Austria,  Destinations,  Europe

Winter in Vienna, Austria – amazing things to do

Vienna is nothing shot of a magical place during winter times. Christmas markets, horse-carriages and stunning fairy lights everywhere light up the city during the most wonderful time of the year. Winter in Vienna, Austria is a special season you do not want to miss. There are many amazing things you can not only do in Vienna in December – but during the entire winter season. Keep on reading and learn all about a magical winter trip to Vienna.

For more info about Austrian Christmas traditions head over here. If you are looking for a stunning day trip from Vienna in winter you absolutely need to consider Hallstatt. More of a countryside lover? Explore the beautiful places of Styria. Why not have it all? Check out my Austria road trip itineraries.

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Where to stay in Vienna, Austria in winter

Luckily, we have found the most perfect hotels for a cozy winter in Vienna. The most important thing about finding a great hotel in Vienna is location. If you don’t want to spend endless time in the subway or wander around the scary looking outskirts of the city, I suggest staying really central. We have stayed in many places all around town and these two are our absolute favorite hotels in Vienna:

Steigenberger Hotel Herrenhof

Steigenberger Hotel Herrenhof is located right in the most expensive and historic street in Vienna, the Herrengasse. The impressive 5-star hotel was constructed in 1913 and is located only a few steps away from the most famous buildings of Vienna. We have enjoyed the close proximity of all major sights and Christmas markets. You can conveniently reach everything by walking.

The rooms are fabulous and super spacious, decorated in a 21th century Art-Deco style. We have enjoyed the cozy beds and our two (!) balconies overlooking the historic quarters of Vienna. We felt especially spoiled with a fully stocked complimentary mini-bar and a pillow menu. These small gestures really make all the difference in my opinion.

Le Meridien Vienna

Le Meridien is a design hotel located right next to the Opera house of Vienna. It is ideally situated in the heart of Vienna, close by major shopping streets and fabulous historic buildings. The rooms are spacious and modern. The 5-star hotels motto is art, design and culture – and you can really feel it in every little detail.

The breakfast consists of an amazing spread and can be taken in a lovingly designed restaurant. You can access the hotels own swimming pool as well as the state of the art fitness center. Make sure to visit their own restaurant and bar for a lovely meal and a delicious cocktail.

Things to do in Winter in Vienna

In my opinion, Vienna is the perfect destination year round for a city trip. But there is a certain charm to visiting Vienna in winter, with Christmas lights everywhere and with some luck even a bit of snow on the charming buildings from our Imperial history.

For me, I enjoyed visiting the historic castles from Imperial times and strolling through the museums and learning about Austrias interesting history. This is especially a great idea for visiting Austria in winter, because it can get quite cold if you stay outside too long.

If you are looking for something more glamorous to do in Vienna, keep in mind that the ball season in Vienna will also be in full swing at this time! What an amazing and special experience!

Another amazing thing in visiting Vienna in December are the Christmas markets all over town. If you are not yet quite sure on what to do during your city trip in Vienna in winter, keep on reading and find my favorite activities, museums, tours and Christmas markets.

Visit the Christmas markets of Vienna

Vienna’s Christmas markets are famous all over the world. Especially the big market with the ice skating rink in front of the Town Hall is spectacular. At the beginning of Advent times, many different smaller and bigger markets open up all over town. Small chalets sell hot mulled wine, traditional arts and crafts and delicious typical Austrian street food.

Visiting the Christmas markets is definitely a MUST if you come to Vienna in December. For a detailed list of my favorite Christmas markets in Vienna keep on reading.

Christmas market stalls in Vienna in front of white baroque buildings

Take a horse carriage ride through the historic city center

Just like many many years ago the empress of Austria, Sisi, rode through the city on a horse carriage, you can also do that today. The famous so-called Fiakers are an integral part of Vienna. Taking the ride in winter is extra special because you can cuddle in a warm fuzzy blanked with your loved one while driving through the city alongside the Christmas decorations.

There are some things you need to make sure of before you take your carriage ride. The carriage provider must be registered with the authorities. Also, make sure that he seems reputable and that the horses are taken well care of and are in good shape. In summer, they are not permitted to offer rides during very high temperatures.

We have booked our ride with the Fiaker Paul company and we absolutely loved it. We were picked up at 12:00 am on the Michaelerplatz and on our 40 min ride we passed by all major sights and Christmas markets. Our operator was very friendly and offered to take pictures with the horses afterwards.

Blonde girl with two horses in front of horse carriage on Michaelerplatz in Vienna in winter

Visit Schönbrunn palace, Vienna in winter

Schönbrunn is one of the most famous palaces in Austria from the imperial times. Our beloved empress Sisi used this castle as her summer residence for many years. Nowadays the palace is especially famous for being home to one of the biggest zoos in Europe.

