Christmas in Vienna
Written by Katharina Aderman on December 21, 2019
Vienna, Austria is one of the top beautiful towns in the world, but at Christmas this is especially the truth. The Austrians adore Christmas and have many traditions they cherish and love sharing with the world. These include everything from special foods, to festivals, decorations and huge Christmas markets full of everything from mulled wine to handcrafted toys and lots of different kinds of foods and decorations.
Examples of Christmas Markets
One of the biggest of these Christmas markets is the Christkindmarkt, which lies right in front of the city’s City Hall. It opens in the middle of November and not only has all kinds of gifts and foods, there is an old Viennese merry-go-round as well as a Christmas Workshop where kids can bake cookies or go on a sleigh ride.
Or if you love art, take a visit to the Schönbrunn Place Christmas market to browse and buy everything from jewelry to ceramics or handblown glass ornaments. The Schönbrunn Palace also holds a yearly concert for both Christmas and New Year’s featuring music from Austrian legends like Strauss and Mozart. Plus you can purchase a special VIP ticket and enjoy a 3 course meal with a glass of champagne.
Another popular Christmas market is the Belvedere Palace Christmas Market near Rathaus. The palace façade gets all lit up and there are numerous stands where you can buy all kinds of Austrian drink, food, handicrafts, and holiday decorations.
There is also the Freyung Christmas market, the oldest one in the city having started in 1722. It features Punch and Judy puppet shows and music, as well as having stands full of meats and cheeses.
Plus a Christmas market at Karlsplatz by the south side of the Ringstrasse in front of the Karlskirche, one of the most excellent Baroque churches in Europe. It is operated by Divina Art, which is a group of arts and crafts pros. The things sold here must pass a special committee have been created by the genuine seller. Plus of course there is good, music and even a live nativity scene.
Be aware that December 25th and 26th are both public holidays, so most of the stores are closed, but the 24th isn’t a public holiday so a lot of them are likely open, but may close early so their staff can celebrate the holiday. Public transportation does usually run during this timeframe, but the timetables could be reduced, so check carefully if you plan to use them.
Things suggested to buy at the Christmas Markets
Some of the popular things to buy at the Christmas markets include the seasonal foods like lebkuchen or stolen. You can also get a collectable mug at some of the markets when you buy some punch to drink. Plus of course there are tons of gifts like candles, purses, hats, scarves, glassware, wooden items, artwork, and foods like jam, honey, wine and of course schnapps. You can also find tons of Christmas decorations both at the markets and at regular department stores in the city.
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Music
Christmas Eve has many special characteristics in Vienna, to include performances by the famous Vienna Boys’ Choir or attending church services at the St. Stephens Cathedral to sing carols, or attend a concert at Kursalon on Christmas Eve or on Christmas night.
Another famous concert is the string quartet performance at the Sala Terrena located in the Deutscher Ritterorden convent near St. Stephan’s Cathedral. It gets decorated very festively holds a special Mozart concert on Christmas Eve with performances by famous musical groups like the Salon Orchestra.
And don’t forget about the “Christmas in Vienna” Concert at the Konzerthaus featuring traditional Christmas music, which is held in the middle of December in the Great Hall. It will have performers like the Vienna Boys’ Choir, Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, and the Wiener Singakademie.
When it comes to Christmas traditions there are lots to admire in Vienna. Firstly, the bearer of gifts is actually the Christkind or Christ Child, who looks like an angel with golden hair and wings, and is supposed to be baby Jesus. However, in modern times Santa does play a part with some of the families.
Families gather together to sing carols and eat a special Christmas meal, which traditionally was carp, but these days is more than likely pork or turkey instead. There are also plenty of sweets like the lebkuchen gingerbread like cookies, Christmas cookies called Weihnachtskekse, and a fruitcake like bread called Stollen, as well as a spiced biscuit called Spekulatius. And if you like roasted chestnuts, you are sure to find them for sale on the streets of the city during the Christmas season.
All in all there are tons of things to do and see at Christmas time in Vienna, and if it snows, it makes things even more magical and special! So if you get a chance to be there during this wonderful time of year, make it something to put on your bucket list and you will not regret it.