Viennese winter wonderland

Dazzling lights, twinkling stars

During Advent, Christmas lights bathe Vienna is a sea of light, with two million individual bulbs illuminating the streets, trees and parks. Gigantic chandeliers span Graben in the old town, eye-catching red baubles are suspended above Rotenturmstrasse and many of the capital’s other streets are decked out with glittering stars and fairy lights. The tree-lined Ringstrasse boulevard is lit up with beautifully illuminated arches. Strolling around Vienna’s Christmas Markets, it’s impossible not to get caught up in the romance of it all: baubles, beeswax candles, punch, cookies and plenty of inspirational gift ideas await visitors.

One big New Year’s Eve party

The whole city takes to the streets to celebrate the turn of the year: the New Year's Eve Trail transforms the historic city center, Rathausplatz and the Prater into one giant party zone with concession stands, live music and a firework display. At midnight, thousands of people dance their way into the new year accompanied by the sounds of Johann Strauss’s legendary Blue Danube Waltz and the Pummerin – the largest bell at St. Stephen's Cathedral. On the night of December 31 the Vienna State Opera will be staging an open-air broadcast of Strauss’s Die Fledermaus. The venue will also provide the setting for a live broadcast of the New Year's Concert by the Vienna Philharmonic, which will also be shown live on Rathausplatz and followed on TV by millions of viewers worldwide. Vienna’s answer to a hangover breakfast gets under way at 11am on January 1.

New Year's Eve Trail, Dec 31, 2019, 2pm-2am old town and Rathausplatz, 8pm-2am Prater,

As the snow gently falls...

For more than 100 years, original Vienna snow globes have been spreading cheer as they dust the miniature worlds within in artificial snow. Popular scenes include St. Stephen's Cathedral, the Giant Ferris Wheel, pine trees and deer. The glass globes were invented by Perzy, a family-owned artisanal Viennese manufacturer. They are on sale in all good souvenir stores and at Christmas markets throughout the city. The largest selection of snow globes – and a museum dedicated to them – can be found in the seventeenth district. Erwin Perzy III is always dreaming up new designs and is a dedicated inventor – just like his grandfather, the creator of the snow globe. The precise composition of the perfectly weighted artificial snow is a closely guarded family secret.

Original Viennese Snow Globe workshop and museum, Schumanngasse 87, 1170 Vienna,

The rhythm of the waltz

With more than 450 events to choose from, the capital’s annual ball calendar features countless hours of dancing and enjoyment. At its peak in January and February, one ball follows hot on the heels of the next: anyone who is up to it could theoretically take to the dance floor more or less every night during this period. The Hofburg Silvesterball sets the new season in motion (Dec 31, 2019), with the world-famous Opera Ball providing the high point (Feb 2, 2020). The Vienna Philharmonic Ball (Jan 23, 2020), the Coffeehouse Owners’ Ball (Feb 14, 2020) and the Confectioners’ Ball (Jan 16, 2020) are among the other major draws. In Vienna virtually every profession and interest group – including lawyers, chimney sweeps and even weightlifters – has its own ball, which range in tone from ultra-glamorous to more laid-back affairs. And anyone who is less into classical music always has the option of dancing their way through the night at one of the city’s top clubs such as Flex, Grelle Forelle, Pratersauna and Volksgarten Disco.

The taste of winter

Winter has a distinctly sweet flavor in Vienna: jelly and cream-filled donuts, all kinds of cookies including Vanillekipferl (small vanilla cookies made of shortbread and chopped and ground nuts), Zimtsterne (star-shaped cookies drizzled with cinnamon and sugar), Linzer Augen (shortbread jam thumbprints), Florentines and Kokosbusserl (coconut balls), candied fruits and Lebkuchen always take the edge off the cold weather. Especially when they are washed down with a warming mug of tea (with or without a shot of rum), mulled wine or punch. Classic Viennese treats such as strudels, cakes and pastries are the perfect way to make up the extra calories everyone needs in the winter.

Coffee and cake

Coffeehouses come into their own in the winter months. These cozy oases are the perfect place to warm up and watch the world go by when the mercury starts to plummet outside. Hot drinks, tasty cakes and pastries and typical snacks deliver a welcome shot of energy. Seated in upholstered booths or on bentwood Thonet chairs, time passes at its own sweet pace. People come here to talk, drink, read, work or simply stare into space. Viennese cafés are not just about coffee and cake: food fans also come to them for their excellent breakfasts and delicious set lunches. Fine cakes and pastries and upbeat music awaits visitors to the capital’s concert cafés. And the city’s patisseries have the biggest selection of cakes, pastries and confectionery.

Gliding over the ice

Ice skating and curling are part and parcel of the Viennese winter sports experience. The Vienna Ice World transforms Rathausplatz into a 9,000m² ice rink spanning two levels. Skaters of all abilities flock here to skate to the music or simply glide along the winding trails through the adjacent park. Innovative lighting helps to create a romantic experience. In the evening, a section of the ice is set aside for eight curling lanes. In mid-November the Kleiner Eistraum starts the season with a 3,000m² rink extending from Rathausplatz into the Rathauspark.

Vienna Ice Dream, Jan 22-Mar 1, 2020, 10am-10pm daily, opens at 7pm on Jan 22, 2020,
Kleiner Eistraum Nov 15, 2019-Jan 6, 2020, 10am-10pm daily, Dec 24, 2019 10am-6pm, closed Dec 31, 2019

Pretty as a picture

Vienna has some amazing museums showing great exhibitions which provide welcome respite from the cold temperatures outdoors. The MuseumsQuartier Wien, one of the largest cultural complexes in the world, is home to the Leopold Museum, mumok – museum of modern art ludwig foundation vienna, Architekturzentrum Wien and Kunsthalle Wien. The Kunsthistorisches Museum and Naturhistorisches Museum provide hours’ worth of food for thought. Meanwhile, the Albertina and Belvedere are beacons of artistic endeavor. They are joined by numerous other galleries and exhibition spaces: in all, there are more than 100 museums in Vienna.

Going shopping

From luxury flagship stores to modern shopping streets: shopping is elevated to the level of an experience in its own right in Vienna. Exclusive international brands have their own stores in the capital, mostly in the old town on Kohlmarkt, Graben, Kärntner Strasse or in the Goldenes Quartier. The historic city center is also the place to pick up quality handmade porcelain, glassware, jewelry, fashion and footwear. Vienna’s longest shopping street, Mariahilfer Strasse, where international chains have their stores, provides an interesting contrast. It has everything any discerning shopper could ever want – from fashion, cosmetics and homeware to entertainment and bars and restaurants. The surrounding side streets are also well worth a visit thanks to their boutique stores, cozy bars and a distinctly creative flavor.

Strolling through the winter

Exploring the city on foot is great fun in winter – provided everyone’s dressed for it. Only a brave few venture out into the cold and wind without a hat and scarf. The grounds of Schönbrunn Palace – open throughout the winter – are particularly pretty when there’s snow on the ground. The warren of winding streets in the old town are great for an extended walk, and the nearest coffeehouse is never far away if the cold starts to bite. A little further afield, the Vienna woods show off the beauty of nature in the winter.


Vienna Tourist Board
Helena Hartlauer
Media Relations UK, USA, Canada, Australia
Tel. (+ 43 1) 211 14-364

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