Reykjavík is probably not the first place people think about when looking for special places to ring in the New Year, but other major cities have nothing on the small capital of Iceland.
Around 8:30 p.m., bonfires ("brenna") are lit up at different places in the city. Locals gather around these fires and sing traditional Icelandic songs. Around 10 p.m., people go back home to watch the Áramótaskaup (a comedic recap of the past year) show on TV. We used this time to walk from the site of our bonfire, which was in the park behind the youth hostel, to the Perlan, which offers one of the best views of all Reykjavík.
When the Áramótaskaup show ends, fireworks start lighting up the night sky. The most intense period is from 11:30 pm to 12:30 a.m., as the fireworks flare up from everywhere. There are so many one does not even know where to look anymore! It was probably the most spectacular fireworks display we ever saw, and this is coming from people who live in Montreal, city of the international Loto-Québec (formerly Benson & Hedges) fireworks competition.
As the fireworks wind down (without ever really stopping -- even a few days later, the occasional fireworks could be heard and/or seen around town), bars open, eagerly awaiting locals and tourists alike to continue the celebrations well into the morning.
“The Cultural Night” in Reykjavik has become an annual event in the cultural life in Iceland. Actually it’s an all day event, which takes place on the same day as the Reykjavik Marathon (see Sports Travel). Thousands of people will take to the streets of the city on this occasion. It is called Cultural Night because a number of cultural institutes such as galleries, ateliers, shops, cafes, churches, restaurants and bars in downtown Reykjavik stay open until very late in the night when the celebrations end with great fireworks.
Reykjavik Cultural Night
Hinu húsinu, Pósthússtræti 3-5
People fly in from half the globe to witness two things in Iceland during the New Year. 1) the Aurora and 2) the local celebrations.
Almost every family in Iceland buys fireworks to use on New Years Eve and at midnight the lightshow above Reykjavik is magnificent.
The Reykjavík Art Festival is a biannual Festival. This year there are many interesting events. The festival is from May 11th till the 31st.
Just to name some of the artists/events this year:
Salka Valka - a play based on a book by Halldór Laxness.
American Odyssey - Mary Ellen Mark photographer.
Cenizas de tango - The Argentinian dance group El Escata.
Mobile Homme - French male drummers who play drums 50 meters above the ground!
Mynd - Icelandic conemporary art in the Reykjavík Art Museum.
Vocal Sampling - Cuban salsa band (the young Buena Vista).
Loftur Gudmundsson exhibition- Photographer and pioneer in filmmaking in Iceland.
Maxim Vengerov - Russian violin player.
June Anderson - soprano.
Sigur Rós - Concert with guest appearances by Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson and Steindór Andersen, plus an Icelandic quire and string orchestra. Don't miss this for the world!!!
Ambrossia - Spanish artist, Pep Bou from Barcelona, and his sidekick perform art with gigant soap bubbles.
Aernout Mik - Dutch artist.
Recent Kronos - American quartet, Grammy Award winner.
Taraf De Haïdouks - Romanian gypsy band.
You can find out more at www.artfest.is