Christmas holidays in Vienna – markets, culinary, outdoor activities – parks, ice rinks, trips to nearby cities
December and January in Austria is a magical period which both residents and tourists look forward to all year long. Vienna glows with endless garlands and lanterns, Christmas songs are heard everywhere, as well as the laughter of people. The city comes to life due to lively Christmas markets, delicious hot mulled wine and interesting events. In this article, we will figure out what to do in winter in the Austrian capital and which activities are worth visiting.
December can’t be imagined without Christmas markets in Vienna. The squares and streets in the Austrian capital are reminiscent of a fairy-tale due to bright garlands and lights, kiosks offering fragrant mulled wine, punch and pastries, Christmas tree decorations and local handicraft pop-up stalls, where you can purchase an original gift for yourself or your close ones. These types of fairs attract tourists and local residents, filling the Austrian capital with a wonderful Christmas mood. The main markets are located in the heart of the city, and are easily reachable thanks to the well-developed transport system in Vienna.
Christmas Market on Rathausplatz
The market on Rathausplatz (City Hall Square) is considered the largest in the city. This year it has been re-decorated and visitors are greeted at the entrance by an amazing arch which is several meters high. A little further, in the center of the square, a two-storey carousel for children, which is thoughtfully designed and attracts the attention of adults too, can be found.
NB! Families with children will appreciate the exciting destinations and entertainment activities, located within the close proximity to the market. Thus, you will appreciate the Vienna Christmas World with a reindeer train, a children's hut, a small Ferris wheel and an ice rink.
This is not just a market but a Christmas Village with 70 kiosks offering original products and delicious food. It’s located between the Natural History Museum and the Museum of Art History.
Small cozy fairs in the heart of the city are appreciated by local residents, as centuries-old traditions are taken into account during their creation. As early as 1772, trade was conducted here during the winter holidays. Today, everyone can purchase high-quality handicrafts, glass jewellery and traditional gifts here. From 4pm Christmas music is played on Am Hof Square, creating a special festive mood.
A small but cozy market can be found next to St. Stephen's Cathedral, the symbol of Vienna. It’s a perfect place to relax after Christmas shopping, drink a delicious punch and spend time with colleagues after a tiring day.
This market is full with art installations, and live performances take place regularly here, as well as art master classes for both adults and children. For the latter, a programme with various events is provided. All products presented at the stalls are bio-certified.
This market boasts a gorgeous location in front of the Schönbrunn Palace. In addition to the Christmas atmosphere, it is famous for concerts and workshops. Free children's workshops allow little visitors to learn how to make and decorate gingerbread, Christmas candles, create holiday figurines and much more.
Many sales representatives work for charitable foundations and their proceeds from trading at Christmas markets help people in need.
New Christmas markets open up in the Austrian capital every year, and one of them can be found on the roof of the new IKEA at Westbahnhof station. The majority of them are open until December 23, however, some can be visited until early January.
NB! Dates, opening hours, programmes and features of Vienna Christmas markets can be found on the official website of the city.
Christmas and New Year's holidays are definitely not the best time to stick to a healthy diet. The aromas of cinnamon, cloves, caramel and vanilla float within the air at the Christmas markets, while Austrian traditions and the cold winter is the perfect reason to enjoy local traditional cooking, pastries and several other options. You should definitely try the following drinks and dishes:
NB! If you don’t want to stay in a hotel, you might want to find out more about factors you need to consider while renting a property in Vienna.
For connoisseurs of cultural events, classical music performances and concerts, Vienna hosts a great number of worthy events.
The concerts called Adventkonzerte Im Stephansdom take place in the iconic Viennese cathedral from November 25 to December 23. Visitors get a chance to listen to the works of Mozart, Bach, Schubert, Haydn and other famous composers. Atmospheric concert evenings offer festive chamber music and beautiful Christmas songs interpreted by Harmonia Ensemble Wien.
One of the winter traditions taken up by the local residents is to visit the Vienna State Opera. It doesn't matter if it's opera, operetta or ballet, as all tickets for December are sold out quickly. However, after the holidays, everything calms down and you can choose a performance to your liking. The Magic Flute by Mozart is extremely popular.
Classical music lovers attend concerts which are held in the concert hall called Konzerthaus and the philharmonic called Musikverein in Vienna. The world-famous New Year's concert called Wiener Musikverein is especially popular. It has been taking place since 1842 and is currently broadcast in over 90 countries. Tickets for this event are on sale about a year in advance.
If you want to plunge into the old Austrian atmosphere, you can visit one of the Viennese balls. This traditional event is included in the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage. About 450 balls are held in Vienna every year, from November until Lent. Luxurious ball gowns, tailcoats, classical music and the waltz creates an amazing and unforgettable atmosphere. Among the most famous balls are the Viennese Opera Ball, Hofburg Silvesterball and the Flower Ball.
If you want to spend time outdoors, many interesting places in Vienna can be appreciated by those of any age.
At Christmas time, many parks, such as Prater, Belvedere and Sigmund Freud Park, are decorated with garlands which creates a fabulous atmosphere. Particularly mesmerizing is the radiance that comes from a tree decorated with lanterns in the shape of large hearts in Rathauspark.
Lumagica is available in the Ferdinand-Wolf-Park in the 14th district from December 8 to February 12. This fabulous place is the perfect location to admire the luminous arches, as well as figures of animals and plants.
There are several skating rinks in Vienna. The most popular one is located near the Rathaus (Vienna City Hall) and is called Vienna Ice Dream (Wiener Eistraum). It’s the largest skating rink in Europe with an area of 9,500 sq. m located across two levels. Here you can rent skates and have lots of fun. The skating rink is open from December to mid-March.
On New Year's Eve, the heart of Vienna turns into a popular party destination. For the past two years, the traditional New Year's event in the city center has not been held due to the pandemic. But this year, the New Year's Eve Trail invites you again. The party programme officially starts at 2pm, but a few hours before that, thousands of people gather in the center of Vienna in order to spend the funniest night of the year in good company. Music from cafes and bars sound throughout the city, people have fun and walk around the beautifully decorated Vienna.
NB! The traditional Vienna New Year's Concert by the Vienna Philharmonic will be shown live on January 1, 2023 at 11am on the LED wall at Riesenradplatz in Prater. The performance of The Nutcracker will be held at 5pm.
In Vienna, snow falls quite late and does not lie for so long. Winter in the city can be quite gray and foggy. At Christmas time, residents and guests of the city especially miss the snow and bright sun. If you want to see more of this you can go out of the city. For instance, Salzburg is the perfect place to enjoy the beauty of the lakes such as Attersee, Wolfgangsee and Traunsee which lie among the snow-capped mountains. Being in any one of these stunning places will help you to take a break from the dullness and hustle and bustle of the city.
Within a 1-hour drive from Vienna are beloved regions such as Semmering and Stuhleck with snowy slopes and a wonderful atmosphere for winter sports lovers. You can go there even just one day. If you like this type of holiday and want to go to a ski resort, in this article you can learn more about the best places and choose the most suitable option for you.
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