CultureEventsNew Year's Eve Magic: Welcoming the New Year in Iceland
People watching fireworks in Reykjavik on New Year's Eve
Go Car Rental Iceland travel writer Aron Freyr
By Aron FreyrNov 29, 2023 • 11 min read

New Year's Eve Magic: Welcoming the New Year in Iceland

Are you looking for a magical and unforgettable way to ring in the New Year? Look no further than Iceland New Years, where the unique blend of natural beauty and vibrant cultural festivities create a truly enchanting experience! Discover the lively atmosphere of Reykjavik, awe-inspiring fireworks displays, heartwarming bonfire gatherings, and the iconic Áramótaskaup comedy show. And as an added bonus, you might even catch a glimpse of the mesmerizing Northern Lights - what could be more magical?

Key Takeaways

  • Celebrate the magic of Iceland New Year’s Eve with fireworks, bonfires, and Áramótaskaup comedy show!
  • Experience Reykjavik on New Year’s Eve with street parties & live music or witness Northern Lights from best spots in town.
  • Enjoy a variety of tours & activities plus delicious cuisine while following essential safety tips for an unforgettable experience!

Icelandic New Year's Eve Traditions

People celebrating New Year's Eve in Iceland with new year's fireworks and bonfires

As excitement builds up during the winter months, Iceland’s New Year’s Eve traditions create a unique and lively atmosphere that simply cannot be replicated elsewhere.

Fireworks displays, community bonfires, and the annual "Áramótaskaup" comedy show are some of the exciting main traditions of Icelandic New Year’s Eve, making it one of the most anticipated year’s events. These customs not only bring joy and festivity to the celebrations but also hold deep cultural significance for the people of Iceland.

Next, we will explore each of these intriguing traditions in depth, delving into their significance and their contribution to the unforgettable experience of Icelandic New Year’s Eve celebrations.

From the dazzling fireworks extravaganza to the heartwarming bonfire gatherings and the hilarious Áramótaskaup, prepare to be enchanted by the magic of Iceland’s New Year’s Eve!

Fireworks Extravaganza

Winter night in iceland during 1st of January night

Fireworks are an integral part of Iceland’s New Year celebration, with Icelanders purchasing around 500 tonnes of new year’s fireworks each year and using them to joyously welcome the holiday. With fireworks being sold and let off in Iceland from December 28th to January 6th, it’s an ideal time to organize a New Year’s Eve dinner and savor the spectacle. But these dazzling displays are more than just a visual spectacle; they also play a vital role in supporting the Icelandic Search and Rescue Teams.

The sale of fireworks serves as the biggest fundraiser for the Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue (ICE-SAR). The income from firework sales contributes to the association’s operations, including training programs and equipment maintenance, adding to the festive celebrations during New Year’s Eve in Iceland. Therefore, as you watch the sky light up with brilliant colors, remember that you’re also supporting a worthy cause.

Bonfire Gatherings

New Year’s Eve bonfires, or “áramótabrennur”, are an exciting way for Icelanders to come together and reflect on the past year while celebrating New Year’s Eve. These year celebrations are more than just a place to warm up by the fire; they also serve as a backdrop for sharing stories, enjoying traditional Icelandic food, and creating lasting memories. And if you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of the elusive Northern Lights dancing in the sky above the bonfire.

One of the biggest bonfires in Reykjavik can be found on Geirsnef in the North part of town. Surrounded by the festive spirit and the crackling fire, you’ll feel a sense of camaraderie and belonging as you take part in this cherished Icelandic tradition. Don’t miss out on the warmth and joy of a bonfire gathering during New Year’s Eve celebrations in Iceland!

Bonfire Agenda for Reykjavik

For those curious about the schedule of bonfire events during New Year's Eve in Reykjavik, we have provided a look at last year's agenda below. It's worth noting that these events are likely to remain the same this year, giving you a clear idea of what to expect during your New Year's Eve celebrations in Reykjavik.

  • By Ægisíða, (small) 8:30 pm.
  • In Skerjafjörður by Skildinganes 48-52, (small) 9:00 pm.
  • In Suðurhlíðar, below the Fossvogur graveyard, (small) 8:30 pm.
  • Laugardalur, below Laugarásvegur 18, (small) 8:30 pm.
  • Geirsnef, north side, (large) 8:30 pm.
  • By Suðurfell, (small), 8:30 pm.
  • By Rauðavatn, north side, (small) 8:30 pm.
  • Gufunes by Gufunesbær, (large) 8:30 pm.
  • By Kléberg in Kjalarnes, (small) 8:30 pm.
  • Úlfarsfell mountain, (small) 3:00 pm.
Bonfire agenda for Reykjavik

Áramótaskaup: The Annual Comedy Show

Áramótaskaup is an exciting satirical comedy show that airs on TV before midnight on New Year’s Eve in Iceland. It’s an absolutely huge thing for Icelanders, and the streets might even get a bit quiet between 10:30 and 11:30 PM, as the locals have all gone home to watch Áramótaskaup. This beloved annual comedy show satirizes events from the past year, providing a lighthearted and hilarious take on the year’s happenings.

