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Christmas time in Vienna is full of merrymaking, and the lavish Austrian capital pulls out all the stops when the cold weather rolls in. However, many of the most popular markets can get overcrowded, and this can risk putting a dampener on your festive spirit. Here’s a guide to enjoying some Christmas cheer that’s slightly more off the beaten track.
Music is essential for festive merrymaking, and seeing quality concerts needn’t break the bank in Vienna at Christmas time. Catch some free carol performances daily at the markets, such as Schoenbrunn or the Christmas village on Maria Theresien Platz. There are also various free music evenings at venues such as B72 (for electronic and indie) or The Chelsea.
If you’re lucky enough to visit Vienna when there’s snow on the ground, you’ll see the city at its most majestic. When temperatures creep into the low zeros, the River Danube freezes over, transforming itself from being a beautiful summer swimmer’s paradise to an ice skater’s dream, and a fantastic free winter activity for locals and tourists alike.
If you’ve had enough of carol singing, why not try your hand at a spot karaoke? Celeste, one of Vienna’s hippest clubs, put on a ‘No More Wonderwall’ karaoke night every Wednesday, a great option if you tire of the ubiquity of Christmas carols.
Winter is not just a time for Christmas cheer in Vienna, but also the ball season, and a hint of old glamour descends on the city, as of mid-November, beginning with the Vienna Red Cross Ball. As well as the conservative dances that see glitzy ball gowns and sharply dressed men in sleek suits descend on dance floors, there are some less traditional balls that you can attend, such as the Bonbon Ball, which is a much less formal affair.
Seasonal foods are very easy to pick up at the many markets around Vienna at Christmas time, but if you want a more unusual culinary experience, consider taking a cooking course with a Viennese local. Biana Isst (meaning ‘Biana eats’) offers the chance to experience Austrian cooking from an alternative angle, giving guests the chance to discover how to master authentic dishes such as strudel and schnitzel. Biana is running several courses in December. Alternatively, Ich Koche (‘I cook’) offers baking workshops, with some specifically designed around Christmas treats.
Foodies visiting in December should also check out the Gourmet at Postpalais event, taking place December 17–22 inside the historic Alte Poste building.