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Everything you Need to Know About Hogmanay in Edinburgh

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Out of focus boke effect of blue and white fireworks in the night sky at  Edinburgh Hogmanay

An in-depth guide to celebrating NYE – aka Hogmanay – in Edinburgh, courtesy of a local!

Will you be joining 150,000 other people at the world’s best New Year’s Eve party this year? If you are not in Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh, then you are not!

Every year on the 31st of December, Edinburgh plays host to the world’s biggest Hogmanay party… here’s what will go down.

This fab guide comes courtesy of Edinburgh local, Gemma from Two Scots Abroad. So read on for some awesome insider tips on how to celebrate Hogmanay in Edinburgh. 

What is Hogmanay?

Hogmanay is the Scottish celebration for welcoming the new year. At 10 seconds to midnight, the nation (plus guests) countdown to the bells.

When 12 am strikes, we Scots cheer, kiss, and take part in a singsong! Collectively, partygoers sing Auld Lang Syne, the famous song by our national poet, Robert Burns.

Where is the NYE Hogmanay Street Party in Edinburgh?

crowd in front of an outdoor stage beneath a rocky cliff with edinburgh castle on it an several white fireworks exploding in the sky above for NYE
Midnight Fireworks on the 31st Dec. (Credit: Chris Watt / Edinburgh’s Hogmanay)

People celebrate Hogmanay in a variety of ways. Some throw house parties for friends and families, others dance the night away in pubs and clubs. However, the most famous New Year party in the world is held on the streets of Edinburgh with the Castle as the backdrop.

Each year Edinburgh Festivals puts on an extensive lineup of bands, ceilidh dancing, and fireworks to ‘bring in the bells’.

One of the main events is the Concert in the Gardens at Princes Street Gardens. Top bands and artists have headlined the midnight session in recent years, including the likes of Biffy Clyro, Chvrches, DJ Mark Ronson, and Paolo Nutini.

However, that’s not all. There are four other stages for street party-goers and each serves a different audience. There is also a ceilidh at the Old Town High Street with outside bars to help find that Dutch courage to swing your partner!

back of a head wearing a red and white wool hat with a white pompom covered in fairy lights standing in a dark street at night with a blue-lit stone wall behind

Warning: Scotland can be cold, windy, and wet at this time of year so wrap up warm and stay close to your loved ones! You will not get access to any of the Edinburgh street party events if you do not have a ticket, so purchase early to avoid disappointment.

Other Hogmanay Activities in Edinburgh

Edinburgh Festivals go ALL OUT around New Year’s Eve. Their street party is far from the only event which takes place in Edinburgh during this festival time.

The day before (30th December) and the day after (1st January) are also electric. These are some of the most important events…

30 December: Torchlight Procession

Man dressed as a viking with red tunic and a red and gold helmet holding a wooden torch and and a sheid at night in the Edinburgh Hogmanay Torchlight Procession
Vikings leading the torchlight procession

Edinburgh’s Hogmanay festival opens with 40,000 people holding torches to light up the city as they march through the streets in a torchlight procession. The event ends with a bang, with a firework display as well as a sound and light show and lighting of a bonfire.

READ MORE in my post about the 2015 Hogamany Torchlight procession

1 January: Loony Dook

two women dressed in tartan dresses with green velvet coats and traditional scottish green hats standing in the river forth on new years day with a bridge behind them and a crowd of people swimming in fancy dress all around
The Loony Dook. (Credit: Chris Watt / Edinburgh’s Hogmanay)

What better way to chase that Hogmanay hangover away than by delving into the Forth River by the Forth Rail Bridge? For over three decades, dookers have made a splash at South Queensferry on the 1st of January, usually dressed up for the occasion. Raised money goes to charity.

RELATED POST: 25 Unusual Things to do in Edinburgh

1 January: First Footing

circular stone monument with columns on a hilltop with a view of edinburgh city skyline behind at dusk with a pink and purple sky in winter
View from Calton Hill. (Credit: Two Scots Abroad).

It is traditional for neighbours to ‘first foot’ which brings good luck upon your pad. This is when you knock on the door of neighbours’ houses to welcome in the New Year with a bottle of your preferred tipple! Although less popular today, there will be people in towns who still first foot.

Other Great Edinburgh Festivals

a row of men and women on a stage all pointing upwards with purple lighting, the women are wearing dresses and the men are dressed as WWII soldiers
Performers at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. (Credit: Janeanne Gilchrist / Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society)

Did you know that Edinburgh celebrates festivals throughout the year? The most popular is the Fringe Festival where visitors can attend over 300 comedy, dance, and music acts in over 299 venues throughout the city.

For three weeks in August, Edinburgh is at its liveliest and the Old Town’s Royal Mile is awash with posters and street performers. Due to its popularity, accommodation is expensive around Fringe time so book early. For more budget and time-saving tips check out this Fringe Festival Guide. And of course, don’t miss the Royal Military Tattoo which takes place in front of the castle throughout August!

More Fun Things to do in Edinburgh

Many tourists come to Edinburgh to get lost in the cobbled streets of the Old Town, to see the Castle and views of the city from Calton Hill. Nature-lovers should not miss the short hike up Arthur’s Seat or a trip to the seaside (Portobello).

exterior of Henry Halls Carriers Quarters pub with grey stone walls and arched white framed windows
The Carriers Quarters in Leith. (Credit: Two Scots Abroad.)

Edinburgh has a large variety of restaurants to meet all budgets. Backpackers should check out The Mosque Kitchen for cheap curry or Ting Thai Caravan for Thai street food. Flashpackers should try the eateries on George Street or spots around the Old Town like The Witchery. Everyone should visit The Dome for a cocktail at Christmastime in Edinburgh, it smells so festive!

My local secret is the ‘village’ within the city, Leith in the New Town. Take a walk along the Waters of Leith or grab a pint at The Carriers Quarters by the canal. For more tips on where to stay and what do in Edinburgh, check out my guide which includes tips from locals, travellers, tourists and our readers.

READ MORE: How to Plan a Weekend in Edinburgh

About the Authors

Gemma and Craig, aka the Two Scots Abroad, are full-time workers with a life-long travel habit. Flirting with 30 and let loose on the world! Check in at Two Scots Abroad for travel tips, quips, and pics that please. Go on, MAKE TRAVEL HAPPEN.

Will you be celebrating NYE at Hogmanay in Edinburgh this year? Let us know in the comments!

A Local's Guide to Hogmanay in Edinburgh

6 thoughts on “Everything you Need to Know About Hogmanay in Edinburgh”

  1. Thanks for all the tips Emily! I’m planning on going myself but have found accommodation to be such a pain/so expensive that I’m going to go on stoke’s 24 hr train from london just for the night of NYE… i’ll miss the morning swim but will get to experience the street party!

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