By Lauren LeBrun, on October 27, 2016

How to celebrate Christmas in Vienna

Imagine an illuminated market square filled with stalls selling holiday decorations, tree ornaments, warm drinks, and sugary treats. Carolers sing traditional tunes and colorful lights twinkle from the buildings above. That’s Christmas in Vienna. My husband and I are planning a trip to Austria in December and we couldn’t be more excited to spend the holiday season there. Here are some of the things we’ve learned about Christmas in Vienna during our travel planning.

Vienna City Hall (Wiener Rathaus) during Christmas
Vienna City Hall (Wiener Rathaus) during Christmas

Where to shop:

Christmas markets are undoubtedly one of the main reasons why people flock to Europe during the holidays. And Vienna is the mothership of Christmas markets! There are dozens of them in the city. The largest and most popular is Christkindlmarkt at the Rathausplatz. It’s located in front of Vienna City Hall. In 2016, the market is a part of Vienna Christmas World at the Christmas Market. There will be 149 stalls selling Christmas goods, an ice skating rink, merry-go-round, and gingerbread cookie decorating workshops. It begins on November 11 and runs through December 26, 2016. Other popular markets are the Old Viennese Christmas Market Freyung, Christmas Village Maria-Theresien Platz, and Advent Market in front of Karlskirche.

Roasted chestnuts at Christmas markets in Vienna
Roasted chestnuts at Christmas markets in Vienna

What to eat:

The Christmas markets are perfect for holiday shopping, but they are also a festive way to enjoy seasonal food and drink. Make sure you go to the markets with an empty stomach, because you will be snacking your way through them! Food stalls sell everything from ham, sausage, cheese, potatoes, gingerbread biscuits, Christmas cookies, waffles, roasted chestnuts, and more warm Viennese snacks. Don’t forget to try the mulled wine as well. Vendors make this warm drink by boiling wine with spices, orange, and sugar. It’s served in a mug, so it’s the perfect way to warm up on a cold winter afternoon or evening.

St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna
St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna

What to watch:

There’s much more to do in Vienna during December than the Christmas markets though. If you love listening to Christmas carols or classical music, then pay a visit to one of Vienna’s old churches. Every holiday season, St. Stephen’s Cathedral hosts the Advent Concert Series where visitors can listen to musical pieces by Mozart, Bach, Haydn, Schubert, and traditional Christmas carols. The Wiener Konzerthaus concert hall also puts on a holiday concert series called “Christmas in Vienna.” It’s one of the most popular classical concerts in all of Europe. The orchestra plays traditional Christmas pieces as it has for the past 20 years. If ballet is more your style, then make sure you check the holiday program at the Vienna State Opera.

Derag Livinghotel An der Oper
Derag Livinghotel An der Oper

Where to stay:

Vienna has tons of hotels in the city center, so you will have lots to choose from. But make sure you book a few months in advance to snag the best rooms! If you’re looking for a hotel that’s close to the major Christmas markets, then check out Austria Trend Hotel Rathauspark. It’s a 4-star hotel that’s just a few steps from Christkindlmarkt at the Rathausplatz. If you’re looking for a festive hotel, then take a peak at Hotel Schloss Weikersdorf. This 4-star hotel is a renovated Renaissance castle located in the Vienna Woods and it serves an incredible four-course feast on Christmas Eve. If you’re a frequent Expedia customer, then check out Derag Livinghotel An der Oper. It’s a +VIP Access hotel, which means that Expedia+ gold members can get all sorts of perks like room upgrades, early check-in, late checkout, and more.

If you’re dreaming of Christmas in Europe, then Vienna should be at the top of your list. This picturesque Austrian capital is one of the most magical places to spend the holidays. If you’ve already been to Vienna, then check out the German Christmas markets in the country next door. No matter which you choose, you will be spending the holidays in a beautiful European city walking among festive markets with a mug of mulled wine in hand. That’s pretty hard to top!

Where are you spending the holidays this season?