But Áramótaskaup isn’t just for Icelanders; visitors can also revel in the unique and hilarious experience to get a taste of Icelandic humor and satire. As you gear up for the midnight fireworks and the arrival of a new year, join your friends, old and new, around the TV for a hearty laugh at the comical antics of Áramótaskaup!

Experiencing Reykjavik on New Year's Eve

People gathering in Reykjavik to celebrate New Year's Eve with fireworks and music

Reykjavik, the vibrant capital city of Iceland, truly comes alive on New Year’s Eve, offering a festive and exciting atmosphere that you won’t want to miss. From street parties and live music to dazzling fireworks displays and heartwarming bonfires, there’s something for everyone to enjoy as the clock ticks down to midnight. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, experiencing Reykjavik New Year’s Eve is an adventure you’ll never forget.

Next, we’ll navigate you through the finest ways to experience Reykjavik on New Year’s Eve, covering downtown festivities, live music events, and prime locations for witnessing the stunning fireworks display. So, get ready to immerse yourself in the unforgettable atmosphere of Reykjavik on New Year’s Eve!

Downtown Celebrations

Downtown Reykjavik is truly the heart of the city’s New Year’s Eve celebrations, offering a lively party scene that you won’t want to miss. Bars and nightclubs stay open late, hosting festive events and welcoming partygoers with open arms. Some popular bars and nightclubs in downtown Reykjavik for New Year’s Eve celebrations include:

  • Jungle Cocktail Bar
  • Pablo Discobar
  • Kiki Queer Bar
  • LÚX Nightclub
  • Prikið Nightclub
  • AUTO

In addition to the bustling nightlife, downtown Reykjavik also hosts special events and concerts to celebrate the new year. One option is the New Year’s Concerts - Icelandic music, where you can enjoy Icelandic songs and folk music. Another exciting event is the NYE party hosted by Wake Up Reykjavik at Petersen Suite rooftop lounge, which offers a spectacular view of the fireworks. Get your dancing shoes on and head downtown to join the locals in the festivities!

Best Fireworks Viewing Spots

No New Year’s Eve celebration in Reykjavik would be complete without witnessing the awe-inspiring fireworks display at midnight. Luckily, there are several amazing spots throughout the city that offer stunning views of the pyrotechnics in all their glory. Some of the best spots include Hallgrímskirkja, Perlan, and Víghóll, each with their own unique advantages.

Some popular viewpoints in Reykjavik include:

  • Hallgrímskirkja: offers a prime location in the city center and an elevated position for a perfect line of sight
  • Perlan: provides a comfortable and spacious environment, as well as a panoramic view of Reykjavik
  • Víghóll: a more off-the-beaten-path experience that can be reached with a tour or a drive to the hill in Kopavogur

Pick your preferred location and brace yourself for the stunning fireworks display!

Northern Lights and New Year's Eve

Northern lights in Reykjavik Iceland

While the New Year’s Eve celebrations in Iceland are undeniably spectacular on their own, there’s an added bonus that can make the experience even more magical: the elusive Northern Lights. The best time to witness the breathtaking Northern Lights in Iceland during New Year’s Eve is between October and March, with peak visibility from December through February. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of these mesmerizing lights dancing in the night sky during your New Year’s Eve festivities.

The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, add a sense of wonder and enchantment to Iceland’s New Year’s Eve celebrations, illuminating the winter skies with vibrant colors. As you watch the fireworks explode and the bonfires crackle, keep an eye on the sky above for a chance to witness this awe-inspiring natural phenomenon. Who knows? The Northern Lights could just turn out to be a lucky charm for the upcoming year!

New Year's Eve Tours and Activities

If you’re looking to make the most of your New Year’s Eve trip to Iceland, there are several exciting tours and activities available for you to enjoy. From guided bonfire tours and fireworks cruises to excursions to popular attractions like the Golden Circle and the Blue Lagoon, there’s truly something for everyone.

