How to Celebrate New Years in Germany
New Years in Germany is so much fun. Before moving abroad, I had no idea about the parties and fireworks that happen on New Years. I expected bars and clubs to have events, but what I did not expect was the absolutely insane amount of fireworks that are set off around the city.
New Years Fireworks in Germany
In most places in the states, there are pre-planned fireworks displays. Not here.
It’s a massive free for all.
New Years is the only time of year that Germans can shoot off as many fireworks as they can without needing any sort of permission. And they do. Villages, towns, and large cities light millions of fireworks once midnight strikes.
You can buy fireworks pretty much anywhere, including gas stations and grocery stores. And compared to the states they are rather inexpensive.
So on New Year’s around Germany, the sky lights up for nearly an hour as people light fireworks from their rooftops, balconies, squares, and streets. It’s nuts.
If you don’t love fireworks potentially flying straight at you, I’d avoid the streets because it gets chaotic.
I’ve been lucky enough to have a friend with a rooftop balcony every year we have lived in Germany. Next to fest and the Christmas Markets, it’s my favorite event of the year. Below is a more recent video showing what it’s like. While it only show a minute of the fireworks, I assure you it’s only a tiny glimpse into the night!
Best Places for Fireworks
We lived in Stuttgart which sits in a valley surrounded by hills. Many people gather downtown at Schlossplatz and spread out in the streets.
I don’t prefer being out in the streets since people shoot off fireworks in every direction, so who knows if you’ll be an unsuspecting target. Also, because it’s in a small valley, the smoke starts to sit and you can’t see anything after about 10 minutes.
If possible, I’d opt for a hillside view. There are many vineyards that you can walk through. Another option is a park or biergarten. Killesberg has good views of the city below, and the Teehaus has nearly panoramic views of the city. Areas along B27 have some great views as well.
If you have some time to plan, I’d rent a penthouse with a rooftop balcony in one of the cities. All the big cities will have massive fireworks displays, so you can really pick one and go.
Another option would be to find a restaurant open late with good views. Just be sure your reservation is until midnight (or realistically 1am).
It is really difficult to get a taxi after midnight. One year we had to wait until 6am when the trains started running to go back home. It was a long night! So plan to wait or book a place so you don’t have to travel.
If you plan to use public transportation, be sure to check the times as not all trains run throughout the night. Stuttgart S-Bahn’s used to stop at midnight but luckily run all night now.
Fireworks (feuerwerk) can be purchased at gas stations, grocery stores, hardware stores….it feels like you can buy them anywhere. And it’s a free for all, so be aware of your surroundings.
New Years Traditions
Dinner (reservations required!)
If fireworks aren’t your thing, there are other ways you can enjoy New Years in Germany (although it’s pretty much impossible to miss the fireworks). Most restaurants do multi-course meals for the evening and are only available by reservation. These are set dinner menus and usually there’s only one or two options for each course. And unlike the states, these are meant to last for hours.
We had to learn this the hard way. The first year we were there, we wanted to grab a bite to eat before heading to our friend’s house. Unfortunately for us, it was then that we found out nearly every place was completely booked up for the evening.
So if you want to eat out on New Years, be sure to book your reservation well ahead of time and prepare to be there for a few hours.
Try a Feuerzangenbowle
A Feuerzangenbowle, or Fire Punch, is the popular drink on New Year’s. It’s made of mulled wine that’s set on fire with a rum-soaked sugarloaf that drips into the wine. The name literally translates to ‘fire-tongs punch’ and it is prepared in a bowl (bowle). It’s a fun custom and also a fun way to have a drink. Just, you know, don’t burn yourself in the process.
Watch Dinner for One
Back in 1963, a short 15-minute film called ‘Dinner for One’ premiered in Germany on New Year’s Eve. It’s a British comedy but was filmed in Hamburg, Germany. The film is about a 90-year-old woman and her butler who is serving dinner to her and her friends for her birthday. Unfortunately, Miss Sophie forgot that all of her friends have passed away, so the butler does “the same procedure as every year” and runs around the table serving imaginary guests and drinking all of their drinks too. Each time they drink, it’s to Sophie’s health. By the end of the skit, he’s stumbling all over while still trying to keep up the act with Miss Sophie.
For reasons that aren’t quite clear, this film was wildly successful in Germany and has played every New Years sine then. Even the phrase “the same procedure as every year” has become part of the culture and is referenced in the media and in every day situations.
If you haven’t watched it, I encourage you to Google “Dinner for One”.
Where should you stay in order to get a good veiw?
We always lucked out and magically had friends with a rooftop balcony view in the city. We were really lucky to have friends with rooftop flats! I’ve read that there are many restaurants around the city that offer great views on New Year’s, so I’d start there. I also heard that if you want to secure one of these places (like many things in Germany) you have to do it months ahead of time, so start planning now!
You can also just wing it and go downtown and party in the streets, but it may be a bit crazy there!