Celebrating the New Year’s in Vienna, Austria (+Tips)

When we decided to accept our friends’ invitation to spend New Year’s in Vienna with them, we didn’t really know anything about how it is to celebrate the night between the years in Austria’s capital. I did 0 research whatsoever, especially since it was a last-minute trip.

But I would be a liar if I said I wasn’t thinking it would be something grand. Well.. this expectation wasn’t 100% met, so read on to find out what it’s like to celebrate New Year’s in Vienna as well as my tips for an experience a bit smoother than ours.

practical tips for celebrating New Year's in Vienna, Austria (pin)

Celebrating the New Year’s in Vienna

Generally speaking, there are a few main locations in which you can participate in the celebrations (as well as a few side ones), so you should decide on one beforehand as some are in completely different areas.

Besides even for those that are close together, the crowds will make it almost impossible to move around near midnight and I’m speaking from experience here :).

New Years party in fron of the Rathaus
The scene in front of the Rathaus


The street in front of the City hall is cordoned off and a stage is installed in the park (know it will not be easy to take photos of the Rathaus if you visit Vienna around the New Year).

At midnight they project a countdown on the building followed by a laser show that’s synchronized with the Blue Danube Waltz, which depending on where you are located might not be very visible.

We entered the cordoned-off area coming from the Schottentor tram and metro station and we ended up somewhat near the stage. After a bit of debating, we decided to see if anything was going on in Heldenplatz (it was too late and crowded to try for Graben or Stephansplatz) so we left the area.

However, Heldenplatz was completely dark – which we would have known if we checked the program of the celebrations beforehand:)), so we returned to Rathaus by walking around Volksgarten.

This was not the best choice because when we reached the cordoned area from the other side, they didn’t let us in anymore since it was already too busy.

We ended up sitting right at the corner of the Austrian Parliament building which in hindsight was not too bad of a spot either (as we saw some random fireworks set by the locals), even though we couldn’t see the laser show very well from there.

Decorative chandelier above Graben
One of the magnificent chandeliers above Graben


Graben is part of the New Year’s Eve Trail (Silvesterpfad) that runs from Rathausplatz to Neuer Markt via Freyung, Am Hof Square, Graben, Stephansplatz, and Kärntner Strasse.

If you want to dance your way into the new year to the sounds of the Blue Danube Waltz, this is the place to be in my opinion, as the giant chandeliers that are an omnipresent winter decoration here, make the whole street look like a giant ballroom.

However, make sure you come early enough (ideally before 10 pm) if you want to catch the countdown and be ready for the street to be packed with people!

Stephansplatz at new Years
The scene at Stephansplatz


Stephansplatz is the area that gets full first and usually, they stop letting people in even before 11 pm. So my advice would be to get here between 9 and 10 pm at the latest and don’t leave! Also, know that the Stephansplatz station will be closed at 10 pm.

The new year is announced by the Pummerin, the famous bell of St. Stephen’s Cathedral that rings only during special occasions. Afterward, the Blue Danube Waltz is heard and people dance to it the same as on Graben.

If you don’t know how to waltz, just stop by in the afternoon (starting with 2 PM) as the Schwebach dance school gives last-minute dance lessons to anyone interested.

Wintermarkt at the Riesenradplatz, Prater
Wintermarkt at the Riesenradplatz just before the New Year’s

Winter Market at Riesenradplatz in Prater

The Winter Market at Riesenradplatz in Prater is another place where you can dance to the traditional Viennese waltz, that’s further away from the crowded city center. A party is also organized here, in a similar manner to the locations on the New Year’s Eve Trail.

Cobenzl and Roter Berg hills

Both these hills offer nice views over the city and while there’s no organized fireworks show (more on the fireworks subject later), chances are people do bring their own to launch at midnight, which can be fun or can make you feel a bit unsafe, depending on where you sit.

Our friends told us they went on another hill the previous year and it felt a bit like being in the middle of a war.

Honestly, I don’t know if I recommend choosing one of these hills as your New Year’s midnight location if you’re a tourist, since they’re not as easy to reach by public transportation and the traffic can get quite bad.

When we returned to our friends’ apartment from the city center we saw the cars returning from Cobenzl with the speed of a snail.

