Two years ago I was lucky enough to travel to Vienna at Christmas. Even though I don’t particularly enjoy the cold and snow on the streets, I love strolling through Christmas markets, sipping hot chocolate in cafés and going to classical Christmas concerts. All that you can do in Vienna and I loved every second of it.
Visit the Christmas markets in town. If you go to Vienna during that period of the year, it’s probably THE ONE thing you want to do. Christkindlmarkt on the Rathausplatz is your most obvious choice, but not the only one. While I loved this huge market, I also think it was overcrowded and too mainstream. I enjoyed some of the smaller markets more, and they were selling less obvious things. Christkindlmarkt is surely very scenic with the nice town hall building in the back, the huge tree and, one of my favourite things, the other decorated trees. There was one tree full of red hearts, the tree of love! I’m seriously considering doing one in my flat, as a lucky charm :) The smaller markets are all over town, you can find one in every corner. Get a serving of mulled wine and stroll through them all. Here you can find a list of the main markets in Vienna this year. Eat delicious cake and sip creamy hot chocolate in chic cafes. Our hotel was just next to the famous Cafe Central, so it was an easy choice. I don’t even remember what we ate there, this means it wasn’t outstanding. However, I can clearly remember the grand interior of the cafe and that’s why you should stop here at least once. Of course I also had to eat a slice of original Sacher cake at the Sacher cafe. The queue in front of the building was always very long, so I decided to get there early in the morning and have my piece of cake for breakfast :) Yum! Loved the opulent furnishing too! I hear Demel, just around the corner, is nice too. Unfortunately there is only so much cake one can eat in a day, so I didn’t have the opportunity to try that one too. But I just had to have Apfelstrudel with vanilla sauce in a random cafe when I was cold.
Enter the fairytale world of kings, queens and princesses at Schönbrunn Castle. Having grown up with the Sissi films, I just had to go to this castle, and even more so because it was Christmas. Wow, what a wonderful place! The sumptuous rooms, the lush gardens and the pretty zoo! And of course there was a Christmas market on the castle’s ground as well, a nice one too! If you’re short on time or money just visit the garden and the palace from the outside, it’s free. But if you have more time on your hand don’t miss a visit to the interior, it’s surely going to be crowded but I thought it was worth it nonetheless. I also enjoyed the visit to the zoo, what I liked best were the koalas and the architecture of the old zoo buildings, just looking at them was like stepping back in time.
Grab your beanie, gloves and scarf and walk through the old town, possibly when it’s foggy, snowing or the sun is going down. The historic old town of Vienna is very beautiful, there is one wonderful building after the other and you could spend hours taking pictures, if you can manage with your gloves on :) And inbetween all the nice buildings, there are also a few nice shops, so when it gets too cold just get inside one of them and buy yourself a little souvenir.
Get familiar with Hundertwasser, the artist. I think Hundertwasser was one of the first artists I really liked, I was around 13 years old when I started sticking pictures of his paintings in my diary. In the meantime my taste in art has changed quite a bit, but of course I had to go see some of his stuff in Vienna. I loved the Hundertwasser house and even more so the museum dedicated to him. It surely will bring a bit of colour into those dark and grey winter days!
Go to a classical music concert and lose yourself in the sound of Mozart, Strauss and co. I’m more the rock music chick, but now and then I don’t mind listening to some classical music. Surely when in Vienna you have to go to a classical concert. We went to the Kursalon to see one and I loved it! The orchestra played only big hits and they were sometimes accompanied by ballet dancers, it was a lovely evening. Of course you can go to the opera, there are concerts in the castles or even in the churches, I’m sure they are all very nice. We also visited the Haus der Musik, a great museum dedicated to music right in the centre of town. It’s a great thing to do when the temperatures drop or the weather is really bad, and you can easily spend half a day inside it.
Ditch the diet and eat some hearty Viennese food. Try the typical Viennese Schnitzel at least once, possibly with potato salad. We had it at Plachutta’s Gasthaus zur Oper and I can highly recommend it!
Step back in time in the state hall of the Austrian national library. This baroque historic library is surely one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. It’s right in the centre of the old town, so make sure to include it in your itinerary!
Find some peace in one of the many wonderful churches. I’m not a religious person and I didn’t use to visit churches a lot, but when in Vienna I really started to look at churches from a more aesthetic point of view. I always noticed that they were beautiful buildings from outside but I hardly ever considered going inside the churches for the frescoes and art. What a pity, I must have missed so many beautiful churches interiors during my older travels! Vienna surely has some of the most beautiful churches I have seen so far. Of course I also visited St. Stephen’s Cathedral and even took the lift to the top for a great view of the city.
And that’s it for today’s blog entry about Christmas in Vienna. More about Christmas in Switzerland soon!