforms to find info and tickets!
Hogmanay in Edinburgh is one of those experiences you should have at least once in your life, so put this festival on your bucket list and plan your trip to Edinburgh soon!
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All photos by Kathi Kamleitner.