Looking for a festive travel guide to Vienna at Christmas time? In 2019, we spent three magical days exploring this cheery Austrian city.
If you are a lover of all things Christmas, you will most certainly want to add Vienna, Austria to your Christmas bucket list!
With wiener schnitzel, gluhwein, palaces, and chestnuts everywhere – this is truly one of the most magical cities to visit in the holiday season!!
This was our second European Christmas holiday vacation and has us wanting to go back year after year.
To be honest, once we have hit up all the other European Christmas markets on our bucket list – I imagine this will be a city we decide to return to often ;).
This was our second visit to the capital of Austria – our first being the summer of 2018 for my birthday…
We knew immediately that we are drawn to this charming and elegant Austrian city.
In a rush?
Travel Guide to Vienna at Christmas Time
- Where to Stay
- Where to Eat
- What to Do
- Christmas Markets in Vienna to Not Miss
- Visit Belvedere Palace
- Tour Vienna State Opera House
- Tour Schonbrunn Palace
- Tour Hofburg Palace and the Spanish Riding School
- Walk Around Spittelberg
- Visit St Stephan’s Cathedral and Climb to the Top
- Do a Photo Shoot with Flytographer
- Wander the Streets of Vienna Admiring the Christmas Decor and Lights
- Our Full Itinerary in a Nutshell
Where to Stay
Steigenberger Hotel Herrenhof
We stayed four nights at this perfectly located and ideally priced hotel.
It is located in the heart of Vienna’s old city right around the corner from the Altwiener Weihnachtsmarkt and minutes from Christkindlemarkt in front of the Vienna City Hall.
Photos courtesy of Steigenberger Instagram account.
For the ultimate in luxury and style – look no further than the Park Hyatt Vienna.
We spoiled ourselves with a stay here on my birthday in the summer of 2018.
The location is the best in Vienna and you truly feel like royalty when you stay here.
If you can swing it with your budget or have Hyatt hotel points – you will not be disappointed staying here ;).
Hotel Topazz Lameé
I personally have not stayed at this boutique property but all the reviews look like it is 100% someplace I will be staying at on my next visit to Vienna!!
Anytime I see “rooftop bar with spectacular views” in a description for a property – I immediately say “you had me at hello, Jerry.” – anyone NOT get that reference???
And now I am excited about returning to this incredible city someday ;).
Photos courtesy of Hotel Topazz Lameé Instagram account
Where to Eat
Ebener Erde in Spittelberg
Recommended to us by our Flytographer who is a Vienna local.
It is right in the heart of this quaint neighborhood (and it’s Christmas market streets).
Which makes it a perfect stop if you need a break from all the market meals you have been having (assuming you are like us that is!).
Located right in the heart of the city near Park Hyatt hotel.
We ate here in the summer of 2018 and had our first taste of authentic Austrian wiener schnitzel… and have been hooked ever since!
Heindl’s Schmarren & Palatschinkenkuchl
Recommended to us by the concierge at the Park Hyatt during our summer 2018 visit, this is one of the most authentic Austrian restaurants in the city.
The food was delicious at this establishment – especially the Kaiserschmarren!
Another traditional Austrian restaurant that was recommended but unfortunately we had to miss dining here.
Not to worry though – my plan is to visit again in the future!!
Any of the restaurants at Naschmarkt
The Christmas Markets (of course!)
Honestly – this is where the majority of our meals were eaten.
I mean really – it is the main reason for a Christmas trip to Vienna ;).
And if you drink enough Gluhwein – you don’t need that much as far as sustenance goes 😂.
That said – we loved so many of the foods at the markets – so just wander around and see what appeals to your tastes!
Our favorites were the Kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes), Bratwurst, Kaiserschmarrn (a dessert made from pancake batter), and Bratkartoffel (pan fried potatoes).
What to Do
Christmas Markets in Vienna to Not Miss
Because this was our second visit to the elegant city of Vienna – we did not feel inclined to visit all the typical must see sights (most of which are listed below however!).
Instead – we stuck to visiting as many of the Christmas markets in Vienna that we could fit into our three day itinerary!
There are actually TWENTY markets in the city of Vienna – and we were able to leisurely visit ten of them (and drink and eat at each one!).
Here is the list of all the markets we explored:
- Belvedere Palace Christmas Market – with the Palace sparkling in the background, this market will easily get and keep you in the Christmas spirit.
- Christkindlmarkt at Rathausplatz – the largest, busiest and most famous market in the city located right in front of the Rathaus City Hall building.
- Maria-Theresien-Platz Winter Market – located in the stunningly beautiful location of between the Natural History and Art Museums in the city.
- Spittelberg Christmas Market – my favorite because it is so fun to wander the narrow streets of this Boho neighborhood!
- Altwiener Christkindlmarkt – located right around the corner from our hotel, this was the first market we visited and boy did this help kickstart our festive holiday!
- Karlsplatz Christmas Market – located in front of the 18th Century Karlskirche, this market is the most unique out of all the markets in Vienna with a quirky carousel, hay filled play pit, farm animals, and rustic cabins for the stalls!
- Stephansplatz Christmas Market – my least favorite but the Cathedral outshines the lack of stalls and personality at this market ;).
- Am Hof Market – located close to Stephansplatz and the Park Hyatt – this was another of the first markets we hit up. Needless to say – we got right to the baked treats, potato spirals and gluhwein tasting at this one!
- University Market – on the University of Vienna campus with delicious sausages and pan-friend potatoes! Also where I got my favorite boot mug souvenir!
- Michaelerplatz Christmas Market – cannot be missed in front of the Hofburg which is the palace complex at the heart of the former Hapsburg administration.
Speaking of mugs – each market has their own unique mug that you pay for when you buy your first drink at a Vienna Christmas Market.
