If you’re visiting Vienna, Austria during Christmas, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how festive the city becomes over the course of both November and December.
Even a free Vienna walking tour will be different during this time of year, as most of the major landmarks in the area are lit up for the holidays.
With over 1 million tours provided, Free Tours By Foot is well-versed in finding the best things to do in every major city around the world. We find our guests are always asking for advice on where to go and what to see, which is exactly what we’re going to cover in this article!
Let us show you some of the best ways to celebrate the holidays in Vienna.
1. Enjoy Shopping at Christmas Markets
It’s not an exaggeration to say that this city becomes filled with Christmas markets during the holiday season. Almost every major landmark and public square in Vienna will have at least a few booths opening up to serve festive treats and other interesting bits and baubles.
Here are a few excellent examples of holiday markets you might want to check out while you’re in Vienna:
- Christkindlmarkt (Rathausplatz)
- Wintermarkt (Prater)
- Schönbrunn Palace
- Belvedere Palace
- And more!
Most of these markets close early on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but they are still open throughout the holidays. Some of these locations run past Christmas and become New Year Markets on December 27th.
There is also an Advent Delights Market near the Vienna State Opera House, but that one is German language only.
Most of Vienna’s Christmas markets include additional attractions and activities, including live holiday concerts, Christmas trees, ice skating rinks, carousels and other fun things to enjoy as you’re doing some shopping.
You can expect to find a variety of delicious food and drink for sale, including roasted chestnuts, Christmas punch, mugs of Glühwein, melted cheese, and of course sausage.
If you’re looking for unique gifts, you’ll also find a lot of Christmas market stalls selling homemade souvenirs and handcrafted items including candles, leather goods, scarves, gloves, and even snowglobes.
One of our favorite spots is the winter market at Prater, right next to Vienna’s giant ferris wheel. While you’re enjoying the amusement rides, you can also grab some delicious treats, and they even have concerts almost every night!
For more details, make sure to read our full post covering the best Christmas Market locations in Vienna.
2. Attend Christmas Concerts
In addition to some of the musical performances you can enjoy at the larger and more popular Christmas markets, there are also official holiday concerts at some of the most notable and historic attractions in the city.
Here are some of the best places to catch a Christmas concert in Vienna:
- St. Stephen’s Cathedral
- St. Peter’s Church
- St. Anne’s Church
- Capuchin Church
- And more!
Some locations such as Kursalon also offer dinner with the concert, making for an excellent date night. Tickets for these services tend to be a bit more expensive, but most concerts range from €15 - €40.
You can also see regular concerts at the Mozarthaus, but those aren’t necessarily holiday themed events. Instead, you can expect to hear plenty of great classical music from Mozart!
3. See the Christmas Lights
We weren’t exaggerating when we said that you can expect to see Christmas decorations almost everywhere in Vienna in mid-November and December. With so many Christmas markets opening up in so many public areas, it’s almost inescapable!
Even so, there are a lot of spots where you can expect to see really impressive lighting displays, including some of the following locations:
- And more!
This is one of the better holiday activities that you can enjoy for free in Vienna, and usually you’ll be able to visit a Christmas market at the same time and enjoy everything they have to offer as well.
We especially love Rathauspark, as it’s home to the Tree of Hearts, a tree that they decorate every holiday season with heart lights!
4. Go Ice Skating
Aside from all the other fun activities you can enjoy for the holidays in Vienna, you’ll also find plenty of ice skating rinks all over the city. Some Christmas markets even have skating rinks, allowing you to enjoy both at the same time.
Here are some of the best Christmas ice rinks in Vienna:
- Vienna Ice Dream
- Wilhelminenberg Palace
- Wiener Eislaufverein
- And more!
Most ice rinks will be open from mid-November to January, but some are open even longer.
Vienna Ice Dream is the most notable location, as it’s right next to Rathausplatz (City Hall) and it’s over 6,000 sq meters in size. They offer skating lessons and ice skate rentals for a relatively low price.
EisStadthalle is an excellent option for those visiting out-of-season, as it’s open all year long.As the name implies, you can find this rink at Wiener Stadthalle.
From time to time, even the Danube river will freeze up enough to do some ice skating, so that could also be an option!
5. Celebrate Viennese Holiday Traditions
Vienna has some rather interesting traditions during Christmas, largely as a result of the variety of cultures represented in the area.
While they of course celebrate the holiday, it's not quite the same as it is in other parts of the world.
Rather than Santa Claus, kids in Vienna look forward to Christkind on December 24th, who decorates the Christmas tree and brings gifts for the children.
Christkind will ring a bell to announce that they have been to the house and signal to the children that they are welcome to come look at the tree!
Although this is still one of the most popular traditions in Vienna, some families do still celebrate with Santa Claus and his flying reindeer.
As with most other parts of the world, you can also look forward to carol singing and delicious meals.
For most locals, Christmas Eve is the day of festivities, while Christmas Day is the day to relax afterward.
There's no need to change your traditions just because you're visiting Vienna for the holidays, but if you want to experience how another country celebrates Christmas, we definitely recommend giving some of these activities a try!
6. Eat Festive Dishes
There are a lot of great foods and drinks that locals in Vienna enjoy during the holidays, including popular traditional options such as roasted chestnuts and mulled wine (Glühwein).
That said, while you can find Christmas punch in just about every European city during the winter, there are some treats that are somewhat unique to this part of the world.
Here are a few of the best Christmas dishes you can find in Vienna:
- This is essentially a fruit cake, but with a Viennese twist.
- A spicy biscuit (or cookie) that typically has a hole in the center somewhere and a festive design.
- Gingerbread biscuits (cookies) with a Viennese twist.
- Christmas biscuits (cookies), typically in a variety of flavors, usually small enough to eat in one bite.
- Christmas goose, like the one eaten by the family of Bob Crachet in A Christmas Carol!
- A baked apple with chocolate, cinnamon, hazelnuts and other delicious flavors included.
- A holiday pastry shaped like a tube and filled with soft, foamy cream.
- Cinnamon biscuits (cookies) shaped like stars.
- The fishier version of the Weignachtsgans, a Christmas carp!
- A crescent shaped vannila flavored cookie, typically dusted with powdered sugar.
- Pumpkin Soup
- As the name implies, this is a soup mostly comprised of pumpkin.
As you can see, there are a lot of different Christmas cookies to try in Vienna.
Most of the popular festive dishes are baked goods, so even if you can't find them at a Christmas market, you'll definitely find them at a bakery!
7. See 'A Christmas Carol'
As with most major cities in Europe and around the world, Vienna also usually hosts at least one performance of the classic tale.
This year, the Open House Theatre will be hosting A Christmas Carol from December 8th - 22nd, 2023.
The play begins at 19:30 (7:30 pm) each night, and tickets start at just €22 per person.