Edinburgh's Hogmanay: Tens of thousands flood into city centre as Pet Shop Boys light up festival

Visitors from all over the world flooded into the historic heart of Edinburgh for the long-awaited return of the city’s Hogmanay festival.

The crowds partied through prolonged downpours as Scotland’s biggest new-year celebration was staged for the first time in three years and culminating in the traditional fireworks finale above Edinburgh Castle.

A 30,000-capacity sell-out crowd descended on Princes Street for the official street party, while synth-pop icons the Pet Shop Boys in West Princes Street Gardens before a 10,000-strong crowd and were accompanied by dazzling lighting effects.

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Stand-up comic Susie McCabe, who hosted the gardens gig, started the countdown to 2023 with a message of solidarity and support for Ukraine nearly 10 month after its invasion by Russia.

Fireworks exploded over Edinburgh Castle as the city's Hogmanay festival returned. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Rain-lashed revellers heading into the official arenas were earlier handed free ponchos along with wristbands which were lit up throughout the 29-year-old event.

The Royal Mile and Edinburgh Castle esplanade were thronged hours before the gates opened for the official festivities.

Many revellers admitted they did not have tickets for the official events, the first to be staged in the city since the start of the Covid pandemic.

The city's festivities were officially kick-started on Friday when chart-topper Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Clare Grogan’s Scottish pop outfit Altered Images Night Afore Disco Party in Princes Street Gardens.

The Pet Shop Boys headlined Edinburgh's Hogmanay festival as it returned for the first time since 2019.

A third open-air gig is due to be staged on New Year’s Day, with Tide Lines, Elephant Sessions and Hamish Hawk performing at the festival’s Final Fling, following an afternoon of free live music gigs at 13 venues spread across the Old and New Towns.

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The street party capacity is roughly half the size it was pre-pandemic, with the official arena “condensed” to take out Waverley Bridge, Hanover Street, Rose Street, and the east end of Princes Street.

All 30,000 tickets for the street party were snapped up several weeks ago while the Concert in the Gardens was declared a sell-out after Christmas.

Engineer Gursafal Marwah, 23, who is from India and is currently working in Southampton, was among those without tickets.

Revellers watch an early fireworks at Edinburgh Castle in the run-up to the bells in Edinburgh. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
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He said: “This is my first ever time in Edinburgh. There are nine of us in our group. We’ve been wanting to visit Edinburgh for a long time and were planning to come last Christmas but had to cancel.

"Edinburgh has the perfect blend of mountains, nature, the sea and the architecture.

"There are so many people here and so many pubs. I went on a pub crawl yesterday and don’t remember how many I went to. It was really good fun.”

Nurse Eden Bill, 23, who was with a group of friends from Reading in England, said: “I really wanted to come to Edinburgh because I had heard that it was the place to be for Hogmanay and that it was more popular here than Christmas. The atmosphere in the city is amazing – everyone just seems so buzzed and excited.”

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The Pet Shop Boys headlined Edinburgh's Hogmanay festival as it returned for the first time since 2019.

Brazilian minister Flavio Luz, 43, was part of a nine-strong family group visiting the city.

He said: “We are in Edinburgh especially for the Hogmanay festival. We really wanted to see the fireworks and the castle, which we visited earlier. It was amazing. The city is so old compared to Brazil. It’s a dream come true for us to come here.”

Australian visitor Elise Boonen, 33, who was visiting Edinburgh with a friend from home city Sydney, said: “I’ve always wanted to come to Edinburgh. It’s just so beautiful and so old compared to Australia. We keep getting distracted as we walk around. It’s also such a novelty for us to get on a train and within four hours be in another country.

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"We have no idea what to expect from Hogmanay in Edinburgh other than the fact that there are going to be fireworks at some point.”

Her friend Kelly Zacharias added: “Flights are so expensive from Australia at the moment so I decided to make a big trip out of it, travelling to Scotland, England and Ireland. Some friends of mine had previously been to Edinburgh for Hogmanay and really recommended it – they all had a great time. The city is absolutely stunning.”

Joanne Chew, 35, from Malaysia, said: “I have been to Edinburgh a few times before, when I was studying in Newcastle, but not for Hogmanay. I really wanted to bring my fiance and my friends here to introduce them to Edinburgh. I love the country, the culture and the heritage of the city.”

Revellers on Princes Street on Edinburgh as the city's Hogmanay festival returned for the first time since 2019. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
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Edinburgh University student Veronica Prokopova, 25, from Prague, said: “I have a personal tradition where I go home for Christmas and spend the new year overseas. I have heard that Edinburgh is one of the best places to spend new year.

"I love the city and the architecture in Edinburgh anyway, and I really love the vibe at the moment. It suddenly got crazily busy.”

New Yorkers Michael Quijano, 54, and Denise Burns, 45, were visiting Edinburgh after attending a family holiday in Aberdeenshire.

She said: “It was very much a last-minute thing to come here for Hogmanay. All I really knew about the city before we booked to come here was that it had a castle.”

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Edinburgh's Hogmanay festival has returned for the first time since 2019.
Edinburgh's Hogmanay festival has returned for the first time since 2019.
Revellers were hit by downpours as Edinburgh's Hogmanay party got under. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
Crowds of revellers gathered on the Mound in Edinburgh on Hogmanay. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
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Edinburgh's Hogmanay festival has returned for the first time since 2019.
Sophie Ellis-Bextor opened Edinburgh's Hogmanay festival with a headline gig in Princes Street Gardens.