New Year Celebrations
For changing the dateline in style, no other city beats Vienna. The last days of the year become a whirl of concerts and entertainment. While the Vienna Symphony traditionally performs Beethoven's Ninth Symphony on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, the Vienna Philharmonic is playing a selection of waltzes, polkas and operetta tunes, and its festive New Year's Day concert is a big social event (tickets are obtainable only through a miracle, but there are several concerts by other orchestras that offer the same kind of music and are more easily accessible).
This great event is broadcast every year on the PBS network and hosted by Walter Cronkite. On both evenings, the State Opera and the Volksoper give gala performances of Johann Strauss' Die Fledermaus. And, if you got the tickets well in advance, you can toast the turn of the year at the 'Le Grand Ball' in the highest style imaginable. The renowned 'Le Grand Ball' in the Hofburg ballroom is a time for rustling ball gowns, glistening jewellerey and the imperial majesty of the Austro/Hungarian Empire of yore. Just as the Habsburgs used to celebrate the New Year!
Vienna also turns the inner city into one big celebration. Starting at 2 pm on December 31 until 2 am on January 1 enjoy concerts on the streets of Vienna. Dance to the everpresent sound of the waltz and experience the fireworks. Vienna offers grand celebrations for everybody. This is particularly true on New Year's Eve when the old town is given over to exuberant celebration and dance - when high spirits abound, whether at gala dinners, prestigious balls, concert halls or chic bars. On 31 December, Vienna's old city centre transforms into a vibrant party arena. Thousands of people follow the New Year's Eve Trail, stopping off for sparkling wine, punch and culinary treats as they make their way from one open-air attraction to the next.
Waltzing into the New Year in Vienna is an experience everyone should have at least once in their lifetime. The place to do it is under the brilliant chandeliers of the world's largest 'outdoor-ballroom' on Graben Street. The Vienna Dance Schools even offer open-air crash courses in the waltz, for those who need to learn or brush up on their dancing skills.
Those who want to take off into the New Year in romantic style should have a ride in one of the old carriages of the Giant Ferris Wheel at the Prater, where from the top overlooking the illuminated panorma of Vienna, they can raise a toast to the city with a glass of sparkling wine. Another romantic way of ringing the New Year ist to view the lights of the city from a boat trip along the Danube. Or you can make your way to the Kahlenberg, Leopoldsberg or Cobenzl, hills on Vienna' s fringe providing the best view of all the fireworks.
As midnight approaches, St. Stephen's Cathedral becomes the rendezvous of all revellers. Just before the old year comes to an end, the music stops and the countdown begins, culminating in the booming chimes of the 'Pummerin' from the cathedral bell tower, to the accompaniment of the Strauss's Blue Danube Waltz as midnight passes.
All throughout Austria you will experience fire works, Innsbruck for example has brass band parades and evening fanfares in the Old Town at New Year's; Graz and other smaller cities also stage a string of events to celebrate.