Join me on a walking tour of the best winter adventures
The Austrian capital city is one of the most popular Christmas destinations on the continent, so if you want to make the most of it, walk along to our festive recommendations.
Every late November, the city puts on its festive gown, made of ornate trees, fragrant spices, classic carols and themed souvenirs in another attempt to prove that the perfect Christmas in Vienna is an unmissable experience.
GET YOUR FREE VIENNA CHRISTMAS GUIDE HERE
If you love the beautiful traditions of the winter holidays, join me on a tour of the delights Vienna has to offer over Christmas
+ from cosy cafés that kickstart your day and
+ stores that would make Santa jealous
+ to charming lessons of history and
+ the famous Christmas markets that spread the joy all over town.
For a souvenir-filled morning…
Because holiday mornings are late mornings, a touch of coffee and breakfast is in order. And why not take the opportunity to get immersed into the nostalgic vibe of the perfect Christmas in Vienna, especially during the month before it.
As you stroll through the touristy city center and down the shopping heaven that is the Kohlmarkt, take a right as you spot the imposing Hofburg Palace.
At the end of a narrow street lined with historical buildings and local institutions, you will find Café Central (Herrengasse 14). The iconic building will stand out but not being right in the heart of the action will give you some peace to prepare for the day ahead. Choose one of the retro wooden tables and, if you’re lucky, you might be able to say that you shared a table with Freud, Trotsky, Altenberg, Loos or other illustrious names from the city’s past.
Your perfect Christmas in Vienna is the best opportunity to get locals to share their secrets and the people here will be more than happy to share stories of their celebrity guests over delicious homemade pastry.
Now that you learned your first facts about Vienna and coffee has been safely consumed, I suggest taking souvenir shopping out of the way, while the sun is still out. As you leave the cafe, let the Wallnerstrasse lead you back to the aforementioned shopping heaven.
The Kohlmarkt is a busy street but it has some of the highest quality goodies in town, from Burberry trench coats to Gucci handbags.
A detailed list of these shopping highlights can be found in our Vienna Glam Guide but our first stop today will be Schullin (Kohlmarkt 7), an old local family-run jewellery store right across the street from Tiffany’s.
That one’s always a tempting option too, but if you’re keen on getting a taste of true Vienna, its own artisans are the answer. Despite the history behind the brand, you will find modern pieces created in collaboration with local art students: a handcrafted pair of earrings for your mom, a white gold bracelet for your friend, a statement necklace for your own Christmas party. Since we’re talking gold and diamonds, these are certainly souvenirs for the most special ones in your life.
Graben | Photo: Nico Kaiser / Flickr
Our search for premium stylish souvenirs continues as we walk up the Kohlmarkt and turn right at the Cartier store. We are now on Graben, a similarly elegant street, lined with more jewellery stores, high-end fashion brands, top cosmetics boutiques and plenty of restaurants and cafes. You can no longer enjoy the charming terraces in December but let’s get as warm as possible for our evening of Christmas market exploration.
To do so means a visit at Liska (Graben 12). Somewhere midway through the historical street awaits an extremely chic boutique that is the dream of any daring fashionista.
Dior, Saint Laurent and Fendi are some of the names that will first tempt you, but there’s another good reason to stop here: the furs. A controversial but luxurious item that comes in the best quality at Liska, with a made-to-measure service.
If you do enjoy wearing fur, Christmas in Vienna is a perfect opportunity – as a fashion capital, it is both cold and elegant enough to make a fur coat blend in.
Now that the coat is sorted and the jewellery is packed, what else could we need for a warm perfect Christmas in Vienna? Any stylish tour guide would say a hat. And luckily, there is one on our route. Just as Graben comes to a close and you spot the imposing Stephansdom with the corner of your eye, turn away from it (after you take a photo) and walk down Seilergasse.
Soon we’ll encounter Mühlbauer (Seilergasse 10), an artisan headwear store over a century old. Their top sellers are hats made of wool, fur or cashmere, but more eccentric souls can find hand-knitted pieces or even denim hats. Whatever you choose, it will come in handy during Christmas in Vienna.
For a fairytale afternoon…
It’s time to leave the stores behind and get completely caught up in the story of Christmastime Vienna. A ten-minute stroll back to the Hofburg Palace should be followed by a longer stroll inside of the majestic baroque palace that once was the home of the Habsburg Empire. Why are we here?
First of all, I’m sure you can use a warmer place by now and second, this is a big part of the sought-after royal experience of Vienna. We can visit the royal family’s apartments, with authentic furniture and original silverware, but also the fascinating Sisi Museum, where items belonging to the stylish Empress are on display, including her stunning wedding dress.
Spittelberg Christmas Market | 12th of November – 23rd of December
Once we got enough insight to be worth the usual museum queues, a quick walk to the nearby Museumsquartier will see us visiting our very first Christmas market of the season! The Spittelberg area (Spittelberggasse 20) is playing host every year to around a hundred artisan stalls and walking through them will inevitably see me stuff my bag with traditional snacks and hand-crafted knick-knacks for my friends and for the Christmas tree. But easy on the spiced punch cause we’re only halfway through our day!
My suggestion is to grab a cup of mulled wine and walk your way to city hall, where Rathaus Christmas Market (Friedrich-Schmidt-Platz 1) greets thousands of tourists every winter – there is no perfect Christmas in Vienna without a visit here. More themed decorations, more tasty treats, more winter carols and seasonal scents, with the addition of fun rides for kids and an ice rink for the grown-ups too.
More so, it is one of those places where your holiday photos look like fairytale postcards. Remember that you can also find more Instagram-friendly locations with a glance in our Vienna Glam Guide.
For a magical night…
I hope your feet last for one more Christmas wonder, specifically the Schönbrunn Christmas Market (Schönbrunner Schloßstraße 47). Luckily for them, that is – as you would expect – located on the grounds of the Schönbrunn estate, the former imperial palace found just outside town. Whether you take the metro or a taxi, you will be there in less than half an hour, to see dozens of stalls full of candy, toys, decorations, souvenirs and snacks.
Grab some strawberries dipped in chocolate and marvel at the impressive backdrop and the cosy fairytale feel of the place. If you’re tempted by live advent concerts, reschedule this little adventure in the afternoon.
Schönbrunner Christmas Market | 19th of November – 26th of December | Pic: www.traveljunction.com
But as night has already fallen over our winter journey, it’s either bedtime or a night cap. Since it’s a holiday, night cap it is. So I invite you to call a taxi and tell him to take you to Praterstraße 1. The luxurious Sofitel will be waiting there, although not with a comfy bed but with an incredible panorama from its 18th floor bar, Das Loft.
If you want one final snapshot of the perfect Christmas in Vienna, this is the place you’re looking for. The floor to ceiling windows overlook most of the old city center, with recognizable landmarks lighted up by the glow and twinkle of Christmas lights. You’ll sit, you’ll eat, you’ll drink and you won’t want to move away. One more for the road?
If this was temptation enough to spend a perfect Christmas in Vienna, you should also download our ebook guiding you through a full 2-day itinerary of the winter delights to be found in the city. Click here to download your free copy and enjoy the best and most refined experiences in Vienna.
GET YOUR FREE VIENNA CHRISTMAS GUIDE HERE
Cover photo | Rathaus Christmas Market | www.travelzoo.com