For a more adventurous experience, you can also try winter activities like snowmobiling or ice cave tours. And if you prefer a more relaxed approach to celebrating, why not indulge in a New Year’s Eve dinner at one of Reykjavik’s renowned restaurants or attend a special event or concert in the city? Whichever way you choose to celebrate, you’re sure to create lasting memories when you visit Iceland, the enchanting land of fire and ice.

exploring blue ice cave in Iceland

Dining Options for New Year's Eve in Iceland

When it comes to dining on New Year’s Eve in Iceland, you’ll find a diverse array of options ranging from traditional Icelandic cuisine to international dishes. Many restaurants offer set menus for the occasion, giving you the opportunity to indulge in a delicious New Year’s Eve dinner as you countdown to the new year. Popular restaurants in Reykjavik offering set menus for New Year’s Eve include Grillmarkadurinn, Fish Market, and Sjávargrillid.

Traditional Icelandic New Year’s Eve cuisine holds symbolic significance, with dishes like:

  • leg of lamb
  • roast beef
  • turkey
  • duck
  • ptarmigan

These dishes represent the end of the Christmas fast and symbolize fertility, long life, and bounty. As you relish your meal, remember that you’re indulging in a rich cultural tradition passed down through generations.

Tips for Enjoying Iceland's New Year's Eve

To make the most of your New Year’s Eve experience in Iceland, it’s important to dress appropriately for the cold weather and stay safe during the celebrations. Next, we’ll share detailed tips on how to dress for the occasion and stay safe during the celebrations, assuring you have a fantastic and memorable time welcoming the new year in this enchanting land.

Dressing for the Occasion

Dressing appropriately for New Year’s Eve in Iceland involves:

  • Layers, wool, and waterproof boots to stay warm and comfortable during outdoor festivities
  • A good base layer
  • A warm sweater or jacket
  • Trousers
  • Thick socks
  • Waterproof boots
  • Cozy hat, gloves, and a scarf
What to pack for Iceland in Winter

Make sure you have all these items to keep you warm and dry as you enjoy the celebrations.

Icelanders love to dress up for New Year’s Eve, often donning sparkling sequins and funny hats as they celebrate. While it’s essential to stay warm and shielded from the elements, don’t hesitate to add a festive touch to your attire as you partake in the celebrations with the locals.

Staying Safe During Celebrations

While celebrating New Year’s Eve in Iceland is an unforgettable experience, it’s important to prioritize safety during the festivities. Being mindful of fireworks is crucial, as they can pose a risk if not handled properly. Additionally, it’s a good idea to stay with a group, especially if you’re attending a public event or exploring unfamiliar areas.

Driving during peak celebration times can also be hazardous, as the roads may be congested and visibility may be reduced due to fireworks and weather conditions. If you’re not accustomed to driving on snow and ice, consider renting a 4x4 vehicle or opting for a guided tour instead. Adopting these safety measures will ensure you can immerse yourself in the magic of Iceland’s New Year’s Eve celebrations worry-free.


In conclusion, Iceland offers a truly magical and unforgettable New Year’s Eve experience, with its unique blend of cultural traditions, vibrant celebrations, and awe-inspiring natural beauty. From the dazzling fireworks displays and heartwarming bonfire gatherings to the hilarious Áramótaskaup comedy show and the enchanting Northern Lights, there’s something for everyone to enjoy as they ring in the new year. So, why not embark on an adventure to the land of fire and ice this New Year’s Eve and create memories that will last a lifetime?

Frequently Asked Questions

How does Iceland celebrate new year's?

Celebrating New Year's in Iceland is full of joy and excitement! Gatherings with family and friends start early around 6 or 7 PM, then around 8 PM people head to bonfires where they can enjoy socializing with others and take in beautiful views while shooting fireworks. At midnight, Reykjavik lights up the night sky with vibrant fireworks and bonfires.

Is Iceland good to visit for New Years?

Celebrate the New Year in style with a trip to Iceland! From firework displays to community bonfires, you'll be able to experience Icelandic tradition and folklore at this magical time of year. Make December the month you head to the North Atlantic island for an unforgettable start to the year.

Where in Iceland is best for new year's Eve?

For an unforgettable New Year's Eve experience, look no further than Reykjavik in Iceland. Here you can watch incredible fireworks displays at Hallgrmskirkja Church, high up on Oskjuhlid hill, or even by the seaside. Gather around a bonfire to warm up and be swept away in the festivities as 500 tons of fireworks light up the sky.

What month is the best time to see the Northern Lights in Iceland?

The best time to see the Northern Lights in Iceland is from September to April, between 9 pm and 2 am - particularly around midnight. Winter is the peak season, with dark and long nights offering the best conditions to witness this incredible display.

Are there any guided tours available for New Year's Eve in Iceland?

Ring in the New Year with an unforgettable experience! Check out the guided tours available in Iceland for New Year's Eve, including bonfire tours, fireworks cruises, and excursions to popular attractions.