This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)
Christmas in Vienna is a serious business. The city’s unique, magic atmosphere comes out, helped by the fat snowflakes that only add to its beauty. Vienna in December can be cold, but it’s worth a visit. The Viennese have an age-old tradition: exploring the Vienna Christmas markets and then heading to the nearest bar to chat and warm up. If you’re planning to enjoy a magical Christmas in Austria, let me show you what you should visit, all the Christmas markets dates (updated to 2020) and the best food you should absolutely try during the holidays!
Before my trip to Vienna I told myself I really hoped to get some snow. Like… lots and lots of snow. Is there anything more magical and romantic than a European city all covered in snow? Images of us, busy eating warm krapfen and drinking mulled wine filled my mind. I couldn’t wait to go to Vienna in December!
Nobody ever told me that even -4° C can be brutal if it’s snowing a lot. I confess I hadn’t packed a lot of thermal clothes so I spent our first day in Vienna looking for some place where I could hide from the snowy wind, while feeling sorry that I couldn’t explore the Vienna Christmas Markets.
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So don’t be like me and make sure you pack the right clothes for a winter trip to Vienna. You’ll be happy to be warm, and you can still get the extra cuddle by eating all the winter delicacies offered by the beautiful Austrian capital, should you need it!
I got to Vienna from Bratislava, as I found it cheaper to find lodging over there. If you’ve read my article about Bratislava Christmas Market you’ll know that it’s in the middle between Vienna and Prague, so you can enjoy an amazing multi-city trip with just one flight ticket.
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If you’re landing in Vienna, you might want to pre-book a CAT transfer from Vienna Airport. The City Airport Train is the easiest (and cheapest) way to get to Vienna city center (Wien Mitte). Click here to pre-book. The ride takes just 16 minutes.
Another useful thing to have is the Vienna City Card, which is another great option to explore Vienna on a budget. It provides unlimited use of Vienna’s metro, tram and bus lines, as well as discounts for museums, shops and popular attractions. Click here to buy a discounted Vienna City Card. Having one will help you to enjoy Vienna Christmas markets without having to worry about public transport.
When do I go to the Vienna Christmas markets?
From the third week of November until Christmas (keep reading for all the dates) the most beautiful spots in Vienna turn into magic Christmas villages.
The Christmas markets season is Europe is absolutely breathtaking! Vienna, in particular, turns into something straight out of a dream.
The nights shine with Christmas lights and candles. The air is filled with the delicious scent of gingerbread, cinnamon and mulled wine.
Sure, it will be cold, but if you pack the right stuff, you will be able to spend the whole day outside. Which is perfect, especially if you don’t have much time to visit Vienna in December.
How to get to Vienna from Bratislava by train
From the Bratislava train station, every hour you can hop on a train to Vienna. Tickets cost about 14€ per person (there’s a discount for children).
The ride lasts more or less 1 hour and you will be able to buy your tickets at the train station. I’ve found a lot of stores selling train tickets online, but they always add expensive fees to the final price, so I decided to go straight to the station and risk it.
Guess what? I found out that there’s absolutely no need to book in advance. There are so many trains departing from Bratislava to Vienna that even if one is full, you can just wait for the next one. Save your money, you’ll need it to go on a shopping spree in at Vienna Christmas markets!
How to get to Vienna from Bratislava by boat
Train is not the only option if you plan to go from Bratislava to Vienna. River cruises are super cheap, if you consider that you will be able to enjoy the Danube. The whole experience feels absolutely decadent and it often comes with all you can eat buffets or meals.
The river cruise will last 70-80 minutes (more, if you plan to book one with meals and entertainment), and you can check times and fares online. In this case I suggest you to book your tickets in advance from the Twin City Liner website, as they tend to sell fast especially in December because of the Christmas markets in Vienna and Bratislava.
Because it will be pretty cold, I suggest you to wear warm coat, scarf, hat and gloves, especially if you’re planning to stay on the upper deck to take pictures. After all, there will be no shopping if you’re half frozen.
Been there, done that!
How many Christmas markets will I find in Vienna in December?
The present day markets date back to 1298.
In Vienna there are over 20 Christmas markets, both in the city center and in the outskirts. They all sell seasonal gifts and delicious Christmas treats. The difference lies mainly in the background.
Vienna is a city full of history, monuments and art. Add this to the Christmas markets business and you’ll understand why it’s one of the most visited European cities during the holidays!
Unless you have at least 3 or 4 days, I suggest you add just a couple of the biggest Vienna Christmas markets to your itinerary. That way you will be able to enjoy the Vienna Christmas lights, all the cute shops and the seasonal treats without having to run from one part of the city to the other.
Remember: Vienna in December can be quite crowded so you must take that into account!
Let me show you our favorite Christmas markets in Vienna that you can visit from the end of November to the end of December: all the dates have been updated to 2020!
The Viennese Dream Christmas Market
Located in front of the Vienna City Hall, it’s the one we liked the most. You just can’t miss it if you want to get into the spirit of Christmas in Vienna.
All it took us to get there from our hotel was a metro ride to the Rathausplatz.
The Vienna City Hall backdrop is unique, especially when it’s all lit up. Inside the City Hall, on the ground floor, there’s also a huge kids area, where they can learn how to bake Christmas cookies and how to make candles.
