Vienna at Christmas time is a must. Actually, Vienna at any time of the year is beautiful, but at Christmas time there’s extra sparkle.
I was flying to the UK for Christmas and added a jaunt to Vienna before the holidays. I flew from London Heathrow on British Airways to Vienna.
The Vienna airport is relatively small, so I whizzed through passport control, picked up my bags, and grabbed a taxi. Taxis will set you back about 30 Euros (€30) and take about 30 minutes (depending on time of day and traffic) to get to the center of the city. Be sure to ask the driver if they take credit cards before jumping in (not all do)! You can also get into the city center with the City Airport Train (CAT) which takes 20 minutes. Tickets cost €12 one-way and €21 round-trip (valid six months from date of purchase).
My sister was joining me on this city escape and I found us a twin-bed room at Le Méridien Vienna on Expedia. A suggestion when booking your accommodations: have good strong coffee (or tea in my case) on hand! And be aware that you may have to go to something stronger. Surprisingly, I found booking accommodations to be one of the most stressful things of this trip! So many hotels and B&Bs, plus trying to figure out the right location — it all became a bit much! Vienna is fairly contained and it doesn’t take long to get between places, but there are different districts/zones in the city which can be confusing.
After we got checked in, we layered up, grabbed hats and gloves, and headed out to see the famous Viennese Christmas Markets. The squares around the city transform into magical markets where the aroma of Glühwein (hot spiced wine) and various other hot punches served in little Santa Boots, baked cookies, roasted chestnuts, and Wiener Würstchen (Viennese sausages) hangs in the air. There are loads of little stalls offering everything from soap to jewelry to stocking-stuffers and Christmas decorations. At one or two of the markets you can rent skates and whiz around an ice rink under the festive lights.
If the markets don’t get you in a ridiculously Christmasy mood, try walking around the Old City, with the shopping streets decorated with festive lights. You’ll be whistling carols in no time.
With this storybook setting, it was clear to me why Vienna has taken second spot in a recent vote of Europe’s Best Christmas Markets.
Some markets to visit:
- Christmas Village on Maria-Theresien-Platz
- Vienna Christmas World on Rathausplatz
- Christmas Village at Belvedere Palace
- Christmas Market at Schönbrunn Palace
- Christmas Market on Stephansplatz
Other highlights of our three-day stay:
- Spanish Riding School to watch the Lipizzaner Stallions
- Belvedere Palace
- Leopold Museum
- Schoenbrunn Palace including visiting Neptune’s Fountain and The Gloriette
- Tour of the State Opera
- Boat Cruise down the Danube Canal (Danube River Cruises are open in the summer months)
- Top of St Stephen’s Cathedral
- All the Christmas Markets 😊
Eats and Drinks
- One thing the Viennese do especially well: tea/coffee and cake. There are lots of cafés to warm up in over a hot brew and a sinful slice of Sachertorte (Vienna’s infamous chocolate cake – one not to miss!!)
- The Viennese love their coffee. Here’s a chart to help you know what you’re ordering!
- Café Mozart
- Zwolf Apostekeller
- Das LOFT in the Sofitel Hotel
- YOU in the Le Méridien Hotel
- Griechenbeisl: Viennese cuisine since 1447 – where Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, and other legendary cultural figures used to dine!
Tips and Tricks
- Vienna is a walkable city – most sights are centrally located and close to one another.
- The local currency is euros – make sure you have cash with you. Some places don’t take credit cards.
- The official language in Austria is German, but in touristy places and most restaurants you’ll do fine in English.
- Follow the Vienna Tourist Board and Vienna Tips on Instagram for recommended places to visit or spots to eat and drink.
- Take advantage of the Vienna U-Bahn around town. You can get an all-day pass for €8 per person and 72-hour passes are available. Don’t forget to validate your ticket in the little red machines before you board.
- The Vienna Card offers benefits like free travel on the subway and discounts to many museums, shops, and restaurants.
- There is free Wi-Fi (Freewave) throughout the city.
- Tipping – there’s no firm guideline, but we rounded up the bill.
- A lot of restaurants, museums, and shops are closed on Sundays – some even on Mondays.
- Tap water is fabulous. Drinkable and comes out of the mountains!