A Christmas trip to Vienna in 2023: what to see and do
Do you want to experience the magic of Christmas in Vienna? Then join me as I explore the best attractions, events, and traditions of this festive season. I’ll also share some tips on how to travel, shop, and eat like a local.
One of the main reasons to visit Vienna in winter is the Christmas markets, which are charming and cozy1. They usually open in mid-November and last until late December. You can find all kinds of handmade crafts, delicious food, and hot drinks at these markets.
Some of the most popular and central markets are:
- Schönbrunn: located in front of the imperial palace, this market has a stunning backdrop and a variety of stalls
- Maria-Theresien-Platz: situated between two museums, this market offers a mix of traditional and modern products
- Spittelberg: nestled in the narrow streets of a historic district, this market has a bohemian flair and a lot of art and design
- Stephansplatz: surrounded by the Gothic cathedral, this market has a religious theme and a lot of souvenirs
- Medieval Advent market: behind the military museum, this market transports you to the Middle Ages with costumes, music, and food
- Palais Niederösterreich Advent market: in a Renaissance palace, this market showcases regional specialties and crafts
- Wintermarkt: near the giant Ferris wheel, this market focuses on food and drink and has a fun atmosphere
- Michaelerplatz: in front of the Hofburg palace, this market has a classy and elegant vibe and a lot of high-quality products
- Weihnachtszauber: in the main brewery, this market has a festive and lively mood and a lot of beer and snacks
- MuseumsQuartier: in the cultural complex, this market has a contemporary and artistic edge and a lot of activities and entertainment
For more information on each market, you can check out my detailed guide here.
Another way to enjoy the Christmas spirit in Vienna is to admire the beautiful lights that decorate the streets, buildings, and trees. Vienna is known for its tasteful and elegant illumination, which creates a warm and cozy atmosphere.
The lights usually turn on in late November and last until mid-January. You can see them in the main shopping streets, such as Kärntner Straße, Graben, and Kohlmarkt, as well as in some of the large stores and hotels.
For some photos and tips on where to see the best lights, you can check out my Vienna Christmas lights guide here.
Christmas concerts and shows
If you love music and theater, you will find plenty of options to enjoy some Christmas concerts and shows in Vienna. The city has a rich musical heritage and a vibrant cultural scene, which offer something for everyone.
Some of the highlights are:
- Christmas in Vienna: a televised musical gala in the Konzerthaus, featuring international stars and a variety of songs
- Advent concerts: atmospheric performances in the central churches and cathedral, featuring classical and sacred music
- Mozart & Strauss concerts: light and entertaining concerts in historical venues, featuring the most famous composers of Vienna
- A Christmas Carol: an English-language adaptation of the classic story by Charles Dickens, performed by the Open House Theatre
- World-class exhibitions: impressive displays of art and history in the top museums and galleries, featuring names like Michelangelo, Raphael, Motherwell, Bourgeois, and Klimt
For more information on each concert and show, you can check out my Christmas concert guide here.
Christmas ice skating
If you want to have some fun and exercise, you can try some Christmas ice skating in Vienna. The city has several outdoor ice rinks that open in winter, where you can rent skates and glide on the ice.
The two main options are:
- Vienna Ice Skating Association: a large ice rink that opens from early morning, located near the Stadtpark
- Christkindlmarkt ice skating trail: a romantic ice skating trail that winds through the park next to the Rathausplatz market
Christmas traditions and food
If you want to learn more about the Christmas traditions and food in Vienna, you can observe how the locals celebrate and taste some of the typical dishes and treats.
The most important day for the Viennese is Christmas Eve (Heiligenabend), when they decorate the tree, exchange gifts, and have a family dinner. The traditional meal used to be carp, but nowadays many people prefer turkey, pork, or poultry. The gift-bringer is the Christkind, a child-like angel who rings a bell when the presents are ready.
On Christmas Day (Weihnachtstag), many people visit their relatives or relax at home. Some also celebrate the British way, with more food, drink, and presents.
During the Advent period, many people also bake and eat various kinds of cookies, such as Lebkuchen, Stollen, Weihnachtskekse, and Spekulatius. You can also find these and other delicacies at the markets, such as roast chestnuts, sausages, cheese, goulash soup, almonds, toffee apples, and punch.
Christmas travel and shopping tips
If you are planning to visit Vienna during Christmas, here are some tips to help you travel and shop more easily:
- Most museums, palaces, and attractions stay open throughout the Christmas period, but some may have reduced hours or close on certain days. Check the official websites before you go
- The public transport system runs normally but with slightly reduced timetables on some days. You can use the online journey planner to check the schedules and routes
- The 25th and 26th of December are public holidays, so most shops are closed on those days. The 24th is not a holiday, but many shops close early. The supermarkets usually open early and close between 1pm and 4pm
- The Christmas markets are a great place to buy gifts and souvenirs, especially if you are looking for unique and handmade products. Some markets also sell collectable mugs that you can keep if you don’t return them
- If you want to buy traditional Austrian-style decorations, you can find them cheaper in the department stores than in the markets. They usually have a Christmas section with a lot of options
- If you want to book a hotel or a tour, you can use the links below to find the best deals and support this website at no extra cost to you:
I hope you enjoyed this guide and found it useful. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me. I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year in Vienna! Frohe Weihnachten