Vienna in December Rathausplatz Ice Skating Vienna

Vienna in December: 14+ Festive Things to Do at Christmas

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Vienna in December is an ideal winter trip. Although quite the romantic city all year round there’s an extra sparkle about Austria’s capital as the days get shorter and night becomes the playground. Expect lights around the deliciously consuming architecture which makes you feel inferior, inner-city outdoor ice skating, and twenty, yes twenty Christmas markets pumping the smell of chestnuts and punch into the air. So let’s add a splash of Gluhwein alongside your schnitzel and discuss the best things to do in Vienna at Christmas.

Vienna in December

Getting Your Bearings

The city is split into districts, for example, the Innere Stadt (First District) where you will see lots of historic buildings like the State Opera House and Hofburg Palace. It’s a good idea to note that the street you’ll come across most often in Vienna is the Ringstraße (Ring Road). 

Vienna Christmas Markets

The old market tradition in Vienna is modernising without losing its cosy touch. Christmas markets are open from mid-November to Christmas with some staying open until New Year’s Eve. The main draw of the markets is the traditional handicrafts, modern souvenirs, local delicious foods, colourful lights, Christmas music, and sparkling decorations.

For the best experience, visit various markets because each is unique. Note: not all of the markets are open after December 25th, if you want to see the festivities in full swing book before Christmas.

Top tip – tourists overwhelm the big markets in the city centre while locals love the smaller markets. By visiting different markets, you will be able to compare prices and products before doing your Christmas and souvenir shopping. Remember, there are over 20 markets to choose from! Without further ado let’s meet some of the Vienna Xmas markets. 

Vienna Christmas World on Rathausplatz  

Every first timer’s visit to Vienna will pass through the city Rathaus because this is the city hall. In front of the Neo-Gothic building is the platz or square and here you will find 150 stands selling handicrafts, Christmas gifts, culinary treats, warm drinks, and desserts. This is where you will also find one of the city ice rinks. It is very central, see the map below. 

  • 2018 dates: 16th November to 26th December
  • Address: Rathausplatz 1010 Wien

Christmas Village on Maria Theresa Square

The market has more than 70 booths selling food, drink and traditional handicrafts. Music groups and gospel choirs encourage that festive feeling. The market opens from November 21st to December 26th then it will change into a New Year market to ring in 2019. Looking for other things to do around Maria Theresa Square? The market keeps good company next to Hofburg Palace and the MuseumsQuartier.

  • 2018 dates: 21st November to December 26th
  • Address: Maria-Theresien-Platz 1010 Vienna

The Old Viennese Christmas Market on Freyung

1772 is when the first Altwiener Christkindlmarkt or Old Viennese Christmas Market took place, you can see it is pretty established! Like the others, it sells potential gifts but Altwiener also puts on craft sessions and has live music starting at 4 pm. Altwiener Christkindlmarkt is very central.

  • 2018 dates: 17th November to 23rd December

Schonbrunn Palace Christmas Market 

A little smaller than Rathausplatz at 80 stalls but still worth a visit because of its location in front of Schönbrunn Palace. Expect smells of freshly baked pretzels and hot punch while musicians and dancers perform on stage in front of the big Christmas tree gifted by Austrian Federal Forests AG. The majority of the items on sale are handcrafted so you are supporting local by purchasing from the huts. Post-December 25th, the market becomes a New Year celebration with daily jazz and other music shows. Note: no dogs or bikes allowed.

  • 2018 dates: 24th November – 26th December
  • Address: Parade Court, Schönbrunn Palace

Christmas Market at Spittelberg 

Less central, more local, Spittelberg Christmas market consists of 100 stalls spread over three streets. When busy, it can look overcrowded, others would say it is intimate. Spittelberg itself is an interesting area, a favourite with photographers who want to snap the architecture. Food and drink options available here if looking for somewhere the locals hang.

  • 2018 dates: 15th November 23rd December
  • Address: Spittelberggasse, 1070

Christmas Market Am Hof

Am Hof is one of the oldest areas of Vienna. The Christmas market is smaller than others on this square but the “Radio Wien” Punch Stand comes recommended. The mug changes annually so you’ll need to go back each year to collect!

  • 2018 dates: 16th November to 23rd December
  • Address: Am Hof, 1010

Christmas market at Karlsplatz 

Organic food, craft demonstrations, storytelling – there’s something unique about the market at Karlsplatz. All of the makers have passed an application process in order to sell their crafts to visitors so you are guaranteed high-quality goods.

