Austria, Europe, Travel
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Magical things to do in Vienna around Christmas

Vienna is one of those beautiful cities that feel like you just walked in a fairy tale town, with its stunning buildings, beautiful architecture and gorgeous palaces. Around Christmas, it gets even more magical with light installations, Christmas markets that fill the air with a festive cheer and the smell of mulled wine and spices, and sometimes even snow.

I recently went back with some friends in this beautiful city to make the most of everything the capital of Austria has to offer around Christmas time, so I decided to share with you some of the best things you can do in Vienna to feel extra festive!

Disclaimer: I’m only focusing on things that are perfect for this season, and not general things to do in Vienna all year round! That will maybe be a topic for a future post!

Before Christmas: Check out the Christmas markets

Usually from mid-November to Christmas, Vienna becomes as festive as it gets, with dozens of Christmas markets appearing here and there, each with their own specificities – and specific Christmas mugs. The streets are adorned with pretty lights, creating a warm and festive atmosphere. I already wrote a post about the different Christmas markets in Vienna, that you can read here, and my favourites have not changed this year!

While browsing the Christmas markets for souvenirs or beautiful ornaments for your tree, you can also try some local food, and warm drinks. My favourites are maroni (roasted chestnuts), kaiserschmarrn (huge chunks of pancake with warm jam) and all sorts of punsch (a spiced – not spicy – hot drink, with or without alcohol).

Go ice skating in front of the Town Hall

The Rathaus (Town Hall) of Vienna is beautiful in every season and weather, but around Christmas it is even more stunning. After walking around the Christmas market, you can rent ice-skates and enjoy the pretty ice-skating rink right in front of the gorgeous building. The views are stunning! It also becomes even bigger after Christmas, when they install an even bigger rink where the Christmas market was once standing.

Experience the cafe culture

The beautiful Café Central… and the queue to get in!

Coffee houses and cafes really are part of the Viennese lifestyle, with some places dating back to the 17th century. In the late nineties, they also became popular spots gathering intellectuals and artists, such as Klimt, Joyce or even Freud. There are many cute and traditional coffee houses in Vienna that offer the perfect break from the cold winter weather. Whether you opt for a Viennese melange (similar to a cappuccino), a rich hot chocolate or you try some traditional apfelstrudel or a homemade cake, you will for sure find something that you like!

Two of the most famous ones are the quite touristic but stunning Café Central, with its beautiful interior, which was a key meeting place of the intellectual scene; and Café Sacher, famous for its original sachertorte, a chocolate cake with apricot jam, and its classy and elegant interior.

Watch a show at the Vienna State Opera

The Opera building at night

The Wiener Staatsoper is located in a stunning Renaissance-inspired building, where you can see both opera and ballet shows. You can take a tour to admire its stunning architecture, but also book a show ahead of time. If you are on a budget or couldn’t find last-minute tickets, you can also queue, one hour before the shows, to try and get a “standing ticket”: they are much cheaper and don’t require a reservation, but you’ll have to stand during the whole show!

We took one of those tickets to see the opera Tosca by Puccini, and it was amazing! Also, to my surprise the standing part was not that bad!

Pretend you’re royalty in a palace

A view from the gardens of Schönbrunn Palace in a typical winter weather

With the Habsburg family ruling Austria for almost three centuries, many palaces were built in and around Vienna, and served as a residency for the royal family. Each with their individual style, they are all stunning buildings with beautiful gardens and intricate room décor. They are worth visiting every time of the year, but in winter the most famous ones get their own Christmas markets. I loved the Belvedere for its beautiful light displays, Schönbrunn for its interior and huge Christmas market, and the Hofburg palace in itself is just magnificent!

Visit a museum

The Natural History Museum and the Christmas market right in front of it

If you are in Vienna around Christmas, chances are that it will be cold, and going to a museum is, in my opinion, a perfect winter activity. To warm up and look at beautiful art or just learn something new, Vienna has countless museums for each taste. In the Museumsquartier, you’ll have plenty of choices – as well as a Christmas market right in the centre of it. Also, the nearby Natural History museum and the Art History museum face each other and surround a very cute Christmas market located in Maria-Theresien Platz.

After Christmas: go to a ball

Vienna hosts hundreds of traditional balls where you can waltz the night away in a floor-length evening gown, black-tie suit or traditional outfit. Even though the ball season officially starts in November, it is only from January to March that it truly reaches its peak. Many professional guilds organise their own balls (the chimney sweeps, the coffee makers, the confectioners, etc.) and each ball has its particularities. Some of the highlights are the Vienna Philarmonic Orchestra ball and the official State Ball of the country, the Opera Ball, located in the Opera House.

If your stay in Vienna overlaps with ball season, it can really be worth it to try and get a ticket to experience this magical tradition. If you want to read more about my experience at a ball, you can read it here! And don’t forget your ballgowns!


These are only some of the things you can do to make the most of the unique and stunning city of Vienna around Christmas time. Obviously the city has plenty of other things to offer, and is worth visiting all year round, but the festive atmosphere really makes it even more magical.

Have you ever been to Vienna? What makes your city magical around Christmas?

This entry was posted in: Austria, Europe, Travel

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Hey, I'm Juliette! I'm starting this blog to keep a record of and share my adventures. I love everything sweet, sunny days, fluffy kittens and people who smile. When I don't work I like to discover new places and try to learn languages. I hope you will find something that you like in here! ☼

33 Comments

    • Yay, I’m also super excited for you to discover Vienna! I don’t have a lot of posts about it in here, but if you have any question for your trip feel free to ask!

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    • Well, I’m no good ice skater and didn’t feel very confident to begin with, but it was still enjoyable! But there are also benches nearby to enjoy the view on the town hall – or on ice skaters falling ahah! Thanks for reading!

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  1. I’ve only visited Vienna in the springtime and unfortunately have not gotten the opportunity to visit during Christmas market season. I’ve heard that Vienna’s is especially magical, which gives me a reason to return someday!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vienna is really beautiful all year around, and at least it is less cold and sunnier in spring! The Christmas markets sure add to the magic of the place, but there are also a lot of tourists at this time of the year! Thanks for stopping by!

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  2. I had to use Google to see what’s all the fuss about Café Central – I never knew that Freud was a frequent guest at the Central as well as Stalin, Hitler, Tito, and Trotsky. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aaaah yes, I almost put the whole story but didn’t want to overload the post! Apparently they went there pretty often, but some of them actually owned the place too! Thanks for stopping by!

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  3. Sounds like there’s always something to do in Vienna! I do love the architecture there and would love to visit just for that alone. The coffee sounds awesome too. Last time I ordered a café viennois (in Paris), I got a typical coffee with a dose of whipped cream. I really didn’t expect that hahah Great post, Juliette!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hope you get to visit Vienna on one of your future Europe trips because it truly is a wonderful city! Coffee there is definitely part of the culture and they do have different names for different types of coffee! In France I think that all the “viennois” drinks have whipped cream on top of it ahah! Is this not a thing in Canada? Thanks for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Nice piece Juliette! My own visits to Vienna were so long ago, it’s been nice to see how the old joint looks these days. And to witness the city in Christmas mode. Did you brave the queue for Cafe Central? How long did you have to wait?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vienna is truly magnificent around Christmas, that’s for sure! We did brave the queue for Cafe Central and had to stand there for 30 or 40 minutes… I’d say it was worth it for the beautiful interior, the delicious food and we were also sitting on a nice bench, which made it very comfortable. Though I wouldn’t say it is a necessity to go in, especially if you don’t have a lot of time in the city!

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