Vienna is a lovely, lovely city in which to celebrate New Year’s Eve. There’s the Imperial Ball of course, gala dinners galore and boat trips on the Danube. But for tens of thousands of residents and visitors, the real celebrations are to be found on the streets with a fantastic free programme of events that runs from 2.00pm to 2.00am.
The Silvesterpfad is a New Years Trail through the city with 12 of the 14 sites being within walking distance of each other. Each location is set up with temporary stages, screens and stalls – with the focus on music, food and fireworks. (New Years Eve is known as Silvester – its the Catholic feast day of St Silvester, the 33rd Pope, who died on 31st December 335AD).
Crowds start to appear from mid afternoon and follow the trail from site to site. There is a lovely atmosphere – people are already dancing at the stages or buying lucky charms at the stalls.
During the afternoon, Vienna’s dance schools offer free waltz dancing lessons on the street. The giant chandelier lights overhead make you feel as though you really are in a ballroom!
At 4.30pm, end of year prayers are transmitted live from the Cathedral to the crowds outside.
The big screen at the Opera House shows opera and ballet highlights and Die Fledermaus (Strauss) is broadcast live at 7.00pm.
Its not all classical and highbrow – each site has a different musical focus…there are soul and house DJ’s, Latin rhythms, pop and disco stages, – something to match every taste.
As darkness falls, you can better appreciate the spectacular street lights:
You won’t go hungry or thirsty – most people are happy to graze from the stalls…
…but if you need a break from the festivities or want to sit indoors for a while then there’s no better city…
…or just a coffee
…with strudel of course…
…or schnitzel if you’re hungry!
There are still some Christmas markets around – even if you don’t want to buy you can enjoy the lights and the smells!!
As midnight approaches, most of the crowd gathers at 2 venues on the trail. At Stephensplatz you can hear the midnight chimes ringing in the new year live from the cathedral. At the City Hall venue, bands have been playing all evening and, at midnight, fireworks are followed by the traditional Blue Danube Waltz – everyone dances in the new year with a communal waltz- how cool is that …
Lights turned down for fireworks – must be nearly time!
And then the party goes on…..
- You can get very reasonable flights to Vienna at this time of year.
- Don’t worry if you haven’t a centrally located hotel – subways and many buses and trams run on New Year’s Eve.
- There are lots of temporary toilets along the trail.
- At the stalls, deposits are added to the cost of drinks which are refunded when cups and glasses are returned.
- We were very lucky with the weather but it can be cold so dress accordingly.
- An estimated 700,000 people visit the event. The main thoroughfares can become very busy and there was a huge crowd at city hall at midnight. Don’t arrange to meet up with family or friends at 11.55pm outside City Hall!!! Never going to happen!!