On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays international choirs sing Christmas carols: the entrance is free. Here we found a lot of Christmas presents for our female girlfriends and… well for everyone who is absolutely in love with the Viennese Christmas!
This Wien Christmas market is open from the 17th November to the 26th December.
Opening hours: Sun-Thu 10am – 9.30pm, Fri and Sat 10am – 10pm; 7th December 10am – 10pm, 24th December 10am – 6pm, 25th and 26th December 11am – 9.30pm.
Christmas Village Belvedere Palace
This is another popular spot among tourists and locals. The Christmas Village at Belvedere Palace takes place in front of the Belvedere Museum, a beautiful Baroque palace, where you can find the world’s largest collection of Gustav Klimt‘s paintings.
To get there the easiest option is to hop on a tram, line D to Schloss Belvedere or 18/O to Quartier Belvedere.
At the Belvedere Palace Christmas market you will find over 40 stalls selling elaborate ornaments, handcrafted goods and Christmas treats. The entrance is free.
This Christmas market is open from the 23rd November to the 26th December.
Opening hours: Monday – Friday 11am – 9pm; Saturday – Sunday 10am – 9pm; 24th December 11am – 4pm; 25th – 26th December 11am – 7pm.
Christmas Village Maria-Theresien Platz
It’s easy to get here using either the metro (U2 to Museumsquartier), a tram (to Dr. Karl Renner Ring) or a bus (Dr. Karl Renner Ring) according to where you are in Vienna.
This time the background is Imperial, as the Museum of Modern Art is located in the former Imperial stables. At the center of the square there’s a pretty large statue depicting Empress Maria Theresa.
This Christmas market is open from the 21st November to the 26th December.
Opening hours: Sunday – Thursday 11am – 9pm; Friday & Saturday 11am -10pm; 24th December 11am – 4pm; 25th – 26th December 11am – 7pm.
Christmas Village in the Former General Hospital
The location of this Christmas market is peculiar and honestly I didn’t know what to expect. One of the quirkiest Vienna Chirstmas markets is in fact located inside the former General Hospital.
While at first it felt a bit weird to visit a Christmas market held in a former hospital, you’ll soon get used to it.
The Christmas Village in the Former General Hospital is one of the favorite Christmas markets by the locals.
The atmosphere is in fact very traditional and it doesn’t fail to impress. The stalls are finely designed and decorated, all lit up and even more beautiful when it snows.
The easier way to get here through public transport is by rail (to Lange Gasse) or bus (to Skodagasse).
This Christmas market is open from the 18th November to the 23rd December.
Opening hours: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 3 pm – 10 pm; Wednesday, Saturday, holidays 12am – 10pm; Sunday 12am – 9pm.
Christmas and New Year’s Market at Schönbrunn Palace
This is one of the biggest Christmas markets in Vienna, with approximately 60 stalls selling handicrafts and Christmas gifts, including handmade Christmas decorations.
Located in front of the beautiful Schönbrunn Palace, former Imperial Summer residence and one of the most important buildings in Austria. Many stalls here sell local delicacies and the air is filled with the delicious scent of mulled wine.
In front of the Schönbrunn Palace there’s a huge Christmas tree. International choirs sing Christmas carols during the holidays: enjoy a free show and make sure you take lots of beautiful pictures!
This Christmas market is open from 24th November to the 26th December.
Opening hours: Daily 10am – 6pm.
Christmas Market at Spittelberg
In the last few years this Christmas market has gotten pretty big: it houses 100 stalls, making it the largest one in Vienna.
This is also the Christmas market in Vienna where you can find international artists who sell arts and crafts from all around the world.
It seems that in the last 25 years this Christmas market has attracted about 500.000 visitors every year and it can be particularly crowded. If you don’t want to spend the day pushing your way through the crowds, it would be wise to get there early in the morning.
This Christmas market is open from the 15th November to the 23rd December.
Opening hours: Mondays – Thursdays 2pm – 9pm; Fridays 2pm – 9.30pm; Saturdays 10am – 9.30pm; Sundays and holidays 10am – 9pm.
Street Food and Christmas treats (+ vegan options)
There are certain things you can’t avoid while shopping for Christmas presents in Vienna. Of course I’m not only speaking of a slice of the original Sachertorte at the Hotel Sacher, in front of the Vienna State Opera, or the delicious bratwursts and sausages that you can eat hot in a long bun.
Vienna offers in fact many dishes that you can only eat during the Christmas period. Their most traditional dish is a fried carp, which is usually served during the Christmas eve dinner.
Some families also love to eat a meat fondue. It’s a dish that the locals eat for hours: the perfect excuse to sit down with the family. Laughter, good food and small talk are the staples of the Christmas eve dinner.
The Weihnachtskekse, Christmas cookies baked in all shapes and often decorated, and the Spekulatius, typical spicy cookies, are especially popular among children.
Everywhere in Vienna you will find the Maronistand that sell roasted chestnuts and delicious slices of roast potatoes with a pinch of salt and pepper (be careful, they can be addictive!).
Aside from the last two vegetarian treats, vegans can also try some of the delicious dishes served at Nice Rice. They serve a mix of Persian, Indian and Austrian delicacies, paying special attention to the quality of the ingredients they use.
An alternative could be Deli Bluem: they serve organic and fair trade juices, coffee, tea and beer from local breweries.