Wintertime in Vienna is a magical experience that has made weekend gateways in the city popular, especially just before Christmas. Families, couples, and solo travelers arrive to Vienna from all over Austria and the world to visit the many Christmas markets with their Christmas ornaments and seasonal food and beverage. The City’s main streets and pedestrian zones are decorated with beautiful and colorful lights, the stores displaying wonderful Christmas exhibits thus creating the perfect atmosphere for the most romantic moments. This idyllic Christmas feeling is enhanced by the cozy cafés, bars and restaurants. Ending your night by taking a city tour in one of the famous horse-drawn carriages, will be the ultimate final touch for your winter city getaway. For a bit of more “Joie de vivre”, visiting one of the many balls of Vienna can be the experience of a life time, catapulting you into a world of sublime music, wonderful dances and lots of fun.
Keep reading and we will share our top wintertime tips for Vienna.
Enjoy the weather
Winters in Vienna are cold and sometimes even snowy. December is a little warmer with an average of over 0 Celsius while January and February are the coldest and snowiest months with temperatures below 0 degree Celsius.
With the adequate clothing you can enjoy the Viennese winter despite the snow and the cold. Remember to bring along waterproof shoes. But you can also buy local product in case of surprisingly cold weather. Christmas markets are full of sellers with authentic woolen products. Austrian gloves and hats are a must-have to keep you warm but also are trendy souvenirs.
Unfortunately, the snowfall in Vienna diminishes year by year and Viennese are always praying for at least a white Christmas, during the holiday season. But don’t worry! Even if the capital is not covered with a white carpet of snow, you can still enjoy the ice skating rings of the city, where people skate and dance to the music of Strauss and other classical music.
Vienna Christmas Markets
Christmas time is busy in Vienna and its popularity keeps rising among weekend tourists. This old tradition from the Middle Ages is changing to a more modern one and the markets are growing but without losing their cozy and romantic touch. Vienna’s Christmas markets are open from mid-November until Christmas and some of them even until New Year’s Eve, offering articles for the famous Silvesterpfad party in the whole city. These markets will charm you with their small wooden huts, traditional handcrafts, modern souvenirs, Christmas music, colorful lights, sparkling decorations, and of course local delicious food. We recommend visiting a few different markets because they all have their own vibe. The bigger ones in the city center are usually taken over by tourists while smaller ones are mainly visited by locals. This way you can also compare the prices and products before doing your souvenir and Christmas shopping.
Wiener Christkindlmarkt am Rathausplatz
The Wiener Christkindlmarkt am Rathausplatz is one of the over 20 official Christmas markets in Vienna. It’s also called the Viennese Christmas Market and Vienna Christmas World. It is located in front of the City Hall. If you only have time for one market, do visit the Wiener Christkindlmarkt with its around 150 sales stands offering Christmas gifts and tree decorations, crafts, culinary delights, sweets and warm drinks. The trees in the Rathauspark shine in festive splendor. Visitors can glide over skating rings across two large ice surfaces and numerous paths through the park. In addition, there is also the possibility of curling. The children’s world offers a carousel, a reindeer carriage, a mini train as well as the Post office for the Letters to Santa.
Winter Market & Ferris Wheel
If you prefer visiting Vienna after Christmas Eve, the famous Winter Market in the Prater Garden offers an exciting programme under the motto “Prater Rocks!” They are open from mid-November till the first week of January. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays they have live music performances from gospel to soul to pop and while you are at the Winter Market, you can admire the entire park and the city of Vienna from the famous Ferris Wheel. It’s one of the best-known landmarks of Vienna.
Christmas and New Year’s market in Schönbrunn Palace
Vienna has held 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. However, Schönbrunn Palace has found its way on our list of the things to do in Vienna at wintertime because of its New Year’s market. After Christmas the market changes to New Year’s market that then closes on the first day of next year. New Year’s market offers same sellers as Christmas market but also many events like daily jazz performances. This is perfect place to spend New Year’s Eve in Vienna.
Vienna is the city of breweries and despite the cold you should try some good craft beers. Going to bars or tour around breweries will give you a chance to warm up after spending the day outside enjoying other attractions. Because the beers in menus are changing and are a little different depending on the place you visit, drinking beer in Vienna isn’t just normal night of drinking but more of interesting experience. Go drinking to experience part of Viennese culture!