  • 2018 dates: 23rd November – 23rd December
  • Address:  Karlsplatz 13, 1040

Vienna Christmas Markets

Christmas Market Tour in Vienna

Overwhelmed like I am? There’s a solution! Check out the Christmas market tour. Two hours, four markets, and punch with rum! The local guide also shares stories about the markets and what they mean to not only Vienna but also to them personally. The markets really are a big part of Viennese culture making this tour a great one for those who want to dig a bit deeper into Wiener life.

What To Eat At Vienna’s Winter Markets  

Unlike other markets in Europe which mainly serve traditional Christmas market food. Vienna has heaps of artisan and healthy options. However, we’re not in Vienna to watch the diet, we want the homegrown, locally known Viennese favourites which include:

  • Vanillekipferl – half moon shaped biscuits dusted with vanilla icing.  
  • Krapfen – Vienna’s doughnut
  • Linzer Augen – shortbread with jam, yes more sweet cookies
  • Maroni – roasted chestnuts make great hand warmers too
  • Käsekrainer – sausage solo or sausage with cheese inside. You can pick up these hot dog snacks at stalls around the city too

Wash it all down with Glühwein (hot wine) or Punsch (hot rum). Typically you leave a deposit for the Christmas mugs which you can claim back when you return or you can take the mug with you.

»» So which of the Vienna Winter markets do you think is the best?  

Vanillekipferl Vienna Christmas Market Food

Vienna Christmas Market Map

Here’s a map of the Christmas markets we’ve discussed in this guide to Vienna in Winter. Click here to access it.

Vienna Christmas Markets Map

Ice Skating in Vienna

Whether you can do the loop, the axel or just keep steady on your feet there is an ice skating opportunity for everyone in Vienna.  

Ice World/Wiener Eistraum (Rathausplatz. 1, 1010) is a more aesthetically appealing option for those who like to take pictures of their friends falling over. For 8 euro adults gain entry to the rink and man this is worth it. 8,000 metres. of ice trails winding through the city. Forget the small patches of ice rink you are accustomed to in other European cities, this rink resembles a river. Tickets are open for the full day and there are lockers on site. Ice World looks its best at night when it is all lit up but you can make a full day of it dining at the many food vendors around the rink.

Speaking of rivers, when the Danube freezes over, locals skate there too! That’s not all, if its frozen the Alte Donau and Neue Donau are stomping skating grounds for Wiener (people from Vienna) too.

Eislaufverein (Lothringerstraße 22, 1030) is another option, not as romantic but definitely bigger at 107,000 square foot. Open October to March. Ice skating is one of the family-friendly things to do in Vienna at Christmas.

Accidents happen. Don’t travel without insurance. We use True Traveller, I claimed when I was sick in Vancouver and they paid out fast. See if they are right for you here.

Rathausplatz Ice Skating Vienna

Curling at Rathausplatz 

It’s not just about the skates and spins on the rink, curling is a popular sport in Vienna too. Many of the ice rinks mentioned above create sections of the rink for players to participate in the game. Every night from 5 pm at Ice World/Wiener Eistraum teams can play a heated match by booking out 30-minute blocks.  

Ball Dancing

450 balls take place in Vienna from November through to the end of March with January and February enjoying the highest amount. On New Year’s Eve, you can learn to dance at Graben or join the  New Year’s Eve Ball at the Hofburg Vienna (Imperial Palace).

Christmas Ribbon

If you’ve seen Vienna at Christmas through the eyes of Instagram then you have definitely seen Vienna’s Christmas ribbon bow! When this beauty is constructed on the department store, Popp and Kretschmer, you know that winter has arrived in the city!  

  • Address: Kärntner Str. 51, 1010 Wien, Austria

MuseumsQuartier (MQ) Christmas  

MQ is where all the cool kids hang. You’ve guessed it by the name, MuseumsQuartier that this is where you’ll find some of Vienna’s museums like the MOMA. During summer at MQ, friends soak up the sun and where most locals in cities hide indoors come winter, the MQ hardcore take to the square! In November and December, there is live rock, rap, electronic music and light projections at MQ.

Bowling/curling fusion takes place at ME Eisstockbahn – pretty much two lanes that look like they are for pins but it’s all about the curling action in Vienna during winter.

