Don’t wait til spring or summer to visit Austria’s capital. Some of its most unique experiences take place during the frosty months, where one-of-a-kind local events warm your heart and reveal a side of Vienna you can’t see any other time of the year.
Viennese Christmas Markets:
Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas, is a magical time in Vienna, with the historic city center and shopping streets in their festive best.
The city’s most beautiful squares, streets and parks are transformed into Christmas markets, each with its own distinct atmosphere. The largest, and considered one of the most beautiful in Europe, is the Wiener Christkindlmarkt (Viennese Christmas Market), combining romance and nostalgia. There’s a popular Herzerlbaum (heart tree) for you and your sweetie to take a selfie. But there’s also lots of seasonal family fun: a Christmas world in the park with a reindeer train, a carousel as well as a nostalgic Ferris wheel and a Nativity trail, and brass band players providing a seasonal soundtrack to your holiday spirits. Strap on skates to glide through the romantically-illuminated ice rinks connected by ‘dream paths.’
Other Viennese Christmas markets include imperial flair at the Christmas Market Schloss Shonbrunn with handmade products and the baroque splendors and elegant artisan craftwork of the Christmas Village at Belvedere Palace. Other markets bring festive cheer and light shows, concerts, curling rinks, cuisine, shopping and more to gardens, the city’s gothic cathedral, and other destinations around Vienna.
New Year’s Eve:
You’ll remember your NYE in Vienna forever. You can ring in the new year with the city’s New Year’s Eve Trail, galas and concert. Some of the Christmas markets turn into New Year’s markets or Winter markets, where the festive wintry spirit continues, but musical accompaniment turns to jazz and non-Christmas arts and crafts and cuisine. A New Year’s Eve Village springs up in Maria-Theresien Square.
The highlight on December 31 is Vienna’s no-charge New Year’s Eve Trail through the city center from mid-afternoon til the wee hours the next day.Stages offer shows and music and DJ sets as dozens of restaurateurs serve punch, sparkling wine and culinary treats. Revellers who follow the New Year’s Eve Trail start dancing in the afternoon when Vienna’s dance schools transform Graben square into an open-air ballroom with waltzing classes, and continue right past midnight to the sound of Johann Strauss’ “The Blue Danube” and the ringing of the famous bell of St. Stephen’s Cathedral.
A visit to a Silvestergala (New Year’s Eve gala) offers a stylish way to bring in the New Year and an experience of elegant Viennese ball culture, with classical dancing, a party with live contemporary music, shows, a waltz to “The Blue Danube” at midnight and a multi-course gala dinner. The atmosphere and the festive setting at the New Year’s Eve gala at Vienna City Hall and at the Palais Auersperg never fail to impress.
New Year’s eve traditions are also brought to life on the stage in the musical city of Vienna: “Die Fledermaus” by Johann Strauss is on the program in the Vienna State Opera and Vienna Volksoper. The New Year’s Concert performed by the Vienna Philharmonic – the most famous classical concert in the world – takes place every year on the morning of January 1 in the Golden Hall of the Vienna Music Society.It is broadcast on TV in more than 90 countries. Viennese locals watch it too while they enjoy their hangover breakfast and some go to watch the live broadcast on Stephansplatz.
Vienna Ice World and Ball Season in the New Year:
Every year from January to March, the Vienna Ice World transforms the Rathausplatz into a one of the world’s biggest open-air ice rinks for skaters with the illuminated facade of the City Hall creating a fairy-tale backdrop while musicians accompany the skaters. Its Sky Rink features a skating terrace on the second floor with a 120-yard ramp.
Vienna celebrates the climax of the ball season during January and February. More than 450 balls take place in Vienna every year, offering over half a million guests upwards of 2,000 hours of dancing, including of course the famous Viennese waltz.
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Images copyright WienTourismus / Christian Stemper
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