About Us | Bookmark Us     

Kicking off the New Year, Baltic style

With winter on the way, it's time to start thinking about what to do with those precious few weeks of vacation time around New Year's. The Baltics have plenty to offer by way of New Year's celebrations. The three countries' capitals will each host their own spectacular events, and thousands are expected to come from far and wide to ring in the New Year in the Baltics. There is so much going on, in fact, that it can be hard to figure out what to do in advance.

This month, City Paper is looking ahead to the coming New Year to discover the best spots to celebrate the first days of 2009. The three Baltic capitals have a lot to offer, but a few notable differences can be seen between the countries. The size of the cities often determines the mount of parties and people. Riga, the largest of the capitals, has the most parties (public) and the largest fireworks display. Tallinn, the smallest of the three, has a homier atmosphere, with the exception of the tens of thousands of visitors from the east. But don't worry.

To avoid the crowds of Russians celebrating Moscow's New Years, simply wait until after 1111 p.m. to go out to the main squares. As a result of cheaper travel and expanded business potential, many people are choosing to visit the Baltics for the holiday season. Nearly all hotels, restaurants clubs and event halls have some sort of New Years program, and foreigners are better catered to now than at many other times during the year. Many hotels, in Tallinn, Riga and to a lesser extent Vilnius, try to make their Russian guests feel more welcome and ring in the New Year twice. Once for local time, once for Moscow time.


According to Tallinn's tourism officials, over 20,000 new tourists come in to the city just to ring in the New Year. And that's just the Russians. Tallinn's Old Town is usually completely packed, which can make watching the fireworks a bit unenjoyable, but still impressive. Instead, a private party or concert may be the best solution to beat the crowds and to have a good time. Though larger hotels, such as the Uniquestay chain in Tallinn boast large New Year's parties, they are usually packed with people. Tallinn's Reval Hotel Olumpia is hosting its annual New Year's Eve party with the theme "The world is yours." Tickets start at 199 euro but include room for two, breakfast the next morning (should you decide to go to sleep), food, champagne, and this year's Frank Sinatra themed dance show.

Activities include gambling and even a Disneyland themed children's play area. Reval isn't the only hotel in Tallinn that can boast a top notch view. The Radisson SAS 24 Lounge is a popular place to watch the fireworks, as is the restaurant/bar at the top of the Swiss Hotel. If the hotels are crowded, then head to Vertigo, which is yet another well-liked rooftop bar. At midnight, the fireworks go off throughout the city as people are allowed to light their own. The best place for viewing would be from the highest, and arguably most romantic, point in the city – just climb up Toompea and follow the signs for the "view."

Many fireworks are also lit from Tallina Raekoda- the city squares town hall. Streets are usually packed, but the fireworks can be seen from most points in the city.

Similarly, Riga hosts a variety of hotel and club sponsored New Year's events. The official fireworks, determined by a contest during Riga's anniversary celebration, are held over the banks of the river Daugava, allowing everyone to get a good view. Thousands of people stand along the banks, bridges and line the streets to see these professional delights.

Although Reval Hotel Latvija, located on the corner of Brivibas Iela and Elizabetas, easily boasts the best view of the fireworks from the top of their striking 27 floor building. If you don't feel like shelling out a lot of money for New Year's, just ride their glass elevator at the right time to catch a good view. Afterwards people crowd the waterfront bars, so to get a good seat, food, drinks and view for the festivities, its best to get there early. Sunset Bar and Piektdiena Klat both boast unobstructed views of the waterfront. To get out of the city for New Year's, head beyond the city limits to the beach resort city of Jurmala. Fireworks and parties abound and events can get a bit out of control. For an equally exciting fest, head to the sea front city of Liepaja.

Vilnius is hectic on New Year's Eve – especially Cathedral Square where the main fireworks go off at midnight. Likened to being in a fireworks factory, it's a good idea to get to the center early to secure your spot. Fireworks and small sparklers are available for purchase and lit by the multitudes of tipsy and giddy New Years celebrators, making a bit of a fire hazard, but so far nothing has been lit on fire. To really party like a local though, avoid night clubs, hotels and bars. Take to the streets. The majority of Lithuanians consider these areas strictly for tourists and foreigners, so the vibe won't be as festive or ethnically authentic. Most celebrations begin privately, usually at someone's house, or occasionally, on a street corner. Minutes before midnight the streets around Cathedral Square are flooded with raucous and excited New Year's partiers.

Even if it seems like you got a good spot secured, you may well be shoved out of the way. The surrounding areas may be a better bet for those with children or who just want to see the fireworks and not be mashed against other celebrators. According to Vilnius's city tourism board, New Year's is a great time to be in Vilnius. Typically kicking off immediately after Christmas and lasting to January 2nd, concerts, fireworks and revelry will occupy Kalnu and Vingis parks, the Cathedral and City Hall squares. More traditional classical music concerts are held in the National Philharmonic Hall, the Opera and Ballet Theatre, Congress palace and St. John's Church.

But Vilnius also features a variety of more unique ways to ring in the New Year. As a tradition, many people ride the trolleys through town to wish people a happy New Year. These trolleys are available for private rent for around 100 Litas.

Place: Sapņu Fabrika, Lačplesa Iela 101
Time: 20:45
Tickets: Available at bilesuparadize.lv starting at Ls 125.00

Club Essential New Year's
Place: Club Essential
Time: Entry from 23:00
Tickets: Starting from Ls 5

New Year's Eve salsa festival
Place: Casa de Baile dance center Estonia pst 7, III floor
Time: 31.12.2007 at 21:00 until the wee hours
Ticket: 25.- EUR (400.- EEK) pre sale 31.- EUR (485.- EEK) from 29th of December (includes drinks and food)

New Years Fiesta Concert: "AXOM", "Pikaso", Deivis Club "Laukinių vakarų salūnas" More information and place reservation: 8-603 53333, 8-684 80236 and 8-655 29797
Time: 21:00
Tickets starting at 80LT Available at tiketa.lt

"Us and Them: Symphonic Pink Floyd- Lithuania state symphony orchestra
Place: Vilnius Congress Concert Hall
Time: 19:00 Tickets: 70Lt, 100Lt, 150Lt, 200Lt, 300Lt. Tickets are available at Bilietai.lt

Humor program-Streep man and live music
Place: Prospekto PUB
Time: 21:00 From 21:00 to 24:00 only with reservation -. From 24:00- Discoteca with DJ Vi2tis Entrance 150Lt. from 21 h. till 24 h. Entrance - 50 Lt. with flyer. (from 24 - till 01)

Concert for New Year Greeting
Place: Kaunas State Musical Theatre
Time: 20:00
Tickets: 200, 170, 150, 100 Lt

By Monika Hanley