It doesn’t matter if you were born south of the equator and think you can’t handle what Vienna in winter has to offer. The chilly capital transforms itself as the tail end of the year approaches, shedding its dreamy quality and signalling the end of the year with a bewitching beginning to the festive season.
With rooftops as far as you can see covered in sheets of snow, and a warmth to the air that may seem unlikely in a place that’s freezing, winters in Vienna are the stuff that dreams are made of. Put on your warmest garb, and make sure you sip some simmering coffee to keep you going!
It’s Hard not to FALL in LOVE with Vienna in Winters
Yes, it is easy to fall in love with Vienna in winter, despite how much chilly it might get. As you acclimatize to the cold, you will find yourself walking to the hundreds of stunning churches, museums, cafes and restaurants that make up the car-free city centre. As the holiday season approaches, you’ll find yourself surrounded with fairy lights and shops selling trinkets and exquisite local delicacies that you must dig your hands into! Coffee shops aside, if you’re looking to be a little more adventurous, try ice skating instead! All-in-all, the promise of the snow and magical atmosphere all around the centre of Vienna will make you full of emotions and love for the city.
What to do in Vienna in Winter Season
There’s a plenty to do in Vienna in the winter season and there wouldn’t be a single dull moment during your visit that I can assure. Let’s start with our favorites to do in this season:
Ice Skating fun!
This winter sport is something that everyone (tourists and locals) enjoy. A large ice rink is set you in front of the Rathaus where you can rent ski shoes for small fee and partake in ice skating fun. The stunning ice skating rink especially looks incredible during the night with all the lights lit up.
Also Read: Our Budapest Travel Guide
Vienna has some spectacular palaces which can still be accessed during the winters. It used to be the winter residence of Austrian imperial family (Habsburg). One of the most stunning places to visit in Vienna in winters for sure. It looks like a dream during the snowfall – a sight you absolutely cannot miss.
The fairytale Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria offers a majestic background for those instagram-worthy pictures. Especially during the winters or say Christmas time, it is just a perfect escape for travelers who can simply embrace the chill in the air whilst sipping on some hot gluhwein.
Horse-Carriage Drawn Ride
Wish to get a whimsical feel of Vienna and make the most of your visit to the city? Simply hop onboard a horse-carriage drawn ride! Admire beautiful Austrian attractions and get glimpse of all the illuminations from your special ride. This way you can also avoid large queues during the festive time and get a better perspective of Vienna that you’ll remember for a long time. I am sure kids are going to love horse-carriage rides. Definitely one of the most recommended things to do in Vienna with kids.
A Picture with the Famous Christmas Ribbon
A sure testimony to the arrival of winters in Vienna is the installation of that famous Christmas ribbon on the department store, Popp and Kretschmer. Well, Instagram addicts definitely know what I am talking about. The store is set on crossing so don’t be surprised if hundreds of girls are waiting in queue to take picture with this pretty ribbon. It is well worth taking a picture against this pretty backdrop both in morning and at night. You deserve to see this stunning spot in Vienna and make a knockout Christmas selfie here.
Here’s the exact address so you can simply enter it into your GPS and do not have to worry about finding it.
Address: Kärntner Str. 51, 1010 Wien, Austria
Fuel up on traditional Viennese Coffee
A warm cuppa latte will become mandatory after those long strolls along the colorfully decked up streets of Vienna. Take shelter in a cozy traditional coffee house before hopping onto next set of attractions. Two of the most popular coffee houses which we’ll highly recommend for your visit to Vienna in winters are Cafe Mozart and Cafe Central. You may have to wait a bit to get into these two but that would be worth it. The overall atmosphere and striking ambience are sure to wow you. Don’t forget to try their traditional Viennese coffee and some lip-smacking cakes.
Treat your Auditory Senses at Stephansplatz
Stephansplatz makes for the perfect starting point for anyone exploring Vienna by foot. In winters you will find street musicians occupying this area, providing Stephansplatz the lively atmosphere it is renowned for. Be ready for a sumptuous auditory treat when waltzing around in this area that will be packed by street shoppers and fine artists all through the festive season. After you have experienced the area teeming with so much energy, escape the frosty weather and take shelter in the st. Stephen’s Cathedral. The beautiful architecture of this powerful cathedral will WOW you.
Uncover the Street art scene of Vienna
If you are anything like us then be prepared to put your walking shoes on and delve deeper into the street art culture of Vienna. Just random strolls along the Spittelberg and MuseumsQuartier will help you get the true essence of this city. Start from Volkstheater and traverse your path to these colonies which will astound you.
Appreciate the Illuminated Streets
Vienna’s streets are awash in magical Christmas decor and beautifully lit in strings of fairylights. Walk through the winding alleys of the city, soaking up the beauty and taking in the warm glow of lanterns and lights. Rooftops with glistening snow dripping off them, and warm Christmassy lights make for a magical carnival.
Walk Down the Freyung Passage
Freyung Passage is an interesting, architectural passage in Strauchgasse 4, Vienna that gives you a glimpse of Vienna’s beauty. This passage is packed with small eateries and some boutique stores. The Neo-Renaissance style architecture is definitely the standout point of this passage but don’t forget to try chocolates at the famous Xocolat chocolatier.
Get Groovy during the Ball Season
Travelers can enjoy Ball season in Vienna from November till the end of March. Embrace this season with love and be a part of this long-running tradition during the festive season. There are a number of ball rooms where you can celebrate Vienna’s romantic relationship with music. For those real royal feels and an experience of a bygone era dripping with opulence, we suggest you to head to The Vienna Opera Ball, The Vienna Philharmonic Ball or even The Rudolfina-Redoute.
