Christmas in Vienna
Christmas, or Weihnachten, as it is locally known, is an absolutely magical time in Vienna. The beautiful streets and plazas are made all the more spectacular by the merrily adorned Christmas markets and street performances.
Bookings for accommodation must be made weeks in advance because Vienna Christmas holidays are very popular. If you’re planning a Christmas holiday in Vienna, be prepared for large crowds. However, quite unlike any other tourist rush, Vienna Christmas will sweep you up in the buoyant sense of camaraderie and celebration along with all the other revelers.
No matter whether you’re traveling with family and friends, or with your beloved, there’s no better way to start out your Christmas holiday than to do a circuit of the Christmas markets all around the city. While every neighborhood boasts some festivities, there are a few on the must-visit list. A good place to begin is at the Rathaus (Vienna City Hall). The city center is abuzz with stands for sweet and savory goodies, Austrian handicrafts and knick knacks from around the globe.
Christmas in Vienna is as much about religion as it is about ‘Gluhwein’, or mulled wine. At the Rathaus, pick up a steaming mug of gluhwein stewed with spices and fruit, or a cup of hot cocoa and saunter onto the Freyung or Am Hof square, stop to sample a round of sausages or knodel along the way. To get into the mood, you may consider hiring a ‘Fiaker’ (open horse carriage) to ride around the inner city. The summer palace, Schonbrunn, famous for its imperial gardens, also hosts some of the grandest revelry in winter. Expect concerts and performances by Austrian bands and choirs, presents and entertainment for the children, festive food and drink, all in breathtaking surroundings. To wrap up the day, end up at the fairytale Spittelberg market.
If you’re looking for a typically Austrian meal, head to Figlmuller for the famous schnitzel or Plachutta for tafelspitz - but make bookings in advance! The Viennese state Opera (Staatsoper) hosts a rich program this time of year, as does the Musikverein. Book online in advance to catch a very traditional performance of the Nutcracker. Stop by at Hotel Sacher for the famous Sacher torte or at Demel, confectioners for the Hapsburgs.On Christmas eve you may want to stop by at the St. Stephen’s Cathedral to attend the midnight mass ceremony. Christmas day is largely a family affair, and you may find that many shops, restaurants and theaters are closed for the day. Frohe Weihnachten!