Vienna doesn’t leave celebrating New Year’s Eve to chance. Each year, the city organises the Silvesterpfad (New Year’s Eve Trail) with entertainment around the city centre.
Here’s what to expect…
- A series of linked open-air stages across Vienna
- Entertainment typically runs from 2pm on Dec 31 to 2am the next day
- Food & drink stalls dot the route
- No ticket required
- I await details for 2024
- Last time had 8 locations (7 in the centre)
- Book a concert experience* for your Vienna trip
- See also:
What is the Silvesterpfad?
The New Year’s Eve trail is exactly as it sounds…a series of linked festive sites across Vienna, each fitted out with a temporary open-air stage and all geared up to entertain passers-by.
(One of the many stages around town)
The Silvesterpfad on New Year’s Eve in December 2023, for example, allowed revellers to enjoy seven open-air sites dotted around the central district and one outside.
Everything is open to everyone, with no entrance fee or ticketing system. The stage entertainment usually begins at 2pm at most sites and ends around 2am on January 1st.
The Silvesterpfad’s popularity means I finally get to use the word “throng”; hundreds of thousands of Viennese and tourists from the country and abroad typically throng the streets from early afternoon to late at night.
Over 800,000 enjoyed themselves in 2023. So many that they stopped letting people into the areas around the stages shortly before midnight.
Each site on the trail has a different musical focus, so you can pick the location to match your tastes. And the choice is wide: pop, funk, ballroom, disco, etc.
What about food and drink?
If you don’t want to nip into a bar or restaurant to keep your energy levels up for walking and waltzing, numerous catering stands pepper the Silvesterpfad route and usually open from late morning on December 31st.
Expect sparkling wine and punch to figure prominently. And sausages (if you can’t find sausages here in Vienna, consider that an early sign of the pending apocalypse).
2024 Silvesterpfad locations
I await details for the 2024 event, but last year’s stages in the centre were on the Freyung, Rathausplatz and Am Hof squares, the Graben, Stephansplatz square (in front of the cathedral), Kärntner Straße, and Neuer Markt square. The eighth location was the Wintermarkt at the entrance to the Prater entertainment quarter.
All of the central sites are in Vienna’s old town and within walking distance of each other.
Highlight: waltz in the New Year
Only one city can probably teach you to waltz outside while still making you feel like you’re in a ballroom.
(Lights on the Graben: always a favourite with visitors)
The giant Christmas chandelier lights along the Graben pedestrianised street at the very heart of the city stay up through New Year. Beneath them, you can typically enjoy a waltz under the guidance of a ballroom dancing school.
You might need the practice for the communal waltz likely to break out on Stephansplatz as the crowds listen to the cathedral’s Pummerin bell ring in the New Year at midnight.
Revellers also traditionally congregate on the Rathausplatz square in front of city hall for an official midnight fireworks display and another mass waltz. Though Vienna has hit the pause button on its official fireworks in recent times, replacing them with a laser show.
(View across to the Rathaus through the surrounding park)
It only takes a little practice to dance the waltz, but a lot of skill to dance one adequately in the middle of a partly-tipsy crowd of 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 Stephansplatz and Wintermarkt also showed a live broadcast of the famous New Year’s Concert from the Musikverein.
This is what I learned from my time on the Silvesterpfad:
- Plan your afternoon and evening schedule using the full programme and other details provided at the official website, which also has general information on timings, public transport, safety issues, and similar.
- Don’t be shocked at how much you are actually charged for drinks etc. when you buy them from stands: you may have to add the cost of a returnable deposit on glasses, plates etc. to the advertised prices.
- Along the route, some bakeries and snack bars may also open, should you wish an alternative 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; 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!