Vienna doesn’t leave celebrating New Year’s Eve to chance. Each year, the city organises the Silvesterpfad (the New Year’s Eve Trail), with food, drink, and entertainment around the city centre.
- Coordinated festivities across Vienna, with a focus on music, dance, food and fireworks
- The event usually opens from 2 pm, Dec 31 to 2 am, Jan 1
- No ticket required: it’s an open-access, open-air event with multiple locations
- See also: New Year’s Eve in Vienna
What is the Silvesterpfad?
The New Year’s Eve trail is exactly as it sounds: a series of festive sites across Vienna, each fitted out with a temporary stage, and all geared up to entertain passers-by on December 31st.
In 2018/2019, there were 14 locations in total, but two were essentially standalone events away from the centre, so more for locals than visitors. I expect the same for 2019/2020.
This leaves 12 open-air sites dotted around the central district, all within walking distance of each other, and all open to everyone…with no entrance fee or ticketing system.
Which means I finally get to use the word “throng” on this website, because hundreds of thousands of Viennese and tourists from the country and abroad
Each site on the Silvesterpfad has a different musical focus, so you can pick the location to match your tastes. And the choice is wide: pop, funk, R&B, ballroom, disco, etc.
You can party like its 1999, 1899, 1969, or 2019, just by moving between sites. Everyone from soul DJs to string ensembles performs for your entertainment.
Details of the 2019/2020 event are not yet out, but I expect things to be similar to the highlights from last year:
Only one city can probably teach you to waltz outside while still making you feel like you’re in a ballroom.
The giant Christmas chandelier lights along the main pedestrianised street at the very heart of the city stay up through New Year. Beneath them, free waltz courses from Vienna’s ballroom dancing schools should give you some of the skills you’ll need to pass yourself off as a local.
The Austrian mint is also normally out and about along The Graben, so you can pick up, for example, a freshly-minted silver New Year coin.
The square in front of city hall is where many revellers congregate at midnight for the city’s official fireworks display, along with a mass waltz. So you can put those ballroom lessons to immediate use.
It only takes a little practice to dance the waltz, but a lot of skill to dance one adequately in the middle of a crowd of tipsy Viennese. One of the great scientific mysteries of our time is how people manage to do so without causing significant pileups.
New for 2018/2019 was “Lucky street,” where you could have your fortune told, pick up your horoscope, or otherwise convince yourself that 2019 was going to be a good year.
Vienna State Opera House
This site always showcases a selection of the very best festive rap songs.
Or perhaps not.
As you might imagine, it’s all about the arias here. A giant screen displays highlights from the Staatsoper’s opera productions, including (in 2018/2019) a live broadcast of Johann Strauss’s “Die Fledermaus” from 7 pm.
What about food and drink?
If you don’t want to nip into a bar or restaurant to keep your energy levels up for all that walking and waltzing, there are dozens of catering stands along and around the Silvesterpfad, as well as various New Year markets.
Expect sparkling wine and punch to figure prominently. And sausages (hopefully). Note that there is a deposit system in place for plates, glasses, etc..
When I went, there was a
December 31, 2018, was my first time on the Silvesterpfad, and this is what I learned:
- Plan your afternoon and evening schedule using the full programme and map at the official website, which also has general information on public transport, behavioural guidelines, and similar.
- Don’t be shocked at how much you are actually charged for drinks when you buy them – you have to add the cost of the deposit to the advertised prices.
- Along the route, some bakeries and snack bars also open until 2
am,if you want a cheap(er) source for food and drink.
- I went until about 7 pm (don’t mock me) and there was no rowdiness or idiots letting off crackers. The atmosphere was very positive, helped by an absence of vehicles; much of the Silvesterpfad area is cordoned off from traffic.
- The trail was already busy, though, even at that early time. They estimate some 750,000 people visited the Silvesterpfad in 2018/2019. If you’re not good in crowds, stay away.
- With all the revellers, it can take quite a while to get places, but one option is to nip down a side street and walk along a parallel road to your end destination. Once you get off the Silvesterpfad streets, the crowds disappear.
Happy New Year!