All about Christmas in Vienna
Christmas markets in Vienna have long withstood the test of modernity. The nearly 400 year old tradition has built itself a repute for being one of the most elaborate Christmas markets in Europe, heralding tourists from across the globe. With snowy streets leading into the very many kinds of markets in the city, you could perhaps just spend a day or two browsing the markets to your heart’s fill. Viennese bakeries come to life as they churn out the freshest batches of scrumptious pastries during the advent period. Make sure you drop in to a local church to hear the choir sing, and try and catch a performance of ballet or two!
How to Explore Vienna’s Christmas Market
Vienna’s earliest ‘Krippenmarkt’ dates back to when Albrecht I allowed for his subjects to hold a market to celebrate Christmas. From the 17th century, much has changed, but the Christmas markets in Vienna have retained their prevalence and charm.
The Dreamy Rathaus/ City Hall:
The Dream Christmas Market at the Rathaus/ City Hall is perhaps best known for its stunning jaw-dropping backdrop. From mouthwatering cookies to aromatic mulled wine, there isn’t much this Market can’t offer in perfection. Moreover, you will be welcomed by huge singing choirs on most days of the opening, so you can be assured your auditory senses will be in for a real treat.
If you’re attending the market at the City Hall, put on your skating shoes and try ice skating through the 3000 square metre-long rink, brimming with visitors from within and outside Austria.
If you find yourself bored in the slightest, however, you can stroll through and browse over a hundred and fifty shops, all offering a different treat to savor. And on that note, definitely try some hot orange punch and roasted almonds to keep warm!
Address: Friedrich-Schmidt-Platz 1, 1010 Wien, Austria
Busiest St Stephen’s Cathedral Christmas Market
This was one of my favourite markets to visit in Vienna. And we ended up drinking more mulled wine than ever at Stephansplatz Christmas Market. First, it is jam-packed all through the day because of its central location in the heart of the old town. Second, those cute mulled wine cups – hard to resist!
Traditional Maria-Theresien Christmas Market
If at all you find it incredibly difficult to get around the City Hall Christmas market due to sheer number of people visiting, head to Maria-Theresien Platz. This Christmas Village in Vienna can be fund between the Natural History Museum and the Kunsthistorisches Museum. Experience the ideal Christmas setting and shop for gifts for your loved ones. Some unique gifts you can find in this market include oil paintings, wooden handicrafts and traditional jewellery.
Schönbrunn Palace Christmas Market:
This Christmas market gets a place on the must visit in Vienna majorly because of its location. We, anyway had to check out the Schönbrunn Palace, and getting to see the Christmas market was simply cherry on the top. The Christmas tree in front of the palace is sure to catch your attention the minute you enter the palace premises. Also, the aroma of pretzels and mulled wine will be hard to resist early morning. Expect around 80 stallholders exhibiting a gamut of traditional art and craft and stuff made from natural materials here.
Address: Schönbrunner Schloßstraße 47, 1130 Wien, Austria
Where to Stay in Vienna
Even though Vienna is the most underrated tourist capital, it is still the most liveable city in the world. If you are coming to Vienna in winter for a short stay and wish to remain in the heart of the capital then there isn’t a better option than Innerstadt. This way, you will stay in the centre of Vienna and all the historical attractions would be nearby. People who enjoy rich history and architectural gems should consider staying in Innerstadt. Some options are Grand Hotel Wien, Mercure Vienna First, and Steigenberger Hotel Herrenhof.
If you do not want to stay in the centre but close to it then Landstrasse is where you need to seek accommodation in Vienna. This area is on the right bank of Danube and some of the hotels worth staying are Lindner Hotel Am Belvedere, Hilton Vienna, Ruby Sofie Hotel Vienna and Hotel Daniel Vienna.
Travelers who like cool and quirky neighborhood can get accommodation in Vienna 7 (Neubau) or Vienna 4 (Wieden). Some of the hotels to consider in these areas are Hotel NH Wien, IntercityHotel Wien, Carlton Opera Hotel Wien, and Hotel Kaiserhof Wien.
What to PACK for your trip to Vienna in Winters
Vienna is one of the most popular places to visit during the winter, but only when you know what to pack for your trip! The cold season isn’t short and fleeting, and it is really important that you carry boots that prevent slipping!
While you should carry a few warm sweaters, it might be best to buy a jacket locally, especially if you’re staying longer, or will travel to more places in Europe! Make sure you stock up on nuts to keep warm, and of course, a brandy or two at the local pub will sure keep you warm!
Day Trip from Vienna to Salzburg
Why not extend your trip to Vienna and plan a day trip to Salzburg? Well both cities are equally interesting and packed with so much do. I would personally recommend anybody coming to Vienna to take this trip and better if you have a Eurail pass. You simply need to hop on any train in the morning and get to Salzburg within 2 – 3 hours. The birthplace of Mozart will leave you speechless especially the captivating landscapes, the buzzing historic centre, and Hohensalzburg Fortress. You can also sign-up for guided tours from Vienna to Salzburg if you doubt your time management skills.
Invest in Vienna City Pass
If you wish to experience a relaxed city break in Vienna then we will recommend you to invest in a Vienna City Card. Public transportation is nice and convenient in Vienna, and a city card gives you access to unlimited travels on buses, trams and trains. Not just free travels, you also get discounts on shopping, restaurants, museums, and dining.
Vienna city card for 12, 24, and 36 hours would cost you € 17 / € 25 / € 29 respectively. So, the big question is if it is worth investing in this pass. Well, if you will be exploring more of the central area and not venturing on the outskirts then this pass is for you.
Just make sure you stamp your pass before first boarding any tram or train.
I hope this Vienna travel guide for winter will help you plan your visit to the city. No matter you choose to stay in the city for 2 days, 3 days or 5 days, there will be a lot of things to do in Vienna nevertheless.