Christmas in Vienna is a magical time, celebrated from around mid-November with traditional Christmas markets, advent concerts, festive treats, and heartfelt gifts. The streets are adorned with twinkling lights, towering Christmas trees decorate the town squares and it is easy to be swept up in the excitement of the holiday season.
If you’re looking for experiences to fill your Vienna bucket list, here are 20 ways to experience the spirit of Christmas in Vienna.
- Christmas in Vienna
- 20 Ways To Experience Christmas In Vienna
- 1- Experience the Belvedere Christmas Market
- 2- Visit the Christmas Market on the Rathausplatz
- 3- Explore the Christmas Market at Schönbrunn Palace
- 4- See the Christmas Market at Spittelberg
- 5- Go to the Old Viennese Christmas Market on the Freyung
- 6- Watch the Christmas in Vienna concert at Vienna Konzerthaus
- 7- See the Vienna Boys’ Choir Perform
- 8- Listen to a “Strauss And Mozart” Christmas Performance
- 9- Go to a Church Advent Concert
- 10- Watch Band Performances at the Rathausplatz Christmas Tree
- 11- Hunt for Christmas Lights
- 12- See the Peace Light of Bethlehem
- 13- Go Ice Skating at Rathausplatz or Wiener Eislaufverein
- 14- Try Roasted and Caramelised Nuts from a Maroni Stand
- 15- Drink Weihnachtspunsch
- 16- See the Krampus Run
- 17- See the Nativity Scenes in St. Peter’s Church
- 18- Try Austria’s Many Types of Christmas Cookies
- 19- Try Mulled Wine
- 20- Ride The Riesenrad Ferris Wheel At Night
- 20 Ways To Experience Christmas In Vienna
Christmas in Vienna
20 Ways To Experience Christmas In Vienna
1- Experience the Belvedere Christmas Market
The Belvedere is a Baroque royal palace turned art gallery in Vienna.
Every holiday season, the space in front of the Upper Belvedere Palace is transformed into a gorgeous Christmas market that opens around 19 November and continues until Boxing Day on 26 December.
It focuses on excellent quality arts and crafts, and there are many food stands selling the usual Christmas market treats, including crepes, roasted chestnuts, Carinthian cheeses and punch.
From the other side of the palace lake, the view of Upper Belvedere surrounded by the markets makes for a pretty Christmas photo.
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2- Visit the Christmas Market on the Rathausplatz
The biggest Christmas market in Austria is held at Rathausplatz, the main square in front of Vienna’s town hall.
It runs from mid-November to 26 December and has around 150 stalls selling festive foods, bespoke gifts, toys and trinkets.
The markets twinkle with Christmas lights and even the trees are decorated, with the Heart Tree being a local favourite.
If you have a camera, it is worth taking to capture some Christmas moments.
The park surrounding the Rathausplatz adds to the excitement, featuring extra attractions like a nativity scene trail, Ferris wheel and carousel.
Some years there has even been an ice-skating path through the park.
3- Explore the Christmas Market at Schönbrunn Palace
Every Advent season, the Christmas Markets at the Schönbrunn Palace reopen to delight crowds with its elegant wares and festive gourmet treats.
These markets, held outside the former royal summer residence, are aimed at people looking for a more sophisticated experience.
The stalls circle the edge of the palace courtyard, selling everything from gourmet schnapps and cheeses to handmade crafts created by local glassblowers, carpenters, potters, and candle makers.
Small advent concerts are held most nights underneath the glowing lights of a giant, decorated Christmas tree.
4- See the Christmas Market at Spittelberg
The Spittelberg Christmas Market stands out from the others because it is set up along a series of cobbled alleyways, streets, and courtyards rather than in a large square.
Many buildings in the area are over 100 years old, creating a cosy, traditional Christmas atmosphere.
The market includes the typical Christmas pop-up stalls and the existing shops and boutiques in the area that want to take part.
There are plenty of food stalls as well as arts, crafts, and clothing shops.
5- Go to the Old Viennese Christmas Market on the Freyung
The Old Viennese Christmas Market at the Freyung square combines a traditional Christmas market with the farmers market hosted there for the rest of the year.
