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 open-air entertainment around the city centre.
Here’s what to expect…
- Coordinated festivities across Vienna city centre with a focus on music, dance, and food
- Entertainment typically runs from 2pm on Dec 31 to 2am the next day
- Open-access and open-air: no ticket required
- They reduced the scope slightly in 2022
- Awaiting 2023 details…
- 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)
During the last Silvesterpfad at New Year’s Eve in December 2022, revellers enjoyed six open-air sites dotted around the central district. (Previous years had more sites, but we live in different times now.)
Everything is open to everyone, with no entrance fee or ticketing system. The stage entertainment typically begins at 2pm and ends around 2am on January 1st.
The Silvesterpfad’s popularity means I get to use the word “throng” on this website; hundreds of thousands of Viennese and tourists from the country and abroad typically throng the streets from early afternoon to late at night. Around 800,000 did so last time out, in part due to unseasonably mild weather.
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, dozens of catering stands dot the Silvesterpfad route and usually open from late morning on December 31st.
When I went, for example, a marvelous stand sold mini Sachertorte cakes outside Demel on Kohlmarkt. And the cakes sold like, well, hot cakes.
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).
I await details of the 2023 event, but the stages last year were on the Freyung and Am Hof squares, the Graben, Stephansplatz square (in front of the cathedral), Kärntner Straße and Neuer Markt square. All of these are in the centre of 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 traditionally 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 square in front of city hall for an official fireworks display and another mass waltz. But Vienna hit the pause button on its official fireworks im 2022, and the Rathausplatz was unavailable for Silvesterpfad revelry.
(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 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 Stephansplatz or Rathausplatz square also traditionally show 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 public transport 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!