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Hogmanay in Edinburgh is a time for celebration, community, and committing to annual goals we all know we won’t keep. Yep, you guessed it: Hogmanay is New Year’s Eve in Scotland!
Since New Year’s Eve is a popular event globally, what makes it so special in Edinburgh? Well, Edinburgh is known as the Festival City, with 11 main celebrations programmed throughout the year plus several others in between. So you can rest assured that this city knows how to do a festival right.
While the five festivals of August attract most of the international attention, Hogmanay certainly holds its own. The dreich weather never stops the Scots from celebrating, so come join the fun and tradition!
About Hogmanay in Edinburgh
Hogmanay. Yes, that’s a real word. Lesser folk may refer to it as “New Year’s Eve”, but in Scotland, Hogmanay is the true celebration and it is world-renowned.
On a scale of one to amazing, Hogmanay is off the charts. People fly from around the world to partake in this three-day extravaganza…and that’s despite the notoriously terrible Scottish weather!
Here’s the quick and dirty for an overview of what’s included at Hogmanay in Edinburgh. Begin planning your trip as early as possible because this is one of those festivals you simply cannot miss.
Read all about what it’s like being an American expat in Scotland.
Edinburgh is also a small city, so accommodations fill up quickly! Tickets sell out to most of the events and restaurant reservations will be few and far between if you wait too long.
Looking for the perfect place to stay while in Edinburgh? Check out what’s available on booking.com:
Events at Hogmanay in Edinburgh
Hogmanay in Edinburgh really includes three official days of events. From December 30th through January 1st, you can enjoy a variety of parties and celebrations. Go enjoy them all or pick and choose your favorites.
There are even package ticket deals that include multiple events, if you’re feeling ambitious!
Hogmanay Events on December 30th
Events begin on December 30th with the Torchlight Procession. I highly recommend you either participate or at least watch this event. It is magical. The streets of Edinburgh fill with tens of thousands of participants – including thousands who are carrying torches (guys, the real flame kind, not flashlights…which are called torches here but that’s another topic altogether).
A procession beginning on George IV Bridge winds down to Princes Street and up Calton Hill in an annual celebration to welcome the new year. A massive bonfire is lit, followed by fireworks because this city adores fireworks!
Read next: Another fantastic celebration in Edinburgh is the annual Beltane Fire Festival.
Hogmanay Events on December 31st
The Street Party is the main event, with multiple stages set up featuring varied genres of music. Alongside the Street Party, you’ll find the Concert in the Gardens. This is the headliner stage, which is why you need separate tickets to attend. You can choose from the general garden area (grass) or the enclosure (hard ground in front of the stage).
The Ceilidh Under the Castle (say kay-lee) is a dance scene like you’ve never seen before. Held below Edinburgh Castle, enjoy traditional Scottish music and dance, learning as you go from other dancers and instructions provided on stage.
It’s not the most graceful of dancing given the terrain, drinks, and high number of foreign newbies. However, the experience will leave you lightheaded from endless laughter and constant twirling with abandon.
For those seeking a more civilized evening, the Candlelit Concert in St. Giles’ Cathedral could be the ideal start to your evening of celebrating. It begins at 6pm, which would lead directly to a dinner reservation if you plan well in advance.
And, finally, the fireworks.
In Edinburgh, we believe in the magic of fireworks for all occasions. We believe in their power so much that we actually set them off every hour on the hour starting at 9pm during Hogmanay. That’s four rounds of fireworks, in case you’re counting.
The grand finale will blow you away, but the hourly show should not be dismissed! In your revelry, you’ll likely not notice the time until the booming reminds you of the top of the hour. Take note, find your bearings, and enjoy. They are set off from Edinburgh Castle, so you can actually see them from hundreds of vantage points around the city.
Read next: Check out these easy day trips you can take from Edinburgh.
Hogmanay Events on January 1st
Loony Dook. Given how bizarre each of those words is alone, you can guess their combination doesn’t bode well.
As is the tradition in most northern climes near water, those who are
insane “brave” enough to plunge into the River Forth will do so in South Queensferry. A parade through town leads to the stony beach, where loony people in fancy dress (that’s British code for costumes) test human limits. Y’all are cray.
Insider Tips for Hogmanay in Edinburgh
While the Hogmanay events are specifically December 30-January 1, Edinburgh’s winter festival season actually extends from November 16th through January 4th.
Come early or stay late around Hogmanay to enjoy outdoor markets, family-friendly fun, plus plenty of entertainment on stage!
Read next: I think expats make the best tourists – find out why.
If you’re going to watch the Torchlight Procession on December 30th, choose a vantage point early so you can be up front on the sidewalk. Along Princes Street you’ll find much more space than anywhere near the starting point at George IV Bridge.
Wherever you stand, you don’t want to miss the very beginning of the procession! Last year, there were precisely 26 Vikings from Shetland’s Up Helly Aa Festival. Vikings. Torches. Bagpipes. Don’t miss it.
Always review the restrictions for your tickets! Some events allow you to exit and re-enter, some tickets grant you access to other parts of the celebration. Be sure to also confirm last entry time so you don’t miss out!
Bathrooms are everywhere, as are bars. Have no fear and don’t bring any glass into the events area. Also, be nice to the event staff. They deal with a lot of loonies. Speaking of which…
Loony Dook is literally insane. That’s all I can say about that one from afar. Maybe this year I’ll go watch the insanity in person…maybe.
Learn more of the words to Auld Lang Syne! While it’s the traditional NYE song around the world, it’s a bigger deal here.
Do you know why? It was actually written by a Scot (Rabbie Burns, on whose birthday we were married!). Try to learn more than just the first two lines to join the thousands around you in this annual tradition.