Schönbrunn palaca in vienna in winter with christmas tree, beautiful big castle with small chalets in front of it

Things to do in Schönbrunn in winter

However, Schönbrunn is so much more than just the zoo (even though it is always worth a visit as well!). By buying the Winter-Pass to Schönbrunn, you can tour the castle itself and experience the grandeur of the imperial home. If also offers access to the desert-house and the house of tropics.

A great thing to do during winter in Vienna is walking behind Schönbrunn castle in the Schönbrunn gardens. If you are a good walker, you can head up to the Gloriette and enjoy an amazing view over Vienna. In summer, the gardens are super crowded, so we preferred going in winter. Best thing is, this is totally free.

On your way out, make sure to stop by the cafe in the castle. They offer many traditional Austrian dishes, such as Apple Strudle and Kaiserschmarrn in an authentic atmosphere.

Schönbrunn Christmas market

If you are visiting Schönbrunn, Vienna in December, you can also experience the amazing Christmas market in front of the castle. This was one of my favorite Christmas markets in Vienna, and we bought some lovely homemade crafts there. After Christmas, the market is still open for a couple of days and is called a New Years market. This is a lovely Christmas market to visit during winter in Vienna.

How to get to Schönbrunn castle

Sadly, Schönbrunn is a little bit outside the inner city, so you need to take the green subway line (U4) towards Hütteldorf and exit at Schönbrunn. You can also take the car, since there is plenty parking space available.

Visit the Belvedere, Vienna in winter

The Belvedere castle is one of the most famous museums in Vienna. It hosts an amazing collection of art. Amongst other things, you can see the famous Kiss from Gustav Klimt in the Belvedere. Spread out over three different castles, there are many different expositions for you to see. If you are not a great lover of art, the castles and the gardens itself are still worth a visit.

Belvedere castle baroque building in front big flower beds and pond

Belvedere in winter

In advent times, the Belvedere hosts an exceptional Christmas market, called Weihnachtsdorf (Christmas village). The motto is baroque Christmas ambience in an elegant design. My favorite things about it were the beautiful stars that illuminated the pond in front of the castle. The market is open until the second Christmas day. This is definitely an amazing thing to do in Vienna in December.

Belvedere castle in winter at night with stars as christmas decorations in water in Vienna, Austria

How to get to the Belvedere

The good news is, that the Belvedere palaces and gardens are relatively easy to get to. The Belvedere is located fairly central, so quick to reach – even on foot from the center if you don’t mind a bit of a walk. Take the U1 subway and exit at Hauptbahnhof – from there it is a 15 minute walk.

Hofburg – Sisi museum

One of my favorite museums in Vienna is the Sisi museum in the Hofburg. The Hofburg museum owns a collection of former personal belongings of the famous empress as well as most of her jewelry. You can tour the old apartments of the empress and learn so much about Austrias history and the misunderstood empress. Many of Sisis poems are being displayed in the museum – and you can really get a feel of what kind of person she used to be. This is definitely one of the best things to do in winter in Vienna, Austria.

How to get to the Hofburg

Public transport lines which take you directly to the Hofburg.

Underground: U3 (orange), alight at Herrengasse

Explore the Spanish Riding School of Vienna (Spanische Hofreitschule)

The Spanish riding school is dedicated to training the famous Austrian Lipizzaner horses in the art of classical dressage. The performances, that are open to the public, are quite legendary. It is also called the Ballet of Stallions, because they put on performances to traditional Viennese music. The Spanish riding school is located on the Michaelerplatz 1, right in the city center of Vienna and can easily be reached by foot. Definitely one of the places you must see in winter in Vienna, Austria.

Christmas market on the Rathausplatz (Town Hall Square)

The Rathausplatz in Vienna is one of the most important and impressive squares in all of Vienna. The size, the design and the architecture are quite stunning. During Christmas times, the Rathausplatz is home to the biggest Christmas market in Vienna, Austria.

This is definitely one of the best things to do in Vienna in December. You can even go ice skating on the big rink in front of the Town Hall. The entrance to the Christmas market is free, however you need to pay for special activities.

You can easily reach the Christmas market with the Line 1 (Rathausplatz) or Line 2 (Parlament).

Vienna, Austria Rathaus with carousel in front of it and big christmas tree in the back

Saint Stephens cathedral

St. Stephen’s Cathedral is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vienna and the seat of the Archbishop of Vienna. This is one of the most beautiful and sacred churches in the world. You can take a guided tour and learn all about the history of the beautiful landmark,

Visiting the St. Stephens Cathedral in winter is even more special, because there is also a Christmas market right outside the church. Also, during winter times special Christmas concerts are being hosted in the cathedral. This is an amazingly beautiful thing to do during December in Vienna.

Vienna, Austria Saint Stephens cathedral

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