There are few better places to celebrate the New Year than in Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavík. Bonfires rage in the suburbs and, at midnight, the sky is set ablaze with the largest unofficial fireworks show you will ever see.
Read more about Nightlife in Reykjavík
As in other countries, New Year’s Eve celebrations mark the passing of the old year and the welcoming of the year ahead. New Year’s Eve for many Icelanders involves a lavish home-cooked meal with family, followed by a bonfire, fireworks, a spot of television and more fireworks.
And the fun doesn’t end there! Reykjavík’s bars and clubs open their doors shortly after midnight and the festivities continue until the morning. Some bars might charge an entrance fee and be warned: there will be some serious drinking happening.
The 31st is a national holiday and some things may not be running as usual, for example, the city buses will stop operating at 16:00. Supermarkets will close early and will not open again until the 2nd of January so be sure to stock up!
Here’s your guide so you won’t be caught out. See the year through with a bang (or many!).
Book a Tour
Why not make your last day of 2018 one to remember on this Golden Circle tour with a difference. You will see the erupting and bubbling hot springs at Geysir Geothermal Park, walk between the continents at Þingvellir National Park and gaze at the magnificent Gullfoss waterfall.
Not only will you get to admire these three main attractions but you will speed across Iceland’s second largest glacier, Langjökull on the back of a snowmobile. Book here.
Race across the countryside beneath Reykjavík’s iconic mountain Esja on the back of a buggy. Free yourself from the monotony of paved roads and get wild in Iceland’s impressive wilderness. Get that adrenaline pumping and book here.
Get to know the town of Hafnarfjörður and familiarise yourselves with local Icelandic traditions. Christmas may be over but it’s never too late to learn of native customs and delight in some traditional seasonal snacks. You will have the opportunity to meet some locals as well as the honour of being invited into someone’s home to see how Icelanders live and decorate for Christmas.
Only a 20-minute drive from the city-centre, Hafnarfjörður is a magical place to visit especially since it is said to have one of the largest settlements of elves, dwarves and other mystical beings. Book here.
Go Ice Skating or Swimming (or both!)
Skautahöll (Skating Hall) in Laugardalur is open to the public on the 31st between 11-3 PM. This option is perfect for groups and families or just a way to burn off those calories from lunchtime! For adults, the ticket costs 1000 ISK and for children 700 ISK.
Along with skate hire at only 500 ISK, this is one of the best-value activities you’ll find in Reykjavík!
Why not spend your last day of 2018 soaking in the geothermally heated waters of one of Reykjavík’s many municipal pools. Every neighbourhood has one, and they’re clean, relaxing and fun in the day or darkness. This is another cheap and quintessentially Icelandic way to spend an afternoon.
New Year’s Eating
The diet can wait for next year, tonight why not treat yourself! Shops will close earlier than usual and remain shut until the 2nd of January so it’s a good idea to stock up on supplies.
Not all restaurants will be open and the ones that are will most likely be close to or completely fully booked so it’s a good idea to make reservations as soon as possible. Here is a list of restaurants in Reykjavík and their holiday opening hours.
Got to a Bonfire & Watch the Fireworks
Bonfires are lit on New Year’s Eve following an age-old tradition of burning away the old year to welcome the new. In total, there will be ten bonfires around the city, and they are free to attend (find details here). To the locals, this is an excellent opportunity to catch up with friends and neighbours to pass on season’s greeting and well wishes for the coming year.
It’s legal to buy your own fireworks in Iceland, and many families buy the pretty explosive by the box. As you can imagine, with most households setting off their own rockets, the amount of fireworks in the air at midnight is simply breathtaking.
Read more about New Year’s Eve in Reykjavík.