You pay a deposit for the mug and can get it back if you return the mug to any stall in the market once you are done with your drink!
Or you can keep it as a souvenir which we did with our favorites (see above 😂).
Visit Belvedere Palace
While we did not go inside the Palace on our Christmas Market visit, we did visit in our summer 2018 trip.
We are not huge art/museum people but love learning about the history of places we visit.
And boy oh boy does Vienna have some history.
And lots of drama in that history.
Seems to be the norm in European history with their royalty – have you noticed that??
Or am I just getting all my info from the show The Crown?? 😂
Be sure to buy tickets online IN ADVANCE!
Covid has changed everything about travel and crowds so if this is high on your list – be sure to plan ahead!
But if you are here at Christmas time – just seeing this palace from the exterior and walking the gardens will fill your cup as well ;).
As if our night could not get anymore magical – it started to SNOW while we were on the Belvedere Palace grounds!
Needless to say – these SoCal empty nesters WERE IN HEAVEN!!!
Tour Vienna State Opera House
Again – not done on our three day visit for the Vienna Christmas Markets but was on our summer 2018 itinerary.
HOWEVER – this tour is 100% worth your time!!
I mean – music is kinda what Vienna is most famous for (ahem Mozart/Beethoven anyone??)
We were SUPER tempted after our tour to get tickets for the standing room only section of the performance that night (which would have been our first opera).
But in the end – decided nah – let’s just go eat (and sit!) somewhere instead!
Tour Schonbrunn Palace
Same as above as far as visiting in the summer of 2018.
I guess this list has become a list of the top things to do in Vienna no matter when you visit!!
Minus the Christmas markets if you visit in summer 🤪.
This palace is a fair ways outside of the central city area so be prepared to walk A LOT or take public transportation.
There is also a Christmas Market on the plaza here as well.
While I cannot speak to what it is like personally – you kinda cannot go wrong with any European Christmas market in my opinion!!
Be sure to go to the top of the Gloriette for these can’t miss views of the palace!
There is also a nice restaurant in the arches if you are hungry by the time you get up there!
We just bought ice cream from the stand but the food sure looked good!!
Tour Hofburg Palace and the Spanish Riding School
No photos are allowed inside so that was a huge bummer!
And since we didn’t do an organized tour OR buy the headphones when we went in summer 2018, we didn’t really know much about what we were looking at.
I know – sounds quite uncultured of us…
But we were kinda getting a tad weary learning about all the drama surrounding Austrian royalty.
And soo many parts to the royal families – OMG!
Nonetheless – at Christmas time – the horses from the riding school are on display in a lovely and festive tent on the grounds ;).
And of course these two kissed right in front of us – so how perfectly romantic is that??
Walk Around Spittelberg
I LOVE THIS NEIGHBORHOOD!
From the shops to the restaurants to the quaint cobblestone streets!
It reminded me of the Seven Dials area of London – have you been there?
Check out my London at Christmas post to add that amazingly festive destination to your Christmas bucket list as well…
We only visited this neighborhood because of our lovely Flytographer and pretty much got THE BEST photos ever with her!!
Visit St Stephan’s Cathedral and Climb to the Top
St. Stephan’s Cathedral is IMPOSSIBLE to miss.
And every single time we went to climb the tower, it was closed!
Even in the summer time.
So be sure to check the opening hours if getting to the top and seeing what I imagine are spectacular views are important to you!!
Do a Photo Shoot with Flytographer
If you follow me on Insta or even just here on the blog – you will know that I am kinda obsessed with this company.
I even wrote a blog post with my five top reasons to book a shoot with them!
No. 5 being you can get $25 off when you use my code PASHAISHOME.
So that’s a bonus for reading this post!
Or that post ;).
Nonetheless – our photo shoot with Natascha was one of the highlights of my trip!
Second of course to all the above Christmas markets.
And potato stacks 😂.
Here are just a few highlights of our incredible afternoon with the talented Natascha:
Wander the Streets of Vienna Admiring the Christmas Decor and Lights
Now that we are empty nesters and not responsible for the entertainment of anyone but ourselves, our favorite part of travel is the wandering and getting lost.
Ahhh – who am I kidding – we made the kids wander too.
But most of the time, they got cranky.
And mad at us.
So it is clearly much more fun now that we don’t have to worry about anyone else getting cranky.
We also are moving at a much slower pace than we did a decade ago.
And that is OKAY WITH US.
So be sure to take the time to just wander the streets of this magical European city.
And get lost.
Cuz you most likely will end up finding things like this:
Our Full Itinerary in a Nutshell
- Dec 9 – Fly Lufthansa San Diego – Frankfurt – Vienna
- Dec 10 – Arrive in Vienna 2:15pm
- Dec 11 – Day in Vienna with afternoon Flytographer photo shoot
- Dec 12 – Day in Vienna
- Dec 13 – Day in Vienna
- Dec 14 – Train to Bratislava, Slovenia (1 hour)
- Dec 15 – Day in Bratislava
- Dec 16 – Train to Budapest, Hungary (2.75 hours)
- Dec 17 – Day in Budapest
- Dec 18 – Day in Budapest
- Dec 19 – Fly Lufthansa Budapest – Frankfurt – San Diego
I hope this travel guide to Vienna at Christmas time has inspired you to visit this refined city during the holiday season.
Vienna is one of the most magical places in all of Europe to get in the Christmas spirit!
One foot off the plane or train and you will feel the peace and joy the season has to offer.
Be sure to read my travel guide to Strasbourg, France as well to add that to your Christmas bucket list too!
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Oh Christmas isn’t just a day,
It’s a frame of mind.
~ Miracle on 34th Street
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Have a wonderful day my friend! I hope something makes you smile today ;).