The streets in Vienna’s city centre are decorated like nowhere else in Europe, with fairytale-like lights that seem to have been removed from the interior of an imperial palace. Under these impressive Christmas chandeliers kids are not the only ones that feel like princes and princesses. The display of lights at Rathauspark and the adjacent City Hall are equally mesmerising as the whole Neo-Gothic Viennesse building is gorgeously lit up in a myriad of lights and colours. The Schönbrunn Palace (Schönbrunner Schloßstraße 47, 1130 Vienna, +43 (1) 811 13 239) should not be missed either.
Insider tip: If you love Christmas lights then be sure to check the Christmas tree at Schottenring. Made entirely of lights it reaches up to the 19th floor of the famous Ringturm building!
If you are looking for a place to taste a hearty Christmas Eve dinner in a remarkable environment,the luxurious Hotel Sacher Wien, opposite the State Opera is the perfect choice for you. The hotel´s 4-course menu is a succulent dining experience serving dishes such as marinated salmon, consommé with truffled roulade or beef fillet of Almo ox. Dinner will be served from 5pm and prices per person are €175.
Insider tip: From 4pm to 4:30pm Hotel Sacher Wien will be hosting its own Christmas Eve concert and offering glasses of punch and Christmas biscuits.
Vienna is the European capital of classical music par excellence. Aside from the world-renown Vienna’s Kontzerhaus where the New Year’s concert takes place every year, there are several concert halls and theatres in the city and the Vienna State Opera is considered one of the top 4 opera houses in the world. This means that concerts, ballets, musicals and operas are more than guaranteed during the festive season. In fact, some of the highlights of 2016 at the Vienna State Opera are Verdi’s Macbeth (8,11,14 and 17 December) and Mozart’s The Magic Flute (22, 25 and 28 December).
Insider tip: If you are looking for more strictly speaking Christmas songs, we recommend the free International Advent Carolling at the Festival Hall (access via Felderstrasse) of Vienna’s City Hall (Rathausplatz 1, 1010 Vienna) taking place every weekend during the Advent season.
With 150.000m2, Türkenschanz Park is one of the biggest parks in Vienna and during the winter it becomes the playground for local children and adults alike, who turn the large meadows into hilarious toboggan runs. In fact, you don’t even need to worry about getting a sledge here; a simple plastic bag can do the trick! There is also a Christmas market, botanical gardens and play areas for children in case you get tired of sledging. The best way to get to the park is by public transport. Tram 11 has a stop here (Türkenschanzplats). Additionally, there are three bus lines that serve it: 37A and 40A (Gregor-Mendel-Straße) and 10A (Dänenstraße).
Insider tip: If you are planning on using public transport during your stay we recommend you to purchase a Vienna Card which grants you discounts and allows you free travel on the underground, the tram and the bus for 48 or 72 hours for as little as €18,90. A child under 15 can travel with the owner of the card for free.
From October 21 Austria’s oldest open-air rink opens its doors to offer a most unique ice skating experience. The Engelmann artificial ice rink (Syringgasse 14, 1170 Vienna, +43 (1) 405 14 25) is the only one in the city set on a rooftop and enjoys unique views of the Hernals suburbs. On Fridays, from 7pm onwards Disco sessions are organised for all the family to skate the cold away.
Insider tip: If you are hungry after skating, walk back to the city hall and enter the impressive Restaurant Vestibül (Universitätsring 2, 1010 Vienna, +43 (1) 532 49 99). Once the private entrance of Empress Sissi and husband Emperor Franz Joseph to the lavish Burgtheater, it is now home to the delectable cuisine of gourmet chef Christian Domschitz and probably the best wurst sausages in Vienna. They are closed on Sundays and public holidays but open until midnight every other day of the week.
With Vienna’s vibrant café culture, the best way to escape the cold is to enter one of its many cafés. However, if you truly want to taste the best of the best, you cannot stop visiting the regal Café Sacher Wien (Philharmoniker Straße 4, 1010 Vienna, +43 (1) 514 56 661). It was here that the famous sachertorte cake was first created and we have to say that their reputation is well-earned; this chocolate cake is to die for. The hot chocolate is also a must, especially for the younger ones. Expect to pay more than you normally would (a slice can cost over €5) but the atmosphere and the service is exceptional. Open every day from 8am until midnight.
Insider tip: If chocolate is not quite your thing, we recommend you to ask for a coffee or a tea and a slice of the finger-licking, and slightly Christmassy, Gugelhupf, a soft, moisty, glazed cake containing candied citrus that takes you straight to 7th Heaven. The Austrian are almost as proud of this one as they are of Sachertorte!
The quintessentially traditional “Vienna Magic of Advent” is the city’s largest Christmas market and is conveniently located in front of the City Hall. With 150 stands with the shape of little wooden houses, it is a favourite amidst local children who stare at all the Christmas gifts and decorations and the tempting sweets with eyes wide open. Nostalgia and romance hits adults under the thousand twinkling lights that illuminate it and its surrounding trees and cups of mulled wine are drank to combat the cold. It is open every day from 11 November to 26 December.
Insider tip: If you are looking for a more exclusive Christmas shopping experience, the Ritz-Carlton Vienna hotel is hosting the highest Christmas market in their elegant Atmopshere Rooftop Bar & Lounge. Glüwein and seasonal delicacies will be served amidst scenic views of the city; offering the opportunity of a lifetime to enjoy the city lights and the Christmas spirit like never before.