Imperial Butterfly House
Walking around in the cold weather is not always pleasant so it’s good to have a few warmer attractions in mind. The Imperial Butterfly House, located in the Burggarten park offers the perfect environment for cold feet and stepping inside this glass dome gives you the feeling of having a wonderful summer day at a constant 26°C degrees. The Imperial Butterfly House is a good opportunity to take a small break while wandering around Vienna. You can sit down, enjoy the warm humid temperature, and watch the marvelous multicoloured butterflies fly freely around the trees. If you are lucky, one of them may even land on you. Just stay put and wait while admiring the beauty around you with its ponds, waterfalls and plants giving you the full tropical jungle feeling.
Neujahrskonzert (New Year’s Concert)
Neujahrskonzert (New Year’s Concert) is a Viennese yearly tradition, given by the famous Vienna Philharmonic in the morning of New Year’s Day. If you are a friend of classical music, this is an event you should experience at least once in your lifetime as it is one of the most important and prominent classical concerts in the whole world. Each year, a celebrated conductor is chosen to orchestrate the concert. The music played is mainly from Austrian composers and the live performance is broadcast over 90 countries and followed by more than 50 million TV viewers.
The first New Year’s concert was held on 31 December 1939 but in 1941 and every year since then, it has been held on the First of January. The Vienna Philharmonic presents a cheerful and at the same time reflective program from the rich repertoire of the Strauss dynasty and its contemporaries. Due to the high demand some tickets are raffled so that music lovers from all over the world have the same chance to acquire these highly coveted tickets, this is done at the beginning of the previous year exclusively through the website of the Vienna Philharmonic. So if you plan to visit Vienna only next winter, you have a chance between 2 January and 28 February of next year to enlist yourself and possibly win some tickets to this epic event.
Wiener Opernball – Vienna Opera Ball
The Vienna Opera Ball is the annual social event of Vienna. The tradition of the ball goes back to the times where the aristocracy and head of states gathered to escape the gloomy aftermaths of the Napoleonic wars. The first ball took place in 1877 but only in 1935 it was named the “Opera Ball”. More than 5000 participants attend this event, including many important celebrities from all over the word and the Austrian political elite. Each year 150 young couples from different Dancing schools open the ball to several classical pieces like the elegant polonaise but the last dance of the debutantes is always the Blue Danube waltz, after which the floor is opened to all guests.
The ball takes place on Thursday before Ash Wednesday and the National Opera is transformed into a beautifully decorated dance palace with various rooms and lounges with different types of music and dance. Until 6am, the rich and the beautiful, dressed up just like princes and princesses can enjoy the catering, freshen-up at the hairdresser and even use the in-house tailor in case of emergencies. At the Ball, you can also enjoy different high-class performances by famous opera singers and the Vienna Ballet dancers. The dress code is very strict so if you happened to get your hands on some tickets and you have nothing adequate to wear, no worries, you can rent evening gowns and tuxedoes for this event or any other ball you wish to attend.
Wiener Eistraum – Ice Skating
Ice skating is one of the must-do things to try at wintertime. From January till March, this Vienna’s Ice Dream turns the park and plaza in front of the city hall into a huge ice skating ring covering an area of 8,500m2. Thousands of tourists and locals gather there to skate and have fun with their friends and families. It’s also the ideal location for dating, so be prepared to see a lot of handholding sweethearts dancing to the sound of Strauss and divers popular music hits. If you have no adequate shoes and still would like to enjoy a few hours of exercise, you can rent skates on site in any size or style and store your belongings in the available lockers so you can enjoy this winter wonderland fully.
On weekdays during January beginners and kids can skate for free in a separated area. So if you have never tried it before, this would be your chance. Winding through the romantic ring can be tiring so you can restore your strength at the outdoor booths with warming drinks and food. And even if you don’t skate, it is still a magical and fun activity to do especially on a sunny winter day.
Vienna offers much more than those few activities listed above. No matter your preferences, there will always be something for you to experience as Vienna will charm you with its idyllic atmosphere whenever you decide to plan your trip.
Where to go in Vienna:
TheViennaBlog has thoroughly studied all the wonderful attractions but also hidden secrets to uncover in Vienna. Click Links below to get to the information:
Here is the Vienna Ultimate Top 50 Bucket List
Here is the Best of Vienna in 4 hours
Here is the Best of Vienna in 4 hours (Summer Edition)
Here are the Vienna Old Streets in Historic Center
Here is the Spittelberg Village in Vienna
More Vienna Winter snow photography inspirations of Vienna. Check my Blog post here,..
St. Stephens Cathedral Vienna, snow
Goldenes Quartier, Vienna snow
Stadtpark Vienna, Johann Strauß Denkmal, snow
Albertinaplatz und Vienna State Operat in the back, snow
Belevedere Palace & Museum, Vienna snow
Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna snow
Schönbrunn Palace Gardens, Vienna, snow
All Picture Credits, Vienna Tourist Boards