Vienna doesn’t leave celebrating New Year’s Eve to chance. Each (normal) year, the city organises the Silvesterpfad (New Year’s Eve Trail), with food, drink, and entertainment around the city centre.
- The next Silvesterpfad is provisionally set for (surprise!) December 31st, 2021
- Coordinated festivities across Vienna with a focus on music, dance, food, and fireworks
- The event usually opens from 2pm on Dec 31 to 2am on Jan 1
- Open-access, open-air event with multiple locations: no ticket required
- 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.
At the last Silvesterpfad, revellers enjoyed twelve locations in total. Two were essentially standalone events away from the centre, so more for locals than visitors.
This left 10 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. Expect something similar for New Year’s Eve in December 2021, when the next Silvesterpfad should take place (fingers crossed)).
All of which means I 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 pick the location to match your tastes. And the choice is wide: pop, funk, R&B, ballroom, disco, etc.
Party like its 2001, 1901, 1971, or 2021 just by moving between sites. Everyone from soul DJs to string ensembles perform for your entertainment.
It’s a little early for confirmation of the coming 2021 festivities, but here some traditional highlights, which might/should make a reappearance:
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 out and about along The Graben, so you might buy, for example, a freshly-minted copper or silver New Year coin.
Many revellers congregate at midnight on the square in front of city hall for the city’s official fireworks display and a mass waltz. So you can now 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.
On January 1st, the square usually shows a live broadcast of the traditional New Year’s Concert from the Musikverein, with a repeat at 2pm. The square also hosted a party-oriented New Year market in 2019/2020.
Go to “Lucky street” along Teinfaltstraße to have your fortune told, pick up your horoscope, or otherwise convince yourself that it’s going to be a good year.
(I’m not sure how well that worked out at the end of 2019, given the events of 2020 and early 2021.)
Vienna State Opera House
This location always showcases a selection of the very best festive rap songs.
As you might imagine, arias dominate here. A giant screen typically displays highlights from the Staatsoper’s opera productions, including a traditional live broadcast of Johann Strauss’s Die Fledermaus.
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, dozens of catering stands dot the Silvesterpfad. And don’t forget the New Year markets.
Expect sparkling wine and punch to figure prominently. And sausages (hopefully). Note there is a deposit system in place for plates, glasses, etc..
This is what I learned from my time on the Silvesterpfad:
- 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 returnable deposit to the advertised prices.
- Along the route, some bakeries and snack bars also open until 2
am,should you wish a cheap(er) source for food and drink.
- I went until about 7pm (don’t mock me) and experienced no rowdiness or idiots letting off crackers. An absence of vehicles helped with the positive atmosphere; much of the Silvesterpfad area stays cordoned off from traffic.
- The trail was already busy, though, even at that early time. If you’re not good in crowds, stay away, and it all gets louder as the evening progresses.
- With all the revellers, it takes quite a while to get places. To move faster, just nip down a side street and walk along a parallel road to your end destination. Once you get off the marked Silvesterpfad streets, the crowds thin rapidly.
Happy New Year!