Wait! Don’t start yet! Put some –appropriate- music on first!
A failed attempt in the past to visit Vienna at Christmas time, made me want even more this year to explore this city’s fabulous Christmas world, even if I had to disguise myself as a Santa’s Elf. An exploratory look at December’s tickets was enought to reserve my plane seat within 5 minutes. The trip was a damn fact and my mood was decorated with Christmas lights. For this destination I didn’t even have to search for anything, since my friend Silia, also known as The Viennese Girl, stays there, so I just let her take me to the best parts of her city (hm on foot, of course, because horse-drawn carriages cost 80 euros for 40 minutes or 50 euros for 20 minutes).
Vienna through my eyes looked like a little Paris. The architecture of many of its buildings, the small cute cafes and the glamor of an old-fashioned aristocratic era, all gave rise to this notion. Christmas, however, becomes even more of a fairy tale, a dream come true.
Vienna is divided into 23 apartments, in the same sense as Paris, with the first being the most popular with code 1010 (the 2 mid-digits denote the apartment – if you don’t know it, you definitely need a “decoder” ).
If you want to experience the Christmas fairy tale, then you have to visit Vienna during those days, walk under a sky of christmas lamps on its streets, get lost in its Christmas markets – literally in every corner of downtown – to warm up with a “punsch”, sweet hot wine in a Christmas mug, get carried away by its fairy tale setting and mainly by its scents… roasted chestnuts, gingerbread cinnamon cake, hot orange wine and orange peach that you will find on the stands and wooden christmas houses.
Christmas markets in Vienna start around mid-November and close on December 23 or 26. There are a few that open after Christmas and last until the year changes. Here you can see their exact dates of operation.
Each Christmas Market also has its own Christmas collectible mug for hot wine (punsch). You will be asked to pay a guarantee (4 €) for it, which will be refunded when you return the mug to any counter at the same Christmas market. But if you want to keep it, there is no problem, as they come up with new christmas designs on the mugs every year.
15 things to do in Vienna at Christmas time:
1. Follow the Christmas lights of Vienna with thousands of crystals and giant chandeliers bringing an imperial ballroom atmosphere to the main pedestrian streets of downtown. Take a stroll in the evening, starting from the Opera House, walking down Kärntner Straße to St. Stephen’s Cathedral, then along Graben Road and up Kohlmarkt Road to Hofburg Palace.
2. Go to the spectacular Christmas market Rathausplatz in front of the Town Hall, which will make you believe in fairy tales again. The Viennese consider it kitsch but it is definitely the most impressive and it’s ok to have a bit of an exaggeration at Christmas.
3. Take a coffee or better a lunch break at the classic Viennese Café Landtmann, from another era (literally-since 1873), across the Town Hall. Taste the “Viennese Chicken” chicken with parsley potatoes and a delicious salad. It’s a little pricey but it’s worth it. On the contrary, don’t make the mistake of asking for a glass of water. You’ll be immediately charged $ 1.50 per glass of water. (Universitätsring 4, 1010 Wien).
4. Visit the Karlsplatz Christmas Market in front of the imposing Karlskirche Church. Take a photo on the wooden bridge with the lights and the magnificent dome behind you. There you will find organic food and drinks.
5. Savour an authentic schnitzel in Figlmüller, the so-called “schnitzel’s house”. Do not be surprised 1) by the long line queue of people crowd waiting outside, 2) that the whole dish is made up of only schnitzel (and even it overflowing). (Bäckerstraße 6, 1010 Wien & Wollzeile 5, 1010 Wien)
6. Walk around as a member of the Royal Family in the gardens of the baroque Schönbrunn Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that has been a summer residence of monarchs since the mid-18th century. Tiergarten Zoo is today a popular attraction of the palace, as well as its greenhouse. You can’t leave without admiring the view of Vienna from above, from the top of the hill where the magnificent Gloriette stands, a neoclassical arch behind the lake with ducks. Of course there is a Christmas Market in front of the Habsburg summer palace, perhaps the most classically styled Christmas market of all.
7. Taste Sacher Hotel’s authentic sacher torte cake. Chocolate Paradise! Make a reservation if you don’t want to turn into a salt column waiting outside to gen in during December. If you want to take it with you, they put it in special wooden boxes so it can be transported to other parts of the world. (Philharmonic Str. 4, 1010 Wien)
8. Stop for a coffee at the historic Café Central with baroque decoration and fer forgé chandeliers, which first opened its doors in 1876. Among its patrons were Leo Trotsky and Sigmund Freud, and the café continues to benefit from the reputation of its literary past. After World War II, café Central was closed for four decades but reopened and renovated without losing its glory in 1986. (Herrengasse 14, 1010 Wien)
9. Visit Belvedere, divided into the most imposing Upper Belvedere, which hosts most of Klimt’s works and the famous “Kiss” and Lower Belvedere, where periodical exhibitions are hosted. Behind the Upper Belvedere you will find another Christmas Market (Because there are literally everywhere!)
10. Make a stop at Demel’s atmospheric pastry shop. It is one of the oldest pastry shops in the city, dating back to 1786 and Princess Sissy was one of its patrons. Her favortire was a piece of Christstollen, dried fruit with plenty of powdered sugar, what about you? (Kohlmarkt 14, 1010 Wien)
11. Visit the traditional Viennese Café Diglas, just 100 meters from St Stephen’s Cathedral. The tulle skirt lights on the windows are the tale we expect to live in Vienna, whether it’s Christmas or not. (Wollzeile 10, 1010 Wien).
12. Admire the view from the tower of the gothic cathedral of St. Stephen – Stephansplatz (ascending 343 steps). Built in 1137, it’s 137 meters high and is one of the symbols of Vienna. It is also the place where Mozart got married and was buried. Its colorful ceiling, which is covered by a mosaic of thousands of tiles depicting the Imperial Bicentennial Eagle, is not to be missed. Certainly there is a little Christmas Market beneath, you even dared to wonder?
13. For breakfast, lunch or just a tea stop, the boulangerie-Pâtisserie Paremi is a dream come true. They bake their own pastries and serve both authentic Austrian dishes and French specialties. Bon appétit! (Bäckerstraße 10, 1010 Wien)
14. Attend a concert at the impressive Vienna State Opera House or some other interesting venue. Tickets need to be booked in advance. Here you can find the one that interests you.
15. Don’t miss out on tasting a hot punsch while crossing the Maria-Theresien Square Christmas Market between the museums of Fine Arts and Natural History.
“Maronistand” are called the round stands that sell roasted potato snacks and roasted chestnuts and you will see them in every market. The secret of delicacy is that they touch them with bare hands. ;-P
Live the Christmas fairy tale in Vienna!
All photos by me
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