If you are lucky enough to be participating in the Vienna Advent Sing Festival, you will be able to experience the magic of wintertime in Vienna firsthand. The city transforms into a winter wonderland. Thousands of travelers head to Vienna to shop at the many Christmas markets, see the exquisite light displays, listen to Christmas concerts, and sample delicious holiday treats.
Here are Music Contact International’s recommendations for the best of Vienna during the advent season.
Vienna Christmas Markets: Christmas markets are an old tradition from the Middle Ages and remain a very popular destination in Vienna, becoming a bit more modern without losing their traditional touch. Vienna’s Christmas markets are open from mid-November until Christmas and will charm you with their small wooden huts, traditional handcrafts, modern souvenirs, Christmas music, colorful lights, sparkling decorations, and of course, local delicious food and warm drinks. I recommend visiting a few different markets because they are all unique. Here are some recommendations:
- Christmas market at Schönbrunn Palace: Vienna has held the Christmas market in Schönbrunn Palace since 1993 and every year, about one million people visit the Palace to experience the real Christmas market atmosphere. About 80 booths, colorful decorations, and quality products make it an interesting Viennese attraction you shouldn’t skip.
- Prater Winter Market: Under the motto, “Prater Rocks!” the winter market at Riesenradplatz in the famous Prater gardens offers an exciting program throughout the winter season. The market features all the usual vendors plus live music every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. Take a ride on the Ferris wheel while you are there and get a great view of the city!
- The Wiener Christkindlmarkt am Rathausplatz
is locatedin front of the City Hall, and if you only have time for one market, visit this one. It showcases around 150 sales stands offeringChristmas gifts and tree decorations, crafts, culinary delights, sweets andwarm drinks.
- The Christmas Market at Freyung is a little more genteel and traditional than the glitzier, larger markets, but it is the oldest of all the markets in Vienna, originating in 1772. The food stalls at this Christmas market are particularly good, serving up traditional cured and smoked meats and cheeses.
- The Belvedere Palace Christmas
Market runsall the way up to Christmas Eve and is one of the newest and least commercialmarkets held across the city. This makes it a much more intimate affair than the bigger markets, such as the one outside the Rathaus. Held in front of the magnificent Belvedere Palace, there are stallsselling traditional handicraft items, Austrian food and drinks, and Christmas decorations, and don’t miss the wonderfully lit palace façade.
- The Christmas Market at Karlsplatz is
run byan association of arts and crafts professionals, and all of the itemssold at the market have to pass a committee and all must be made bythe actual seller, so you can be assured high . There are also traditional cakes, mulled wine and punch, qualitygoods live music, and a live nativity scene for children. All of this takes place infront of the Karlskirche, one of the finest Baroque churches in Europe.
Wiener Eistraum – Ice Skating: The Viennese adore ice skating in the wintertime. There are ice rinks set up across the city during the winter months, including in the gardens of the Wilhelminenberg Palace and in front of the Rathaus to host the “Ice Dream” event made up of skating and curling. Over the Christmas period, there is a 6,000 square meter ice rink set up between the Vienna Konzerthaus and the Inter-Continental Hotel The ice rink is very popular; you can hire ice-skates for a few euros and opt to take part in a lesson. Furthermore, if the city is experiencing an exceedingly frosty year, the river Danube freezes over, inviting throngs of skaters to glide onto the temporary natural ice rink.
Enjoy some hot (or cold) drinks: A fine idea for that steaming mug of something warm is Weihnachtspunsch (Christmas punch), which comes in dozens of flavors and keeps the chill at bay on a cold winter’s evening. There are plenty of non-alcoholic options, too. The markets serve punch in collectible mugs, and
Take a photo at the Belvedere Palace: This is missed by most people, but an absolute must. There’s a lake
Listen to an advent concert: There are many concerts to enjoy (besides your own performances) during the Christmas Season in Vienna. For example, there are the special “Strauss and Mozart” Christmas concerts at the Kursalon (where Strauss himself performed). And for even more advent atmosphere, take in a choir recital or church concert. Top venues include Stephansdom (St.Stephen’s cathedral), the Peterskirche, and the Minoritenkirche (an Italian church).
View the lights on the Graben and Kärntner Street: Vienna’s Christmas lights glitter without being glitzy, with
Visit a roast chestnut stand: Every market has one. And just about every street corner in winter, too: a “Maronistand” selling roasted potato snacks and roast chestnuts. It’s a Christmas experience shared with generations before you. You can imagine medieval children blowing on their fingers to keep them cool after picking open a hot chestnut.
Visit the nativity scenes in St. Peter’s church: Peterskirche or St. Peter’s church is a tumult of decorative
“Winter i MQ” or Winter in the Museumsquartier: The Museumsquartier is one of the great marvels of Vienna—the area is packed with some of the leading art galleries and museums in the world. With a sizeable courtyard and numerous venues on the site, each Christmas the Museumsquartier hosts an extravaganza of events. This event also includes the erection of ice pavilions in the Museumsquartier, spectacular light shows and video projections
Remember to dress warmly, leave some space in your luggage for all the wonderful things you will buy, and bring an appetite!