There are lots of gourmet foods to taste, including Austrian sausages, cured meats and Bergkäse mountain cheese.
Beverages haven’t been left out either, with organic wines, schnapps and beer, as well as warm mugs of the classic Austria Christmas punch.
True to its name, the Old Viennese Christmas Market is one of the oldest in Vienna, with a history dating back to 1772.
6- Watch the Christmas in Vienna concert at Vienna Konzerthaus
Christmas in Vienna is a renowned annual Christmas concert and gala reception held at the Viennese Concert House (Wiener Konzerthaus).
Talented soloists perform every year with the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, Vienna Singing Academy and either the St. Florian Boys Choir or the Vienna Boys Choir.
The concert is held on a Saturday in late December, while a preview of the event is held the night before with slightly cheaper tickets.
The songs are generally performed in German but anyone can enjoy the talent of the singers and the beauty of the music.
7- See the Vienna Boys’ Choir Perform
The Vienna Boys’ Choir is a famous Austrian children’s choir that has performed worldwide and has a history in the country going back six centuries.
It is made up of approximately 100 singers aged nine to fourteen, who are divided into four performing choirs.
In the lead up to Christmas, the choirs present a unique holiday program with Austrian folk songs, classical music, Christmas carols and advent hymns.
Be delighted by their angelic voices and let yourself be swept into the Christmas spirit.
8- Listen to a “Strauss And Mozart” Christmas Performance
Part of the advent celebrations in Austria are the traditional “Strauss And Mozart” concerts.
Orchestras and musicians across the country hold concerts throughout November and December, performing the classic works of Austrian composers Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Johann Baptist Strauss II.
One of the best places to experience the music in Vienna is the Kursalon Vienna, a gorgeous Renaissance musical hall in the Stadtpark.
The concert there is performed by the Salon Orchestra of Vienna (Salonorchester Alt Wien) and features talented opera singers and ballet dancers who enhance the experience.
9- Go to a Church Advent Concert
Austria is a predominantly Catholic country, with religion being an essential aspect of life for many people.
In the lead up to Christmas, most of the country’s churches set up nativity scenes inside and hold advent concerts and choral recitals.
There are lots of places in Vienna to experience an advent concert, with some of the best-regarded performances being at the Church of St Charles (Karlskirche), St Stephen’s Cathedral (Stephansdom) and St Peter’s Church (Peterskirche).
10- Watch Band Performances at the Rathausplatz Christmas Tree
Underneath the giant Christmas tree in Rathausplatz, a small stage hosts a lively brass band during the holiday season.
They generally perform during the evenings.
You can head down and listen to the tunes for free while enjoying a mug of punch or some festive treats from the Rathausplatz Christmas Market.
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11- Hunt for Christmas Lights
Many places around the world have Christmas traditions that involve going around and seeing the Christmas lights.
Austria is no different.
In Vienna, the city put up a dazzling display of lights every year.
Start with a stroll up Kärntner Strass to see its hanging chains of light before heading over to Stephenplatz.
There you can see Christmas lights and look over at the Christmas markets surrounding St Stephen’s Cathedral.
From Stephenplaz, go to Graben to see the giant chandeliers before strolling up Kohlmarkt and finishing at Michaelerplatz.
12- See the Peace Light of Bethlehem
The Peace Light of Bethlehem, also called The Flame of Bethlehem, is a program that started in Austria in 1987 to help those in need.
An Austrian child travels to Bethlehem each year and lights an oil lamp from a special lantern in the Birth Grotto.
The light is brought back to Austria, where it is shared throughout the country and the world.
It is a conscious reminder of the Catholic meaning of Christmas and a symbol of our mission to achieve peace in the world.
You can see it at the Peace Light Ceremony, held in mid-December, or at one of Vienna’s churches after that.
13- Go Ice Skating at Rathausplatz or Wiener Eislaufverein
Around Christmas time, the weather in Austria becomes colder, and it is possible to go ice skating outdoors.
Two of the best outdoor ice rinks in Vienna are the Wiener Eistraum (Viennese Ice Dream) and Wiener Eislaufverein (Viennese Ice Skating Club).
