Ringing in the New Year takes you through the many-sided Viennese soul

This article has been updated to reflect the 2017/2018 times and dates. 

Beneath the majesty of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, two slinky Goths in thick eyeshadow and black nail polish are dancing in a loving embrace to the strains of the Blue Danube Waltz, the music provided by what seems like a million blasting smartphones. Devices not in current use as audio equipment connect to family members hundreds of kilometers away – or drunken friends lost around the corner.

In front of the patisserie Aida, a tramp sits blowing into a green party horn. Each toot gets him giddy with excitement as he adds to the rising cacophony and the clock strikes closer to midnight.  Then, the biggest noisemaker of all sounds off: From Stephansdom’s North Tower, the great Pummerin, the largest bell in the country cast from Turkish cannons captured after the Second Siege of Vienna in 1683, tolls out. As the last peals reverberate, one year ends and another begins.

And with it, the climax of Vienna’s Silvesterpfad, the city’s free New Year’s Eve entertainment spectacle, where a few hours of pure mayhem await the not so faint of heart. Imagine folks from small-town Tirol partying it up with Simmering construction workers and a group of Neubau hipsters, all drinking from the same bottle of cheap supermarket sparkly and you’ll get an idea of this Melange of madness.

For whom the bell tolls

From the pyromaniacs blasting away half a month’ s  salary on fireworks they picked up at the Czech border to the elderly couple dressed to the nines and waltzing serenely on the Graben, Vienna takes New Year’s very seriously. If you finish off the old year still standing (instead of crawling to the U-Bahn on all fours) be prepared for an incredulous smirk at the office.  But you won’t be the only one:  Here you share the music with friends and foreigners, lovers and grandparents, a father with a toddler on his shoulders and whole families in jester caps and bells, all hugging their mugs of Punsch while blithely sidestepping bits of broken glass and the occasional empty beer can.

The Silvesterpfad is great fun if you know what to expect. Bring earplugs, a wooly hat and sturdy shoes, and be prepared for crowds: all bars will be full, but the area will still feel like the Tokyo Subway during rush hour.


 

Silvesterpfad Highlights

Rathaus

Town hall square will host numerous tribute bands playing oldies, plus a fireworks extravaganza at midnight. The day after features a live feed of the Vienna Philharmonic’s traditional New Year’s concert directed in 2018 by Riccardo Muti plus highlights from Die Fledermaus at the Staatsoper.

Dec 31,
14:00-02:00 &
Jan 1, 10:00-17:00

Graben 

Waltz under the giant chandeliers decorating the Graben as it turns into a dancefloor; dancing courses held in the afternoon help polish your skills.

Dec 31,
14:00-02:00

Herbert von Karajan Platz

The square by the State opera will screen performances from inside, showing Die Fledermaus live at 19:00 and the New Year’s concert featuring the Vienna Philharmonic the next day at 11:15.

Dec 31,
14:00-00:15 &
Jan 1 11.15-22:30

Riesenradplatz

The amusement park is going all out with a 10-minute musical firework display at midnight plus DJs and live music. The Philharmonic’s New Year’s concert will also stream from here the following day.

Dec 31,
20:00-02:00

Jan 1,
11:15

 

This article has been updated to reflect the 2017/2018 times and dates.