What to do and what to see on a weekend trip
Discovering the Austrian capital at Christmas time is probably the reason why the phrase perfect timing was invented. Food is tastier and shopping is an experience.
When you decide to travel to Vienna in December, you should know from the start that around this time of the year, the picturesque Austrian capital is at the peak of its touristic season. And once you get there, you will totally understand why. The vibe of the city, the bustle, the flavors, the cinnamon in the air, the groups of youngsters laughing in the impressive squares of the city with a cup of “Glühwein”, the amazing stores on Graben and around the majestic Michaelerplatz, the unique artisan stores. There is so much to talk about when it comes to Christmas in Vienna and a weekend trip there means a lot of beauty to take in.
Based on first hand experiences in the city, we decided to talk about what you shouldn’t miss during a city break in the land where history and architecture meets fine cuisine and high end fashion.
A day in and around the city center
As a first-timer in Vienna, avoid all means of transport simply because you can only truly discover a city by foot. Explore the beautifully lit and decorated city center and take your first walk to see Stephansplatz with the imposing dome and the vibrant surrounding streets. Make your way to Wolzeille street and stop by Diglas for a light lunch and some delicious coffee.
Lurk around the countless shops on this street and the small alleys around. You will find anything from jewelry to fine silk from India. Don’t miss the shops on Kärntner Strasse, particularly Steffl. Designer wear and best of all, designer shoes. The 6th floor is dedicated to footwear and you get to buy your favorites, from Tom Ford, Jimmy Choo to Sophia Webster.
Take a break and enjoy a würstel at the cart next to Albertina, in front of Sacher Hotel. It’s one of the best and their pickles are very tasty. Continue on to Mariahifler Strasse, Vienna’s famous shopping street. Finish of the day with drinks at Lutz and hope to catch a seat by the window. You can look down on the crowded street while you sip on your Hugo.
Christmas markets around the city center
If you are still under the impression that there is just one Christmas market in Vienna, you should just get rid of the idea right now. The city has so many beautiful fairs. All you have to do is find the perfect setting. The truth is, each has its own charm and there is something to see (and especially taste) in all of them. Right around the city center, you will discover Museumsquartier, the home for some of Vienna’s most well-known museums, like Leopold or mumok.
Once you step outside what looks like the city’s artistic courtyard, right across Kirchberggasse, you will come across a few narrow cobbled streets. It is there that you will find the Spittelberg Christmas Market. Spittelberggasse 3, to be more precise. Around 100 artisans sell their products here and they are used to welcoming guests from around the world. The colorful Christmas lights, glittery stalls, delicious traditional snacks and treats, spiced apple punch or mulled wine will definitely help you get into the holiday spirit.
The beauty of it all is that you can discover a new place like ths every day. Plan the days you spend in the city and make sure you have time to stop by the biggest and the most popular Christmas market. It takes place each year in Rathausplatz, in front of Vienna’s City Hall. The atmosphere here is filled with scents of candied fruits, cotton candy and other winter treats. You can enjoy some mulled wine and hot chestnuts while admiring the fairytale setting in the heart of the capital.
Fill up your bags with handmade Christmas decorations and crafted objects that will take you back in time and remind you of Santa Claus. Children will particularly find this place magical, but it works for those who haven’t lost their inner kid.
Mingle with the locals
Not only the city center ha splaces worth seeing. If you’re feeling hungry, take a walk down Gumpendorfer Strasse and stop by Phil for some breakfast. Don’t worry if you’re not a morning person. They serve breakfast up until 4pm. Another option in the area is Naschmarkt. Enjoy fresh oysters and champagne in Vienna’s biggest market. Scents and flavors from around the world will definitely win you over. The flea market is also a great place to track down unique jewelry pieces and souvenirs.
The majestic Christmas markets
Definitely one of the most hidden treasures of Vienna. Set behind the majestic iron gates, the two Baroque, 18th-century palaces (the Upper and the Lower Belvedere) but also the Orangery and the Palace Stables make up what is known as the Belvedere complex. The impressive constructions are set in a beautiful park situated in the third district of Vienna.
The Belvedere has its very own Christmas market with beautiful winter lights which reflect on the lake and make the scene even more impressive, almost like those painted on the perfect holiday cards. Belvedere is definitely worth a trip.
Schönbrunn is one of the most visited sights in Vienna and it has a particular charm around Christmas time. It hosts the most beautiful stalls in the capital with impressive and original creations made by talented artisans. Beautiful, hand painted tree decorations, toys and unique souvenirs which seem to be the expression of the pure Christmas spirit.
The palace looks more like a cozy mansion, with lights at many of its windows. You can spend hours here without getting bored. Visit the Tiergarten, the oldest and most well-kept zoo in the world which also stays open in December. Take a trip to the Gloriette, where you can stop and warm up with tea, coffee or a sweet Viennese treat.
The Christmas in Vienna concert
There is no guide for Vienna without at least on recommendation relating a classical music concert. In December, it’s all about the Christmas in Vienna concert, a true festive treat for those who love classical music. Actually, you don’t even have to be a connoisseur to enjoy the talented artist performing in the Great Hall of the Konzerthaus. In 2016, the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra under the expert-direction of Erwin Ortner will be at the center of the concert. But you will also get the chance to listen to the famous Vienna Boys Choir (Wiener Sängerknaben) together with Vesselina Kasarova, a mezzo-soprano, and soprano Angela Denoke among others.
You will enjoy rearranged traditional carols or international Christmas song interpreted in a very touching manner. This year, the Wiener Singakademie, a choir of some 150 years standing, will also be performing. In past years, Plácido Domingo, José Carreras and even Luciano Pavarotti have graced the royal Great Hall with their talent for this particular show. Classical concerts are as much part of the Viennese lifestyle as the apple strudel, so it is just a way of living the Austrian lifestyle on another level.
Finally to get right now into the mood for Christmas in Vienna just download the Christmas Edition of the first Vienna Glam Guide for free.