Wiener Eistraum is at the Rathausplatz and opens days after the Christmas markets finish.
The Wiener Eislaufverein is outside the InterContinental Vienna Hotel, where it has run an outdoor ice ring since 1867.
14- Try Roasted and Caramelised Nuts from a Maroni Stand
Around the start of November, Maronistands begin to reopen across Austria.
Maroni is a sweet chestnut, roasted in their shells and sold in small paper bags for just a few euros at the stands.
Roasted maroni are a popular winter snack with locals and visitors, so you’ll often see people lining up after work.
The stands also sell warmed Austrian candied nuts, which are almonds (mandeln), hazelnuts (haselnuss) or cashews (kaschunuss) coated in a candied mix of sugar, vanilla and cinnamon.
They taste as good as they smell.
Maronistands can be found at the Christmas markets and dotted throughout the central part of the city.
15- Drink Weihnachtspunsch
Weihnachtspunsch (Christmas punch) is a traditional part of the Christmas markets.
What exactly is in it is a little bit of a mystery, but it tastes like a delicious combination of tea, spices, sugar, and spirits served warm.
If you’d prefer not to drink spirits, then there is also a non-alcoholic version called Kinderpunsch.
The punch is served in a mug, and often you’ll be paying a deposit for the mug when you buy your punch.
Each Christmas market has its design which changes every year, so if you want to keep the mug, you can.
16- See the Krampus Run
Krampus is a horrifying monster that is part of the Christmas tradition in Austria.
He helps Saint Nicholas by scaring, punishing, and chasing naughty children.
5 December is Krampusnacht (Krampus night), and many young men celebrate the night by dressing up as Krampus and running or parading through the city streets.
Some of the most exciting Krampus runs are in Tyrol, in towns like Salzburg, Innsbruck and Hallstatt.
In Vienna, you can experience the madness at Mariahilf Christmas Market, Vienna Prater or Schloss Neugebäude, just check the date first as the events aren’t always held on 5 December.
17- See the Nativity Scenes in St. Peter’s Church
Every year an impressive display of nativity scenes is set up at St. Peter’s Church in Vienna.
St. Peter’s Church is the city’s second-oldest church and is a fine example of Baroque architecture.
The display is set up in the crypt and features many different styles and modes of construction.
Most show the traditional scene with baby Jesus in the centre surrounded by Joseph, Mary, the Wise Men, shepherds, angels and animals, but there are also a few contemporary ones.
A scene that particularly stands out depicts them as a modern homeless family.
18- Try Austria’s Many Types of Christmas Cookies
As early as October, Christmas cookies start appearing in Austrian grocery stores, bakeries and cafes.
There are many different Christmas cookies to try, with some cities even having their own local signature cookie.
In Vienna some of the most popular types are Vanillekipferl (vanilla crescents), Kokosbusserl (coconut macaroon), Linzer Augen (“Linz eyes”), Zimtsterne (cinnamon star), Ochsenaugen (ox-eye cookies), Linzerkipferl (Linz crescents) and Mandelbällchen (almond balls).
Although you can buy them everywhere, another part of the tradition is to try making the cookies yourself.
19- Try Mulled Wine
Mulled wine (Glühwein) is another Christmas beverage enjoyed in Vienna.
It is served at all of the Christmas markets and many people make it at home as well.
Sugar, star anise, cardamom, cloves and citrus are heated and added to red wine, creating the warm spiced drink.
It is often lower in alcohol than the Christmas punch, and some stalls sell a non-alcoholic version too.
20- Ride The Riesenrad Ferris Wheel At Night
The Riesenrad Ferris Wheel is the giant Ferris wheel at the Prater.
It’s one of Vienna’s most recognisable landmarks and features on many of the city’s tourist souvenirs.
During the advent period, you can ride the Riesenrad Ferris Wheel to see the city from above.
You’ll be able to see an enchanting aerial view of the Christmas lights, markets and Christmas tree.
Once you’ve finished riding the Ferris wheel, explore the rest of the Prater to see what is on offer during their Winter Market season.