Fireworks everywhere. No matter where you are in Reykjavik, most everyone will be out firing crackers and blasting the skies. PIC Arnar Valdimarsson

Fireworks everywhere. No matter where you are in Reykjavik, most everyone will be out firing crackers and blasting the skies. PIC Arnar Valdimarsson

Thankfully all countries are not the same. Yet.

Which is why New Years Eve in the small nation of Iceland, and the capital Reykjavik especially, still holds a candle to far larger cities when it comes to celebration and common joie de vivre.

To get an idea what is happening in Reykjavik and Iceland over this festive period you could get a heads-up here. But what exactly should you do as a visiting foreigner to enjoy the evening and following night like a real local.

Here are a few suggestions. All apply to any place in Iceland but only smaller in scale.

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  • 1800 – 2100 Sit down in some nice restaurant and have a hearty and long dinner with yourself or with your group. Fill your stomach, drink expensively and have a laugh. Alternatively, if you are religious you might want to check into the nearest church no later than 1800 for some New Years Mass. Naturally, these are in Icelandic so you might enjoy it less but there is singing and common cheerfulness. Over this time families in the country are either at home having fancy dinner or in church.
  • 2100 – 2200 This would be the moment to go visit Gamlarsbrenna. Don´t worry, we don´t understand it either. This is a bonfire lit in most neighborhoods where families get together to watch. Does not make much sense but there it is and everyone is welcome.
  • 2200 – 2300 This is dead-time in the whole country which might make for a great stroll in the totally empty Reykjavik city. Why you should stroll in an empty city? To get perspective because just an hour or so later the peace and quiet you are experiencing will be sentenced to kingdom come long into the night. You enjoy it more if you also took in the empty stuff. Alternatively, you could try the very local custom of watching TV. There is a once-a-year comedy show on air between 22:30 and 23:30 and this program is generally watched by 98 per cent of the population. That is not to say it is always so great. On the contrary. But it is a custom and those die hard.
  • 2300 – 2400 If you are here for photographing haul your ass to the chosen site and wait. If here for anything else find a nice spot with a view anywhere. At about 23:30 you should be quickly noticing you are not alone anymore. In moments the streets are filled with folks and families and most of them are carrying explosives. For the next twenty to thirty minutes cover your ears and widen your eyes when anyone with a breath inside goes berserk and sends off tons after tons of fireworks big and small. This is most fun in the smaller and older streets of Reykjavik since the echoes magnify the noise.
  • 2400 – 0000 Toast the New Year with anyone anywhere and start popping that champagne you were hiding.Groups of people will from now on start to form. Parties begin and soon the first bars open this night will open their doors. It is downhill from there. Do not make any plans for any tours the day after.

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