  • Address: Museumsplatz 1, 1070
  • Christmas in Vienna Concert

One of the big attractions of Vienna is, of course, the music (more specifically, the opera). During the festive period for one day, only the Viennese Konzerthaus puts on an energetic show called Christmas in Vienna. Previous acts to grace the Great Hall include Elîna Garanča, Juan Diego Flórez and Thomas Hampson.

  • Address: Lothringerstraße 20, 1030
  • Date: December 20th 2018

Vienna Skiing

Ski Resorts Near Vienna 

Hohe Wand-Wiese

Vienna is among the few places in the world which have ski slopes in the city. Meet Hohe Wand-Wiese, located towards the north of the city. This city’s ski slope is also known as ‘High Hills’, you can guess why. This is not Mayrhofen but still offers piste of 400 m long.  

The resort has floodlights for night skiing and snowmaking capabilities. Another bonus is that it can be reached by public transport.

  • Address: 114 Vienna, Mauerbachstraße 174-184

Semmering

 Semmering offers more of a challenge for avid skiers. The Magic Mountain has red, blue and black runs. There is a family slope, FIS World Cup Panorama and Freeride Area. It’s not just about day skiing and boarding at Semmering, lights allow for night time runs on six slopes too. Fuel at the at the onsite Lichtensteinhaus restaurant. Ski/board equipment can be rented at Semmering and lessons are available too.  

  • Get there: Vienna to Semmering train (1.5 hours approx.)

Hochkar Ski Resort

The snow is more reliable at Hochkar Ski Resort but that does mean it is a bit further away from Vienna and harder to get to. It is a 2.5-hour drive from the city to Goestling where the resort it. Hochkar has 19 kilometres of ski slope, eight modern lifts and panoramic views of the Lower Austria. There are lots of dining opportunities in Hochkar too.

  • Get there: Vienna to Hochkar 2.5 hour drive

Christmas Day in Vienna

Just like Sundays are sleepy in Vienna, the week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve can be a little tamer too. You can expect the majority of shops, restaurants and tourist attractions to be closed on Christmas Day. There are a couple of Christmas Markets open, check out the Rathausplatz/City Hall and market at Maria Theresien-Platz.

Schonbrunn Palace is open on Christmas Day and serves up lunch and dinner. You can also visit the Imperial Carriage Museum which is part of the Vienna Card.

New Year’s Eve in Vienna

Vienna doesn’t just have a New Year’s Eve party, it puts on a New Year’s Eve Trail! From 2 pm to 2 am on December 31st each year party-goers looking to ring in the new year can dance their way through the old historic centre at City Hall Square and in the Prater fairground.

There are lots of opportunity for food and punch of course! A variety of shows from opera to rock take place throughout the night with it all coming to an end with fireworks over City Hall Square and in the Prater fairground at midnight.

Another popular cultural event beside opera is ballroom dancing. During the day of the 31st, Graben in Vienna’s first district becomes an open-air ballroom. Visitors can learn from some of Vienna’s dance schools who offer lessons! 

New Year’s Eve Boat Galas

Alternatively, you can ring in the new year on the water! There are many boat trips along the Danube which celebrate New Year’s Eve in Vienna too. The New Year’s Eve Gala sees either MS Dürnstein or MS Admiral Tegetthoff get all dressed up on the Danube. It offers guests a night of live music and access to its open-air deck to watch the fireworks at midnight. This NYE party is a little pricey at just under 200 euro per guest.  

St Peter’s Church Concert

If you really love classical music you should check out the St Peter’s Church celebration (Peterspl. 6, 1010). Previous lineups have included renditions of Mozart, Bach and Schubert one of the most striking city’s Baroque churches.

Kursalon Party

The Kursalon (Johannesgasse 33, 1010) music hall also puts on a New Year party with live classical music performed by the Salon Orchestra Old Vienna and waltzing dancing performed by you! Watch the fireworks from the terrace overviewing the Stadtpark too.

New Year’s Day in Vienna  

Shake off the hangover and get back in the game for The Vienna Philharmonic performance at the New Year Concert. There are two ways to watch the show, at the Golden Hall of the Musikverein or for free at the open-air broadcasts (City Hall or in front of the Vienna State Opera). Still thinking about where to go for NYE? We’ve rounded up the best international parties around the world. Click here to read the guide. 

