Celebrating NYE 2013 in Berlin: loud and bright

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berlin silvester

This was my second year to celebrate New Year’s Eve (or Silvester) in Berlin. It’s not particularly my favorite holiday (too much stress associated around an arbitrary date) but Berlin is as good a city as any for the holiday. As the capital of Germany, Berlin seems to embrace the holiday with a lot of energy and fanfare. And fireworks. And parties.

People flock to Berlin from all over for Silvester (as NYE is called in Germany). I never fully understood why until I spent the once-a-year even there. In Berlin, New Year’s Eve is celebrated in the loudest possible way: with firecrackers going off in the days leading up to, and shortly after January 1st. I can’t say for certain, but my guess is that Berlin is the LOUDEST New Year’s Even in Europe. Just check out this video from Berlin’s Neukölln neighborhood…

Last year I watched people set off fireworks at midnight, shoeless from a snowy roof in Kreuzberg. This year I was determined to see what all the fuss is about at Berlin’s official New Year’s celebration: at Brandenburger Tor. Turns out: not really so great. Like the city does for every major celebration or festival, the 17th of June Street through Tiergarten park (leading up to Brandenburg Gate) gets lined with vendors. We showed up just 10 minutes before midnight and walked past a few stages before midnight struck. A (plastic) glass of champagne (sekt) was available for just 3€ at the drink stalls, so we were still able to clink glasses.

But really, from where we were standing, the fireworks were mostly hidden by Tiergarten’s trees. And rather unlike other cities official firework celebrations, these were relatively short. There was also no collective countdown to be heard, no giant ball dropping, no click ticking. Even the crowd, despite the good weather, was rather boring in the lead-up to midnight. However, after the fireworks stopped and most of the crowd dispersed, the DJs at one of the stages started playing some pretty great radio hits—Gangnam Style and its ilk. People started dancing with each other (strangers, even) and suddenly Berlin was how I live it: full of life and energy. People were even sharing drinks and bottles with one another. Just another street party in Berlin.

Would I celebrate NYE again at Brandenburger Tor? Probably not. But I”m glad I went this one time. Berlin already parties so much on the street that having fun and finding a group of people to party with is hardly difficult (see the video above).

Still a great way to ring in a new year, though.

NYE Berlin 2013
Berlin NYE 12/13
Silvester in Berlin (NYE)
NYE Silvester party
Fireworks Berlin
Berlin NYE Silvester (fireworks)

Have you ever celebrated New Year’s Eve in a country’s capital at the city’s official event?

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18 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. Hi Adam!
    Nice post :)

    Since you don’t recommend the NY celebrations at Brandenburg Gate, do you have any other ideas of where to go?
    My boyfriend and I will be spending NYE this year in Berlin and would like to find a nice place to eat + somewhere to party? Any ideas or recommendations?

    • Not sure of any specific parties, but Kreuzberg is usually a big hot mess during Silvester! Maybe if you know of a specific bar or club that you enjoy, see what’s on offer that night. The streets will be alive most of the night with public drinking and mostly-friendly folks. My first new year’s eve in Berlin, I remember we met some tourists on the u-bahn and invited them to the house party we were on our way to!

  2. Amazing photos! Sounds like you had a great time at least after midnight! I would love to celebrate the New Year in a capital city – not managed it yet but someday… Berlin sounds crazy with fireworks on the streets though!

  3. I miss Berlin, it truly is a one of a kind city.
    I arrived in Berlin in the middle of Germany vs Uruguay in the world cup 3rd place play off. There were people everywhere. Needless to say, the place turned into a bit of a ghost town the following night when the final was on. I think they were too upset to be out of the tournament.

  4. Wigs… sparkles… party hats?!! oh I LOVE this! xxx

  5. Loud new year’s celebrations can be fun. It would be really weird to not have a countdown, though. That’s the coolest part of the night!

  6. I’ve never spent NY in Berlin, but I was there when it was the World Championship Soccer and I saw the finale at Tiergarten. Normally I’m not into huge crowds and people gtting drunk and stuff, but I must say I was pleasantly surprised about how well everything was organized there.
    I don’t need too much fuzz on NY, but I’d say yes to a trip to Berlin anyday:)

    • I love the public festivals in Tiergarten in front of Brandenburger Tor – they’re always a lot of fun!

  7. Wow, crazy fireworks….what a cool looking place to celebrate New Years! Great pics capturing the ‘life’ of the night….!

    • Thanks for the compliment on my photos! I’d only had my SLR camera for a few months at this point so was trying to figure out how to use it.

  8. I just watched your NYE video. WTF! I thought it was nutty in my neighborhood! Seriously, maybe I’m just getting old but don’t these kids know that the part of the rocket they’re holding onto is the same part that EXPLODES — hopefully, but not always, after lift off? Also, those firecracker pistols must be a Neukölln thing. Never ever seen that before!

    • Haha yeah… Not my video just something I found on YouTube. The firecracker guns are pretty terrifying.

  9. I counted half a million people… Give or take 50,000. Wowza. Everyone was in Berlin for NYE.

    • Yeah – Berlin is a big deal for NYE. I’m not sure what made it so popular but I guess it stems from the city’s popularity as a party/nightlife destination to begin with.

  10. These pics are great! And you get some extra points cause that night I was too scared to even breathe, I certainly couldn’t have taken pics!

    • Thanks Federico! I won’t lie the sounds of firecrackers were pretty terrifying. That video from Neukölln also was pretty scary – it was significantly more calm at Brandenburger Tor…I guess because they don’t let you bring in your own fireworks and that’s why most people hang out at Siegessäule.

  11. Awww, Adam you make me miss Berlin so much. Great photos and glad you still had a good time celebrating NYE! =)

    • Berlin misses you too, I’m sure!

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