Vienna transforms into an enchanting winter wonderland every December, so find out what you can do this holiday season in Vienna
When the soft falling snow starts to lay a thin layer across the Austrian’s capital, it is the time for the residents of Vienna to switch on the twinkling Christmas lights and simmer a pot of mulled wine on the stove. For visitors, this is a perfect time to visit Vienna and savour its elegance with a touch of Christmas magic. Before you go, here are the top five things to do in Vienna this holiday season.
1. Visit a Christmas Market
There is no question that the Christmas markets in Vienna are the main draw. The tradition is said to be dating back to 1298 when King Albert I of Germany gave the locals permission to hold a December Market. Today, Vienna has around 20 official Christmas markets.
The centrepiece is the Viennese Dream Christmas Market on Rathausplatz, against the magnificent backdrop of the City Hall. There are around 150 stalls in this market, with local craftspeople and artisanal food sellers reign supreme – this is the best place to purchase stollen (fruit and marzipan bread), kletzenbrot (fruit bread) and lebkuchen (Christmas cookies). Inside the City Hall, international choirs sing and delight visitors on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Other Christmas markets worth checking out are:
- Christmas market at Spittelberg – this is set along winding streets rather than a large square, giving it a cosy feel.
- Christmas market on Karlsplatz – the focus is on the arts and crafts. All the available food and drink is organic too.
- Christmas market on Freyung – a traditional market that includes a farmer’s market promoting organic products from neighbouring areas.
No matter which market you end up at, end the night by warming up with a glass of mulled wine and a Bratwurst from one of the stands – it is a truly Viennese experience.
Christmas market on Rathausplatz
2. Listen to an Advent Concert
Heralded as the “classical music capital of the world”, Vienna is where the masterpieces of Mozart and Strauss flow as effortlessly as the River Danube. In December, iconic concert halls and churches take turns to host a series of choral singing, gospel sessions and Christmas concerts.
The Wiener Konzerthaus, just around the corner from Stadtpark, is home to the Christmas in Vienna gala. Expect to see opera greats and the legendary Vienna Boys’ Choir on December 20-21. The Vienna Boys’ Choir also performs the Advent concert series “Good Shepherds” in the MuTh Concert Hall from December 10-14. Elsewhere, the concerts at Stephansdom Cathedral and the Peterskirche are also worth checking out.
3. Attend the Hofburg Silversterball
This glamorous event celebrates its 50th year on December 31, 2019, and needless to say, you can experience the magic of ballet, waltz, and public quadrille, along with musical highlights and a gorgeous buffet well into the new year. Oh, did we mention the fireworks above Vienna’s Old Town? That will just be the icing on the cake.
Hofburg Silversterball, Vienna, Austria
4. Visit an art exhibition
When it is freezing cold outside, escape to one the 100+ museums and art galleries in Vienna. This December, outstanding art exhibitions include the special exhibition of Caravaggio & Bernini at Kunsthistorisches Museum (Art History Museum), the “Street. Life. Photography” at Kunst Haus Wien, the dazzling colours of French Post-Impressionist Pierre Bonnard at Bank Austria Kunstforum Wien, to name but a few.
For those looking for something offbeat yet befitting for Christmas, check out the Snow Globe Museum near Diepold Park.
A snow globe display at the Snow Globe Museum
5. Take a trip around The Ring
The 5km (3 miles) long Ringstrasse (aka the Ring) encircles a great number of magnificent buildings – the State Opera, the Parliament, City Hall, the Gothic Votive Church, Imperial Palace, among many others. During the holidays, these landmarks are lit up with millions of LED lights cascading the city in a diamond-like sparkle. The best way to take in all is from the comfort of a tram or streetcar from Schwedenplatz and the journey takes about 25 minutes.
Every evening at 6 pm (November to April), the heritage-listed tram of the Tramway Museum departs from the Otto Wagner city railway pavilion on Karlsplatz. The tram takes visitors through the sights along the Ringstrasse with a commentator on board and the journey takes an hour.
The Vienna Ring tram
Useful travel tips
With an average high of just 2°C (36°F) and an average low of -3°C (27°F) in December, you need to wrap up warm. Wear a base layer, an insulating layer, and add an outer layer to shield you from the cold.
For more travel tips like what to see, things to do, shopping and restaurants, visit our useful Vienna travel guide before your trip. You can even purchase tickets to must-see attractions in Vienna by clicking on the link.