Vienna Weather (December – February)

You can expect lows of – 2 degrees/- 35 Fahrenheit and highs of 7/44 during your trip to Vienna. Weather can range from sunny with clouds to rain, wind and ice but less frequently snows. Pack a decent raincoat and a pair of waterproof boots for comfort. Remember your hat, scarf and gloves too. If you are attending the New Year’s Eve party you might want to consider thermals or other types of layers as well as hand warmers (or just buy mulled wine!)  

Similar weather patterns for January and February with lows of – 3 degrees/- 37 Fahrenheit. Snow is not guaranteed but has occurred with the last heavy snowfall taking place in 2016.

Das LOFT rooftop bar Hotel Sofitel Vienna

What to Wear in Vienna in December  

  • Forget the umbrella.
  • 1 x waterproof coat with a hood like my brilliant Mountain Equipment Rupal.
  • 1 x padded down jacket, I recommend North Face.
  • 1 x Merino wool base layers gets thumbs up.
  • Cute hat, gloves and scarf.
  • if waiting around.
  • 1 x Comfortable waterproof boots (I love Salomon).
  • 1 x Eco water bottle such as TreeTribe which keeps hot drinks hot and cool drinks cold.
  • Electrolytes for the hangovers.

Things to Do In November

November is the pre-Christmas season. There are hardly any crowds at the start of the month but you do miss the markets. However, fewer tourists mean less queuing, museums to yourself and you still get the lovely winter sunsets over the city. Mid-November the markets start opening up and the tourists flock.

Vienna in January  

There are visibly fewer tourists come the start of the year but still lots of things to do in Vienna in January. Many of the Christmas markets transform into New Year ones and like the majority of European countries, the city puts on a great New Year’s Eve party.

Where We Stayed  

We lucked out with our location at the 4-star Am Konzerthaus Vienna MGallery by Sofitel. Within walking distance to Vienna’s Ringstrasse, the State Opera House and the Belvedere, this modern hotel is quiet and offers a kick-ass breakfast. Check out the rates for your trip at Booking or TripAdvisor

Airbnb is available in Vienna for those on a budget. The average price for an entire apartment is 202 euro however here are some as low as 45 euro. Private rooms are cheaper at averaging at 49 euro but going as low as 24 euro.

New to Airbnb? You can sign up here for money off (and we’ll get credit too, thanks!) 

Am Konzerthaus MGallery by Sofitel

Airport to Vienna

The best way to get to Vienna from the airport is by train. It costs €21 one way and takes a mere 20 minutes.

Getting around Vienna

If like us, you prefer to discover a city by foot you’ll be happy to hear that you are never more than 40 minutes away from the next Vienna bucket list. Alternatively, you can use Vienna trams (time stamp your card), buses, underground, taxis or Über. You might also be interested in our Europe budget guide – it explains how much it costs to travel around multiple countries in Europe. 

Affordable Travel Tips

  • You can explore Vienna by foot but it is not a small city.
  • Wiener Linien transport pass is available for 24, 48 and 72 hours.
  • Käsekrainer is a cheap but tasty hot dog available at huts all around the city.
  • You can drink on the streets in Vienna, grab a beer with your Käsekrainer. 
  • The Vienna City Pass offers discounts on top tourist attractions.
  • MUSA art gallery is free Tuesday-Sunday (not open Monday/Tuesday).
  • Opera tickets are expensive but you can buy standing only one hour before some performances.
  • Watch the concerts on New Year’s Day for free on the big screens.

Frequently Asked Questions  

  • What are the Vienna Christmas market dates?

    There are 20 Christmas markets at each have their own opening/closing dates usually around mid-November to Christmas day. You can read exact dates above in the markets section.
  • When is the best time to visit Vienna?

    This really depends on what you want out of your trip to Vienna. Christmas markets? December. Ball Dancing? February. Low season? November. Warmer weather? June, July and August.  
  • When does it snow in Vienna?

    Snow is not a permanent feature in the Viennese advent calendar, in fact, it last snowed in 2016. However, like with most European countries at present surprise showers do happen so watch the forecasts and pack appropriately.

Final Words

From skating to skiing, concerts to curling there are heaps of Christmas things to do in Vienna in December and other festive months. Remember to wrap up and get your skates on because you’ve got a jam-packed Vienna bucket list to tick off. 

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 » » Read next: 15+ cosy Christmas getaways in Europe « « 

Gemma and Craig full-time workers with a life-long travel habit. Flirting with 30 and let loose on the world! Gemma writes, Craig looks good in the photos.

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