Random fireworks set off by locals during The New Year's in Vienna
A few fireworks set off by locals near Rathaus

New Year’s fireworks in Vienna

Fireworks are a conflicting subject to me as I do find them fun to watch, but I also love animals and I know it can be hard on pets to hear them. I have two indoor cats and they never reacted very badly to them, but for dogs, it can be much worse, especially if they’re outside at the time.

In recent years, Vienna has adopted a no-fireworks policy for safety reasons (there were some incidents in the past where people got hurt), so there will be no organized fireworks show anywhere in the city. You’ll also see many signs around the city center reminding people that fireworks are not allowed.

Since we sat right outside the cordoned-off area at Rathausplatz there was a bit more room around us and some people did set off fireworks that they brought themselves, but the police were quick to arrive to shut them down.

So while you’ll see the occasional fireworks brighten up the sky, if you’re expecting to capture that iconic picture that you might have seen online with the Rathause backed by fireworks at midnight, then that’s not going to happen.

New Years Market in Vienna
New Year’s Market held at Maria-Theresien-Platz

Practical tips for celebrating the New Year’s in Vienna

Start early with a visit to the New Year’s Markets.

If you didn’t already know, once the Christmas Markets in Vienna close for the season, their place is taken by New Year’s markets which are essentially the same, just that they focus more on food and drinks than on decorations.

The mugs change too, so if you like the design (they usually sport good luck charms like pigs, clover, or horseshoes) you can simply keep them as a souvenir: in a similar fashion to the Christmas markets you are required to pay a deposit with your first drink which you can choose not to get back by keeping the mug.

Mug design at a New Year market in Vienna

I didn’t do this for a few reasons: I already have WAY too many mugs from the Christmas Markets at home, plus I received a design from the previous year and I didn’t like it that much either.

Stop in Graben or Stephansplatz in the afternoon for waltz classes.

As I already mentioned, starting at 2 PM on the 31st of December, you can take free ad-hoc waltz lessons in Stephansplatz or on Graben. So if you’re in the area make sure you are on the lookout for representatives of the Schwebach Dance School.

Arrive early if you want to spend midnight at either Stephansplatz or Graben.

If you want to spend midnight in one of the really popular areas like Stephansplatz or Graben, then make sure you arrive there between 9 PM and 10 PM at the latest, since when it gets too crowded they don’t allow any more people to get in.

My good luck marzipan pig
My good luck marzipan pig, gifted by my friend

Bring marzipan pigs to eat at midnight for good luck (and maybe your own drinks to toast for the new year?!).

Like in Germany, people exchange marzipan pigs at New Year’s to bring good luck for the following year (red mushrooms made from marzipan also fulfill this purpose).

They’re sold all across the city, especially at the markets, so make sure you buy some and bring it with you to the celebrations.

As for having a drink to toast for the new year, technically it’s not really allowed to bring glass bottles for safety reasons or alcohol at the public parties along the Trail (though plenty of people are doing it regardless).

The thing is, even though there are stalls carrying all sorts of drinks including sparkling wine, there can be insane lines (and prices!) for them. So I may or may not imply that you should bring your own tucked safely in a backpack.

chandelier seen from below (Graben, Vienna)

Check the program of the celebrations along the New Year Trail on the official website.

The New Year Trail is a series of free organized parties with different styles of music, most of which are located in the city center. You can find the entire program on the official website so make sure you check it out before you set out for the night.

Light up sparklers for a festive countdown.

In contrast with fireworks and firecrackers, sparklers are allowed, so make sure you bring some to light up at midnight. Of course, if you are in a crowded spot, be careful with them!

Use public transportation.

Traffic can get bad on New Year’s, so use the public transportation (especially the tram and metro) with confidence. After midnight they actually increase the frequency to ensure people get home safely.

You can check the schedule here or better yet, you can install the WienMobile app. Also, don’t forget about the fact that the Stephansplatz station will be closed at 10 PM.

Don’t expect a grand fireworks show at one of the iconic squares in the city.

Random fireworks during The New Years in Vienna

Posh alternative to celebrating in the city center

If you want to waltz your way into the new year in a more stylish and formal environment, you can buy a ticket to the Silvester Gala which is held inside the Grand Ballroom of the Vienna City Hall.

There are different ticket categories depending on where you want to sit and they include a 4-course dinner, drinks, and of course live music. I would recommend you buy your ticket well in advance.


practical tips for celebrating New Year's in Vienna, Austria (pin)

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